Nampak, Africa’s leading diversified packaging company, producing packaging in glass, paper, metals and plastic, has accelerated its 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, starting from scratch

According to Nicole Luttig, PMO 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 its portfolio management capability once again into the business itself.

“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 fairly costly, as well as redefining project portfolio management processes and ensuring that they were being followed.”

In doing this, Luttig realised that the project managers were not using the existing portfolio management tool, which was also a complicated system to use. She therefore motivated to have it decommissioned, while unpacking templates and methodologies and ramping up engagement with the business.

However, during this period, the organisation needed to focus strongly on operational efficiencies, cost containment, the ‘right-sizing’ of divisions, and disposal of non-core and unprofitable businesses, meaning that the implementation of a new project portfolio management system for the PMO was put onto the back burner for some time.

The team thus created an Excel tool, which included a copy of a project schedule, with project management knowledge – such as issues, risk and communications frameworks, and stakeholder management – built-in. “This tool was only supposed to be a temporary solution, but ended up being used over the longer term through necessity,” Luttig explains. “It was cumbersome in terms of administration, archaic, and called for a fair amount of manual work.”

This led to competing sources of truth and challenges relating to 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. And, with the volume of projects and demand items all happening simultaneously, it became harder 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 requested again that the PMO’s budget include provision for a new project and portfolio management system. Having received go ahead and subsequently undergoing the procurement process, she narrowed her options down to three vendors. Of these, Project Portfolio Office’s PPO was one.

“We needed an out-of-the-box project portfolio management solution that was fit-for-purpose from a functionality perspective and ready to use, as little customisation was required. PPO fitted these requirements, and even came in under budget from a cost perspective,” 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 (moving canning lines from one place to another, for instance).

“From an administration perspective, as well as 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.

“Going forward, the PMO team’s KPIs have also been updated, and now include a prerequisite to keep data up to date in PPO, which will assist here,” 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, reporting back into the Nampak PMO regarding progress, 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 an 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 into the CIO, and we’re often asked about IT resource capacity. By using PPO, we’re able to assign resources into the individual project schedules, while seeing where there’s overlap and which resources are duplicated where. We’re able to show a portfolio Gantt too, which is a great achievement.”

The biggest benefits seen, she says, have definitely been on the reporting side, and with automation, the administrative load has been a lot lighter.

“The visibility afforded by the use of PPO is also very important. Prior to 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 and check on a project’s risk or issues register, or look at the lessons around a particular project. 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, there is now a central repository available within PPO that includes all of this detail.

“Through PPO, we’ve created a living environment that you can access for the latest information at any point.”

Managing demand

On the demand side, having a pipeline of potential projects means that the Nampak PMO is now able to quickly and easily see what is coming down the track – information that was not easily available previously – and only activate them based on resource availability.

PPO has helped to create great visibility for everyone involved, not just on active projects, but also around what’s coming down the line. Having this type of information at my fingertips through PPO 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, with a key focus on providing greater visibility on the project portfolio. This type of transparency has been important for Nampak’s PMO, allowing for one central version of information, while also assisting with scheduling, managing, monitoring specific tasks and resources across the portfolio.”

“We have been very impressed at the working relationship with Project Portfolio Office. Too many service providers drop the ball, and unfortunately, as a client, you find that you get better at managing poor service. With Project Portfolio Office however, the entire experience has been a positive one. In fact, for the future, the Nampak PMO is planning to extend the use of PPO to include more senior team members,” Luttig adds.

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