Alumni Profile: Thomas King

In this time of budget constraints and shrinking revenue, cities are trying to work smarter. Taxpayers gain value when public servants work efficiently and effectively. Implementing industry-standard frameworks to complete information technology projects provides value to public servants and taxpayers.

That’s the story in York, Pennsylvania, where Harrisburg University alumnus Thomas King took the post of Director of Information Services in early 2012.

King, a York resident originally from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, graduated from Harrisburg University in 2009 with a master’s degree in IT project management. He parlayed his degree into a prestigious project management certification and won the competitive job in York by showing his skill at ushering projects through to the finish line.

“The City of York is implementing a hyper-speed fiber network, called Metro  e, in the first quarter of 2013,” he says.

As a specialty, project management requires blending technical knowledge with organizational and people skills.

“The project manager is charged with planning the project, making sure the project executes as per the plan, and monitors and controls the project so it doesn’t exceed cost, time, or scope of the original project — which is difficult to do, managing stakeholder expectations and controlling project scope through project closeout,” King said.

King found his way to Harrisburg University after experience in project management for state and federal agencies. As he became more interested in the field, he explored master’s degree options.

Other programs came with steep price tags, as high as $30,000 a year. Harrisburg University, he says, “was more cost-effective,” and he knew the program’s quality because he had worked with its developer. “Harrisburg University has quality instructors, and I really liked the program, not just because I was familiar with it but because it added value to me and what I am involved in,” he says. “You can use skills like project management in almost everything you do.”

Harrisburg University studies were “more difficult than I originally thought,” he admits, but the program’s rigor and emphasis on communications skills, research, and testing helped him sit successfully — for certification with the Project Management Institute. When employers post project management jobs, applicants with PMI certification get the interviews.

“Professional certification is the gold standard for project management,” King says. “Whenever a private employer or the government advertises for a project manager, they expect a project management certification from PMI.”

At Harrisburg University, King appreciated the personal attention from professors and the chance to continue his real-world learning. For his graduation project, he implemented project management knowledge areas and process groups for Harrisburg University’s calendaring system procurement project. He surveyed stakeholders to identify their requirements, selected and evaluated products, made procurement recommendations to an oversight committee, and organized webinars where competing vendors presented their services.

“Of course, I recommended the calendaring software with the most robust features and functions, but it was also the most expensive. The Harrisburg University oversight committee selected the second-recommended software that met most of their requirements and was less expensive,” King admits. “But the webinars helped influence their selection. It met the University’s business needs and aligned with the University’s strategic goals and objectives.”

Working for the City of York, King has overseen a diverse array of IT projects, completing them within the planned scope, timelines, and budgets. York city employees will benefit from the pending workstation refresh project allowing them to perform their work using the latest technologies. The city will benefit from cyclical contract vehicles and consistent budgets through this decade, “so everybody is on track with the software and hardware they need.” The city has completed projects to refresh its enterprise architecture, construct a new data center, and provide public and private wireless internet services to constituents and city government.

Strategic project portfolios are being assessed and planned for 2013-2014. Enterprise application systems projects will be aligned with the city’s strategic goals and objectives. Continuous improvement of enterprise application systems will provide increased capabilities for York’s emergency responders and benefit city constituents.

“We support new technologies being implemented by the police and fire departments. Business administration projects will provide improved capabilities such as business intelligence and reporting, financial management and compliance, and human resource management. In the 21st Century, these are key initiatives to achieve critical success factors,” King says.

“The goal of the Information Services section is to implement industry standards and best practices completing project on time, within the specified scope, on budget. Doing that creates value by providing products and services to employees. It supports them performing their work efficiently and effectively, which provides improved services to constituents of the City of York.”

The curriculum and discipline gained through the Harrisburg University project management master’s degree program provided the knowledge and foundation to collaborate with City of York stakeholders, increasing the success rates of projects. Strategic planning with the director of business administration has broadened the scope of resources available to the City of York. Information technology provides support to executive management, enabling them to focus on strategic goals and objectives for the city and its 50,000 constituents.

“I truly enjoy my work,” King says. “Managing projects successfully provides value in the form of products and services to stakeholders.”