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Interview with Günter König, former head of GESIS, Gesellschaft für Informationssysteme mbH, and former CIO of Salzgitter AG
Can Do: Mr König, GESIS is on one hand the IT service provider of the entire Salzgitter group, and at the same time advises and attends to the external GESIS clients of all sizes and from all areas of business. What range of services does GESIS offer its clients?
Günter König: In accordance with the motto “design – build – round” GESIS follows a holistic IT solutions approach. In doing so, we reach all parts of the Salzgitter concern. Our focus is on the respective main business processes, which then, together with SAP as the application and basis technology – complemented by additional tools – are illustrated in-depth. When necessary we of course also develop our own modules.
A significant contrast to other concern service providers exists in that GESIS develops products itself and continually keeps an eye on the market for the best IT and software solutions, in order to make them available within the concern as “Pay per Use” offers. We endeavour to convince through service-oriented architecture as well as needs-based, cost-effective and easy solutions. In addition, direct contact and exchange between our employees and employees from the respective departments of our clients is important to us. To offset peak loads, we have recourse to a network of ten to twelve companies. In this way we are always at full capacity and able conduct business profitably.
Can Do: The GESIS service offer illustrates the entire value creation chain and is not restricted to certain industries. In the face of this wide range and constantly changing conditions, how do you manage to be successful in the long term? How do you proceed with what are partly very different assignments and which fundamental goals do you pursue in this?
Günter König: Through my dual function as CIO of Salzgitter AG and head of GESIS, I am in a position to observe business processes holistically. All systems built and developed by us follow this approach. We place great value on offering and installing only the best practiced solutions.
The structure of the Salzgitter concern is fundamentally decentralised. Our task is to establish a unified, common structure in the IT field. And we are increasingly able to improve this structure, especially through solutions developed in-house and top products additionally purchased on the market. Our goal is to standardise and further develop information technology and to operate IT systems.
We remain open to new ideas and approaches: in tenders, for example, we only give the task. The solution should come from the service provider, and is in no way provided by us.
Can Do: GESIS employs around 200 staff who manage projects worldwide. How have you organised your internal processes? There are very different tools for project planning; what are your requirements for modern project management? What use do you promise yourself from such a tool?
Günter König: One fundamental problem is that, in addition to project work, system care and maintenance also need to be considered. This cannot be planned using conventional tools. Despite this we need a comprehensive overview of the capacities and costs of all activities – whether it is project work or not.
We have chosen PRINCE2 as our project management method. For us this forms the basis of clean and comprehensive project management, but only the basis. GESIS wants a central project management tool around which a framework to cover all areas should arise. We require of the planning software that it provides optimal coordination and documentation for all participants, delivers a permanent target-performance comparison and processes actual data differentially. Through such real-time planning, including documentation and the continuity of all data, the number of inefficient meetings and events is reduced.
We plan the projects with detailed cost estimates. We already consider the problem of changes to the project requirements during the planning stages. With this the cost for estimating such changes can already be planned in advance. The transparency of the data to all participants is decisive. Such a system gains in performance and comfort if data from other systems can be integrated into it. It must be open and able to be integrated easily into the existing architecture. I am thinking here, for example, of the recording of working hours: the Can Do project management software finally chosen by GESIS offers integrated time recording, and has replaced our current system – CATS from SAP.
Our goal is to learn and improve continually. One key question is: “What are the actual cost drivers in a project, and how can we reduce these?”
Can Do: How important is the timely supply of information to management and employees?
Günter König: All information must be available immediately, that is, in real time. All other procedures are not timely and are no longer accepted by us.
Can Do: GESIS has chosen Can Do’s project management software. What was decisive in your choice of Can Do?
Günter König: I had actually already chosen another project management software package, a product considered by analysts to be innovative and modern. This was not the optimal solution for us, but rather the lesser evil.
On the day, I and those of my employees responsible for the introduction of the project management software were to make a final decision, I was asked by some employees from the active project business to quickly look at another package not evaluated by the analysts. I made it clear that I had actually already made my decision, but declared myself ready to have this new project management software presented to me. Can Do then presented the software and convinced me – I changed my mind.
There are several good reasons for this. On the technical side, the Can Do Project Intelligence software is open and flexible, and not dependent on other technologies such as Active Directory (AD) or SharePoint. In addition, the program does not use any proprietary interfaces. This was very important for us, as we require real integration into our SAP system landscape. In addition, Can Do assured us of carrying out the implementation in a short period and at a lesser cost than is the case with other products. This was also adhered to. In this way Can Do Project Intelligence can be integrated quickly and simply into our existing IT architecture.
Finally, we were also convinced by other features such as a good graphic interface, quick reaction times, real-time behaviour, as well as the ability to plan with inexact values. The Watermodel® comparison method for resource management across projects impressed us.
As with all software intended for use by all employees, acceptance plays a fundamental role. As the recommendation came from the team, I quickly saw that it would work better with Can Do than with the previous package. Therefore I was not able to make any better decision.
Can Do: Where will the Can Do project management software be used in GESIS? Could you imagine also recommending Can Do for project-based clients?
Günter König: Our normal daily business consists, in addition to maintenance and system work, of classic project work. For these purposes we will fundamentally plan our work processes using the Can Do project management software. Good tools are used by us throughout the concern, and as the Can Do planning tool is industry-independent, we will also employ it wherever appropriate.
Can Do: You are a very experienced IT expert with a good sense for future trends. Where will the development of project management lead, and what features must project management software show in the future to earn the title of “state of the art”?
Günter König: From my view as head of GESIS and CIO of the Salzgitter concern, I would like to point out that our project management software is employed not only for projects, but also for the care and maintenance of the systems. Furthermore, we have a need for modern portfolio management. Can Do’s solution has already reached a very high standard, and also has great growth potential. For this reason we are working together with Can Do to develop area portfolio management further. We are sure that Can Do will also enrich this area with new innovations.
State-of-the-art project management software must deliver target and actual data in real time, including idea management along the entire portfolio approach. It must make different information available, such as “How is the content-related project process formed and how high are the operating costs?” The program must be open, so that further data from other systems, such as SAP, can be delivered without a hitch. Only in this way can the entire life cycle be illustrated – and this is our requirement.
From our point of view it is not yet certain whether cloud computing will in fact win out. If this is the case, it is important to be able to manage the project from the overall view of the concern. With Can Do we are correctly positioned here. New portfolio management and other processes then become necessary. Yet the Salzgitter concern and GESIS have the corresponding products, among them Can Do Project Intelligence, to master this new challenge. A decisive role is assigned to mature idea management and the exploiting of synergies: only when we learn not to always invent things anew will we be successful in the long term.
Can Do: Let us look at the topic of project management in the area between strategic leadership and operative management. In your opinion, how will project management develop? Can modern project management also support companies in their strategic processes?
Günter König: The future lies in the synergy between project work and daily business. Here we are methodically and technically in an optimal position. Through further training initiatives in the area of project management our employees are also expertly qualified.
(Interview conducted in April 2010)