About Midlands Co-operative Society
Employing almost 8,000 people, the Midlands Co-operative Society is the largest regional Co-operative Society in the UK. Trading mainly in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and the Greater Midlands, the organisation has recorded gross sales in excess of £749 Million. The principal areas of activity include Retail (food and non-food), Travel, Funeral Services (including Florists) and Transport. There is also a substantial investment property portfolio.
Increasing energy costs, dominance of the big four supermarkets, soaring food costs, growth in online travel bookings and a decline in the death rate are just some of the diverse challenges facing Midlands Co-operative Society on a daily basis. Midlands Co-operative Society stands apart from other retailers as it is owned by its members who share in trading profits through the payment of a biannual dividend.
Each member has one vote and can exercise their democratic rights twice a year at Members’ meetings and through elections. For Midlands Co-operative Society, community involvement is fundamental to its principles and drives the corporate vision of making a difference.
After a period of vendor selection, it was decided that the Microsoft Enterprise Project Management toolset offered Midlands Co-operative Society a flexible solution that would grow, adapt and underpin the evolving methodology.
Before the implementation, project planning and resource management were being conducted in isolation; Project Managers planned separately with standalone versions of Microsoft Project, and it was difficult to schedule projects, particularly when the timings of other projects changed. It was also difficult to schedule projects around other resource commitments such as holidays and training.
The objectives of the implementation for Midlands Cooperative Society were to:
- Produce a project portfolio that would enable progress throughout the year to be tracked.
- Maximise the utilisation of resources.
- Enable the collective planning and delivery of projects.
- Improve visibility to all on project progress.
- Increase the number and quality of projects being delivered.
The implementation of an EPM tool is completely organisation-dependent. It is important to understand the requirements of the organisation, the processes that the tool must support, the needs and pain points of the people that will interact with the system and the organisation’s capacity for change.
With this in mind, a phased implementation approach was taken at Midlands Co-operative Society, rolling out functionality over a period of time and only after suitable training and acceptance from the end-user had been achieved.
With this in mind, CPS set about ascertaining functionality requirements through a series of requirement gathering (discovery and envisioning) meetings with representatives from the various internal departments, including Finance, IT, infrastructure and service desk.
This approach facilitated a better understanding of what level of functionality each area was willing and had the capacity to accept as part of the first phase of the implementation and enabled CPS to help Midlands Cooperative Society shape how the product would fit seamlessly within a culture that is over 100 years old.
After these discovery and envisioning workshops, a prototype working system was put together in order to demonstrate back to the project stakeholders that CPS had correctly understood the requirements. This was further refined, with all unnecessary functionality turned off to keep the interface as understandable and unintimidating as possible.
Included in the functionality for first phase rollout was:
- A central repository for all plans (both Project and business as usual/absence) to enable project managers to plan together rather than separately.
- Metadata tagging of projects and resources in order to provide grouping, sorting and tracking information for each.
- High-level resource management (a more complete picture of who was working on what and when).
- A central resource pool with generic (primary role-based) resources for building up a longer-term picture of resource requirements.
- Reporting through the use of project metadata displayed in various grouping formats in the project centre, resource centre and data analysis.
- Project workspaces – a project-linked SharePoint site for tracking and logging of risks, issues, change requests and project-specific documentation (Project Brief, Business Case).
- Reporting task progress and work remaining through the use of the task updates – team members updating tasks, approval and acceptance by project managers into the project plan.
- SharePoint – To enable websites for each project, making it easier to share and find project documents with no ambiguity over the use of the correct version.
The EPM implementation process took two months from start to finish. In total, the final end-users totalled six Executives, five Project Managers and fifty Team Members. Support for the rollout of phase one was provided in the form of consultant time spent on-site working with the business, training of all interested parties and access to specialised third-tier knowledge through the CPS Support Helpdesk.
Reflecting on the change, Barry Hodge concludes that;
Before implementing EPM Midlands Co-operative Society delivered 13 projects per year, now with EPM and the same staff numbers, Midlands Co-operative Society delivers 30 projects per year. However, success with the product is a gradual process dependant on the culture of the organisation and the willingness of people at all levels within the organisation to adopt the toolset. It is equally about the people and the product.
Every year Midlands Co-operative Society is audited on its IT controls. One important aspect of the audit is project maturity which is scored on a scale of level 1 - level 4. Best Practice is set at level 3.
The implementation of EPM has ensured Midlands Co-operative Society continues to exceed Best Practice standards and score high on its Project Management. Despite this immense progress, it was felt that one of the aspects that could still be improved upon was the ability to check that all projects were being delivered following the Best Practice methodology.
Midlands Co-operative Society implemented CPS’s Project Auditor to improve and reach the highest possible audit score, enabling self-audit and ensuring that all projects follow the Midlands Co-operative Society project methodology. Property Services and IT often work together on a number of projects, particularly around the build of new stores.
In 2008, another department within Midlands Co-operative Society noticed the success of EPM within the IT department and also decided to implement the solution.
Rather than putting in a separate EPM solution, both departments will now use the same system, allowing IT and Property Services to work independently on their project delivery by having their own templates and methodology and sharing resources and link dependencies.
Midlands Co-operative Society has more than doubled its project effectiveness and output by streamlining projects and resources, increasing its maturity, and adhering to best-practice methodologies.
In a challenging marketplace that requires Companies’ to be efficient and cost-effective, Midlands Co-operative Society is a leading example of how collaboration and control can help achieve goals and maintain productivity.
A word from the team...
CPS was chosen to implement the EPM solution due to their response and understanding of the Midlands Co-operative Society’s business requirements and environment. They understood that the process of project management and getting people on board is just as important as the technology. They also understood that successful implementation would be the toolset fitting the process and not changing the project process to fit the tool. The advice Midlands Co-operative Society received on how to get the most out of EPM one step at a time was second to none.
Barry Hodge, Project Manager at Midlands Co-operative Society.