Nampak, Africa’s leading diversified packaging company, has accelerated its IT project management office’s (PMO) efficiency and productivity by making Project Portfolio Office’s project and portfolio management (PPM) solution, PPO, its essential tool for project portfolio management.
Insourcing and refreshing the PMO
According to Nicole Luttig, Project Management Office (PMO) and Portfolio Manager at Nampak, the organisation’s PMO was established around 15 years ago, but in 2013, having outsourced the project office to a technology provider for several years, the decision was taken to bring the portfolio management capability internally.
“Essentially, this meant that the PMO needed to be set up again from scratch, requiring an assessment of the project tracking system already in place, which was proving to be ineffective and fairly costly. This also required redefining project portfolio management processes and ensuring that they were being followed.”
Luttig soon realised that the Project Managers were not using the existing and complicated portfolio management tool. She motivated to have it decommissioned, while unpacking templates and methodologies. The engagement with the business improved.
However, during this period, the organisation needed to focus strongly on operational efficiencies, cost containment, and re-structuring. The implementation of a new project portfolio management system was put on the back burner for some time.
The team created an Excel tool, which included a copy of a project schedule that contained inter alia built-in project management knowledge areas, such as issue tracking, risk management and a communications framework, that enabled seamless stakeholder management. “This tool was only supposed to be a temporary solution but ended up being used over the longer term through necessity,” Luttig explains. “However, it was cumbersome to administrator, was archaic, and called for a considerable amount of manual work.”
This led to challenges in maintaining a holistic, high-level view of critical activities across the portfolio, as there was no centralised platform to standardise portfolio and project status reporting. The volume of concurrent projects made it difficult to maintain alignment across different functions and teams.
“Reporting, in particular was a real headache. Previously, should our CIO have requested specific project or portfolio management information, such as how many projects had been completed over the previous three-month period or how many projects are currently in the ‘red’, a physical project management meeting would be required, followed by the manual updating of reports.”
All systems go
In 2022, Luttig again requested that the PMO’s budget include provision for a new project and portfolio management system. Having received the go-ahead and subsequently undergoing the procurement process, she and her team narrowed their options to three vendors, of which Project Portfolio Office’s PPO was one.
“We needed an out-of-the-box project portfolio management solution that was functionally fit-for-purpose and ready to use, with little customisation required. PPO fitted these requirements and provided a cost-effective solution,” she states.
Today, the Nampak PMO team typically runs some 25 concurrent projects, split broadly as follows: 40 percent application projects, 40 percent infrastructure projects, 10 percent strategic business projects (which could include acquisitions, disposals, restructuring, and so on), and 10 percent actual manufacturing projects (such as the moving of manufacturing lines or site moves).
“From an administration perspective and a governance point of view, we’ve seen a marked improvement through the use of PPO. Reporting is also much faster and easier. Using our previous tool, steerco reports for example could take an entire day to complete. Since the rollout of PPO, our first Steerco report took just two hours to produce, and this will become even faster as data quality improves.
“The PMO team’s KPIs have also been updated and now include a prerequisite to keep data up to date in PPO,” adds Luttig.
“Additionally, in our monthly PMO portfolio management meetings, we’re now able to flag high-priority projects using the demand management capability within PPO, allowing us to manage capacity. This enables the PMO to plan whether vendor project management resources will manage certain projects on behalf of Nampak providing clear progress updates, or if we’ll handle it ourselves.”
According to Luttig, transparency on the PMO’s resourcing and capacity planning has improved through PPO. “This seems to be a challenging issue that many PMOs have to deal with,” she comments. “In Nampak’s case, our PMO is based within the organisation’s IT division despite being used at a Group level, reporting to the CIO, and we’re often asked about IT resource capacity. By using PPO, we can assign resources to the individual project schedules while seeing where there’s overlap and which resources are duplicated where. We can show a portfolio Gantt too, which is a great achievement.”
The most significant benefits experienced have been on the reporting side reducing the administrative load.
“The visibility afforded by the use of PPO is also critical. Before the implementation, it was very difficult to gauge a project’s status: Is this project doing okay? Are the project managers logging information? Now it’s quick and easy to go into PPO, check on a project’s risk, issues register, or inspect project lessons. This type of visibility is one of the main advantages delivered thus far by PPO.”
Another win achieved by Nampak’s PMO is that its core portfolio management processes, guidance, and workflow are now consolidated in one place, using PPO’s lifecycle capability and out-of-the-box demand management functionality. This means that should new project managers be onboarded, a central repository is now available within PPO that includes all of this detail.
“Through PPO, we’ve created a living environment where one can access the latest information at any point.”
On the demand side, having a pipeline of potential projects means that the Nampak PMO can quickly and easily view pending projects for approval. This is information that was not readily available previously.
“PPO has helped to create great visibility for everyone involved, not just on active projects, but also pipeline projects. Having this type of information at my fingertips through the system has been a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Says Guy Jelley, CEO and co-founder of Project Portfolio Office: “PPO was built to deliver functionality for every aspect of project portfolio management, focusing on providing greater project portfolio visibility. This type of transparency has been important for Nampak’s PMO, allowing for one central version of information assisting with scheduling, managing, and monitoring specific tasks and resources across the portfolio.”
“We have been very impressed at the working relationship with the Project Portfolio Office. Too many service providers drop the ball, and unfortunately, as a client, you get better at managing poor service. With Project Portfolio Office, however, the entire experience, for myself and my team, has been a positive one. In fact, for the future, the Nampak PMO is planning to extend PPO to include more senior team members,” Luttig adds.