Infrabel is the infrastructure manager for Belgian railway tracks and is responsible for the maintenance, modernization, expansion and management of the railway network. Infrabel's Asset Management team sought out a project & portfolio management approach and associated application in order to increase the efficiency of their projects. They opted for Microsoft Project Server and initially went looking for a partner which could take care of the tool setup. "What began as a service to increase maturity in project management grew into a partnership in which all aspects were addressed: from configuration to customization and coaching of internal users," explains Mathias Vanden Auweele, project manager in the Asset Management team and the initial driving force behind Smile 2.0.
Infrabel opts for well-considered project management
Creating the right focus
"In 2017, management challenged me to find a way to make our projects come in on time and on budget," says Mathias. This challenge was part of Infrabel's Smile 2.0 project, an initiative to take an even more structured, pragmatic approach to managing strategic objectives.
Other teams within Infrabel were already working with Microsoft Project applications; they had had both good and bad experiences with them and therefore weren't able to provide a ready-made answer. In the end, a public tender was launched, with Realdolmen emerging as the winner. "Realdolmen stood out due to the content of their proposal and approach. All the facets we deemed necessary were present. The knowledge of customization and development of the application shone through in the strong answers to my questions, which gave me the necessary confidence," explains Mathias.
From setup to sparring partner
"We started working with Realdolmen at the beginning of 2018. There was limited scope, duration and budget, with only the basic setup provided. I specified the functional requirements, and Realdolmen then determined which technological developments were needed. We are delighted that Realdolmen was able – and wanted to – change gears quickly. In practice, it was a matter of surfing the waves that were cresting at the time," states Mathias.
The intention was to take on more and more projects and involve more and more project managers. Partly for these reasons, it was decided in 2019 to continue and even expand the cooperation. Infrabel wanted to take the project application further, train more people and provide a central point of contact in house so that everything could be realized in a pragmatic manner.
Working together on data quality
The time has now come to obtain results using the tool. "We want the reports from the application to act as a single source of truth for strategic decisions," states Mathias.
In the future, we will work together on coaching to bring all project pipelines in order. This is the only way to increase the quality of data in the tool. Ultimately, the intention is that Realdolmen will, in time, largely pass on its role as specialist to the team so that Infrabel has all the necessary expertise in house. Our goal is to empower them and to simply act as a sparring partner where Realdolmen can pass on hints and insights from theory and Infrabel can test them in practice.
We are currently closer than ever to rolling out project management in our team. We are looking forward to the next level of maturity. While it is a work in progress, we are already working on it and recording interim results. Last but not least, we've managed to create a framework that makes people feel more responsible.
Mathias Vanden Auweele - Project manager Infrabel