Following the success of last year's Project Santa, Bluefin Solutions is running another internal graduate project with the aim of improving its internal systems through the use of SAP technologies and giving the graduates invaluable training of working on a project with ambitious objectives and tight timescales.
The project itself is a SAP BPC implementation to build a Resource Management solution, and then further integrate this with actual resourced data in order to generate detailed reports for use by our Management team.
It is now mid January, and the crucial testing phase is rapidly approaching. This is putting a lot of pressure on the team as they are building with deadlines looming, and doubly so for some members who have to prepare for the testing phase as well as having to complete their development duties. But then IT consulting was never supposed to be easy...
So what are we building?
I've been told that my previous posts (see updates one and two) haven't given much away as to what the project really is and what the team is doing - so here it is in a nutshell.
Bluefin Solutions needs to carefully allocate consultants to its customers and the many projects going on. It has a dedicated resourcing department to oversee this, as effective consultant placements are vital to the business. Projects must not be left understaffed, consultants must not be left unused and 'on the bench', and the development of individual consultants has to be accounted for. The many factors and unforeseen circumstances all add up into the dark art that is Resource Management.
The resourcing team currently uses a standalone spreadsheet to plan and monitor consultant activity. This is effective for planning purposes, but the standalone nature falls short in other areas:
How can the resource 'plan' be compared with the resource 'actuals' if there is no possibility for data integration?
How can the utilisation of consultants be properly forecasted and reported on when the technology is limited in its reporting capacity?
As Bluefin Solutions grows, the requirement for better integration between its resource plans and its actual booked resource grows too, as there will be more information to manage making it harder to identify discrepancies. By ensuring that the data sets for both are formatted to be compatible and end up in the same place, they can be readily compared. This is a big timesaver for the resourcing team, as identifying and chasing exceptions between planned and booked time is currently a labour intensive and time consuming manual process.
Once all of this planned resource data sits within our systems in a usable format, it would be a waste not to derive additional benefits from it. The Management team currently relies on relatively limited reports for forward consultant utilisation. With integrated data, there is scope to drastically improve the accuracy and variety of these reports. This is a huge enabler to better decision making and strategy.
How is this done?
The key goal here is to get resource planning data within SAP. This is achieved by rebuilding the Input Screen that resourcing uses as a SAP BPC Excel Input Schedule. The challenge is to build this in such a way that it is just as usable as their previous solution, so a large amount of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is being used to make the input process as intuitive as possible.
The Input Schedule feeds data into SAP BPC, which is installed onto the SAP BW system which stores all the data which is entered by consultants to record their time usage each week. BEx queries on top of both of these data sets enable the development of BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports. These will present information that compares SAP BPC and SAP BW data, and gives users the ability to slice and dice the planning data to accurately monitor forward utilisation.
Last week I briefly spoke about SAP NetWeaver Gateway - this is also being installed and configured to enable modifications to Bluefin Solutions' existing timesheets mobile app - a product of last year's graduate project and a great success within the company. Gateway will make it simpler to modify existing external applications, and will set itself up as an all purpose access point for future mobile development.
So where are we now?
As of today, we have only one week until we begin testing the SAP BPC component of the solution. Unfortunately we are losing one of our two SAP BPC consultants to external work. This poses a problem at such short notice however, we knew from the start of the project this might happen and it's a surprise it hasn't occurred sooner.
The effects of the loss of such an important resource will have to be mitigated by pooling knowledge from elsewhere in the team and by ensuring outstanding work is properly handed over, so hopefully we can take the hit.
Tune in next week to find out!