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Procurement Process Management
by Steve Bering

Activate.NET's 2000 expansion of their client base and services required an increase in their web-casting ability. In response to this need, Activate.NET began construction of their largest and most advanced web-casting facility in the Seattle area. Their hardware and infrastructure needs required work with proprietary hardware suppliers and installation contractors. As their work contracts required rapid completion of the project, in-depth management and customized tools were necessary.

While developing their hardware and software systems, Activate.NET chose a hardware supplier who competed on the supply side with their integration contractor. This demanded management diligence and effective communication of project information through all parties. The integration contractor provided a parts-required schedule based on the integration schedule, and Activate.NET internally managed the PO process to get hardware on-site in time for their integration. Activate.NET began this process using a Microsoft Excel 2000® spreadsheet, detailing all of the parts required with columns for the budgeted cost and supplier names. Based on all of this information, Activate.NET used a manual internal process to determine when orders needed to be placed and when they would arrive on site.

The drawbacks to this approach became quickly obvious. The manual process Activate.NET used was very labor intensive and required repeated phone calls between Activate.NET staff, the integration contractor and the hardware supplier. This solution also required that the Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet be passed around between team members as they each inserted their information, bringing into question versioning and data integrity issues. Activate.NET employees also lacked the time to work through the estimations to determine when POs needed to be placed. As a result, several of the first integration parts were ordered too late to be on site in time to meet the integration schedule. To improve Activate.NET's procurement process, Bluewater, developed a custom software solution to meet their needs using Microsoft Project 2000®, Project Central®, and Microsoft Excel 2000®.

Bluewater's Solution

Activate.NET's requested from Bluewater a system with a familiar interface that would provide them with hardware and software order needs and delivery times and would also provide customized reporting. Bluewater worked with Activate.NET to understand their internal and external PO process constraints, and developed a software solution based upon these discussions. Bluewater used Microsoft Excel® - which Activate.NET was already using and familiar with - to program the order estimates and automatically provide the dates by which a PO must be submitted in order for a part to reach the dock on time. Once the PO was placed, the newly programmed spreadsheet rolled forward through the process, detailing activity completion dates and providing a more reliable estimate of delivery and testing dates.

Upon completion of Bluewater's customization, all of the information within the Excel® workbook began to be automatically processed through Microsoft Project 2000® and forwarded to Microsoft Project Central® for reporting to suppliers, integration contractors, Activate.NET employees, and project stakeholders. This information was customized by programming Microsoft Project 2000® fields that forwarded into Project Central®. This provides users with graphic indicators of procurement status for each part in the integration process. Each user, according to his or her role in the project, is able to view project status reports at each appropriate level of detail. The supplier sees cost and schedule information, the integration contractor sees schedule information only, and Activate.NET sees all procurement related information.

Bluewater's solution has given Activate.NET the ability to make hardware purchasing decisions easily and punctually. The use of Microsoft Project Central® allows Activate.NET to give information to and receive information from outside contractors and suppliers, and it also allows internal project stakeholders to have an in-depth understanding of the status of the procurement process. These communication and information channels ensure that this and future projects are on time and within budget. Through the integration of Microsoft Project 2000®, Project Central® and Microsoft Excel 2000®, Bluewater was able to help Activate.NET control the supply chain in their largest project to-date.

Key Features of Microsoft Project® and Microsoft Project Central®

Support for Collaboration.  The Activate.NET hardware procurement solution put in place by Bluewater relies on the integration of: Microsoft Excel® front end; Microsoft Project 2000® capabilities of OLE linking and embedding, customized fields and graphical indicators; and Microsoft Project Central's® role- based security and web-based project reporting to company stakeholders, suppliers and contractors in an easily interpretable format. This powerful combination automatically provides all necessary information to stakeholders, suppliers, and contractors, while maintaining data integrity by allowing a single copy to be maintained and controlled by a single project team member. Immediate access to up to date information allows team members to anticipate project needs and operate proactively.

Portfolio View.  With Project Central's® Portfolio View, Activate.NET employees and other internal and external stakeholders can both rollup project information for an overview and drill down to see the status and impacts of individual issues. This allows project participants to see how their contributions to the project affect the integration end-date.

Field Linking.  By linking information from Microsoft Excel® with Microsoft Project® and Project Central®, Activate.NET team members are able to use their familiar Microsoft Excel® interface and formulas to enter and maintain information, while relying on Microsoft Project® and Project Central® to display appropriate information. Microsoft Project's® membership in the Microsoft Office® group provides interactivity between it and other popular office software pieces to aid in customizing solutions and meeting customer needs.

Client Benefits

Quicker information dispersal.  By providing a web-based interface with connectivity to a client's information spreadsheet, project information can be disseminated to all stakeholders with the push of a button that publishes current information to the web interface. Changes can be made and distributed much more quickly than through previous methods.

Project status from anywhere.  Because Project Central® uses a web interface, team stakeholders can check status information from supplier and contractor offices, on site, or on the road - essentially anywhere they can hook up a computer.

Greater control over data access and integrity.  The placement of project information into a single source document means that there is no question of document versioning. Furthermore, Project Central's® role-based security makes sure that team members see only the information appropriate to them, with 'viewing-only' rights. This ensures improved management of change order processes.

Project Summary

With the hardware procurement solution developed by Bluewater on Microsoft Project 2000®, Microsoft Project Central®, and Microsoft Excel 2000®, Activate.NET employees have more control than ever over the procurement process. They are effectively able both to provide and control access to their project data, enabling team members to stay informed on project status, while maintaining a rigid change control process. This means that Activate.NET can focus on delivering web-casting and broadcasting solutions with confidence that their infrastructure will be able to meet their customers' needs.

Created by Bluewater Project Management Services, LLC.

Please feel free to contact us for additional information on any of these projects via any of the following means:

 Telephone (alt)206-790-3610

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Small Client Logo: Activate

Solution Overview

Customer Profile
Activate.NET provides live web-casting services, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for radio, television and internet-only programming. They present network and web-casts in all major industry standard formats for product launches, conferences, presentations, sales demos, earnings calls and more.

Business Situation
In 2000, Activate.NET was in the process of building a new web-casting and broadcasting center in the Seattle area. Activate.NET called upon the talents of Bluewater Project Management Services, LLC to meet some of their building process needs.

Business Benefits
Bluewater's solution provided Activate.NET with the ability to disperse process information quickly, estimate arrival dates accurately, share project information with all team members, and control information access rights appropriately.

Solution Components

Microsoft Excel 2000®--The user interface for schedule entry, providing a familiar interface with easily modified functionality.

Microsoft Project Central®--The web interface to project information providing project status access to internal and external stakeholders.

Microsoft Project 2000®--The engine for sharing Excel® data over the web with Project Central®

Microsoft SQL Server 7®--Highly available and reliable storage for project data.

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