Thursday, 13 September 2007 12:19

Creating and Delivering Great Television Programming

Written by Cynthia K. West
Most people in Canada know TVOntario (TVO/TFO) as the television network that delivers terrific educational programming. For U.S. readers, TVO is the Canadian equivalent of PBS. TVO's mission is to supplement the formal education and training systems in Ontario and the surrounding provinces. The schools use television and other communications technologies to provide high quality educational programs, curriculum resources, and distance education courses in English and in French.

Creating and generating engaging and educational content for television is a collaborative, creative venture, in short, a project. Television programming requires the use of multiple team members or resources, and often times, these team members are not employees, but external resources. What’s more, the programs must be developed in both English and French, which requires even more resources.

The Challenges
When TVO contacted Project Insight in early 2003, the programming team was using Microsoft Project desktop to manage its programming projects. While Microsoft Project is a good tool for managing single projects by a single project manager or project coordinator, it falls short as a solution for projects involving input from multiple team members and the collaboration required for such creative ventures.

One issue the programming team had while using Microsoft Project is that the team had to email the schedule around to all team members. As the project was updated, it was often confusing as to which version of the project schedule the team was to review.

A second challenge was that not all team members understood the project process and how the projects were structured. The project managers were caught in the middle of ongoing confusion among less savvy resources. These resources did not understand Microsoft Project, nor had the desire to learn the software program.

Creating great television programs means collaborating on files and documents, and the team did not have any good method for sharing these project assets. They needed to find a centralized place to store and access these assets. Another issue that kept coming up was ‘version control’ of documents and files as the team was not sure which version of the file was the right one. When viewing graphic files, the changes are subtle and not always obvious. The extra ‘housekeeping’ of managing these files was slowing projects down.

The team was also geographically dispersed, not all resources resided in the same location, making collaboration even more challenging. To add to the complications, the programming team had to work on multiple projects at the same time.

The Solution
The TVOntario project management team knew that they had to find an alternative way to manage their projects. In early 2003, they began evaluating possible web-based project management solutions. Web-based solutions were just starting to appear in the market in early 2001, making the TVO team early adopters.

The idea of a web-based solution is that it provides one centralized database or location from which to view all the team’s project schedules and project assets or files. Executives and project sponsors may also report and oversee all ventures in real-time.

TVO evaluated several potential solutions, but quickly found that Project Insight rose to the top of the list. "We didn't have to search a lot because Project Insight had everything and the cost was very reasonable,” stated a TVO project manager.

The Results
The TVO project team started using Project Insight in May of 2003 with 12 employee team members, four outside contractors, and a team of 15 users working at the Ministry of Education. TVO immediately experienced greatly simplified project management.

The first improvement was simply the ability to put all projects in one centralized location, making all projects accessible from any web browser, from any location in the world. As many of their team members were not employees, Project Insight enabled all team members to create, access, edit and update their projects and tasks from their offices or homes.

Since the team was no longer using a desktop application for project scheduling, but rather a web-based project solution, the issue of which version of the project schedule the team was current became moot. Team members update task percentage complete, which updates the project schedule in real-time.

The issue of explaining project structure and process was reduced as Project Insight offers an easy-to-use and understand interface. In conjunction with a half day training session, new programming team members understand the basics of project management and scheduling. “The biggest success in our case was the short time spent explaining to new team members how a project is structured. The learning curve was shortened considerably,” stated a project manager from TVO.

There were fewer problems with document version control. Project Insight organizes the project team’s documents within each project within a documents repository for each project, making files easy to find, access and update.

As the project software is accessible from any browser, Project Insight links the geographically dispersed TVO programming team. Now with five years of usage, the TVO team has mastered its processes and methodologies using Project Insight as its project platform.

Cynthia K. West, Vice President, is a partner at Project Insight ( where she oversees the sales and marketing efforts for the project management company. West is a "serial entrepreneur" with over 15 years of experience in IT. She specializes in building the sales infrastructure for new companies or divisions. She can be reached at

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