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Case Study: The Coal Authority

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Case Study: Rapid Transformation of Portfolio Visibility and Standardisation for the Coal Authority using Microsoft Project Server 2013

The Coal Authority is working to resolve the impacts of current and past mining activities in Britain. Its team provides expert advice and creative solutions to manage public safety and environmental issues associated with coal and metal mining. This includes land stability, tip management and mine-water treatment.

The Authority manages a complex project portfolio and is currently expanding its range of commercial products and services, whilst continuing to deliver its statutory duties in dealing with Britain’s mining legacy.

Having established a formal PMO function in 2011, the Authority wanted to further increase project management maturity, visibility and standardisation. Wellingtone was chosen as the facilitation partner to guide the design of a new methodology and support the implementation of Project Server 2013. Carl Towner, Head of Projects, and Alicia Eason-Smith, Project Manager (PMO), at the Coal Authority explain more.

The Challenge: Driving PPM Maturity with an Integrated Solution

“The Authority is very experienced in managing projects, but we recognised the need to standardise our established practices and get more visibility across the portfolio” Carl recalls. “We were already Microsoft Project users on a stand-alone basis, but we needed specialist guidance to establish an integrated solution. We wanted to work in genuine partnership with a company that would help us work through the requirements, the configuration, the implementation and development of the system moving forward.”

Alicia explains: “When we first started talking to Wellingtone, things were being done in different ways across different departments, making it difficult to compare, analyse and make decisions in a coherent way. We needed help in this area, so we invited three companies to tender. Wellingtone proved to be the best fit for us. They offered more than the one-off software implementation. They were professional, approachable and had a lot to offer in working with us to define a project management methodology as well as implementing Project Server.”

The First Steps: Sharing Expertise to Develop a Methodology Blueprint

“At the beginning of the process, Wellingtone joined us for a requirements gathering exercise to help us to figure out what we wanted the project life cycle to look like.” Alicia continues. “They were extremely knowledgeable, giving us a lot of practical examples and guidance on the level of complexity that would be appropriate for us. They helped us to define a project management methodology that would be relevant across the organisation and developed some templates.”

According to Carl, this consultancy service was flexible and responsive. “Wellingtone made it easy for us to tap into his expertise and combine it with our own knowledge. The early solutions Wellingtone put forward needed tweaking to fit our requirements and ensure a good organisational fit. That’s to be expected – these kinds of change processes are always a learning curve. We were impressed by how Wellingtone worked with us as our requirements became more refined and responded to our feedback to get us to a point that we felt happy with.”

Supporting the Methodology: Integrating Project Server 2013

Wellingtone’s flexibility was also evident in their handling of the configuration and deployment of Project Server, Alicia says. “When we initially engaged with them our plan was to adopt Project Server 2010. But along the journey, we decided to go straight to the 2013 version. Wellingtone were flexible about making that change without any fuss. The technical team came in to work with us on requirements and configuration, and once we signed that off they delivered some basic training before a testing period within the PMO. Once the PMO was comfortable with it, we rolled it out to the ICT team, who were keen to use it.”

The Rollout: Rapid User Adoption across the Organisation

Having established Project Server within the PMO and ICT teams, the Authority was then equipped to effect a wider rollout. “In December 2014 we started to use the system for capacity planning, then at the beginning of 2015 we rolled out timesheets,” says Alicia. “We have been ambitious in the speed of our rollout and we’re pleased that people have been very co-operative. With Wellingtone’s support, we have deliberately focused on ease of use.”

Carl has a similar perspective: “The feedback I’ve had is that people find Project Server easier than they anticipated. There are some more bespoke requirements that we’re currently working with Wellingtone to satisfy more elegantly.  But in most cases the basic system has integrated quite smoothly. Originally, we looked at the timesheet module as a supplementary function that we would address at a later stage. In fact, we have been confident enough to adopt timesheeting across all users without needing extra input from Wellingtone.  That’s testament to the additional knowledge they have helped us to embed within our organisation.”

The same benefit has applied to the training side, according to Alicia. “We have taken Wellingtone’s training package and simplified it for a wider audience, condensing it into bite sized chunks that are more suitable for many of our users. So now we have the capacity to train internally, and our colleagues are responding well, because what they’re learning aligns to what they need to get out of the system.”

The Business Benefits: New Visibility for Best Practice Portfolio Management

Even during the early stages of widespread adoption, Wellingtone’s work with the Coal Authority is generating clear advantages. “As a government sponsored body we’re highly accountable” Alicia points out. “Our new methodology, supported by Project Server, gives us the ability to see the entire project portfolio in one place and to encourage colleagues to use a project life cycle. They can see the need to manage risks and issues properly because these things are clearly flagged up and visible to everyone rather than being hidden away in spreadsheets.”

Carl is in agreement. “We’re using the system to capacity plan across the organisation. For the first time, we have been able to flush out a truer picture of capacity loading. Project Server enables us to shine a spotlight on the areas that need attention and take the necessary action. It equips project managers and sponsors to ask the right questions, make the right decisions, address risks appropriately and ensure that we’re running our projects with a best practice approach.”

The Future: Enhancing Project Performance by Increasing Sophisticated Usage

The success of the initial implementation has inspired further plans to harness Project Server’s full capability, according to Alicia. “We started by rolling out project management functionality to core teams and are now deploying it to the rest of the Authority, as well as exploring the additional benefits of Portfolio Analyses. We plan to do this by the end of March 2016.”

This will be complemented by enhanced reporting capabilities, Carl explains. “Next year we will focus on using the highlight report to drive good practice as well as developing a suite of easily accessible and useful management reports. Wellingtone has already helped us to produce an automated highlight report through Project Server.

“When we started this journey we were looking for a genuine partner who would be a part of our team, rather than just providing a service. This is what we have in Wellingtone. They have committed themselves to our journey of improving our project management capabilities, strategic development and ultimately effective delivery. They are travelling with us on the journey not just as a supplier, but as a value adding partner that we know we can trust.”

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