Sepura Choose Sciforma To Manage Their Entire Project Portfolio

London, 13 June 2011 Sepura, based in Cambridge, is the leading network-independent designer and supplier of portable and mobile radios to the police, fire, ambulance, military and transportation services. Using encrypted digital signals, these radios are very rugged. Sepura choose Sciforma's PSNext to manage their entire project portfolio

In October 2007, at the age of 35, Michael Schmitt was recruited from his native Germany to become a programme manager with Sepura. Prior to his recruitment, he had eleven years project management experience and had been involved in programme management since 2005.
He took his work as a programme manager very seriously but, after a few months he began to feel that the company didn't have the necessary project management maturity to conduct its business in the most efficient way.

The situation in the past

At any given time, Sepura has between thirty and forty research and development projects under way, with a further ten awaiting approval. There are also usually about ten operations projects on the go. These projects were run using a mixture of standalone Microsoft Project plans and spreadsheets, principally used for managing project costs. At portfolio level all management was carried out using spreadsheets.

Because of this unsatisfactory situation, it took a long time to aggregate planning and cost information - with much manual data consolidation necessary. The result of this was that, by the time project data was published, it was almost outdated. The data reliability was questionable and, indeed, was questioned by many people. There was no cross-project dependency awareness, no resource pool management and no standard templates were used. In Michael's own words, the system "wasn't fit for the purpose of project portfolio management".

The new organisation

At this time, a new CEO began working with the company and, seizing this opportunity, Michael presented his plans for change to his new chief. He was given the Head of Programme Management role to manage these changes and, to implement them, a programme - the Integrated Project Management Programme (IPMP) - was created. Andrew Thacker, one of Michael's twelve project managers, was given the task of managing it.

A reliable enterprise-level PPM tool was clearly required and so everyone was asked what they wanted from such a tool. The project managers required scheduling and integrated resource management capabilities, the resource managers wanted a view of the overall portfolio resource situation; the financial and portfolio managers both wanted powerful reporting, data consolidation and analysis capabilities. They also wanted information presented to them on dashboards. Other requirements included an integrated timesheet system and the ability to integrate with other enterprise software in use.

Having studied a Gartner report, a list of about twenty software tools that appeared suitable was made. The list included Planview, Sciforma, Artemis, Primavera, Gensite, @task, Asta, Serena and Microsoft software. Planview and Sciforma's PSNext systems were short-listed as they seemed to most closely meet the requirements, the pricing model and the capabilities demanded by the users. The responsiveness of the vendors was also taken into account.

PlanView was an excellent product and both products were affordable and fulfilled the requirements but, following trials (during February 2009), it was decided that PSNext's interface was preferred. It was also felt that PSNext had the easier report construction capability, requiring less technical SQL expertise. PSNext was found to be the easier of the two products to use and was therefore selected. Phase one involved the R&D projects.

Sciforma set up a testing environment on which the Sepura people experimented before the system went live. During the early days of implementation, fifteen man-days of Sciforma's consultancy were used for configuration and non-standard requirements.

Once the system was implemented, Sciforma gave a day's training to resource managers. Project managers and administrators were each given two days. All other users were trained in-house.

In any change programme, it's usual to encounter pockets of resistance. During this project, many people had become part of the change process while the requirements were being gathered. This, therefore, wasn't perceived as a tooling change and PSNext's introduction met with no resistance. Some project managers felt a loss of freedom because they had to comply with a standard methodology, but recognised that standardisation delivered significant benefits.

Overall, because of people's awareness of the benefits aimed for and because their feedback had been taken seriously and responded to, there was little resistance at any project stage.

Enough time has passed since PSNext's implementation for the benefits of this project to be evaluated. All R&D projects are managed using the PSNext system. The budgetary system has been arranged so that, if a project isn't entered into the system from the outset, it doesn't get funded.

Using PSNext has resulted in more reliable, timely and accurate project, resource and budget plans at all levels. Senior managers like the transparency of the overall project situation - enabling them to monitor activity throughout the organisation. Management reports still look much the same as they used to. However, they're much more accurate and, whereas they previously took three weeks to prepare, they're now available within days .
It's interesting to discover that PSNext's installation has gone a long way towards paying for itself. As the system now handles project accounting, the person previously responsible for this isn't now required to do this work and and so have become available to perform other useful work .

Things aren't moving as quickly on the operations side. Because these departments aren't so mature, remaining functionally oriented, things are lagging with no formalised project management system in use. However, the intention is to move all operational projects onto PSNext within the next two years.

Michael's enthusiastic about PSNext. It's helped the company meet its project targets and it's helped with the aggregation of project and resource data, making the management of these much more efficient. It has also helped management prioritise projects, making it easier for them to decide upon which projects to concentrate.

So, what are Sepura's objectives for the future?

The Sepura IPMP has given the company reason to consider the way they organise their business. It's helped them realise what they  want to do, to move towards those ambitions and to become more mature. One goal the company still wants to achieve is to improve the strategic side of portfolio management. They want to harness PSNext's ability to compare project against project for the strategic benefits that each gives.
Michael realises that his change programme has presented Sepura with a series of cultural challenges. Since 2008 the company has come a long way but, says Michael, there's still a distance to go.

About Sepura

Sepura is a global leader in TETRA digital radio products They deliver mission-critical communications to customers in the public safety, military, transport, utilities and commercial sectors. They offer one of the broadest ranges of standard and specialist radio products, support tools and accessories, combined with unrivalled local customer care and support.
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