EPEX SPOT, the European Power Exchange, is the platform for short-term power trading in Europe. It enables transactions between about 300 member companies across eight European countries - accounting for half the power consumption in Europe.
Although international in scope, EPEX SPOT maintained a start-up culture, favoring oral communication in its work processes. While this facilitates alignment and the flow of information across the company, not having a proper PPM tool became a pain point when the organization reached high business growth in 2015.
Caroline Gras, Head of Project Portfolio Management and Processes, still remembers how challenging it was to work with the previous system after outgrowing it. “It was becoming increasingly harder to answer the simple yet critical question of: is it possible to complete the projects we plan with the current resources we have. Frequent bottlenecks challenged our ability to deliver high-quality projects on time”, she said.
Previously, the company tried to regain visibility over resource utilization through Excel-based scheduling, ending up with quite sophisticated spreadsheets. But the resulting patchwork of files proved hard to use and project managers were reluctant to use them. Consequently, EPEX SPOT decided to acquire a professional PPM tool.
Drawn to Sciforma because of its trustworthy reputation - which would soon prove a fact (as far as EPEX SPOT is concerned) - the company started implementing the solution in the first half of 2019.
Sciforma accommodates EPEX SPOT’s unique organization, mixing traditional project management with the Agile methodology. It gives us an overview of the big picture, enabling us to optimize resource allocation and portfolio management at the organization level.
To ensure user acceptance, the Head of Project Portfolio Management took a gradual approach to implement Sciforma. At first, she only requested project managers to use the tool to perform basic tasks: creating and maintaining a schedule for each project, and specifying the resources needed to complete it. “We want to win over this busy community by demonstrating practically that Sciforma is not another time-consuming constraint, but rather a solution that will greatly help them manage their projects”, said Caroline Gras.
EPEX SPOT spent time and energy integrating the tool to its specific, bimodal environment, which combines standard corporate divisions with “squads” using the Agile methodology to focus on one specific application or system. The “standard” project managers can draw from the squads’ targeted expertise whenever needed. In other words, the company is structured as a matrix organization mixing traditional project management and a more product-centric approach.
“The application managers who use Agile processes already had their own specific methods and tools. To achieve a comprehensive overview of all our resources and projects, we needed them to feed data into Sciforma. But asking them to input data twice was not an option. So we are working with them to determine how to use Sciforma in a way that suits everyone involved”, explained Caroline Gras.
“We started implementing the tool in early July, and we decided that the two remaining summer months would be a “sandbox” period for people to familiarize themselves with the tool, play with it, test it, and learn from their mistakes. We are supporting project managers in every possible way: meetings, discussion groups, presentations, etc. Our goal is to be ready to start using Sciforma for executive reporting purposes by September 1st.”
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We want to win over this busy community by demonstrating practically that Sciforma is not another time-consuming constraint, but rather a solution that will greatly help them manage their projects
Caroline Gras also aims to leverage the tool to manage her portfolio in an uncertain environment. “To me, Sciforma’s most valuable feature is the ability to simulate what-if scenarios. It was, in fact, a key requirement in the procurement process. In addition to EPEX SPOT’s own projects, we are also conducting many long-term, regulatory projects alongside a number of European partners. For these, the ability to create and explore a set of possible scenarios is invaluable”.
In the Fall, once the tool’s basic features are adopted, EPEX SPOT plans on rolling out a second version including project financial tracking. The company will also integrate its timetracking and time-off-tracking software with Sciforma in order to have all the data in a single place.