»Retrospectively, and in conversations with other companies that also implemented project management solutions, we discovered that we were much better off than other firms, having gone with Blue Ant.«
As a subsidiary of Porsche Holding Porsche Informatik is committed to a big name. The task: to manufacture the best software solutions in the automotive industry. The principle: concentration on the field of automobiles. The effect: because the employees know about the business better than anyone else, they develop the most effective solutions. That’s why more and more customers from all over Europe choose Porsche Informatik, and as a result improve their quality of business. Porsche Informatik supported some of the most successful auto companies over the last four decades: Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Seat, and Skoda among others. The company consults, develops and trains. Porsche Informatik strives for more efficiency and economy – with integrated software solutions suited to the customer’s needs.
We spoke with engineer Josef Bayrhammer, who, along with Mag. Franz Löcker, is responsible for the introduction of Blue Ant at Porsche Informatik GmbH.
Mr. Bayrhammer, what are your tasks within the company?
Porsche Informatik GmbH operates in the three areas of wholesale trade, finance services and retail trade. As division head, I am responsible for solutions in the area of wholesale trade. Here we develop highly integrated solutions for specific business areas in the automotive field.
At the same time we compress projects into self-functioning teams – experienced in the respective problem domains – according to agile process models from design analysis to implementation and usage. Nonetheless it is important to safeguard the overview of all projects, in spite of their being self-reliant, in order to detect early if something is not running optimally.
Please give us an example from your experience for how developments from Porsche Informatik GmH come into use.
We develop web solutions for end-customers, for example used car exchanges (i.e. www.weltauto.com), new car manufacturers and generic automotive trade performance solutions. Likewise, we implement back-office solutions and extranet solutions for wholesale and for our traders, for example our trade system CROSS, solutions for new car wholesalers, solutions for spare parts distribution, and for campaign management, etc. In all of these fields we have a great amount of expertise to fall back on during development.
How many projects does Porsche Informatik install per year? How many projects run simultaneously?
Our core business is development projects, of which we install around 150 per year. We spend more than 150 hours to begin our projects. Projects that take this amount of time are compressed into small assignments. On average projects take between 400 and 700 hours, during the course of which the number of project participants varies from one to 15 employees. Large projects can have a duration of 30,000 hours.
Why did you seek out a project management solution? What goals needed to be reached?
What tipped the scale was the difficulty we had handling many projects simultaneously, multi-project management. In specific projects, assessments were still very good. Over the years, different individual solutions had been established. We looked through the choices for a project management environment that would allow us to achieve an assessment of all open and planned projects and their progress. For this we wanted a solution that would work well in our system landscape and with our time and task recording, as well as something that would be well integrated with our large settlement system.
Furthermore it was important to find a partner that is ready for sensible project advancements and adaptations, and that will help lead us closer to our ideals for project management.
How did you proceed with the search and how did you decide to go with Blue Ant?
Our starting point was to formulate a catalog of requirements. Support came from the PM study at the University of Osnabrück about the array of project management tools on the market, from which we developed further ideas concerning our requests. While looking through market analyses we struck upon a press release of Blue Ant.
Why did you decide on Blue Ant?
The decision for a specific project management tool wasn’t easy for us. We found it positive that Blue Ant was a relatively young solution, that didn’t yet appear to be weighted down by outdated technology. The cooperatively developed idea of being able to control a series of project management functions over Web Services from our area, and thereby to make possible a better integrated system environment, was definitely a deciding factor. For that we put up with the fact that the performance of the Blue Ant software solution isn’t always alluring and that the web user interface has its own disadvantages compared to a Windows user interface.
Before the introduction, proventis held a workshop with you. Could you briefly summarize the content and whether this was helpful afterward?
The most important thing was personally “getting a whiff” of the partner. We wanted to get a feeling for whether we could work with the company and people behind the product on a long-term basis. That may sound a bit unprofessional, but I believe that is the more important aspect and anyone who says otherwise is not being honest or isn’t doing it well.
