Steve West, CEO of Project Insight
Steve West serves as the CEO of Project Insight (PI®), a Business Management Platform that provides performance tools and blended reporting capabilities for enterprises, small businesses, and entrepreneurial teams. Since 2002, Steve has been at the forefront of elevating project managers’ capabilities in addition to providing key insights for stakeholders. In 2017, he co-developed VirtualPM™, a patent-pending artificial intelligence bot used to capture essential information, create efficiency and engagement within a company. From this, PI® was named Best Project Management Solution by SIIA in 2017.
Outside of software, Steve embodies a “work hard, play hard” attitude spending much of his free time swimming, surfing, and with family. Steve holds multiple Masters World Records in swimming (breaststroke), and often competes in US Masters Swimming events throughout the year.
Prior to PI®, Steve architected solutions (ecommerce, intranet, project management, etc.) for Fortune 2000 and small companies alike. Steve holds a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Communications from University of Michigan.
Project Insight (PI®) is a Project Management Platform helping teams Work Better Together™ for over 15 years. As more than just a project management solution, PI provides teams with the resources to improve communication, engagement, and overall business approach. PI allows teams to focus on core project strategy and delivery by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence with their patent-pending bot known as VirtualPM™ that eliminates busy work and facilitates greater team communication. In 2017, PI was named Best Project Management Solution by SIIA for empowering forward-thinking teams everywhere with their innovative software and services. Learn more at https://www.projectinsight.net/
Jennifer Carl: Tell me about Project Insight’s mission.
Steve West: To help teams Work Better Together™ by elevating project manager capabilities through automation and leading project management software, as well as improving overarching business strategies.
Jennifer Carl: What were you doing before you joined Project Insight as CEO?
Steve West: Before I co-founded Project Insight, I was working in both marketing and operations for a local Unix software company. Around this time, the World Wide Web was just getting started, so I was working on multiple different personal projects as part of research and my own curiosity. I knew intuitively the web was going to be a big deal, so we started out the company as a custom web app development firm in 1998. For 3 years we did tons of work with both brick and mortar and .com startups. In 1999 I had the idea to build a multi-tenant collaborative web-based platform centered on Project Management. We used our consulting business to fund the development of what would become the beginning Project Insight.
Jennifer Carl: How did you get your start in the technology industry?
Steve West: My father was involved in very high-level IT for Indiana University in the 1970’s and then the California State University System in the 1980’s. I recall seeing my father working from home in Bloomington when I must have been 7 or 8, he pulled down our rotary phone and connected it to some sort of computer terminal. Throughout my childhood he would bring home computers, so we had different computers laying around the house: The first Apple, Commodore 64, IBM PC, so I had access to computers and generally played around with them.
When I was 12 they bought me my own Commodore 64, so I used that quite a bit until I went to college at the University of Michigan. I concentrated on Economics and Communications, and kept computers as my hobby, but was already very technical for a “business” person. I started my first job in marketing for a software company and when I got there, my tech skills showed. The website at the company was horrible, so over a weekend I re-wrote the website, and showed the owner, he loved it. They let me do more and more, I built an online licensing system for the company, helped roll out modern (at the time) CRM software.
Most of what I learned in the tech industry was from basically full on immersing myself into it, learning by doing. That’s really the best way I think.
Jennifer Carl: What are your goals for the next 5 years? Where do you see yourself and Project Insight?
Steve West: Our vision is to automate the project manager’s job. That doesn’t mean we want to eliminate the PM positions in organizations, but we want our products to take a big piece of redundant work.
A big goal of ours is to further develop our patent pending artificial intelligence and Virtual PM technology. Our integration with Slack has given us a platform for our VirtualPMs to help our customers work with team members essentially over text messaging. VirtualPMs provide reminders to start at task or mark a task complete, enter a time entry, add a comment and more. Having a way to directly communicate via text in a bi-directional way to team members reduces the work a team member needs to do, and extends our product into a text based user interface and experience. The younger workers of today have been texting their whole lives, so it’s easy and natural for them to interact with a VirtualPM™, which have their own personality. Heck, people can work with a VirtualPM who is funny, or is a super hero. So we want to continue to develop our AI VirtualPM technology.
A second goal is that we are working on making our product work as a hub with other “work” platforms, including other Project Management systems so we can level-set all projects across an organization regardless of whether the work is being done in PI® natively, or in a different project management tool. We have had a lot of success with our integrations with Slack, Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services, JIRA, and other tools. We’re able to give Executives and PMOs a better view of what’s happening across projects natively run in PI and other products. We really want to take what we’re doing to the next level.
Jennifer Carl: Give us your TechTip of the month.
Steve West: I’d rather give some different advice. I didn’t really talk about my other passion… before entering the software industry, I was a competitive swimmer since the age of 8, through competing for the University of Michigan and the US National Team. I learned a few lessons in the pool in my youth which apply directly to business. What I learned from sport is to be willing to experiment and really go for it, but while you do that, be ready to take your efforts “to the mat,” so to speak… don’t give up. If you fail at something, figure out why it didn’t work and make the changes you need to make to move forward. The path to success is through failure, no one succeeds without having literally thousands of failures along the way. The sooner you embrace this process, the more success you will likely have. Make it happen!