Better Project Portfolio Management with Nostra

One single set of project portfolio data. Easier portfolio reporting - all projects are reported consistently, and reports can be generated in minutes rather than hours. One system login for multiple systems access.

The Challenge

Efficient project and portfolio management was key to the smooth operation of bp’s Bulwer Island refinery. Located in Queensland, Australia, the refinery produced 100,000 barrels per day at its peak. By 2008-09, the refinery recognised that the paper forms used to track project approvals, risks costs and the status of new project ideas were not meeting its needs.

“Under our paper-based processes, forms may have sat on someone’s desk for long periods, or required multiple signatures and document scans, delaying approval processes and extending project schedules. We wanted to implement electronic approvals to consolidate and improve the visibility of our project portfolios.”
John O’Connor, IT manager at bp’s Bulwer Island refinery (2008-2015).

John O’Connor, IT manager at bp’s Bulwer Island refinery, worked with the project services group to digitise these processes. The team captured the requirements of the new system through conversations with project managers and cost controllers, accountants and business development managers. After compiling a list of requirements and evaluating the market for solutions, the stakeholder team advised that no existing product effectively met its needs, and the project was paused to determine next steps.

The Objectives

Implement efficient project portfolio management that could scale across bp’s global refining locations to deliver the following business benefits:

  • Eliminate slow, manual, paper-based processes
  • Improve project portfolio forecasting accuracy
  • Provide a one-stop shop for project managers and owners to obtain portfolio information

The Solution

When exploring solutions to this challenge, the bp Bulwar Island refinery team turned Denver, its IT delivery partner for ideas. Technology experts from Denver pitched their ability to build a system to meet the requirements of the refinery. As a result, the ‘Nostra PPM’ software was developed.

“Before it became trendy to work in an Agile way, Denver used the methodology to pull together a minimum viable product with strong involvement from the business,” says O’Connor. “This version focused on capturing and incorporating ideas, and we continually added features such as connections to our SAP ERP system. We immediately had a standard way of capturing business ideas and opportunities, and of flagging and resolving delays to approval processes.”

The Nostra PPM software’s ability to provide visibility of near-to-real-time financials from SAP enabled Bulwer Island’s project managers to achieve consistency in understanding costs and forecast simplification. Other enhancements included the addition of action logs and data about risks and issues that enabled project managers to focus on managing the project instead of explaining variances. Later, the Denver team implemented milestone schedules for standard reporting and enhance transparency further.

Nostra PPM also enabled the Bulwer Island team to create management reports by exception to illustrate how project managers were performing in delivering forecasts.

“Because Nostra PPM met the needs of project managers, Bulwer Island could gain an accurate and comprehensive view of its overall portfolio – including the costs and schedule performance against the baseline plans of each project.” says O’Connor.

Nostra PPM quickly established a positive reputation, with Bulwer Island and Denver now undertaking two releases of the solution per year.

Nostra PPM goes international

The project and portfolio performance that Nostra PPM was delivering to Bulwer Island soon secured attention from bp senior stakeholders.

“Our team was presenting to counterparts in Europe and began fielding questions about the software we were using to manage costs and portfolios – we told them about Nostra PPM,” says O’Connor. “The team at our Lingen refinery in Germany asked to use the tool, so Denver undertook some work to accommodate different languages.”

With support from an engaged business sponsor, Denver then completed the Lingen deployment, followed by implementations at several other bp sites.

A governance group was established to manage the product globally. This allowed bp’s project management practitioners to come together and share ideas for new Nostra PPM developments. Each year, a call for requirements was held, and each year a new version of the tool was produced (now approaching v10).

bp’s central refining technology group then picked up Nostra PPM as a portfolio management tool, making it easier for other bp businesses to deploy the software.

Project and Program Performance Delivered

Six bp refineries, along with bp’s ANZ retail business now use Nostra PPM to manage projects worth $10,000 to $100mn plus, with a governance model put together by bp and Denver ensuring consistency across new requirements and changes.

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The success and reputation of Nostra PPM resulted in bp sites requesting the software be added into their operations.

“Locations that have taken on Nostra PPM have dived into it and loved it – the software provides a one-stop shop with everything a project and portfolio manager needs,” says O’Connor. “You no longer need separate logins to systems, such as SAP or Maximo, to obtain required details."

With project managers taking greater responsibility for costs and enhanced ability to understand the status of projects and portfolios, combined with management by exception, portfolio project management improved. A clear benefit was portfolio transparency and end-of-quarter reporting with project and portfolio managers able to:

  • Identify earlier if a project is tracking late or experiencing issues
  • ‘Level out’ portfolios, e.g. accelerate projects or bring high-value projects forward from the following year if they are under their portfolio budget.

“The more successful a project manager is at managing a portfolio in a given year, the more likely they are to receive additional funding the following year,” explains O’Connor. “This also helps the organisation make the most of the project managers and resources available on-site.”

In addition, some locations have achieved specific benefits, for example, project managers at the bp refinery in Gelsenkirchen, Germany – a complex, distributed facility – used to spend many days compiling portfolio information together before travelling for face-to-face project review meetings. With Nostra PPM, they can access and share this information in minutes at the click of a button and collaborate over phone calls or videoconferences rather than travelling for meetings. bp Gelsenkirchen estimates deployment of the new system has saved four hours per week per project manager, in reporting and travel time across 30 project managers, while significantly improving portfolio consistency and visibility.

Nostra PPM is a seamlessly integrated project portfolio management solution that simplifies the operational performance requirements for project and portfolio management practitioners and executives of capital-intensive industries. Initially designed in partnership with bp’s project management professionals, Nostra PPM is now available to help optimise all elements of a project or portfolio, from ideas to implementation, in an integrated, trusted project portfolio view.

“Whether a project is worth $10,000 or $1 billion, Nostra PPM will help bring control and centralise data from other software programs, while helping optimise capital investment,”
Paul Northcote, Director of Strategic Consulting for Denver

Nostra PPM benefits include:

  • Maximising business value by optimising project funding prioritisation processes
  • Reducing cost and delivery risk through greater predictability of project outcomes
  • Increasing productivity through digitising approvals and centralizing all project management information.

“Nostra PPM provides a single set of project data – anyone with a bp user ID has access at appropriately-defined security levels. The program replaces multiple spreadsheets, minimising inconsistent data and duplication of effort across teams. It also eliminates paper-based approval systems and associated clerical work. Project budget, commitment and expenditure data is presented in a standard work breakdown structure format, and Nostra PPM interfaces directly with Maximo and SAP, negating the need to license users in these programs. Project portfolio analysis is also made easier as all projects are reported consistently, and formal monthly reports can be generated in minutes rather than hours."
Eric Zimmerman, Project General Manager, bp

“Nostra PPM aggregates all silos of project data used by practitioners and brings it into one place where it can be harnessed for greater performance. Every bit of capital is approved, forecasted, and completed in the one system from cradle to grave, and is built on as we go.”
Pete Harman, Lead Developer, Denver

"Nostra PPM is relevant to anyone that spends capital or needs capital approved – that could be transportation, mining oil and gas, construction organisations, or other capital-intensive industries."
Pete Harman, Lead Developer, Denver

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