With Ronan Keane
In today's episode Johnny speaks to Ronan Keane; a Global Project Manager here at Cora Systems.
In this interview, Ronan shares with us, his experience in implementing Cora’s EPPM Software in large organisations such as Analog and Allergan.
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Transcript from Episode 80: “Global EPPM Software Implementation Case Studies”
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
It started off in college where I got a Bachelor of Commerce degree and I did a Masters in Business Studies. Interestingly, then I did a Diploma in Software Design which was like a one-year cross-over course and I was interested in getting into websites at the time. That lead on to me working as a Managing Consultant for Deloitte in Dublin and I spent about six and a half years there. Then I worked as an implementation consultant and a programmer.
Then I moved west and I wanted to live in Sligo because I’m originally from Sligo, and I got into other industries, like the pensions and insurance industry. I got an opportunity about three and a half years ago to join Cora Systems here in Carrick-on-Shannon.
I started to work as a Project Manager on the implementation for National Transport Authority, which was not on our flagship Cora platform, it was actually a bespoke development. That’s where I cut my teeth in Cora and I’ve since moved on to doing implementations on our Cora solution.
Are you tempted, with that background, to get into writing code?
Well, I guess I wasn’t tempted because I’ve done it before. I think what I realized pretty quickly was that I wasn’t the coding type. I guess, what I do bring to the project manager role is that I have the technical expertise and the business background, not necessarily the expertise in the technical side of it, but I do bring experience and knowledge on the business side.
What I see myself as a project manager that can make it between the actual technical side, which is development and the business, which is the client. Really my role is to transfer my client’s business requirement into the actual technical functionality of what we do in Cora.
Can you share with us a couple lessons learned with regard to PPM?
I started to work at Deloitte on the first day of the Millennium back in 2000, I was there for about six and a half years. I was really a member of a team then, so wasn’t per se in the managing of projects, but I think when I look back now in hindsight what I realize is that I really was managing the part of work that I was given.
I was reporting to, I guess, a program or project manager. I would also say that back in 2000, the PPM that was around was in project management. Even in a big consulting house like Deloitte, the project manager was still doing project management in Excel.
There wasn’t a huge amount of software to do that. Being in project management is being a part of the team, ensuring that you know what your role is within that team, what are the deliverables that you have to do for a certain period of time and I guess reporting clearly what are your results and also communicating if you have any problems in the work that you are doing.
And do you think that the role of PMO has matured? Was it a serious role being a project manager back in the Deloitte?
Yeah, I think it’s very much become a more formal role. As I said, the people were using Excel. They put down the number of tasks they had to do in a project and they did their reporting in it. I think with the whole evolution of the PMO and the use of tools like Cora Enterprise PPM that we use in Cora Systems, companies are now realizing that when their projects fail, they want to find out very quickly why they are failing.
So, they’re now using pieces of software to determine where are the problems in the project and they want a software solution that will look at a program of projects and see how they’re doing against time, are they on budget and if it has problems let’s find out what those problems are.
I think very much how the project manager’s role has changed I suppose is that now he needs to be able to have his project, to be able to report the status into the program and that program becomes a program of all the programs that a big consulting house like Deloitte has or any other company for that matter. It certainly advanced a long way.
Can you explain what Cora systems do?
Cora has a flagship product called Cora Enterprise PPM that provides enterprise portfolio and project management solutions. So, that’s the tagline and I suppose in my own words, really what we have is a piece of software that allows companies to run projects at task level using a Gantt and aWBS.
To me, the real power of the Cora platform is the ability to actually roll up from projects into programs and into portfolios. For example, I may have a risk on a project or a number of risks which is the high-level risk that I want to report at a program level, that I also want to report up to my manager, so that it flags up on his dashboard within Cora saying this is a risk that I think has very high chance of happening and I want to ensure that it is reported into my monthly or my weekly report for his project.
What the Cora Enterprise PPM system has the ability to do very well is, I guess, it is to roll up both risks, but also, more importantly, the finances of Projects, so it can tell how are we are doing within one project.
What’s involved in implementing rolling out that software?
Yeah, well, maybe I could use an example of a project that I’ve been working on for about the last two and a half to 3 years, Honeywell Business Solutions. What we have done I suppose is that we’ve used the basic Cora product, which was the out-of-the-box product, and tailored it so it’s bespoke for Honeywell.
Honeywell is a huge global organization and people are working in various regions and areas that they call enterprises. The implementation that we were involved in was really finding out: “Ok, we have Cora Enterprise PPM and it’s got an out-of-the-box functionality on your business building solutions; they have their processes as well, and what we do is get together in the workshop and wesay, this what you can currently do in the Cora platform and this is what your current processes are, how can we marry the two?”
It’s simply one thing, we either change your processes, in a number of most companies that doesn’t happen or we change the solution to reflect your processes. So, implementation generally goes along the same steps of the design phase, a building phase, testing phase or release phase and the go-live phase.
The design phase is where the project came from Honeywell Business Solutions and it comes together with Cora. We’ll actually meet twice in Germany for a week-long session where we will actually look at the piece of functionality and Honeywell’s team will bring us through exactly how they want the functionality to work.
We will then go away and come back and say “Ok, this is how we feel it will work in the Cora platform, we will create functions or designs which will show all of the screenshots and the wireframes of how we feel it’s going to be shown in the project”.
When we get a green light from Honeywell, then we will build, do the coding and testing, and then we have a process of releasing on Honeywell sites where they will do the testing and then sign off the approval and one that is all approved and eventually will go live in to their live production system.
Do you provide the same level of flexibility to the smaller organizations?
