“A stronger posture for program operations”
At Fazer, the development of project portfolio management began after the streamlining of project operations.
Simon Panelius, Fazer’s Manager IT Development, started working at Fazer in 2004, at which time Fazer’s holding company-style management model was converted to a matrix organization. The company’s IT and development programs began to require the kind of consistent portfolio management that the Excel-based program in use up to that time was no longer able to provide.
“After we stabilized our processes, we began to need better tools, so we began searching for an extremely lightweight, visually straightforward, and user-friendly application.
“We wanted an application so convenient that it would be easy for the Executive Group to view it at their meetings,” Panelius grins.
Project operations streamlined first
In 2006 Fazer’s IT unit began using the Thinking Portfolio application; nowadays all of the company’s project managers and owners have adopted it.
“But if we are really talking about portfolio management… luckily the determination to utilize portfolio management strategically exists within the company, but it still has to be better tied to budgeting, annual plans, and strategic thinking.
The Manager IT Development adds that even though portfolio management has become timely in many companies owing to confused program practices, there have been no competitive program models at Fazer.
“The ‘Extreme Case Project’ was suggested by someone in the executive group and its implementation began immediately. First we concentrated on the streamlining of our project operations.”
The switch to the new matrix organization has signified a “new start” for program management at Fazer.
“We have made huge progress, if we think about where we started. Now in the new matrix, everyone would like to adopt project portfolio management, but we also have to consider if everyone is up to the task; it’s a question of resources and training.”
Keeping portfolio management simple
At Fazer, the implementation of the new project model and program management has progressed according to a principle of sustainable development – only what “the land can provide”.
“In the old holding company model, there were very strong units; it was virtually impossible for the central organization to dictate to them. On the other hand, our program model has a favorable reputation because we don’t use strong-arm tactics. In fact, I have already received requests from units asking if they can take the model into use.”
According to Panelius, the greatest challenge of the Thinking Portfolio application is to keep it as simple as possible. Fortunately, many requests for modifications can be realized with the program’s existing attributes.
“What’s been great about working with Thinking Business is that they also don’t feel the need to be constantly stuffing the program with new features. We have needed a partner with whom we can spar when the program’s development requests have come from the company.”
Panelius is gratified that the subsequent appraisal feature of the projects added to the project portfolio has given program operations a stronger posture.
“Now the challenge is to integrate the project portfolio with strategic planning. For the time being it’s still a parallel model. It’s a management challenge, not a technical challenge.”
The origins of Fazer Group lie in a family company founded in 1891 when Karl Fazer opened his first café in Helsinki. Today Fazer offers meals and bakery and confectionery products, and operates in eight countries”
Text: Meri Eskola