6. October 2016

Agile Project Management Cuts Costs

GATX Rail Europe (GATX) introduces Cloud CRM solution: Small fast steps instead of a big sluggish throw

Even the word sounds massive: ‘Waterfall’ describes the classic way that IT projects are usually implemented: embarrassingly and exactly defined requirements and implementation details, you put them down in the blueprint and sign off. Only then does it go into the implementation stage. With the ‘waterfall’ approach, everything happens in one go. Often this process takes so long that the requirements have changed in mid-stream. The so-called agile project approach promises “going-live” faster. For example, GATX Rail Europe, an international freight car rental company, used a SAP Hybris Cloud for Sales solution, implemented by the German-Austrian consulting firm maihiro.

“Two years ago we changed our approach by 180 degrees,” says Jacek Glowacki, system and organization architecture manager at GATX, “And since then, all IT projects are still only agilely implemented. It started with SAP FI/CO, then CRM came along with maihiro, and now we are in the third agile project.” At first, many potential partners were skeptical, as Glowacki reported. “Even with the first two projects we were able to show that the agile method works well with standard products,” Glowacki said. Instead of creating copious blueprints at the beginning, as in the waterfall method, the agile project approach at GATX summarizes the first steps as “Quickstart”.

During this phase, together with the business department the requirements are formulated, which are required by GATX customer management in everyday business. There are some very long-term relationships in which hundreds of cars have been with the client for decades. There are also changing business that have had only one car for just over one year. “We discussed our business processes in workshops with our implementation partner maihiro. The pivotal steps of the process are done completely analogously with Post-it notes on the wall, so we can easily change and optimally describe the functions of the product... We invest a lot of time in designing the business processes for the solution, but much less time in documenting the whole thing.” At the end of the initial Quickstart phase everyone knows what the new application is meant to do. The details are first defined in the implementation phase. This is done in clear steps, which are made up of so-called stories. These stories “tell” what the software is meant to do. In the CRM project, for example, “creating a prospect”, or a potential customer, was such a story. Another was that information about the car fleets of the customer’s competitors should also be retrievable.

These stories provide the scenario for implementation. Glowacki: “We make sure that it does not take more than five to seven working days to implement such a story in the software. If it is implemented, it is immediately tested by the specialized department”. Glowacki emphasizes that this is precisely where the difference with the classical waterfall method lies. Admittedly, the Quickstart phase was quite intensive with the CRM project, as it lasted two months. But it was worth it, since in the implementation phase there was hardly any need for adjustment. In addition, the training expenses were significantly lower, because the departments learned about the product very early on. And because feedback comes regularly from testing – every two weeks – one can also prevent faulty developments at an early stage. Glowacki’s conclusion: “This minimizes implementation risks and through that obviously cuts costs”.

Such an approach requires a partner who commits to getting deeply immersed in the business processes of the operating company. This is exactly why maihiro enters at an early stage. Johannes Friess, Business Unit Manager at GATX, emphasizes that “The maihiro consultants have already grappled more intensively with the business model of GATX than the competition”. It was also “already possible to see what the tool would look like later”. Agile project management also needs agile participants.

It paid off: For Johannes Friess, “It was key that we were able to systematically gather in all business opportunities and contacts. This not only depends on individual employees but is also established as a central information management system. We can therefore depict the client’s entire organizational structure.” This helps the 50 users at the four main locations of GATX Rail Europe in Austria, Poland, Germany and France give comprehensive support to their approximately 200 international customers. To this end, we will also have to increase our customer contact frequency in the future, “so that we are with the customer at the right time”. Long-term relationships need just as much care.

It is quite possible that CRM and ERP systems will soon merge even more closely, in order to have all contract documents complete, up-to-date and ready for any customer discussions. It is certain that this would also become an “agile” project.

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