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Project Management Tool Tackles a Gazillion Projects

A new project management tool helped one toy company stay organized.

Lots of days, John Meyer's job doesn't sound like much work. His meetings and memos focus on things like Crocodile Squirters, Freaky Food Labs, Tonka trucks -- and the Gazillion Bubble machines that make backyard birthday parties look even better than the old Lawrence Welk set.

But even Silly Putty can present serious issues for Meyer, CIO of the Los Angeles-based Funrise Toy Corp. "You can have 200 projects in the pipeline at any point," says Meyer. "Of those, 10 to 20% will make it." That means creative, engineering and manufacturing teams can all be working on several projects at once. "It's really a matter of managing resources," he says.

Trying to get a grip on project management (PM) -- resource allocation, budgeting, milestones -- Meyer went shopping for new software. "Because we design in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Europe, it needed to be Web-based," says Meyer. "I also wanted it to use the same ASP.NET technology I was already using."

Meyer decided on Project Insight, which specializes in PM tools such as dashboard reports, Microsoft Office and Outlook integration, and cross-project resource scheduling for midsized companies. Funrise is a midmarket company that was recently acquired by Matrix Holdings.

"It was the right sweet spot for us," says Meyer, who spent about $30,000 on the software and did some in-house customization of Project Insight's templates. "From a management standpoint you can see how many projects are in the pipeline, how many are in jeopardy of falling behind and how many are making it."

He also invested about six months studying existing processes at Funrise before defining his new software needs, he says. "Now," says Meyer, "we're really able to maintain timelines in a way we could never do before." Problem solved.

Ellen O'Brien, a former senior editor at CIO Decisions, is now a senior editor at Storage magazine. Write to her at

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