The efficient, transparent control of an enterprise is one of the high arts of management and demonstrates a central competitive factor. A condition for this is having a constant view of the current enterprise developments and corresponding data. Ascertaining strategic figures always proves to be a very complex and ambitious task if the company is strongly project-based. It must also consider numerous other circumstances that arise through clients, partners and legislators.
This article is from "Betriebswirtschaftliche Blätter", published by Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverlag.
Sparkassen Rating and Risikosysteme GmbH (SR) is responsible, as the central service provider and 100% subsidiary of Deutsche Sparkassen- und Giroverbands (DSGV), for the maintenance and development of policy and software tools for the the rating and counterparty riskmanagement. In this role, the community not only realizes the methods for further developing policy, but also serves as the coordinator of release implementations in the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe.
Given the complex, multi-elemental tasks, SR at once took on the problem of answering how they could effectively support their employees within the framework of their own enterprise and project controlling. As with almost all software launches, it quickly became apparent that their goal could only be reached if employees accepted such a controlling system from the very beginning. For this reason, the most important usage requests were clear. For one, the tool had to leave leeway for showing team-specific activities. It also had to be easy to use. Users had to be able to adapt intuitively to the program in order to minimize the training period.
This was not an easy task, as it required the removal of many beloved Excel tables, which are created by employees and therefore allow a high degree of flexibility. The “Planning Tool” also had to be accepted by the “Spreadsheet Creator.”
The transition was successful through the installation of the web-based multi-project management software “Blue Ant,” of the Berlin-based proventis GmbH (www.proventis.net). Blue Ant is a fully browser-based tool for resource and project planning and controlling. In addition to this, as a licensed model, it offers a low TCO (total cost of ownership). A fundamental advantage is the possibility for development partnerships in the framework of product development. For that reason, many SR specificities were successfully and cost-effectively integrated.
For SR, Blue Ant is a single point of information. Its use offers, among other things, a complete, up-to-date overview of project status, evaluations and tasks, for example from committees and work teams. Internet functions such as telephone lists or vacation calendars are constantly incorporated into the customer databank. The most important information is not only available to the management and employees through their workplace computers, but can also be called up securely using remote terminals like Blackberry. Within common projects, partners can gain limited and web-based access to pertinent project information.
Integrated Task Management
An important building block that until had been missing from SR’s General Operations controlling was a tool for the systematic controlling of management tasks. For one thing, many tasks could not be planned in the form of a project; rather they had to be executed ad hoc and urgently. Also, the actual projects currently have to be decisively shut down or handled in new projects. Above all, such tasks must be able to be updated as needed in Resource Planning and naturally it has to be assured that responsibilities are clear.
To this end, SR developed a “Ticket System’ for Blue Ant in cooperation with proventis. Tickets are understood as tasks from committees and work teams, as well as revision statements and contract terms. When someone is assigned a ticket, he/she automatically receives E-mail notices and reminders if desired. Reaction and editing times are attachable as individual “Service Level Agreements” in the master file data and can be set as default.
Tasks are thus prevented from being forgotten and are viewable in the system using color-coding (RAG). Additionally, tickets can be assigned to projects or they can be transferred to Project Activities. Besides this, employees can record their corresponding amounts into their own tickets.
Before installing Blue Ant, local tools for planning and controlling of tasks, projects and resources were installed. The selection of devices was mostly left up to the individual users. In this process, Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents were used. This worked well for the teams, however it considerably hindered the overall project controlling. For this there is a Blue Ant plug-in that synchronizes the program with MS Project. Afterward, the employees and team leaders were individually trained to use the software. After a short adjustment period, the employees had grasped and were engaged with Blue Ant and were no longer using Excel.
Bit by bit more features of Blue Ant became active. The team and department heads familiarized themselves with the controlling functions, while the secretary gained enthusiasm for the vacation and absence overview functions. So it happened that, after a short orientation phase, the initial investment turned into a permanent benefit.
A success factor during the implementation was the exclusive assignment of an employee, which included the first employees to show interest from the very beginning, within the framework of a Bottom-Up approach. Only after almost all employees had been convinced to work with the tool did the administrators give notice that it would be a required standard. In the meantime, the department head’s daily project status lists are no longer issued on paper, but as electronic reports in Blue Ant. This process ensures that project heads begin to realize that their documentation will be correspondingly evaluated.
Furthermore, the construction of a project desk has been tried and tested. An employee uses this tool to take care of planning and coordinating team and department-relevant projects.
What steps is SR taking to successfully initiate the project?
- An internally accepted employee is exclusively assigned to project implementation.
- Minimal guidelines for detailed planning gives a project team freedom and promotes acceptance for the project. Only necessary rudimentary information, such as time frame, evaluation and employees, has to be cited for tax purposes.
- Regular ritualized reporting serves the flow of information for the company management and the team.
- A project desk is constructed to support annual planning and daily work (Support, Usage Measurement and Data Quality Control.
A Powerful Tool
SR realized its requests through Blue Ant’s powerful tool. With the support of proventis GmbH, the tool ensures a clear and efficient instrument for company management. Through Blue Ant’s integration into SR’s activities, different process demands of banking supervision are fulfilled, such as the documentation and historicization of tasks and plans, reporting commitments about performance or compliance with predetermined planning processes with the help of a powerful tool.
What does Blue Ant achieve in detail? Its use:
- assures a systematic retention and historicization of tasks within committees, work teams, Deutsche Bundesbank auditing agencies, and the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) in compliance with state deadlines,
- supports the compliance of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with contract partners,
- retains project-dependent amounts (Tickets),
- guarantees controlling and reporting of tasks, as well as plans and resource utilization,
- separates the “old” Excel lists and Lotus Notes folders,
- maintains an overview and master data in real-time at the push of a button and also using mobile terminals like Blackberry.
From now on, SR is assured a modern, easy-to-use planning and reporting instrument for daily business with the possibility of including clients, project teams and other partners in the process. proventis’ development partner model and its cost structures give SR the flexibility to realize future individual requests cost-effectively with a standardized product.