Fox Projects, a provider of projects management and consulting capabilities in the mining sector, has acquired and implemented a comprehensive Microsoft EPM solution to enhance service delivery on project management (PM). Fox Projects used a competitive product for costing, scheduling and time management and, even with this, it was largely a manual system.
Although Microsoft Excel 2010 had to be used for certain areas of analysis, it was very cumbersome, rigid and inefficient. Added to which, to alter a format, or graph, was virtually impossible and very labour intensive in the previously deployed solution.
The system was very costly and not user friendly, giving no insights into projects and difficult to use collaboratively. Maintenance and additional functional requests had to be done by expensive consultants giving no flexibility for self-maintainability.
What was needed was something much more flexible which would handle everything from day-to-day reporting and operations, to tenders, document management and drawing office control, tracking and easier communication and collaboration with staff remotely.
“So, after consultation with our IT partners, FOXit, we decided that the Microsoft EPM solution including Microsoft Project Server 2010, Microsoft Project Professional 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Visio 2010 was the answer,” comments James Keir, chief operations officer at Fox Projects.
“We all know how to use Microsoft products, so there wasn’t a problem replacing the existing solution with a much more user-friendly EPM solution.
“It’s fully configurable and puts the power of information visibility in my hands, an example is how I, as an executive of the business and project manager for my customer, can view realtime information and make decisions quicker but, more importantly, mitigate my project risks almost immediately.
“We knew what we wanted which made it easy for FOXit to produce the solution for us, adding their own unique touches and experience to our environment.”
Drilling down to core benefits

The solution is fully configurable and easy to use. Staff members can now analyse projects and view existing documents from various angles to cost future projects. Ease of communication and working in the cloud give staff members easier access to data on site.

Engineers can communicate with clients more easily as they can use a dashboard to log into the system to see where the project is and what the possible risks are that have to be mitigated.

Fox Projects also chose Microsoft Project Professional 2010 rather than traditional costing and scheduling tools used in the mining and construction industry, as it provides better capabilities and is much more cost effective.
Using it in the solution context of EPM the whole project lifecycle can be managed through various mining and engineering disciplines and for everything from start to finish of the project – previously, it was only used as a scheduling tool – with this solution it can be used for costing and resources as well.
Through this solution staff members have learned more of the capabilities of Microsoft Project Professional 2010 and productivity has multiplied.

“We have decided to use an agile approach to the implementation with small iterations of work packages being implemented. This allows us the flexibility of implementing about 50% of our work onto this solution and making enhancements as we move through this process,” says Keir. “It should take us another month or so to get everything finalised and then we can continuously improve on this if required.

“There have been no problems with the software and the staff members have found it easy to use.
We know what ‘smarts’ we want to put into the solution so that we manage the projects correctly. Our partner FOXit is showing us how to do things the correct way. It’s a good partnership.

“There are a lot of things that we have in mind to do, but we can’t do everything at once, because we still have to run a business. One of the things we are looking at doing is getting a server on which we can learn – we don’t want to use our actual system for that – we need something else to play on.”

The company is in engineering procurement and construction management, so it works for mining houses on various projects. Taking a project from the scoping phase through to feasibility, execution and then to close-out.

Workflow and approvals are vital and everything is part of a process, or procedure that can be built up very successfully in this solution and the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 capabilities make this easy to use and implement.

Fox Projects will apply for ISO accreditation at the end of year and the new system of control will obviously help to produce the basis for the accreditation and enable Fox Projects to get the certification. This is important because it brings with it more credibility in the industry and blue chip companies require it.

The acquisition of Microsoft EPM technology is viewed by management at Fox Projects as an advancement of its strength in the market.