And all the world's a stage

Local project management set for the big time

When Wellington company Astarte completes the rebranding of its Planwise project management software as i-lign, it will mark the transformation from just another bit player to a genuine prospect on the world market.

Director Tony Crewdson believes his software is, in fact, world leading, and recent events tend to support his view.

Mining giant Rio Tinto, which bought Planwise in Australia, is about to run it out of its UK head office and into its US and South African operations.

And, says Crewdson, a visiting professor from UCLA recently described the software as markedly different. “He’s talking about us presenting it next year to UCLA’s CIO seminar, which is attended by many of the top CIOs in the US.”

The rebranding to i-lign reflects the fact that the software is one of the few products of its type that does true business alignment, he says. “Rather than focusing on a specific project it aligns with goals and strategies, portfolios, projects and people. It takes all the politicking out of an organisation.”

Crewdson – then a police superintendent – was project director at one time of the INCIS project, which the government pulled the plug on in 1999.

“I always had in my mind something which would have managed INCIS better,” he says. Thus, Planwise was born.

The first major commercial client was TVNZ, three years ago. Stephen Tysoe, TVNZ’s head of technical development, says that at the time the broadcaster had a variety of engineering and technical projects which used common pools of labour. “That meant coordinating an army of team leaders and there was conflict over resource allocation. That in turn ended up with follow-on impacts.

“We established a project management office that collected statistics but didn’t deal with interdependency.

“We did an international search for software but it was all very expensive. Planwise was identified from a web search.

“There is no strict ROI but we are deriving much better behaviour. Previously, we had a lack of knowledge about resource constraints and it was costing us thousands of dollars putting projects back on track.

“We have 40-50 projects a year and 90% of them are now on time. People work across the organisation with a much more planned view.

“Change is part of our whole mix now, and project planning is the way we deal with change.”

Portfolio management is project management moved up a level, he says.

Tysoe says one of the biggest benefits is being able to manage workloads where previously individuals were getting stressed out by demands.

Astarte has 21 customers using Planwise.

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