NCI Portfolio Management

The National Cancer Institute Redesigns Project Management Platform with Custom CoreBix SharePoint Solution


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is one of 27 Institutes and Centers that comprise the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NCI coordinates the National Cancer Program, leads research programs in Bethesda, Maryland and Frederick, Maryland, and funds cancer researchers throughout the United States.


In the spring of 2007, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) had what appeared to be a software problem. They were using CA Clarity PMM for IT Governance to integrate portfolio management, project management, asset management, and change control systems. Initially they spent $200,000 to license this IT portfolio management system. Over time, the organization realized that the tool didn’t fully address their process and workflow requirements.

Clarity proved difficult to use, the information it displayed didn’t flow with actual information management practices at NCI, and the users were not properly trained on the system. To make matters worse, CA rarely talked to NCI to support the implementation. The software ended up producing delays and missed deadlines. In addition, when upper management requested progress estimates and the project management groups were not able to provide clear answers, loss of budget was a distinct possibility.

Finally, when the initial $200,000 license fees expired, CA showed up demanding another $130,000 to extend the licenses.

NCI project managers needed a cleaner, more proactive way to track their projects. The system would need to track more than 70 projects, show management structure and responsibility, track assets, and scorecard detailed progress and status updates.


In the fall of 2009, NCI looked to CoreBix for help. Instead of immediately grasping for technologies and tools to solve the problems, CoreBix examined NCI’s organizational, process and accountability issues.

Initially CoreBix assembled a governance team, consisting of a software development manager, an IT manager and a Quality Assurance manager grouped with three NCI project managers. The team would meet once a week to white board and brainstorm with NCI directors.

The team defined office business functions and explored the difficulties encountered when performing these functions. Typical functions included requests from the office of communication to modify a site like for a particular announcement, or a scientific group’s request to build a collaborative work space in order to host information for an annual symposium.

Next, the team built request class types (e.g. a simple urgent request, an internal infrastructure request, a Web site development request, or an application build request). Each of these request classes included high level process flows that were mapped with flow charts.

Once these request classes were defined and mapped, NCI managers chose individual processes and developed specific deliverables, activities, and artifacts for each. Roles were also identified to match up with these processes. Finally, tools were developed for linking each role and activity to each business process.

The complete solution was a portfolio management tool built within the Microsoft SharePoint platform. More than 70 projects – handling everything from the NCI intranet to clinical trials software – are now managed within the SharePoint solution.

The system tracks every project and includes detailed documentation that’s linked to each project. NCI practice managers now see all their task update statuses rolled up into one project management dashboard. Directors see every project in a comprehensive list that includes project status, practice manager updates, and color-coded percentage complete indicators.

Actual progress and deadline dates are built into the system instead of estimates. Team leads enter their data throughout the week, and a centralized scoreboard shows the status of 70+ projects and their completion percentages based on the specific deliverables, activities and artifacts.

The entire project site now includes every piece of documentation (like project charters, communication plans, schedules, concept of operations, design documents, test plans, test results and so forth) .

The CoreBix solution was embraced wholeheartedly by NCI directors and project management teams. Since everyone was involved with developing the process flows, usability features and interface, the resulting system closely matched their work habits and process flows.  That’s the right way to develop project management solutions. You start with process and workflow, and then move to technology solutions.