CCR: Breaking Free of Excel, From IT to Risk Modeling Projects
The French reinsurance company is using Sciforma to simplify its procedures for time-recording, budgeting, reporting, and forecasting.
CCR (Caisse Centrale de Réassurance) is a company that conceives, implements, and manages effective instruments to address the need for reinsurance coverage for exceptional risks that affect both its clients and the public interest. Started in 1946, CCR is now one of the top 25 leading reinsurance companies in the world. They are a public limited company with a capital of 60 million euros, owned by the French State, and employs 274 people. In 2013, they 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 coverage guaranteed by the French State, for specific sectors of the French market. These activities currently account for 67% of its turnover.
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. Relying on MS Excel led to difficulties in time and activity recording as well as data consolidation from different projects. Unable to generate a comprehensive view of its entire project portfolio, the company sought out a solution capable of: monitoring activities of the Information Systems Department (ISD), managing spending, invoicing, and budgets, and reliably distributing reports. These requirements were important to help the Executive Committee make budgetary allocation decisions while have an immediate overview of current projects.
"While 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 planned usage, CCR selected Sciforma’s offer. “Of the two solutions that 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). Additionally, after some tests on our existing projects, we realized that the other solution was not sufficiently restrictive to ensure consolidation easily. Sciforma on the other hand, could help us structure our procedures while remaining a light-touch and easy solution to use. As our ISD successfully had recourse to PSNext (Sciforma’s predecessor) in the past, so 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 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, and 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. For example: 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 reported in the tool 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 modeling 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: budgetary management (generally annual), separation of maintenance/project work (“Run” and “Build”), and 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. While the tool offers other possibilities, they do not suit CCR’s situation.
Simple and efficient activity monitoring
Tracking: 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, straightforward, and efficient way. We effortlessly issue regular updates for the monitoring of projects, budgets, and resource allocation, which help us verify the successful progression of projects and their effects on our staff management.”
Cost management: “We have also organized monitoring of contractual financial commitments and invoicing 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, while keeping an eye on their progress and costs utilization. Finally, we can organize the breakdown of service providers’ expenses much more easily than before.”
Reporting: 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 utilization 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.