CCR industrialises its project management with Sciforma

London, 19 December 2014 The French reinsurance company is using Sciforma to simplify its procedures for time-recording, budgeting, reporting and forecasting.

Structuring project management by breaking free from Excel

To manage on average about fifty projects per year, CCR previously relied on a single solution: MS Excel. Experiencing difficulties in time and activity recording, as well as in consolidating data from different projects so as to have a comprehensive view of its entire portfolio, the company sought a solution capable of, on the one hand, monitoring the activities of the Information Systems Department (ISD), and on the other, of managing its spending, invoicing and the budget, and lastly, of ensuring the distribution of reports which assist the Executive Committee in deciding its budgetary allocations, whilst having an immediate overview of current projects.

"Whilst MS Excel helped us to manage our projects for a few years, we were rapidly confronted by its limitations, especially with regard to consolidation. Each person working for the ISD had their own Excel file which they had to update manually for each new project. These consolidation difficulties limited our reporting” comments Christophe Bouché, CCR’s PMO and ISO (Information Security Officer). “At the same time, with Excel it was difficult to check the consistency of data-entering and we were looking for a solution which offered an automatic checking function. Finally, although we were managing our work and time-keeping quite accurately, we had no means of preparing forecasts and managing our budgets."

Sciforma: ease of use and rapid configuration

Following a study of the solutions on the market conducted by external consultants, CCR shortlisted two of them. As the first was eventually considered to be too complex and cumbersome for the usage planned, CCR selected Sciforma’s offer: “Of the two solutions retained which met our specifications, we selected Sciforma for two main reasons: its ease of use and its rapid configuration. With approximately fifty users and about the same number of projects, our needs were rather limited in volume terms. The other solution offered a plethora of applications which we did not need (for example, re-invoicing). Further to some tests on our existing projects, we also realised that it was not sufficiently restrictive to ensure consolidation easily. Sciforma, on the other hand, could help us to structure our procedures whilst remaining a light-touch and easy solution to use. As our ISD had, in the past, successfully had recourse to PSNext (Sciforma’s predecessor), our decision came naturally” clarifies Christophe Bouché.

Currently, Sciforma is used by 45 users to manage about fifty projects and around sixty resources (people who work on a project but who do not necessarily use Sciforma to record their time). At the outset, the solution was solely used for managing IT projects: maintenance (projects renewed each year), network, e-mail, business applications, accounting etc. as well as new versions of applications or new applications (for example Solvency II). The activities of maintenance staff are managed within the tool, but without excessive detail: support activities are reported, but the management of support tickets is provided by another application. Some resources do not record their time because they are subject to fixed-rate contracts. However, their projects are nevertheless reported in the tool so as to give an indication of skills’ requirements. A specific module to manage expenditure (commitments and payments) has been the subject of bespoke development. It allows the team to check that budgets are used on time.

“Although the Sciforma solution was used solely for IT projects, we are currently introducing the solution elsewhere. Our Directorate for Natural Disasters and Modelling (Studies and Research) needed a solution to manage some risk modelling projects (floods, earthquakes, terrorism, etc.). It had selected another solution on the market but in the end the ISD will train staff on Sciforma which is less complicated to use” explains Christophe Bouché.

With regard to the management of project portfolios, Sciforma enables three-dimensional project management: on the one hand, budgetary management (generally annual), on the other the separation of maintenance / project work (“Run” and “Build”) and finally, management by divisions within the ISD. When the project lasts several years (for example recurring maintenance operations), CCR has chosen to recreate it in the tool the following year. Whilst the tool offers other possibilities, they do not suit CCR’s situation.

Simple and efficient activity monitoring

According to Christophe Bouché, the implementation of Sciforma has allowed for a smooth structuring of project management within CCR: “We now have the capability of following the activities and time-recording of ISD staff or of the resources working for ISD, in a simple and straightforward, but above all efficient, way. We effortlessly issue regular updates on the monitoring of projects and budgets as well as on resource allocation, which help us to verify the successful progression of projects and their effect on our staff management” asserts Christophe Bouché.

“At the same time, we have organised monitoring of contractual financial commitments and invoicing in respect of forecast budgets (“reforecast”)” continues Christophe Bouché. “It is now easy to consolidate all our figures. Therefore all the Heads of Division have a clear view of the costs and budgets of their projects, whilst keeping an eye on their progress and costs utilisation. Finally, we can organise, much more easily than before, the breakdown of service providers’ expenses.”

To conclude, CCR now has at its disposal all the ingredients for simplifying its overall project governance. “We now rely on permanent indicators which allow us to compare contracts from one year to another. The reports help us to improve the budgetary process and resource utilisation forecasts which provide us with a good insight into what we can or cannot do. And finally, Sciforma gives us an immediate consolidation function, which differs from our previous situation when we had to construct numerous Gantt charts in order to have a comprehensive view of our projects. At the end of the day, we gain in productivity, in simplicity and in visibility” concludes Christophe Bouché.

Christophe Bouché at CCR

Following training to be an IT engineer at the Engineering School of Information and Digital Technologies (EFREI) in Paris, Christophe Bouché quickly became a Project Manager in an IT service company, where he specialised in Object Oriented Development. He was then self-employed for about ten years prior to joining CCR as a salaried employee in order to take on the role of Head of the Project Management Division. Before becoming PMO and more recently ISO, he also gained experience in internal controls and compliance. For Christophe, the three main qualities of a PMO are rigour, adaptability and the ability to rise to expectations whilst knowing when to step back, in other words, to have a comprehensive overview rather than confining oneself to the minutiae of a project.

CCR in brief

CCR (Caisse Centrale de réassurance) is a reinsurance company, tasked with conceiving, implementing and managing effective instruments to address the need for reinsurance cover for exceptional risks, serving both its clients and the public interest. Created in 1946, it is now one of the 25 leading world reinsurance companies. It is a public limited company with a capital of 60 million euros, owned by the French State, and employs 274 people. In 2013, it achieved a turnover of 1,256 million euros and a net profit of 192 million euros. The company has its head office in Paris and two branches in Canada and Lebanon.

CCR stands out by offering in some cases unlimited cover, guaranteed by the French State, for specific sectors of the French market. These activities currently account for 67% of its turnover.
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