Port Waratah Coal Services is a coal transport organisation operating in Newcastle. The company is running some 170 (mostly procurement and maintenance) projects concurrently which are managed at the corporate level by a Project Management Office (PMO) comprised of two people. PMO team member, Geoff Crook, previously spent hours collecting information scattered across various software applications, including spreadsheets, Word documents, scheduling software, a cloud-based Enterprise Report Planning (ERP) System, and various financial reporting apps.
However, since the implementation of pmo365’s project portfolio management solution, the PMO and almost all project data has moved to a single platform that serves as the central location for all project information. A ‘single source of truth’ and real-time data has made a “transformational” change to its PPM and cut Geoff’s administration tasks by almost two thirds.
Port Waratah is a coal transportation company connecting the Hunter Valley coal chain to the global market. This chain spans 450km, involves 35 mines, rail haulage providers, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation. As part of its role within this chain, Port Waratah receives, stockpiles, blends and loads coal for export at the Port of Newcastle. Coal is then exported to more than 20 countries around the world. The company has capacity to export up to 145 million tonnes of coal per annum, from its two Kooragang and Carrington Coal terminals.
Port Waratah has made a number of innovations, including real-time services delivery dashboards, an Intelligent Dust Management System, and a drone programme to assist investigation and maintenance tasks for operational delivery teams. The PMO’s project portfolio management responsibilities includes governance over a variety of maintenance tasks and upgrades to capital and equipment, as well as regular reporting to the Senior Leadership Team.
Port Waratah faced five key challenges.
Challenge 1: A ‘Single Point Sensitive’ Project Management Office (PMO)
The main issue with Port Waratah’s previous project management tool was that it was extremely powerful, but way too complex for the projects it was being used for. That meant the user needed to have a good deal of training and experience before they could get any benefit from it, and the average project manager, engaged in project delivery, found it difficult to enter data into the system directly. That left the organisation with a significant risk: the PMO’s unique skillset meant he was the only person capable of running Port Waratah’s entire project management system. There would be no backup if he left the organisation and a lot of important company data and historical knowledge would likely be inaccessible.
Challenge 2: Scattered Data and Lack of Visibility
The role of Port Waratah’s PMO is largely oversight and governance. Nevertheless, it was devoting a lot of administrative time to retrieving data for reporting purposes. Project data and documentation tended to be kept on local drives in a variety of applications across the enterprise. Delays and inaccuracies in this information prevented the PMO from getting a clear and up-to-the-minute picture of performance.
Challenge 3: A Time-consuming Reporting and Analysis Process
Project reports were being prepared by collating “massive amounts” of data from the Project Management tool, reports, documents, project folders, and company financial and forecasting tools. Assembling all of that information into a series of spreadsheets for all the different monthly reports was another time-consuming exercise that limited the ability of the PMO to focus on a more strategic role.
Similarly, portfolio analysis was being performed on a web-based tool, but this was a cumbersome and inflexible and, again, fairly prohibitive for untrained users.
Challenge 4: A Lack of Shared Tools and Resources
Port Waratah used a number of off-the-shelf and web-based software. The tools either failed to fully accommodate their needs or were overly complex. Project Managers had little incentive to work on a common platform and collaborate with shared tools. Providing a ‘single source of truth’ where all project metadata, schedules, costs, status reporting, risks registers, and actions could be found in one place required a solution that was incredibly flexible but also easy-to-use.
Challenge 5: Project Gate Checklists Retained in Project Folders
Port Waratah had consistent systems, standards and governance put in place by the PMO. However, each stage or gate in the delivery process was recorded locally by Project Managers. This meant there was insufficient visibility across tasks and project gates to enforce governance requirements and maintain traceability.
pmo365 introduced a solution for Port Waratah that addressed all of these issues with the configuration of a single, integrated platform for the entire project portfolio.
With a subscription, the pmo365 solution was deployed to its own Microsoft Power Platform environment and configured over an initial three week ‘sprint’. Hereafter, all project portfolio data would be routed to a central data exchange called ‘the Dataverse’.
After deployment, the PMO set about gradually establishing the Project Management requirements for its project managers with minimal disruption to their operations.
This introduced the ‘single source of truth’ for all Project Managers, the PMO, and other stakeholders. When the service was rolled out as the central location for all project status updates, checklists, costs, forecasting, risk, actions, and reports, its uptake was strong. Benefits became apparent to users “pretty much straight away”.
However, to meet the unique needs of all the different projects in Port Waratah’s portfolio, the pmo365 DevOps team continued to work with the PMO to refine the solution. Port Waratah’s PMO profited from using an iterative deployment process, moulded to its stakeholders needs over time.
As a result, all information located on drives across the organisation was now able to be kept in one location, which made reporting and project tracking incredibly easy.
Port Waratah was able to gain more consistency in project delivery by using pmo365 to ensure project tasks are completed in accordance with company expectations. Gates and stages define the scope and key requirements of each aspect of project delivery, and an approvals process ensures that all requirements are met before the project moves on to the next stage.
Having a single, easily accessible location and ‘one source of truth’ for every project provided greater visibility and control across the entire project portfolio. Not only did this articulate and provide greater governance over each project’s lifecycle, it provided the means to generate enterprise-wide reports and business insights.
