PPM tool helps Harmony’s TPMO deliver tech, business projects, aiding transformation to centralised enterprise-wide shared services project office

Harmony, a gold mining and exploration company with activities in both South Africa and Papua New Guinea, has successfully rolled out Project Portfolio Office’s PPO secure, cloud-based project portfolio management (PPM) tool, helping the organisation to manage a complex portfolio, which included the merging of AngloGold Ashanti’s remaining local assets into the Harmony business.

With 71 years of experience, Harmony is currently South Africa’s largest gold producer by volume. The company’s business activities cover the entire gold mining value chain; from exploring for prospects, conducting feasibility studies and developing, buying and operating mines, through to closing and rehabilitating mines at the end of their productive lives.

TPMO critical for delivery of acquisition programme

Aluette Vermaak, IS TPMO Head at Harmony, explains that the organisation recognised last year the need to establish a formal Transformation Project Management Office (TPMO), in order to deliver on all Harmony projects, including the acquisition-related programme and its 18 fully-fledged associated projects.

“The types of projects in place included the AngloGold Ashanti migration from SAP to Oracle – one of Harmony’s largest projects – as well as projects across a variety of disciplines within the business, such as time and attendance, human resources, risk management, ore resource management and desktop projects. We were also undergoing an Oracle upgrade within Harmony, which needed to be taken into account during the acquisition period, and, at the same time, had to ensure we weren’t working at cross-purposes with all of these different projects.”

Harmony’s newly established TPMO has been using PPO’s PPM tool for around 12 months now, Vermaak continues, and is reaping the rewards and successes. “Where previously the organisation had used Excel and Microsoft Project to track projects, with project managers following the PRINCE2 methodology, it had proven a challenge to retrieve the correct related documentation in a central place at the push of a button.

“PPO has since allowed us to centralise one version of the truth; it is easy to use, with an automated workflow. Having been in the project management business for more than 25 years, this was my first encounter with the PPM tool, and I have to say that it is the best tool I’ve ever seen for managing projects.”

A slower, more disciplined implementation

A critical part of the success of the PPM tool rollout within Harmony was the agile approach taken by the organisation when it came to implementation. “This more methodical rollout process of the PPM tool definitely made for its major success,” Vermaak adds.

“The approach has highlighted that the adoption of new tools in this manner is best practice when it comes to ensuring their sustainability.”

The agile implementation approach taken at Harmony was largely based on capabilities, explains Guy Jelley, CEO and co-founder of Project Portfolio Office. “By introducing a new release every two weeks, as opposed to taking a ‘big bang’ approach, Harmony’s TPMO was able to deal with change management in a more sophisticated way.

“Each sprint comprised requirements definition and planning, admin training and setup, demonstrations and user training, an adoption metrics review and a final cycle evaluation. From a user point of view, which includes admins, regular and super users, this required smaller changes to behaviour, which were easier to sustain.

“Harmony’s TPMO team was very committed to this process, ticking off each PPM capability in an organised fashion. This meant that once PPO was rolled out, it hit the ground running, delivering immediate value for Harmony’s TPMO and meeting the requirements of central visibility on all projects,” he adds.

Improved control over project creation

With 76 projects now on the radar in various stages of execution and a TPMO team that has doubled in size, Harmony has created a single ‘front door’ for new projects initiated within the organisation. All new project requests are logged internally on the IT Service Desk Management Tool, and requests for projects are routed automatically and directly into PPO via the PPO API.

“We now have better control over how all projects are created within the organisation, instead of potentially at the water cooler,” Vermaak comments.

“Our project managers manage their projects in PPO real-time and during our weekly TPMO sessions we have a real-time view of all projects to drive delivery and governance and offer support to our project managers. We report only out of the PPM tool for all steering committees and exco presentations. Statistics are drawn directly from PPO, and all projects are reported on in the same, uniform format to exco, which allows us to easily provide feedback on all projects within the allotted period.

“PPO’s integration with Harmony’s existing systems has also been an important benefit. For instance, it is the first PPM tool I have used that allows for seamless integration with Microsoft Project, showing both project and governance health indicators in a flash.”

From IT to business and beyond

Says Vermaak: “Buy-in and adoption of PPO has been wonderful, and we are being approached from all areas of the organisation to assist with projects.

“We’re hitting more milestones than before, and this would have been impossible without PPO. Executive feedback is that there is an awareness of the transformational difference the TPMO is making within Harmony.

“And we have not even touched the tip of the iceberg in using PPO to its full extent,” she comments. “The Harmony TPMO is moving beyond IT-related projects to become involved in real business projects, and we believe that this is the direction that must be taken.”

This view is shared by Harmony Group IS Head and TPMO project sponsor, Corrie Basson, who says the longer-term vision of establishing the TPMO was to provide a centralised shared service to the organisation that reached beyond IT.

“The view was that the TPMO could be used to provide structure to the organisation in its entirety, and we’ve come a long way towards meeting this goal. We’re moving towards creating a holistic capability for the business, driven by our project managers.

“The real difference in the success of our TPMO has been made with the level of skill we’ve harnessed to get it done. Resources like Aluette and an experienced partner like PPO have had a serious impact, allowing the TPMO to showcase exactly what we want to achieve ultimately throughout the business,” Basson adds.

Vermaak is of the same opinion, stating that the PPO team provides a wealth of knowledge. “There has been so much to learn with their mentoring. During implementation, coaching and training sessions were held every week, as well as configuration training, and we are still holding meetings on a monthly basis. This time has been a serious value-add for the Harmony TPMO.

“Next steps for Harmony with PPO will be a full resource view of skills across the business, in order to understand capacity available for new projects. We would also like to look at the use of PPO for timesheet billing, potentially for the new financial year.”

Lessons learned within Harmony

Vermaak’s advice for other project environments wanting to roll out a PPM tool is the philosophy that adoption must be driven. “If you have purchased a tool, there has to be a champion that embraces and helps drive adoption within the organisation. If people don’t use it regularly, it will fail.”

Basson echoes this sentiment, maintaining that a stand-out lesson learned has been the importance of accountability, involvement and ownership. “There must be a vested interest for TPMO team members and the business when it comes to achieving, and timing is also important.

“It is here that partners like PPO play a key role, as they make a significant contribution towards helping to keep the pressure on, ensuring deadlines are met and there is continuity. This has had a real influence on the success of the PPM tool implementation,” he concludes.

Read the story on Project Portfolio Office’s ITWeb virtual press office here.

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