Sitka Technology Group

ProjectFirma FAQs

Customization

  • 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 program-specific context and/or instructions. 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.

Data

  • 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 information. 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 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.

Hosting

  • Where does it run?
    To aid community sharing and minimize effort to keep the codebase centrally managed, our strong preference is to host ProjectFirma for our clients. 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.

Roll-out

  • How soon can I start using my instance of ProjectFirma?
    While program complexity varies quite a bit, we typically find that we can get a new ProjectFirma client up and running in four-to-eight weeks. This assumes some lightweight customization and importing of legacy data. For example, the California Resource Conservation District’s Project Tracker 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 an individualized platform roll-out strategy; 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 because of ProjectFirma, and ideally it will decrease while providing clients with 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.

ProjectFirma Community

  • How many organizations are involved with the community today?
    As of December 2019, there are 9 ProjectFirma websites including the original instance that TRPA funded and made available as open-source. You can see the full list of ProjectFirma websites here.
  • 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 share the enhancement details with other community members so they can decide whether it would be worthwhile for 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 a cost 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 an expense to adapt and integrate into individual instances.

  • 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 community members, 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 members 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.

  • What are ProjectFirma User Groups?
    Sitka holds quarterly ProjectFirma User Groups in person and via web conference to provide all community members with an opportunity to come together and share progress on individual initiatives, learn from each other, and identify collective goals. If you'd like to be notified of future User Groups, please sign up to receive future notifications.

  • As a member of the ProjectFirma Community, how can I and others on my team stay in the loop?
    Each new ProjectFirma customer is assigned a dedicated Sitka team that will work closely with key stakeholders on the platform roll-out. If interested, community members can also sign up to receive periodic Community Updates as well. These updates typically share information about platform enhancements, notification of upcoming events, request for community feedback, etc. If you or other team members would like to start receiving these updates, sign up here. We also maintain Release Notes every month to help users quickly review what has changed since the last time they used the application.

Cost

  • 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. Since the first instance of ProjectFirma for the Clackamas Partnership in 2016, the cost for an individual instance has ranged from $30,000 to $800,000. Please contact us for a price estimate. 

  • Is there a required annual service fee? 
    Yes, we charge $10,000 per year to host and manage each instance. 

  • What does the annual service fee include?
    The fee includes the following:


    Web Hosting, Backups, and Monitoring

    Web Tools

    • User account management using Sitka’s Keystone Identity Manager
    • Google Analytics accessible by up to two users
    • Access to ProjectFirma's requirements tracking and release planning tool

    User Group Community

    • Free new functionality funded by others in the ProjectFirma community
    • All available training materials
    • Ability to influence what new features are added to the ProjectFirma platform
    • Quarterly Sitka-facilitated User Group meetings with a group of like-minded conservation professionals

Miscellaneous

  • 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.

Resources

Upcoming Events

Dec. 1, 2020, 9:00 AM (PST)
Dec. 3, 2020, 5:00 PM (PST)
Sunriver, OR

Visit Conference Site

CONNECT 2020

Sponsoring + Exhibiting

CONNECT is an annual three-day conference that brings together local, state, and federal decision-makers, support organizations, professionals from Watershed Councils, Conservation Districts, Land Trusts and others committed to conserving our natural resources. 

The conference provides training focused on both the technical and administrative aspects of conservation implementation. Classes are developed for rural and urban conservation implementation, managerial and administrative function, policy, and education and outreach activities, delivering content that is specific and relevant to current conservation issues.


More details

From the blog

May 26, 2020

Idaho's Project Tracker Proves Invaluable

This past legislative session, the Idaho Soil & Water Conservation Commission was asked to provide detailed information on how they’re helping Idaho’s conservation districts. Thanks to the Idaho Conservation Project Tracker, an instance of our ProjectFirma platform, the Commission was able to quickly quantify the dollar value of technical assistance hours awarded and present it in a meaningful way.

Read More