Implementation of pmo365 operates on the principle of: Introduce. Integrate. Replace.
For Port Waratah, creating oversight and bringing all systems and reports together on to one system were key requirements. Instead of data spread across different applications, all project data is routed directly to Microsoft Power BI to generate best-practice reports and dashboards.
For the PMO, it’s been “transformational” because there’s much less of an administrative burden in the collection of project data. According to Geoff, “the project managers update their projects and my reporting is done.”
Several of those Power BI reports to the Senior Leadership Team are set up directly in presentation mode using PowerPoint. Now, all that’s required for the parts of the PMO’s monthly report is a click of the ‘refresh’ button!
The other key advantage of centralised project data is the retention of institutional knowledge for use in future project planning. The ability to retain historical data on project performance – as well as artefacts like risk, costs, and resource management – is a tremendous advantage when creating the business case and estimates for new initiatives.
On top of that, institutional knowledge protects the organisation from ‘single point sensitivity’ so that valuable information is retained from project to project, and is accessible by all authorised managers in the PMO. Geoff cites the example of a particular financial report (among the many he has built) which was programmed in collaboration with one of pmo365‘s developers. Not only is the report itself available to other users of pmo365, but Port Waratah’s continuing subscription means that it can be adapted, repaired, or entirely redeveloped whenever the need arises
Bringing project delivery processes together on to a single platform increases work efficiency, speeds up many tasks, and allows for a faster response when problems arise. For example, project tracking, monitoring of performance, and approvals are vastly improved with real-time data and notifications when actions are required. There are far fewer long email chains to contend with, and important documents are not getting lost in someone’s in-tray.
With its ability to fully integrate most Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications, pmo365 is designed to make available the best and most favoured tools for each project’s unique methodology.
Often, the configuration of tools is driven by user experience, but business best practice will also guide the result in consultation with pmo365 developers. This kind of partnership is a key difference between pmo365‘s flexible approach to PPM and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions.
For Port Waratah, much of the implementation was driven by the PMO, but the process is ongoing as pmo365‘s DevOps team remains on hand to assist with any new customisations or integrations of their solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Port Waratah’s solution included a typical 3 week initial ‘sprint’ to deploy and initially configure the platform. Thereafter, the PMO further configured the solution over about 6 months to suit its requirements as Portfolio Managers.
After that time, all of Port Waratah’s projects and project data were imported into the system over the course of a few days and the old system was able to be discontinued. pmo365 was used as the primary portfolio tool whilst the PMO further built out the solution for its Project Managers.
pmo365 is published on MS App Source as a Microsoft preferred solution. It is not hosted by a commercial partner or owned by a vendor but deployed to your own Microsoft 365 tenant. The solution is managed and owned by your internal IT resources with assistance from the pmo365 DevOps and Management Services Teams as required.
For Port Waratah, the focus was purely on improving Project Management, Governance, and the ability to create Reports, Dashboards and business insights that eliminated the need for copying and pasting data from a variety of sources. However, the PMO has already extended that focus into Portfolio Analysis and has plans to convert most of its forms and templates into pmo365 documents so the data just goes straight into the solution with no double-handling.
In addition, they’re also looking at possibly developing a procurement tool that serves for both the business and project management sides of the purchasing process. Tools for ‘continuous improvement’ type projects have been flagged as another potential development for those business change-type tasks (not generally classed as projects).
The pmo365 Solution Library is a comprehensive, and growing, collection of Apps, Flows, Reports and Connectors that serve a variety of business functions in relation to PPM. A subscription to pmo365 gives access to the entire library and all updates to the IP forever, even after your subscription expires. The individual mix of pmo365 tools used by each organisation varies, and is scalable over time as the organisation grows and develops. DevOps teams are available at any time to consult and further customise your solution as needs arise.
The PMO looked at Primavera Cloud, Planview and Monday.com, among others. Primavera and Planview were highly regarded but Port Waratah did not require the level of complexity that these solutions offered. Instead, it needed to manage a large, sustaining portfolio – one concerned with maintaining and upgrading existing assets, rather than building new infrastructure.
The advantage of pmo365 over some of its competitors is versatility. The solution is designed to manage large and complex portfolios, but is also suited to those that are somewhat less complex. Its scalability and easy integration with Microsoft and non-Microsoft tools has great appeal for PMOs running large portfolios that require greater visibility, governance and oversight. It also offers the security of the Microsoft cloud and the powerful reporting capabilities in Power BI for monitoring and tracking performance.
In 2021, Port Waratah received the Professional Services Award in the NSW Project Management Achievement Awards for their Project Management System Upgrade. Port Waratah runs approximately 170 projects at any time; these are both internal and external projects that relate to IT, compliance, engineering, investigative studies, maintenance, capital renewal and investment.
The Future: We are only getting started
Port Waratah has plans to expand pmo365 further. Geoff is hoping to replace most (up to 70%) the PMO’s current forms and templates with pmo365’s to create a uniform approval process. He is also considering integrating project management with its business procurement functions, which has been suggested as a future development sprint.
Derek Halawa, Delivery Lead
Dan Stopher, Head of Customer Success
Laith Adel, Principal Consultant