- Is ProjectFirma a customizable platform?
Yes. It is designed to be adapted to fit the needs of individual environmental improvement or conservation programs.
- How much customization is required?
We strive to find the right balance between customization and features that will benefit all ProjectFirma clients. The more shared features, the lower the cost to start using the platform. However, we’ve found a certain level of customization is necessary to ensure your instance of ProjectFirma speaks your language, such as classifying projects how your stakeholders or regulators require.
ProjectFirma has lightweight/simple CMS-features that let you update the static text that appears on various web pages, such as the “About” and “FAQ” pages. All of the introductory text that appears at the top of every page can also be customized to allow you to provide context and/or instructions appropriate to your specific program. Also, every field within ProjectFirma has a default definition that can be customized as necessary.
The next level of customization would require Sitka, or another software development shop, to update code and database schemas. Of course, the level of customization required will vary from program to program. We begin each new ProjectFirma instance with the goal of doing the minimal amount of customization thereby requiring minimal investment on your part.
- What about my existing data?
We encourage loading your existing data into the system as early as possible. Not only does this help vet the tool’s usefulness, it drives adoption when users see their partners and projects in the system from the get-go.
- How is the data import handled?
We work with you to understand your existing data and its critical relationships before designing an import process that maximizes your information investment to date. For most programs, this can be accomplished in a few weeks, depending on the complexity and quality of your existing data.
- Is my data co-mingled?
No, your data is your data. It is never combined with another organization’s data. ProjectFirma is designed so that many agencies can share common database schemas (e.g. everyone has users, partners, projects, objectives, performance measures, and financials) but not the data itself. It is also designed with customization in mind (e.g. every program has a unique hierarchy of objectives, program areas, and ways to classify their projects or actions). In this way, the database structure is re-used and leveraged across multiple programs but each program’s data is separately stored and managed.
- Where does it run?
To aid community sharing and minimize effort to keep the codebase centrally managed, our strong preference is to host ProjectFirma instances in Sitka’s data center. We currently host all ProjectFirma instances in our FISMA-compliant data center. Sitka provides competitive application management and hosting services at better-than-market pricing – our goal is to maximize participation, not profit. If you have a need to host and run your instance yourself, we are open to discussing that option as well.
- How soon can I start using my instance of ProjectFirma?
While program complexity varies quite a bit, we’ve typically found that we can get a new ProjectFirma client up and running in four to eight weeks. This assumes some lightweight customization and importing of some legacy data. For example, the California Resource Conservation District’s ProjectFirma instance was up and running within four weeks.
- How do I ensure adoption?
Change can be tough to manage for an organization and asking your colleagues and partners to start using a new tool can be challenging. That’s why we prefer to work with ProjectFirma clients to develop a strategy for rolling the platform out within their organization; we take special care to identify both “carrots” and “sticks” to ensure adoption happens as quickly as possible. Our goal is that the user’s time spent entering, updating, and managing data never increases as a result of ProjectFirma, and ideally it will decrease while at the same time provide users new capabilities to streamline their conservation and restoration efforts. For the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), the ProjectFirma rollout exceeded expectations. While the case study discusses this at a high level, we’re happy to discuss in more detail and connect you with TRPA staff who can share their first-hand experience.
- How would my needs be balanced and prioritized against other ProjectFirma clients?
When we add new functionality, we first implement it for the funding organization or program and then let other program participants know about it so they can decide whether it would be of value to them. If determined it would be valuable, we work with the additional clients on how the new feature will need to be adapted for their instance and provide an estimate. In our experience, if the first implementation costs $100, the second may cost $25, and the third $10. In other words, the cost is driven down quickly, but there is often a cost to adapt and integrate into individual instances of ProjectFirma.
- What is the process of adding new features?
Sitka maintains a running list of enhancements and new functionality in the ProjectFirma “backlog.” As we talk with existing and potential users, we continually learn how the system could be extended to support additional user tasks and workflows. We capture enough detail to quickly determine the value the new functionality will provide but try to avoid creating detailed specifications. In other words, we collect enough information for us to estimate the investment needed so that users can weigh cost versus benefit to decide if the new functionality is something they wish to fund. Once funded, Sitka will schedule and begin implementing new functionality as soon as possible, typically within a few weeks to a few months. Due to ProjectFirma’s open source license and shared codebase, all new features will be made available to other ProjectFirma customer organizations.
- Once funding for a new feature is secured, how long before it is available for use?
It depends on a number of business factors; however, it typically takes a few weeks to a few months.
- How much does it cost?
Your investment will vary depending on a number of key factors, such as the amount of existing data and level of customization required. Please contact us for a price estimate.
- What if I want to manage and track day-to-day activities?
ProjectFirma’s sweet spot is program analysis, accomplishment reporting, multi-agency data sharing, stakeholder coordination, and community outreach. If you need to manage day-to-day activities – such as acquisitions, inventory, budgeting, work orders, and/or invoicing – please check out our TerraTrak™ solution.