Vendor focus

Epin enters GCC

Eliminating the manual factor in projects, QPM’s, IT Manager, Christopher McDaneil

Qatar’s and the regions projects are attracting a new breed of project suites

Qatar’s skyline is being rebuilt. Many localities of yesterday are now a five storey heap of rubble. The new airport shimmers in the distant haze, hanging in its final stages. Many other billion dollar projects are still on the drawing board.

The recent availability of a project management application suite is expected to help manage timelines and costs in a more effective manner. Speaking at the May session of the CIO Summit Mena in Doha, QPM’s IT Manager, Christopher McDaniel, spelt it out for consortiums CIO’s across the region. A project resource planning application (PRP) can cut down cost by 5-7% and manage risk between 10-25% better than the current options.

For a multi-billion dollar roll out project, spanning a couple of years, involving multiple contractors with additional unknowns of new green technology or materials, an integrated project suite, that eliminates the “guess work” element is the logical way forward.

Barwa Commercial Avenue being managed by QPM using a PRP application suite

Most project management systems are dominantly a manual process. Careful planning and scheduling is done in the beginning. Once the project is underway it is difficult, time consuming and cumbersome to keep updating the project with changes. If the same parameter needs to be updated in multiple projects and an overall cost variation to be generated, it can be days before the result emerges.

And when it comes, it is usually a best guess, “something that may or may not actually be there”.

PRP represents an integrated approach to managing project management. The suite does not just provide an updated schedule of time lines and milestones, but allows top management to see their profit and loss in real time, across a single project or multiple projects without the “guess work” element. Real-time dashboards are available at multiple levels of management for quick assessment.

“Most people don’t do risk management in a project. But when they do risk management they do it in the beginning, and never really look at the plan again. They seldom examine if the risk actually occurred or update it manually across different projects”, says McDaniel speaking from his years of experience.

Today everybody understands the value of ERP. But twenty years ago it was hard to convince users that is the right way forward. “PRP today is where ERP was two decades ago”, says McDaniel. To extend the comparison, a PRP system integrates scheduling, change, cost, risk and document functions. And a typical ERP system integrates manufacturing, supply chain, finance, customer relationship and human resources.

The real mindset change is about moving away from Microsoft Project’s way of managing projects which is 95% manual and 5% inbuilt, towards the PRP way–which is as many generations ahead of older suites as “sticks and stones to make fire”.

One such PRP application that is now available in the GCC is from UK based Epin. The application by the same name is being used by McDaniel’s employer QPM in Doha as well as globally by Nissan and Toyota to manage their retail refurbishments.

A key driver for adoption in GCC according to Robin Shipston, Epin’s MENA Director, “are problems that failed document management and collaboration have caused”. Not being able to identify and communicate the core problem appears to be a reason for breakdown in workflow. Problems of translating technical matters and work nuances into a second language, appears another important factor.

PRP systems like Epin eliminate the manual factor across complex projects, since they use standard workflow templates and have modules across all faces of project management.

At present Epin is in the process of setting up offices across the GCC and does not have any channel partners, system integrators or consultants in the region. The sales engagements are done at C-level since PRP is a high end strategic and commercial tool. The solution is available as a hosted application or as system resident.

The integration of Epin into an organizations IT environment is usually quite smooth. “We get support from IT departments within organisations because our systems have a light touch on their activities and don’t put a strain on tight resources”, says Shipson.

This can be a make or break factor for implementation of an enterprise application. If the implementation process is complicated and requires considerable change management, the probability of early success and predictable return on investment reduces. IT departments are usually under pressure to make back office systems sitting on ERP support customer facing projects. “A lot of time and money can be wasted trying to make square pegs fit round holes”, says Shipson.

Implementation of a PRP like Epin usually takes about 30 days. Half of the time is to get the base line in place and the rest for setting up configurations and training. A typical team will include a project manager who is also the super user with security access to all levels. Others include schedulers and document management handlers. Schedulers and handlers can be interchanged between projects. The project manager remains on board till the project is closed. As the demand for PRP applications increases in the region, Epin will need to scale its go-to-market strategy accordingly.

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QPM’s customer portfolio

Barwa Financial district includes office towers, five-star business hotel, restaurants, conference center and retail shopping area.

Barwa commercial avenue includes eight kilometres of retail avenue, with 600 retail spaces and 850 residential units and offices, food courts, groceries stores, pharmacies.
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