Ultimately, you know we’ve got, the Honeywell engagement I guess would be a large enterprise project that would have a team of 9 to 10 people working from Cora, that are fully engaged, in a full-time basis with Honeywell.
We have got clients, you know, in the public sector, we’ve got them in the private sector, as well. And depending on the size of the client, we basically set up a team and from the straightforward implementation where we use Cora Enterprise PPM out-of-the-box, we take three or four days of implementation consultancy to actually configure the software to match the processes that they apply.
If they do not want to change their Cora solution then it’s a straightforward implementation. Then we would have 2 days of training as well, for all of the people within the organization and then it would go live. To answer your question is that we can look after all audiences is what I would say. Depending on the level of engagement and really the level of change the client wants to make.
In everyday language, what would you say, what are the benefits and the value that it brings?
I will answer that by giving a few examples of the bespoke functionality we have done for Honeywell. The first thing I would say that doesn’t just apply to Honeywell Building Solutions. When you ask any project manager how’s the project going, they will almost always say that it’s going very well. Until you can actually get a clear insight into how is that project really doing.
I don’t say you can’t believe the project manager but the facts don’t lie. What Honeywell has found is that Cora has allowed them to do is to have one single point of the truth whichis the actual software themselves. They have got over 40000 projects running on Cora and they really have governance, compliance, and control. What they have done within the tool is that they have put in the compliance indicators.
So, basically, on a project manager’s dashboard with the projects that he is managing, you can clearly see what work does the manager need to ensure everything is OK today, and any actions or, compliance checks, or actions that need review on a project, on a monthly basis might be outstanding. It gets indicated to you in the dashboard. They have found that the Cora platform has made life a lot easier for the project managers.
With any major transformation, when you are bringing in a new piece of software, you have to get people on board and say this is actually going to help you. That is one of the biggest things that they have come back with. Their project managers told them that they like this piece of software because it actually helps them to do their job. Keeps them away from spending a lot of time doing the reporting, which was the case in the past.
In terms of Analog, what work is going on there?
Analog had a requirement, where they wanted to know how many people they needed to run the actual projects that they had. Once again, the problem that they had in using spreadsheets was that they couldn’t get an overall picture for all of the projects that they had and couldn’t see where were the shortfalls.
What we had in the Cora platform before we got this requirement from Analog is that we would do our resource planning at the task level. As you have a task we would put the resource against that task. They didn’t want that level of detail and ultimately what they challenged us with is that they asked us to research was the ability of having top-down resourcing or strategic capacity management, where they can get a group of projects for the year 2018 and they can plan a year in advance or 6 months in advance and they can resource demand of those projects by skill. So, every project is going to need an engineer, developer, tester, etc.
What they want to do it is to put those in on month by month basis, and actually put in the demand for that skill. So, they can say that at the start of the project they will need an engineer heavily involved, maybe not so in the middle of the project, and then it might come at the end of the project. You can see where I’m going with this.
The next step would be that they can put in actual resources in against that project. So, actually, they are planning at the project level, not at the task level. After you resourced up your projects, by skill and by resource, you now have an opportunity to use inside pages to tell: “Ok, let’s look at the program of the projects and tell me where are the gaps, where am I missing somebody, where do I need to get a resource from somewhere else and also more importantly, where are people actually over-allocated and where are people working in far too many projects”.
Most recently, what we have developed is analysis in the scenario planning to go into a safe environment away from the live data, take a copy of the live data into a safe environment within that tool. And, you can actually play around with the data and say “Okay, if we’ve got these 10 projects here and we are now at full capacity, if we’re to move those out or to bring them back a bit, what impact would that have on our resources?”.
When they have an opportunity to pitch for the business for what that they wouldn’t need 6 engineers or 6 developers for the next 6 months, the question is, when they skill that up and drop that into the scenario planning environment, what impact would that have on us. And ultimately, what we are going to tell them when they will need to hire new engineers.
That’s continually working with Analog has really been an excellent functionality that now other clients are also using as well. So, strategic capacity management has just become a major release in the most recent release.
What sort of work and benefits does Allergan get from Cora?
Allergan is one of the clients that are now using the strategic capacity management, similar to Analog. The challenge there is that we had created the functionality for Analog, but this is a challenge that we have continually is how do you make a piece of functionality that you made specifically for a client and be available to all other clients. So, you have to have various configurations and administration within the back end of the software to make it available for other clients.
How do you balance these great ideas that they are bringing to the table in addition to what they’d use if they’d knew it was available?
Thankfully, it’s not my area to make that decision. What we are talking about is the product roadmap and it’s you know, the committee of developers and the senior management team will decide “Ok, what area are we going to look at based on the facts that we get from clients?”.
Analog is a very good example, they actually came to us and said: “We really like your software but we really need you to do this” and that was that became the strategic capacity management. We are in talks to get into partnership with a major consulting firm, and there will be challenges with new clients to get them what they want.
Even with the clients that we have it is constantly engaging and communicating with the client to find out how they are getting along with the tool. What we have done with Honeywell is the forecasting. What Honeywell wanted is that a project manager forecasts how much money they are going to have to spend on this job to get it done.
We are actually rolling out that forecasting functionality to all of our clients that want to have the forecasting in their system. Really, what Cora is that we constantly come back to the idea of the single point of truth system within the company.
We integrated with the SAP, Salesforce, HR systems, as well. What Cora actually sees is the piece of software sitting in the middle, that sits on the top of all other systems, as kind of reporting engine to project management, the governance, the compliance, the control. So, with all those things, what drives us forward is the challenge for the future.
Find out more about the features of our EPPM Software here.