Multi-Project resource management with Blue Ant
(Client Review from 2009)
This article is based on a conversation with Andreas Kleine, head of the organisational/efficiency group (‘operational management’) with the banking sector insurance company a.G. (BVV), about the stages of their implementation of the multi-project management software Blue Ant.
The BVV banking sector insurance company: pension schemes for the finance industry
The BVV offers pensions schemes for the finance industry. Since it was founded in 1909, the company has been taking care of the pension, incapacity and bereavement benefits of those in the financial sector. Measured in terms of its sheer capital, BVV is Germany’s biggest pension fund.
Some significant figures from the end of 2008:
- Around 680 member and sponsor companies (among them Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank AG, Bundesverband deutscher Banken e.V., Commerzbank AG, Credit Suisse (Deutschland) AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Deutsche Börse AG)
- Around 330,000 people insured
- Around 91,000 pension recipients
- Around €20 billion worth of assets under management.
- Minimal operating cost ratio of 1.8% (thanks a high level of automisation and efficient processes.
Some of BVV’s important project management data
Most BVV employees are occasionally or regularly involved in projects. In 2008 alone, around 4000 man days were worked as part of 10-20 concurrently running projects. This is equivalent to more than 18 individual person-years. Some staff members were engaged on several projects at once.
In order to guarantee efficient project implementation, it is necessary to establish a practical and consistent framework for project management throughout the company. At BVV, this happened in several stages:
- In 1998, as larger-scale projects like the foundation of a support fund were being undertaken, focus on project management began to intensify. Around this time, project management software was tested for implementation for the first time.
- In 2002, a guidebook about the mandatory project management regulations was produced, and it continued to be improved upon and added to in subsequent years. Project heads were supplied with document templates of the type used in certain aspects of project management (for example, project assignments and change requests). What was most important was the efficient implementation of individual large projects.
- As projects increased in complexity, and as more and more of them began to take place concurrently. In addition, new areas of activity (e.g. managing foreign pensions) as well as external influences (in particular, implementing far-reaching legal and regulatory requirements on schedule) shifted the focus more and more onto the need for coherent project management. For this reason, a committee for overseeing multi-project management was formed, which met once a month to discuss the entire study and project portfolios.
- Targeted, regular and comprehensive training schemes for project management have, since 2007, promoted a consistent understanding of projects and a unified procedure to be followed by project members, project heads and managers.
Implementation of the multi-project management software Blue Ant at BVV
Even in 2002 it had become clear that BVV required a project management software that was not only multi-user capable, but that also enabled a multi-project and resource management that was project-wide as well as department-wide. After a detailed selection process, Blue Ant was introduced and was in time used to plan individual projects.
The challenge for the next year was to gradually withdraw the isolated planning applications and establish Blue Ant as the compulsory unified tool for project planning and resource control, and this process was successful. The opportunity to work closely with proventis was a huge contributory factor to this successful outcome, not least because Blue Ant itself was continually being developed, often in response to BVV’s requirements.
Today, Blue Ant is used throughout the company, not only for the planning and control of complete portfolios, but also for managing requirements for improvements to the software (maintenance and version management). Also, more and more departments are using Blue Ant for planning and control of ongoing processes.
Throughout BVV, unified cost-rates (since 2007, three resource groups on a full cost basis) lead to unified and comparable project calculations, or business cases, and are stored in Blue Ant.
Since 2007, recorded project times have been serving as reference points for future projects, and the capacity utilisation of groups and departments.
Efficient resource control
Since Blue Ant Version 6.0, which was introduced in 2008, it’s been possible to maintain efficient resource control in BVV using Blue Ant. With the help of the Blue Ant ‘Reservation plan’ workflow, the project head and the potential member’s line manager must agree once a month on the deployment of resources for all projects. In this way, the original project allocation of the individual member, approved through the project request, is updated on the basis of the respective current project plan when the project member simply clicks on a button in the relevant Blue Ant function. This means that changes of plan are made transparent with the minimum of hassle, and using a relevant workflow can be delivered to the supervisor concerned on a monthly basis. Both a ‘compulsory range’ for the next three months and an ‘optional range’ for the subsequent three months are automatically reported. The advantage of this to the project head is that it makes the process of requesting and approving resources much simpler, and this in turn means planning can be achieved with much greater confidence. The line manager, too, always has access to a current overview of the planned resource deployment of the employees under his charge, and a monthly process view, which enable him to spot and clear up any potential resource bottlenecks that may occur.
Simple project control using current key figures
Using the ‘Baseline’ function, the project heads can ascertain a number of project situations and statuses (particularly the situation at the start of the project, and after every change request), as well as report regularly to project committees about divergences. These possibilities for greater project control have been becoming increasing popular among project heads in recent years, to such an extent that the previously-used ‘project accounting’ system has all but disappeared.
Summary and Outlook
Multi-Project/Resource Management, in BVV, only makes sense with a tool that:
- Contains all studies/projects centrally (including maintenance management)
- Contains all employees (internal and external) in a resource pool,
- Provides practical information and release workflows
- Enables a total overview as well as evaluation possibilities of whole studies/ portfolios.
Blue Ant meets these requirements of BVV’s offers additional uses, for example, the handling of maintenance and version management as part of the software development.
BUT: The implementation of the tool alone is only one aspect. Not until the appropriate organisational framework (particularly for unified project management) as well as accompanying and comprehensive training and coaching measures have been fully taken on board will Blue Ant’s full potential be tapped.
BVV will go further along the road it has already embarked upon, and is already anxious to see the new developments that Blue Ant version 7 has in store.