Benefit from a simple and easy-to-use project and portfolio management solution
Interview of Christian Lebon, Project Portfolio Manager chez Athora Belgium (Generali).

About Athora

Athora Belgium (Generali) is an insurance company that is part of the Athora Group. The company was integrated into the Athora Holding group in January 2019. Athora Belgium ranks 11th on the Belgian insurance market and has, in addition to its 380 employees, a network of more than 1,000 independent brokers. Athora Belgium has around 200,000 clients, with more than €632 million in premiums, and €7.6 billion in total assets as of the end of 2019.

At the glance
 

  • Project type: IT for ISD
  • Most used modules: planning, budget management, and resource management
  • 40 Project managers
  • 600 strategic and transversal projects are managed using the tooll

    Context & Challenges
     

In 2015, Athora Belgium (formerly Generali Belgium) actually already had an internal project planning tool. Since its implementation, however, the initial development team that developed this tool was no longer a part of the company, and so the organization was facing a real lack of motivation when it came to using and maintaining the tool. The company management also wished to prioritize PPM as a process, ensuring proper professional standards were developed. They realized that a key part of achieving this was through the acquisition of a dedicated project and portfolio management solution that better met their needs and would be fully adopted by the company.

The IT department also had their own requirements. For them, the requirement was to integrate their management of IT resources.

Athora Belgium believed it was in everyone's interest to develop a tool that worked for both IT, as well as the different product branches. They were looking for a management tool that could handle all of the organization's transversal and strategic projects. They knew that whatever they selected, tt had to be a collaborative and transversal tool, offering functional coverage broad enough to manage the entire lifecycle of the organization's projects.

To address these challenges, the IT manager issued a tender for proposals. Following this, four tools were initially shortlisted following a rigorous selection process (RFI).
The Planisware Orchestra software proposal was ultimately selected because of its ability to meet the functional requirements of the full-circle project management tool needed by Athora; covering everything from request management, to project portfolio management.

The implementation 
 

A management process specific to Athora Belgium was applied during the implementation of the  Plansiware Orchestra solution. This in-house methodology follows the standards of both the PMI and Prince 2 methodologies, and offers planning models specific to the organization and the different branches that it is composed of.

Orchestra was launched to manage strategic and transversal projects. However, transversal projects have very specific governance requirements, with a project model based on 3 phases: Initiation, Execution, Completion.

Accordingly, this Planisware Orchestra implementation was tailored to meet these requirements. Orchestra fully addresses a need for a project management approach that is specific to the organization.

What Project management looks like at Athora Belgium:

• Project requests are managed internally by those responsible for the different product lines.
• Approximately 600 projects are managed on Orchestra.
• 10% are transversal projects are arbitrated by COMEX.
• 90% are non-transversal and are controlled by the product branches themselves.

Transversal projects follow a precise roadmap. They are first documented by the sponsor, who are the directors of the different branches who create requests to initiate a project. The sponsors submit these requests following a company-specific template, supplying the key information on the project, such as scope, stakeholders, start date, end date, and benefits. 

The Executive Committee meets once a week. It addresses both project and non-project issues within the organization, covering anything from legislation and operations, to news and current events related to the industry. It also arbitrates and validates both strategic and transversal projects that have been submitted by sponsors.

 

Benefits 

Since implementation, Athora Belgium reports several positive results from using the Planisware Orchestra solution.

Project managers have improved governance capabilities, and can focus on allocating resources and budgets to avoid overspending and stay within the established budget allocation. Orchestra offers a feature that demonstrates an equitable distribution of the annual budget allocation across the company's various projects.

COMEX conducts quarterly budget reviews, and Orchestra provides real-time monitoring of project progress and costs. The solution is facilitating decision-making for this purpose.
Going forwards, Athora Belgium has two main ambitions for the future with Orchestra: firstly the transition to 6.1 to take advantage of the new user-friendly interface and new features, and secondly to develop the ability to predict the feasibility of projects.