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project management interview with Björn Sellschopp

Björn Sellschopp joined the company management of Can Do GmbH at the beginning of the year. Among other activities, he intends to expand the Consulting division of Can Do project intelligence project management software directly at the manufacturers, and lead implementation and roll-out projects. Björn Sellschopp has been active in various functions within the industry for some 20 years. For more than half of that time he was active as a project leader, during which time he led standardisation and modularisation projects in turbine and plant construction, software implementation projects (e.g. SAP/R3) and an equipment project for the ship building industry. He was also responsible for the scheduling and management of a shipyard and for the project management division of a plant construction company. In 2006, he joined a consultancy where he advised customers on questions regarding project, organisational, procedural and restructuring management, and took over responsibility in his capacity as interim manager in various companies.

Can Do: You are familiar with project management from a number of perspectives: as a consultant, as an interim manager, as a manager of large projects and as a line manager. In your opinion, what are the main benefits of project-oriented work?
Björn Sellschopp: Project-oriented work primarily views processes as the creation of a product or service. The perspective of a line organisation is usually functional and often concentrated in the relevant department. Project-oriented work means always having the overall goal in mind, without functional limits.

Can Do: Where do the difficulties in implementing project management in companies lie? Not all departments are enthusiastic about the increasing importance of project work. For example, department heads have to delegate their own personnel for important projects; and work in the department is not allowed to suffer – despite less personnel.
Björn Sellschopp: The difficulties often lie in departmental thinking and functional limits, especially when it comes to complex systems. The lack of enthusiasm for project management is often due to the supposed shifting of responsibility or the protection of vested interests. However, the workload must still be managed. Whether this occurs through the project to the line or directly within the line has no effect on the load. In most cases, specialist skills and the staff remain in the line for to begin with.

Can Do: How can these problems be overcome so that reconciliation between project and line takes place?
Björn Sellschopp: Projects cannot be staffed with line employees on a permanent basis otherwise this would mean that the quality of the team would decrease exponentially with the number of projects. Intelligent approaches are required here. For example, a project manager can be allocated to a project temporarily and he can also be made responsible for passing the necessary information on to the line. In this way, the employee is available to the line for certain periods.

According to the current way of thinking, a project developer, a company that was purely a project organisation, would certainly be revolutionary. It would be revolutionary not because it is impossible, but because most companies today are not yet ready for something like that.

Can Do: Companies often use the introduction of project software to improve their own processes. What added value can Can Do offer companies?
Björn Sellschopp: I see again and again that companies often do not know to what extent they should plan and illustrate their processes. Then there is the question of the right organisation and the proper tools. In all respects, we can and want to support our customers. We have already been doing this for a while, through supportive implementation according to the needs of our customers. This makes sense for two reasons: Firstly, we want our project management software to be of the greatest possible use, and secondly we want to be in the position to make the egoistic sounding claim of ’ensuring our own high standards of quality’ when a customer uses our software.

Can Do: What is your approach to implementation?
Björn Sellschopp: Sensible and really supportive use of our planning software lives and dies by its acceptance by our customers. By clients, I don’t mean the administrative organs of a company, but the operational ones. When an organisation cannot see its process reflected in the software, and we are not able to lead the operational employees to the added value of this product, they will only see additional costs in maintaining their activities through a software package, and they will not support it! In my opinion, this means that the early involvement of the employees, the joint development of processes and the use of the software are the essential ingredients for success. An implementation process that takes this into account may take a little longer to complete, but the sustainability of future processing methods is then also ensured. This is often further emphasised when the organisational structure is adapted to the requirements of the process. This is also an important step for us personally: There is no better advertising than satisfied customers.

Can Do: You confront the growing complexity that results when viewing the conditions of the individual process steps with, for example, an increase in transparency. How can I see this in practical terms?
Björn Sellschopp: It is essentially about managing complexity. Let us start, for instance, with a complex product that has insufficiently defined and confusing process steps and interfaces – the development process is barely manageable. Then there is the growing pressure from the market that constantly forces us to reinvent our organisational structure, our procedural structure and our products.

Knowledge of the technical form that a product will take in the future is just as important as the way there. And at this point, our task is to create the necessary transparency and to support our customers according to their wishes.

Can Do: Thank you for this interesting interview!