MultiChoice Technology Department Project Office embraces PPO, after a decade of PPM tool woes

The Technology Department Project Office (TDPO) for MultiChoice, Africa’s leading entertainment company, has turned to Project Portfolio Office’s PPO secure, cloud-based project portfolio management (PPM) tool to provide its team with a central location for all project-related information, while also streamlining time spent on reporting.

MultiChoice’s technology department takes care of all technology requirements for DStv, a sub-Saharan African video entertainment company owned by MultiChoice that provides channels and services to customers across the continent via satellite, online and mobile apps, including building the infrastructure and completing projects relating to the backend systems that enable customers to watch DStv channels online and via the set-top box.

No one tool fit for MultiChoice’s TDPO purposes

“The TDPO is essentially the ‘brain’ of DStv,” explains Antoinette Mabona, senior manager for the MultiChoice’s TDPO. “We handle all projects related to the technology division, some 40 to 50 projects at any given time.

“When I joined MultiChoice around ten years ago, in the capacity of project manager, we were using a very basic in-house developed tool. Project managers could capture some information, such as budgets and some risks and issues, but it could not be used to produce reports, or to provide statistics or graphs.”

Two years later, the TDPO moved to another tool from an external supplier, and while the user interface was good, the project managers could not migrate existing information to the new tool, meaning that this process had to be started from scratch.

“This tool also did not serve the TDPO’s purposes, as stakeholders were not able to access the information,” explains Mabona. “Other issues included the additional complication of frequently running out of storage space, requiring the addition of more servers. This meant that the team had to revert to keeping a paper trail for projects, which led to a great amount of paper being generated and stored.”

The TDPO was then approached to try another PPM tool, which was being used by another MultiChoice project management office, but complex workflows and a lack of user friendliness meant that team members opted to stick with the paper-based method over using the tool.

After one year, where challenges were exacerbated with a lack of support internally and a requirement for consultants, TDPO members decided to do away with a PPM tool completely, relying on the use of shared folders for information. And while project information was more centralised using this method, stakeholders were still unable to access this information and it could not be drawn upon for reporting purposes.

“Thus, we had to compile our monthly EXCO reports manually, meaning not only that information was not completely accurate, but also that our project managers were spending one week per month putting together reporting data.”

This information was then edited and compiled by Mabona over a further two-day period, into a report of more than 80 pages.

Enter PPO…

Mabona discovered PPO two years later while attending a Project Management South Africa (PMSA) PMO Forum event, which is held in collaboration with Project Portfolio Office, and was convinced to investigate a proof of concept (PoC) project after listening to a talk by a PPO client.

“The discussion around how this organisation used PPO convinced me to engage with Project Portfolio Office in early 2020, but with plans derailed due to COVID, we kicked the PoC off in February 2021.

“It has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with an external consultant,” she continues. “The training received has been invaluable. The PPO team really took us on a journey with them, spending time addressing any questions we had and ensuring that our users understood how to use the PPO tool.”

Guy Jelley, CEO and co-founder of Project Portfolio Office, encourages organisations that are uncertain or have not had a positive PPM tool journey to go the PoC route. “Project Portfolio Office has a strong consultative approach to our PoCs, meaning that we work closely with clients during this PoC phase to ensure not only that we have a clear understanding of their specific requirements, and they receive the right amount of training, but also that PPO is customised to suit their unique environment.

“Running a PoC allows Project Portfolio Office to prove itself in practice, not just theory, and provides businesses with a solid foundation for decision-making.”

Benefits seen

In May this year, the TDPO implemented PPO fully, having already experienced its ease of use, the production of instant, accurate reports, and the ability to save all project-related information in one place, which is updated in real time, says Mabona.

“On the reporting side, we are saving a huge amount of time, going from spending one week per month to produce a report, to seconds. In addition, we are using PPO not only to draw our monthly EXCO reports, but also for the project managers’ weekly reports.”

One of the most important lessons learned with the implementation of PPO is the importance of team buy-in. “This is a critical factor, and with our history of multiple PPM tools, it was even more important that all of our project managers were on board with the use of PPO and so we involved them right from the start. We had close to 100 percent attendance of each and every training session,” she adds.

“Everyone agreed that PPO worked where other PPM tools hadn’t, and that we were able to achieve our objectives, even during the PoC stage.”

PPO’s TDPO future

Next steps for MultiChoice’s TDPO will include extending PPM tool access to stakeholders for the first time.

“We wanted to wait until our project managers were familiar with the system before introducing stakeholder access, and will be ready to take this step in early 2022, if not before,” Mabona states. “Stakeholders receiving the PPO reports have already been impressed not only with the information included, but also the report’s look and feel.”

Further, the TDPO is planning to extend the PPM tool to include benefits management, which is supported by PPO.

Says Jelley: “By following a structured approach to benefit tracking, PMOs must explicitly identify the benefits associated with a project at its start, quantify these benefits and track whether the planned benefits are in fact realised.

“As the project progresses or after completion of the project, the identified benefits start to be realised, and it is possible to begin measuring the expected benefits versus the actual benefits reached.

“The planned extension of PPO into these new areas for the MultiChoice TDPO will serve to further extend and deepen its use of the PPM tool, showing the confidence that has been built over these few months within this environment.

“Project Portfolio Office prides itself on working hand-in-hand with clients to ensure that users are comfortable with using PPO and that it aligns to their unique way of working,” he adds. “To have seen the TDPO team’s positive experience and the ease with which they embraced PPO is a real testament to this approach.”

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