“With the project portfolio it’s a change in the way of thinking”
According to Consolis Northern’s Nordic IT Director Tuomo Svanlund, one of the most important advantages of the project portfolio application is what it achieves.
Consolis switched over to portfolio management thinking in early 2010 when it became necessary for the company to adopt a comprehensive approach towards the strategic management of its ICT and development projects. The co-operation with Thinking Business was initiated in the Finnish business area unit, followed by pilot projects in other Nordic units.
Previously the company managed its programs with an Excel application.
“We first took a look at the Thinking Business application at Fazer, where we noticed that they had a solution for the same problems that we had. I wanted a sufficiently simple and transparent application with no margin for misunderstandings,” Tuomo Svanlund explains.
Svanlund feels he now has the sufficiently simple solution he was seeking. The portfolio management program has all the essentials, and it has been possible to link parts of it to the company’s existing document management system.
“We got what we wanted. A change project’s slowness or difficulties can no longer be blamed on the application, even though it’s sometimes asked in the units why this program in particular was selected.”
Svanlund appreciates that the project with Thinking Business has run smoothly; it would be hard to imagine an easier system renewal.
“It’s easy to acquire tools, but they have to exist. Thinking Business’s strength is a sufficiently fast and straightforward application that harmonized our thinking. I have received comments that the tool could be simplified even further!”
“You have to take a position”
Tuomo Svanlund explains that in large multinational European companies, project portfolio thinking is still a relatively exotic concept. He emphasizes that in the new application, it’s less about tools and more about changes in a company’s way of thinking.
“It all has to do with how we can promote change in the project culture. We live by project-oriented operational methods, but we are absurdly bad at it, charging in like Wild West gunfighters, shooting from the hip, by intuition.”
Svanlund chuckles that spending assets for development projects is never a problem, but no one ever wants to think about securing paybacks. The project portfolio concept “irritatingly” brings utilitarian thinking to the fore.
“Now the programs have been linked to a company-wide development framework. No matter what new development programs are presented to upper management, they will have to be assessed with respect to the project portfolio.”
Svanlund recalls that previous projects originated in business units and in different countries automatically; the benefits and profitability were considered afterwards. Now the idea is to first attempt to guarantee a projects’ chances of success, and a project’s payback is examined from a wider perspective.
“While renewing program management, we are also rethinking project control, and there have been some intense discussions with the units, where the feeling is that these kinds of changes compromise their independence. It all comes down to not wanting to show what you are up to.”
Svanlund disagrees, convinced that transparency is the most important thing in program management. What you see is what you get.
“When all programs are clearly visible, they can be discussed more openly. Results can be distributed to the entire company; this enhances the sense of common ownership. We should be continuously involved in the units’ programs, not just once a year. The information also gets closer to its creators.”
“Consolis is a leading European manufacturer of prefabricated concrete products, providing comprehensive solutions for building and infrastructure projects.
The Group operates over 130 plants in 25 countries with 12,000 persons and net sales around 1.3 billion euros in 2009.”
Text: Meri Eskola