PG Group partners with PPO, retires Excel spreadsheets to automate project and portfolio status reporting
PG Group produces, distributes and installs automotive glass, building glass, aluminium frames and window film solutions. For more than 120 years, it has been the name for glass in Southern Africa and has since grown to become a significant worldwide player.
Its mission is driven by its commitment to excellence and desire to make a difference in customers' lives by solving glass problems with real care.
Gillian Stern, Chief Information Officer at PG Group, explains that the purpose of the Information Technology Project Office is to facilitate the effective execution of business strategy by investing in the most value –adding initiatives. “Without dedicated or certified project managers and business subject matter experts executing projects, the project office has a relatively low project maturity and it made sense to rely on Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations to manage project and portfolio reporting.
"Excel worked reasonably well for organising static project information, but ran out of steam when it came to accurately reporting on the status of the project portfolio real-time. PowerPoint was the go-to reporting format for divisional steering committee meetings but this created information silos and out of sync project updates damaging the project office’s professional credibility with our stakeholders.
"While both Excel and PowerPoint have their advantages, manual project and portfolio status reporting became incredibly difficult and required a great deal of time and effort to maintain.
"As a result, no matter how hard we tried, there was a lack of standardisation for project status reporting. Consequently providing visibility into critical project overlaps, dependencies and bottlenecks at the portfolio level proved almost impossible.
"Excel was just not an ideal project reporting tool and the project office resources invested hours and hours in finding, updating and cross-checking project information. And because different stakeholders had different information needs, we ended up using completely different project and portfolio status reporting formats. The decreased productivity, lack of collaboration, data errors, deleted data and the lack of control experienced using Excel spreadsheets were compelling reasons to take the brave decision to retire manual spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and automate simple, practical project and portfolio status reporting.”
This was the start of the partnership with Project Portfolio Office (PPO), project and portfolio management (PPM) service provider. Stern explains that prior to joining PG Group, the business requirements manager, Beaulla Bethanie, had been exposed to PPO and understood that the tool was easy-to-use, easily customisable and would generate business value within a very short period of time. During 2019, we investigated PPO and took the brave decision to implement PPO for its proven ability to enable project environments, irrespective of their maturity to digitalise and automate our project and portfolio reporting.
Stern admits she was a bit of skeptic at the start and believed that in the absence of mature processes, certified project managers and years of experience, the implementation of a PPM tool would add unwanted complexity to the environment.
“PPO as our implementation partner showed immense expertise, was passionate about moving our environment forward and was excited to share their knowledge with our team. They removed any doubts and their approach was to design a solution that was fit-for-purpose, matched our current maturity and worked for us. For business resources like our SAP and CRM consultants with minimal project experience, this could have easily been a daunting experience but our implementation partner’s enthusiasm to grow and educate our team gave us a real sense of partnership and made an enormous difference.”
As part of the implementation, PPO introduced a reporting standard referred to as the reporting heartbeat. This involved introducing reporting consistency for the PG Group IT Project Office stakeholders, standard definitions and clearly defined criteria for what RED, AMBER and GREEN (RAG) indicators mean and things like what % Progress means. With PPO’s project and portfolio status reporting tool in place, the project office team is now able to provide stakeholders with more accurate, consistent project and portfolio status information which would previously take up to four days per division to compile.
“Now, project and portfolio status reports are accurate, meaningful and automated based on real-time updates are generated in just minutes. This has been a game-changer for our project office team as the productivity gains has created the capacity to focus on becoming more strategic.”
According to Stern, the IT Project Office has gained unintended benefits in that the development of the reporting standard, PPO highlighted a number of improvement opportunities, resulting in a clear roadmap for the future. “In terms of lessons learned, the key is to retire your manual Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints immediately, make your PPM tool the single source of project and portfolio status information and be prepared to accept data gaps in the beginning.”
“The project sponsor’s brave 'retire' commitment combined with formal monthly steering committees and weekly progress meetings and our single-minded pursuit of the goal to achieve automated project and portfolio status reporting allowed for a strong basis to build for success,” explains Guy Jelley, founder and CEO of Project Portfolio Office. “PG Group had clearly defined objectives required from their project and portfolio status reporting tool and adopting a “keep it simple approach” made for a seamless transition from Excel spreadsheets and manual PowerPoint presentation to an automated environment. The team’s ability to not be distracted by the wide range of PPO functionality and features was a critical success factor to ultimately achieving their objectives.
"Not only did PPO provide immediately available project and portfolio status reports in multiple formats, it has also assisted the accidental project managers with a clear guideline for the IT project office’s reporting requirements. Any organisation at any level of project maturity that is battling with cumbersome Excel spreadsheets and manual project and portfolio status reporting can use PPO to cut through the paperwork allowing its resources to become more strategically focused.
“This was a huge success for a small, low maturity project environment and a major advantage that a consolidated portfolio view was achieved within weeks,” says Jelley. “It is a credit to all involved that manual reporting outputs could be retired, including the transfer of historical and active data within such a short period, thus achieving huge productivity gains.”