The story

About Illuminating Concepts

Energizing and enlivening environments are the heart of what Illuminating Concepts (“IC”) delivers to its clients. The company has provided clients with diverse solutions in the realms of theatrical lighting, architectural lighting, retail lighting, media effects, and design for 29 years. IC’s innovative designers consistently develop new technologies and patented systems that infuse environments with style and ambience. IC is recognized industry-wide for the creation of “Immersion Experiences,” environments that saturate visitors with enticing elements. From the subtle to the dramatic, IC’s design team combines their creative and technical talents to conceptualize, design, program, and architecturally integrate complex show systems.

The Challenge

The Design and Procurement Services departments at IC manage small to large lighting projects, from project planning to on site administration and installation. The nature of the projects at IC span historical renovation and new construction such as retail development and hospitality/entertainment districts. Internal groups within IC had been using a variety of tools to manage their workflow including such time-intensive tools as post-it notes, whiteboards, and spreadsheets, all with varying capabilities of data capture, retrieval, and sharing of information. In addition, there were different methodologies in use throughout the office, making process consistency a challenge in the face of IC’s internal mission to always meet client expectations for quality and timeliness. As IC continued in its stellar growth trend, there was identified an increasing need to monitor key business objectives and establish an overall portfolio view of projects. “As projects became larger and our business doubled in size, pressures mounted to track our project work, monitor project milestones and conduct quality assurance checks,” says Ronda Lee, Project Management Coordinator. “We needed a software solution that could support implementing project management processes going forward.”

The Solution

After looking into other software solutions like Microsoft Project, the directors at Illuminating Concepts chose Daptiv PPM due to its extensive ability to capture, monitor, organize, and communicate project data. “In addition to the Design and Procurement Services departments, our Billing and Accounts Receivable department is using Daptiv PPM,” says Lee. “Daptiv PPM ties Illuminating Concepts together by facilitating cross-departmental communications. Project and resource managers use Daptiv PPM to look at allocated resources, project milestones, and process control…every aspect of a project from start to end.”

IC is a big user of the Resource and Team Manager Views, Dynamic Applications™, as well as Daptiv Reports. “In particular, the Resource and Team Manger Views are critical. They enable us to see exactly what’s going on and rebalance workloads across different resources as needed,” says Lee. Colin Campbell, Systems Engineer, says, “I see dashboard views becoming an important part of the business as we continue to roll out Daptiv functionality to our Directors group.”

The Results

Campbell says, “We have been a Daptiv customer since 2006 and the product innovation and feature set has been consistently growing. The product is regularly updated and it’s encouraging to see that the Daptiv Greenhouse allows customers to contribute to future product enhancements and features—we have voted on a few ideas already. We also regularly reference material in Daptiv’s resource library and if we have further questions, Daptiv’s Support team has been responsive in getting back to us.”

Because IC takes the point of view that project management is primarily about managing project risk, it is an enthusiastic user of Daptiv at the very start a project, from the proposal stage through initiation and planning, from tracking through to closing out a project. “Through the resource and team manager views in Daptiv PPM, we are able to rebalance workloads and identify bottlenecks ahead of time, which has helped reduce project risk a great deal so we can stick to our target deadlines,” says Lee. She continues, “Having that single source for all project data has been incredibly beneficial to gain immediate visibility into the most updated information.”

“Daptiv PPM has also been the catalyst that moves us forward toward better project and portfolio management practices,” says Lee. “Right now we’re in process discovery mode and we’re laying down the foundation for continuous process improvement and advancing our methodologies.”

Lee adds, “One of the key benefits of Daptiv PPM is that we now have visibility into the health and execution of projects at a global level, which in turn impacts our ability to make critical business decisions more effectively. It’s an excellent enterprise solution that helps further what we can offer our customers.”

Kaplan, Inc. ( is a leading international provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Kaplan serves students of all ages through a wide array of offerings including higher education, test preparation, professional training and programs for kids in grades K through 12. Kaplan is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company (NYSE:WPO).

The Challenge

Three years ago, Kaplan Inc. selected Daptiv PPM for project management and time management within certain business units of the company. As a result, those units streamlined IT projects, managed resources more closely and achieved greater control over their investment dollars.

Recently, Kaplan restructured its IT group to a centralized model where the organization’s IT resources supported all of its business units (Kaplan Higher Education, Kaplan Test Prep and Kaplan International) under a single corporate IT umbrella. To effectively support the organization and ensure visibility across the business groups under this new model, Kaplan’s technology operations sought a way to improve efficiencies and reduce redundancies.

Further, Kaplan’s IT group needed to respond quickly to business demands across the enterprise and have greater clarity into why some projects were more successful than others and which projects were more efficient than others. This level of transparency would enable the organization to rollout additional best practices company-wide with greater confidence.

Larry Salmela, VP of program management for Kaplan Technology, recognized an opportunity for a deeper and more strategic implementation of Daptiv PPM. Typically, Daptiv PPM’s traditional entry point in an organization is around project creation, but Kaplan wanted to gain insight into investment candidates earlier in the process to better allocate resources and capacity.

Previously, employees in an individual BU looking to create a project would submit a form, and those business unit leaders would evaluate the potential costs and model the ROI, and then decide whether or not to move the project forward. While this method worked fine to support siloed business units, given Kaplan’s shift to a centralized model, it lacked visibility and transparency across the BUs and the organization as a whole. Project managers were unable to view what each of the BUs were working on and how projects in progress might affect other groups farther down the road. “We weren’t able to advise on what should be in a business unit’s portfolio given current resources and workloads,” Salmela explains. “What we looked at Daptiv to do was enable us to view our project lifecycle consistently across all business units, from investment candidates to project kick-off, to project execution and completion.”

The Solution

Building upon the success of its deployment in various groups, Kaplan worked closely with Daptiv project managers to identify a set of processes and procedures that could be configured directly into the native Daptiv PPM platform that supported new phases of project planning such as operational candidates and initiatives.

These new phases are part of a comprehensive project intake planning initiative where Kaplan’s leadership evaluates project proposals at an operational level, rather than based on development expertise. The business needed to ensure that projects tie to and support broader organization objectives and have to ability to determine which projects will best meet those goals.

Implementing the investment candidates at this phase enables Kaplan IT to make a business case, develop an application kit and lay out the expected process planning phase before submitting for consideration. Corporate leadership then prioritizes the candidates before they become actual projects. With Daptiv, business leaders now have a solution where, when it’s time to graduate an investment candidate to a project, “all you have to do is push a button,” said Salmela.

Daptiv PPM gave Kaplan a full view into the entire project portfolio, from demand management evaluation and approvals to the final stages of evaluation that determine effective ROI. The biggest hurdle for the organization, especially in its new centralized model, was ensuring that IT remained focused on the projects that would provide the most value, particularly with IT’s limited capacity and resources. “Daptiv helped us clearly showcase where our efforts were going and what the end results were,” said Salmela.

With Daptiv PPM’s portfolio planning capabilities, Kaplan can accurately measure capacity to determine the accurate number of employees to take on the work. With that visibility, Kaplan was no longer “filling up capacity blindly” Salmela explains, because the organization is able to determine the true cost and capacity of a project and its impact.