The Centre Fédéral d’Expertise des Soins de Santé (Federal Center for Healthcare), or the KCE (a contraction of Kenniscentrum and the French designation Centre d'Expertise, works in the public interest at the federal level. Through a program of scientific research and analysis, the KCE advises public authorities when they have decisions to make on healthcare and health insurance.
The KCE is active in four main areas:
The KCE was using a rudimentary tool for launching new projects. This tool allowed them to set up projects and to log them on a calendar. But the KCE had no tool to help it predict and visualize how its experts were involved in different projects. So one of the problems it had to cope with was that at certain times resources were either over-allocated or, conversely, under-allocated.
Moreover, as the number of projects kept increasing and became more complex, the number of researchers remained relatively stable, and so researchers started having to work on 3 or 4 projects at the same time.
Finally, some projects, or portions of projects, were subcontracted to outside experts. The decision to turn to contractors depends, among other things, on how available in-house resources are. In such situations, having a realistic understanding of how busy in-house experts are expected to be is of the utmost importance.
In addition, project priority can completely shift from one day to the next. Without a way of knowing which researchers will be involved in different projects and how, it becomes all but impossible to manage last-minute changes.
To address these shortcomings, a special set of guidelines was issued in late 2013 calling for new project management software. The new software was to be integrated and interfaced with internal software already in use at the KCE so as to reduce data duplication and make administrative processes more efficient.
After comparing the performance of three different solutions, the decision was made to go with PlanningForce, which had the best price/quality ratio of the solutions that made the final cut.
The fact that PlanningForce was able to integrate with existing software was a determining factor in the selection process as well.
In Phase 1, PlanningForce's consultants accompanied and guided the KCE team as it implemented a working methodology. It so happened that the projects team, consisting of two research management directors (along the lines of “Program Managers”) and three Project Coordinators, had been assembled just a few months prior to PlanningForce coming on board.
The situation therefore called for taking a little time to harmonize the various views held by the different parties and to build a foundation of understanding and shared knowledge.
At the same time, a data model was designed, working in close collaboration with the KCE's team. It is indeed very important to design the model as much as possible in such a way as to anticipate the project portfolio that it will have to accommodate. Integration with existing software – whether, for example, in Accounting or HR – was worked out during this first phase as well.
Moving on to Phase 2, deployment, testing was set up, conducted by a small panel of end users. Panel members were trained and given the tool to use for the duration of the testing period. The approach proved very productive in several ways:
Because PlanningForce carefully defines the roles and competencies of each expert, experts are allocated to the various projects optimally.
First, the generated plan is realistic, taking into account all relevant constraints but without over-allocating resources.
Second, the Directors of Research Program Management and their team of Project Coordinators have a clear view of, among other things, "who is involved in what" and "is there a little extra margin to work with?"
The team can thereby communicate efficiently with all of its stakeholders, providing, for example, the date on which certain experts with highly specialized competencies will become available.
One stakeholder recently insisted on adding new projects. Thanks to a comprehensive view of planning, these projects were added, but were programmed only at points in time when experts were actually available.
From that point on, some stakeholders at the federal level directly integrated the overall results of the plan designed by PlanningForce into their own strategic plan.
Nowadays, at a time when "optimal resource utilization" is the watchword for many organizations, PlanningForce enables companies to set workload priorities both realistically and optimally.
As for the end users and researchers, they were pleased with this approach to planning as it allows them to see why a given operation is scheduled before another one, and what remains to be done for each operation currently in progress.
With their former software, only a quarter of all experts completed their time sheets. With PlanningForce, after only three cycles (about 6 weeks of use), the entry rate for work performed was 100%.