Allocate adequate staff time for planning and management oversight to monitor progress and address issues.
Montana Department of Transportation's experience in human resource and personnel management during implementation of the statewide 511 traveler information system.
Made Public Date
04/05/2006

171

Montana
United States
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Identifier
2006-00205

Final Evaluation Report for the Greater Yellowstone Regional Traveler and Weather Information System (GYRTWIS)

Background

In 2000, the U.S. Congress provided funds for projects that were assessed as supporting the improvements of transportation efficiency, promoting safety, increasing traffic flow, reducing emissions, improving traveler information, enhancing alternative transportation modes, building on existing ITS projects, and promoting tourism. A small number of these projects were selected for national evaluation. The Greater Yellowstone Regional Traveler and Weather Information System (GYRTWIS) in Montana was among the selected projects in Fiscal Year 2000.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has been proactive in deploying road weather information systems (RWIS) to capture road condition information and predict travel conditions. However, the information was often unavailable to travelers. It was also difficult for road maintenance decision makers to use the RWIS information effectively to make decisions on snow and ice control activities.

MDT implemented the GYRTWIS to improve the availability of road weather information to maintenance personnel and travelers. The system was expected to provide detailed weather forecasts and predictions of road conditions to facilitate maintenance operations and improve the utilization of personnel, snow removal equipment, and anti-icing activities. The GYRTWIS system is an interactive telephone information service that provides road condition and weather forecasts via a 511-telephone access number. For travelers, GYRTWIS replaced the *ROAD service, that was a non-interactive, recorded message system.

Lessons Learned

The management team should have sufficient time for planning, management oversight, monitoring progress, and addressing issues. Large development projects require full time management oversight and close communication to monitor progress and address development issues. During the development of GYRTWIS, the lack of full time MDT staff devoted to the project resulted in part time monitoring and management of the development issues. The management team used several means to keep open lines of communication: scheduled telephone calls, reporting requirements, and project “team” meetings. However, as the development effort progressed, schedule conflicts and the demands of working on multiple projects reduced communication opportunities, which, in turn, reduced the ability to monitor progress.

Although the GYRTWIS team involved a small close-knit group, they were geographically dispersed. Meetings, where project personnel got together to discuss issues, helped in the coordination and cooperation among project personnel. The GYRTWIS team used conferences, such as ITS America, Rural ITS, and the 511 Deployment Conference as opportunities to meet and discuss progress and issues. In-person meetings were preferred over telephone calls to avoid distractions and schedule conflicts. Using workshops/conferences and traveling in-person to view progress and discuss issues were viewed as productive and valuable for gaining knowledge and insight.

The following are a few suggestions related to this lesson:

  • Allocate adequate budget for travel to meetings, conferences, workshops, and other related activities. This was especially important for the GYRTWIS team because not only were they geographically dispersed, but they also found conferences and in-person meetings to be very useful in discussing and addressing issues. The lack of budget for meetings and workshops was perceived as a challenge. After deployment, this was identified to be more of an inconvenience. As a result, the management team plans to designate a budget for travel in proposals to allow the team to travel to meet and discuss issues in person.
  • Clearly define roles, responsibilities, plans, and processes. Detailed partnership agreements, statement of work (SOW) documents, and systems engineering plans are very important to define roles, responsibilities, and provide detailed descriptions of functional specifications, deliverable dates, and system test requirements. The roles and responsibilities of MDT staff and personnel from the Montana State University – Western Transportation Institute (MSU-WTI) were not always clear because of the high level of trust between the project team and the structure of the funding. The high level of trust resulted in the management team allowing the development effort to progress without a systems engineering plan that should have clearly defined roles and communicated system requirements. The structure of the funding arrangement also contributed to some confusion as MSU-WTI received U.S. DOT funding and managed the contract, but the 511 system was developed for MDT. Consequently, when development issues arose, MDT and MSU-WTI had to coordinate their management of the effort.
  • Document calls, meetings, and discussions when they involve making important decisions. As the GYRTWIS development effort progressed, details on design decisions (such as what was decided and by whom) became difficult to recall until the team began keeping records of important calls and discussions. The records were distributed and kept so they could be referenced later, if needed.
  • Use planning documents to provide guidance and information to upper-level management and any staff that might be threatened by the new technology. MDT found that having a MDT Strategic Business Plan and a regional ITS architecture provided a framework for others to understand how GYRTWIS fit into the current MDT environment. The MDT Strategic Business Plan was cited as being a useful tool to address job security issues and alleviate fear of job loss due to new technology.

This lesson suggests that the project management team should plan and allocate sufficient time for management tasks such as planning, oversight, monitoring progress, and addressing issues. In post-deployment interviews, MDT indicated that, in retrospect, allocating adequate staff time for planning, development, and oversight of the 511 deployment effort was one of the most overlooked issues. In addition, sufficient budget for travel should be available to allow the team to meet and discuss issues in person. This is especially true for project teams that are not located in one central location.

Final Evaluation Report for the Greater Yellowstone Regional Traveler and Weather Information System (GYRTWIS)

Final Evaluation Report for the Greater Yellowstone Regional Traveler and Weather Information System (GYRTWIS)
Publication Sort Date
12/30/2003
Author
Sanchez, R., et al.
Publisher
Federal Highway Administration, U.S. DOT

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Goal Areas
System Engineering Elements

Focus Areas Taxonomy: