How Ford TI went from thousands of Excel files to one source of truth with Planisware Enterprise
Rick Amori, Technology Integration Specialist at Ford Motor Company explains how Ford TI consolidated thousands of Excel files into a single source of data for all its research and innovation projects, and built a comprehensive view of its portfolio of projects, improving decision-making.
Rick Amori, Technology Integration Specialist at Ford Motor Company
My name is Rick Amori and I'm a supervisor at Ford Motor Company.
My main responsibility is to manage the Planisware application that we call "Technology Integrator".
In our Technology Integrator application of Planisware, we're managing all of the research and innovation projects that some day we hope to go into production on our cars and trucks.
Why did Ford TI choose Planisware?
It was sort of a natural choice to choose Planisware to manage our technology and innovation projects because Planisware was already signed on board to manage our vehicle programs, and our resource and staffing processes.
Can you tell us about the benefits of using Planisware?
One of the real benefits of using a Planisware application is that during our project design reviews, all of the data for each project is stored within the Planisware application: the project status, the project evidence, the work plan, the approvals are all in one place. And so that really helps facilitate easy project reviews for a large team all at once with a single source.
Before we used the application, we were managing all of this in Excel workbooks and it was a challenge to understand which was the current workbook that was the most accurate. Was it in someone's email inbox? Was it stored on their computer or on a shared drive? It was really hard to prepare for design reviews with that system. And now all of those problems have gone away basically once we went to a shared system like Planisware.
With our old system we were pretty much comfortable with the way projects were being managed that we were doing the projects right because the Excel and SharePoint system tracked our project status fairly well. But what we were lacking was a way to look at the portfolio in its entirety and to data mine the portfolio to see whether we were choosing the right projects or in the right proportion.
With Planisware we can see that. There's visual tools where we can actually look at the entire portfolio globally of all of our technology development projects and see which areas are we strong in, which areas are we lacking in, and should we shift our resources to better reach our strategic goals which is something that we didn't have a good opportunity to data mine the project information with our prior system.
The ability to create custom templates within Planisware is really helpful in facilitating new Stage and Gate processes for different types of work. So, before, where we would have Excel workbooks, we really couldn't create unique, structured Stage and Gate processes or customized workflows within an Excel file.
But now using Planisware's template creation process, we can create unique Stage and Gate processes within the tool and then the user just selects which process he or she wants to apply to their work and then the system takes over from there.
We're really happy with the way Planisware allows us to update project templates on a global basis. So for example with our old system, if we wanted to add a new deliverable or modify part of the Stage and Gate process that was documented in the Excel files, it was almost impossible to submit changes to these open files because there were multiple versions stored all over the place in people's laptops, in the cloud somewhere.
But with the Planisware solution since there's only a single project version stored online, we can make changes to the projects or to the structure within the Stage and Gate process and immediately trust that that change has gone through and it's seen by all the users instantaneously. So that's a really great advantage to the old system that we're happy that Planisware can provide for us.
One of the benefits that we hadn't anticipated was the growth of users who wanted to use the Technology Integrator [platform] globally and the other outside teams that were interested in managing their technology work within the tool, that traditionally hadn't been part of our system. So we're really happy to see that the use of the Technology Integrator [platform] has broadened from outside of product development and into the other areas of Ford's business.
How did you perform the migration of all your open Excel files into Planisware?
We were concerned about data integrity when we were going to migrate all of the open Excel files into our Planisware database. So we worked with the Planisware development team and they developed a custom tool that with basically one click migrated batches of Excel files into our Planisware application and created new projects based on the information from the Excel file. So really once we tested and validated that process, it worked very well and almost seamlessly.
In parallel to that we were training the engineers and scientists who are managing that work to be able to come in to the Planisware tool on the next day and be able to just pick up where they left the day before, but using a new tool set.
Our migration plan of moving the old Excel files into our new Planisware application took about three weeks. We moved the files in batches based on our department structure. So we would move one department's work at a time and we would announce to that team once their files were migrated and that they knew that from that point on they were to go into the Planisware tool and begin their work.
So over a three-week period, we staged the migration of these files in a structured way so that it wasn't just one large global movement of over 1,000 projects and just waiting for the storm to hit when people had to jump into the tool the next day. We did it in a structured way which was really well facilitated by my support team. I really enjoy the relationship that Ford has with the Planisware development team.
First of all, we do so much customization based on our quirky or adapting requirements within the tool that the Planisware team is very approachable into helping us find different solutions to the problems that we're trying to solve.