Blue Ant didn’t offer all of the functions we needed. However we saw the potential for development in Blue Ant and moreover we had the feeling that we’d found a partner in proventis with whom we could develop Blue Ant long-term. And yet I have to admit, Porsche is surely not the easiest partner, as some of their requests and organizational structures are different from other companies. I also have to admit that a system that exactly matches our specifications probably isn’t available on the market, since for 90% of those companies it would be much too complex.
You use Blue Ant via web service. Why do you think this is useful?
Preferably, we would have developed our own project management software, as we run some very specialized operations. Since we have a relatively massive time recording and settlement system and because all of the project management systems we evaluated were weak in these areas, we wanted to continue using our own system. Controllability through interfaces needed to meet our requirements.
Moreover, there are constantly new developments that we have to react to. We depend on SCRUM more and more. To support this in combination with multinational modification and priority management, we will develop an additional tool in the near future and transfer the data to Blue Ant via Web Services. In doing so we will secure an overview of the respective project as well as all other projects , in spite of the current work in SCRUM iterations.
How did the introduction of Blue Ant go? What were your experiences during the pilot?
The introduction of a common project management software in an IT firm with very individualized divisions is always an especially difficult challenge, and so it was with us. For the introduction there was some amount of conviction and pressure necessary. And with these kinds of changes one often gets to know only within the first year all of the strengths and weaknesses of a product.
After a solid five-month pilot phase, at the beginning of our fiscal year in April 2007, we were able to introduce Blue Ant as planned. The successful factor of the introduction was without question the readily available Web Services. Without the use of Web Services, the introduction probably would have been more problematic.
Were there specific demands that had to be met?
The readiness for product advancement was already very high and to our favour, the ability to remotely control the solution through Web Services, the support of a basic plan, the description of burn down charts, a further method of project progress prognosis, the measurement of progress with the aid of time-based test intervals and a better project risk management was developed.
How many employees work with Blue Ant? And how do they work with the solution?
Momentarily about 250 employees and freelancers work with Blue Ant. Blue Ant will be put into place throughout the entire company. Through this we get an overview of all the current projects in the company.
Were your requirements met?
We completed the overview of all of our projects and partly the remote controlling of the project management software over Web Services. We are also satisfied with these results. We definitely reached our goal of successfully using the project overview, project advancement pursuit and our project cockpit, and of making the solution for documenting a fixed project plan useable. Blue Ant’s interaction with our system’s landscape, our time and task entry, as well as our extensive settlement system was very reliable. We also felt positively about proventis’ readiness and reaction time concerning product adaptations and advancements.
What difficulties did you have to deal with? Where can improvements be made with Blue Ant?
As before, we see the somewhat cumbersome web user interface and the unsatisfying performance of the project management solution on the whole as weaknesses. In the area of active project planning and resource management we are not yet quite content with what has been accomplished.
As a future challenge, we see how we can use the project management solution for agile project management methods better, support specific steps from SCRUM better and handle the integration of the project management solution while managing our requests.
Even if the development wasn’t easy, in the meantime we got to a point where it would work for us. Retrospectively, and in conversations with other companies that also implemented project management solutions, we discovered that we were much better off than other firms, having gone with Blue Ant.
Porsche is certainly not the easiest enterprise to work with, as we have many self-reliant divisions. You don’t get far with regulations, instead people have to be won over sensitively. It makes such an introduction doubly difficult. All in all, however, we all in the phase in which we say that it works.
How do you see the future collaboration of Porsche Informatik GmbH with proventis?
In Version 5.2, our desired and commissioned advances were available, basic plan, burn down charts, alternative project progress prognosis, and fixed test intervals. Furthermore, we are planning advances in risk management and prognosis concepts, and more upgrades to Web Services.
Sure, during the selection process we had a range of choices in established IT solutions, especially from America. In spite of all our past problems, we are convinced that choosing Blue Ant was the best decision.