Emons Spedition Improves Transparency in Projects
Transport and logistics service provider uses project management solution
The IT department and PMO of Emons Spedition are changing the corporate culture so that day-to-day business and strategic tasks are increasingly structured by projects.
With more than 3,100 employees at 104 locations, Emons offers worldwide transport and logistics solutions. The group is family-owned and operates one of the few medium-sized private logistics networks in Germany. Emons uses the InLoox software to handle projects in a target-oriented manner and with as little effort as possible.
"In 2015, we were looking for a project management solution to handle our projects more efficiently," says Gunnar Stellmacher, who is responsible for managing the IT department at Emons Spedition GmbH. "We had a jungle of projects that needed to be eliminated." In project management, there were too many measures that were not coordinated. Previously, the first project management attempts had been made - at that time still in Excel; however, Emons soon reached its limits with this because the spreadsheet program is simply not designed for project management.
Transparency, reliability, and traceable processes
„Transparency and planning reliability are important criteria for us," says Stellmacher. The challenge for a logistics service provider, for example, is to identify projects in addition to the day-to-day business. One example: Generally, logistics companies have B2B customers such as technology groups or trading companies. If, for example, Emons wants to better structure its B2C business with the delivery of private end customers, it needs techniques for this as the project manager. In this case, it is advisable to store everything in one solution without compromise right from the start. In practice, it is important that the project participants, who often come from several areas, communicate exclusively via the tool, store all documents there centrally, and avoid additional e-mail communication.
'Discover the possibilities'
Stellmacher's team came across InLoox in 2015 through some online research. "We were inspired by the features of the tool described there. It was a similar moment to the one we used to have at IKEA: 'Discover the possibilities,'" Stellmacher says. "We decided very quickly to go with InLoox. Especially because the solution can be integrated into the familiar Outlook environment." Furthermore, the regional proximity to a provider from Germany as well as the company's customer support were decisive factors. Therefore, alternative solutions such as MS-Project were not considered by Emons, nor were freeware tools, because they did not offer Outlook integration.
Integrated into the familiar Outlook environment
Around 50 employees at Emons use InLoox. In the IT area, there are six to seven specialist departments as well as two staff units in the head office. Other companies of the group also use the solution. Roughly speaking, the share of the project volume that is handled with InLoox is 40 percent.
For successful and sustainable project management, it is important to develop an responding culture of communication within the company in the context of the project. According to Stellmacher, the project management seminars at the Emons Academy have proven to be helpful for spreading the word. It turned out that acceptance among employees increased when it became clear that IT was using the solution across the board, as well as specialist departments. The necessary methods are easy to teach. This means that demand for InLoox increases when the tool is already established.
As a final result, InLoox provides an overall view of the project map. However, the introduction of a project management system is a medium- to long-term effort. For this, according to Stellmacher, it is necessary to have the will to stick with it.
Changing communication processes
Among the features most used by users are the project management page, task planning, notes, and the central document storage. "Today, the central document storage allows us to create transparency. Our project jungle was actually an information jungle," Stellmacher says. "In contrast, when I write in InLoox today, all information is backed up and centrally accessible to everyone. That's why I say to my people 'Every piece of information belongs in the project, not in the hallway.' Enter it into the system immediately is the motto."
Stellmacher describes why it is important to change the corporate culture using the example of a department that has a high project density and disorganized projects: If nothing is documented and readable for him as project manager, he has to pass on the "pain" due to his lack of information directly to the IT department manager, who then passes it on to his project staff. Only those who have felt this themselves will understand that it is essential to document the information in the project. This explicitly does not mean that communication in the tool should replace personal interaction; it should complement it in a meaningful way.
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To the extent that it is necessary to generate understanding among project staff, support was also offered at the same time in the beginning. The goal was to introduce employees to the tool, to keep improving projects so that project employees would be better educated. Success was then achieved as soon as project participants generated the information almost casually in the system. This is now the case. Employees who now start working with InLoox are supported by colleagues for whom working with the tool has become daily business.
For example, in the event that an employee who is important in the project is absent for a longer period of time due to illness, and his knowledge is saved in the system, the project can continue to run smoothly. There is no need for escalation or time-consuming follow-up research. "If we manage to handle our projects better than the competition, we can increase our competitiveness with InLoox," says Stellmacher.
Smoother processes, traceable costs, consistent overview: Planability
The added value is demonstrated by the fact that projects run more smoothly. Frictional losses due to a lack of information have become less. And dependencies can be identified more easily. In addition, a project has a right-of-way character compared to day-to-day business when the goal, responsibilities, resources and deadline are fixed.
Budgeting in the project is also an advantage. Since, firstly, expected costs can now be allocated and, secondly, costs incurred can be presented, project controlling is possible. Because Emons now knows more about the cost situation, future projects can build on the values of earlier projects to gain initial reference points.
The already mentioned central document management also means that information is consolidated and documents are always clearly structured and centrally retrievable.
More planning reliability due to templates
Projects that are similar to previous projects can be planned more efficiently. Templates that the PMO can provide for a wide variety of tasks are therefore of particular value; whether in logistics or, for example, when setting up a new site. In the past, there was an Excel list for site planning, for example. This can be easily integrated into InLoox so that work can continue. Such planning templates of recurring actions can be adapted and extended as desired.
Similar to checklists, the quality of processes increases because less is forgotten. In the case of resource planning for a new location, for example, it becomes apparent that other company departments may need to be involved. For example, marketing, because the external presentation needs to be adapted digitally and online, or the web store for business cards needs to be expanded to include a location.
Focus on resource management
As far as future plans and further developments at Emons in project management are concerned, Stellmacher says the aim is to set up a resource management system in the near future. It should help eliminate conflicts that arise between projects.
Asked for advice for colleagues or companies in a similar situation, Stellmacher gives one organizational and one technical tip each. In project management, you should pay attention to the coordinated triad between people, technology and processes. The process is a distance comparable to a half-marathon, not a sprint. As for technology, it's recommended to switch to a server-based solution early in the rollout."
„We decided very quickly that we wanted InLoox. On the one hand, because the solution can be integrated into the familiar Outlook environment.“
"We have a weekly project jour fixe. Some of our employees say: 'Wednesday is InLoox round.“
„InLoox provides and overall view of the project map.“
„If we can manage our projects better, we can increase our competitiveness with InLoox“.
Gunnar Stellmacher, Head of IT, Emons GmbH
With more than 3,100 employees at 104 locations, Emons offers global transport and logistics solutions. In project management, there was a project jungle that needed to be addressed by 2015. With numerous measures that were not coordinated, Emons soon reached its limits with Excel.
A solution was being searched to handle projects more efficiently. In everyday work, it is important that the project participants, who often come from different areas, communicate exclusively via the tool, store all documents there and avoid e-mail communication. The main reasons for choosing InLoox were the Outlook integration, the regional proximity to a German provider and the customer support.
The IT department and PMO of Emons Spedition changed the corporate culture so that day-to-day business and strategic tasks were increasingly structured by projects. Smoother processes, traceable costs and a consistent overview could be created by using InLoox. The central document management, the creation of planning templates and the improved resource planning contribute to an increased competitiveness.