Hitachi Vantara IT PMO transforms with cloud-based project management solution

Hitachi Vantara is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd. Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Hitachi Vantara offers a robust portfolio of products and solutions that help customers store, enrich, activate, and monetize their data to improve their customers’ experiences, develop new revenue streams, and lower their business costs. Hitachi Vantara’s IT organization replaced siloed systems with one solution to streamline and optimize project portfolio management: Microsoft Project Online. With more than half a million dollars in projected productivity gains and other benefits, Hitachi Vantara’s IT organization has taken a large leap in its digital transformation journey.

The numbers for Hitachi Vantara show even the most casual reader what’s at stake in its project management office (PMO): more than 1,600 partners, 10,000 customers, 7,000-plus employees. Doing business in more than 100 countries worldwide creates even more challenges in supporting collaboration and unifying reporting.

As part of its mission to support its customers in their digital transformation journeys, Hitachi Vantara wanted to lead by example. It examined every aspect of its IT organization, from its physical infrastructure to its cloud strategy, business processes, and core capabilities. The ensuing makeover crested with a key initiative to reimagine project management tools and processes. Since replacing disparate project management tools with Microsoft Project Online, the Hitachi Vantara PMO is saving time and building a better picture of project status with more accurate, comprehensive data. That means more time to focus on value delivery for the business, which translates to enormous competitive advantage for Hitachi Vantara.

Streamlining a varied tool set

With a plethora of internal departments to serve an enormous diversity in projects—robotics, application development, disaster recovery, vulnerability remediation, and much more—the Hitachi Vantara PMO needs a clear view of every project in play. And with budgets and time constraints, stakes can be unforgivingly high. As Senior Manager, Strategic IT Business Partner at Hitachi Vantara, Nida Onay embraces the challenge. “Knowing our double bottom-line promise is what motivates me. Hitachi Vantara has a promise to deliver solutions that benefit both business and society. Leadership is always open to hearing new ideas and this project is a prime example.”

That project was a Microsoft Project Online rollout to replace three siloed systems that Hitachi Vantara had used for resource capacity and project cost management, project status reporting, and demand management. Hitachi Vantara had adopted specialized solutions as they became available and found that numerous issues arose from the lack of interoperability between them: nonstandard processes, lost productivity, and lack of visibility into project status, to name the top concerns. Reporting was inefficient, and the results not perfectly reliable; uneven adoption of systems across the IT organization meant that decision makers couldn’t have complete confidence in the numbers they were seeing.

“Each of those solutions had strengths,” says Onay. “Our pain lies in administering disjointed systems. And adoption was a huge challenge, because users didn’t want to use those multiple systems for data entry and tracking. Likewise, our executives wanted standardized, easily understood reporting that provides the right level of information in real time.” Instead, Onay’s team spent hours pulling and manipulating data and building dashboards. Despite their best efforts, data was often incomplete, unavailable, and time-consuming to compile.

After a six-month research and deployment journey, Hitachi Vantara went live with Project Online on November 1, 2018. Significant benefits began to accrue immediately.

Hitting the ground running

The Hitachi Vantara team used Wicresoft’s Project KickStart app based on Project Online, a pre-configuration tool that Microsoft customers use to accelerate deployment. Onay’s team was charged not only with ensuring a swift and smooth deployment. It also had to thread industry best practices for project management through the new solution. The tool met both goals. “We bundled a lot of great features and reporting capabilities into our Project Online implementation. It helped us standardize on industry best practices,” says Onay. “Most importantly, it helped accelerate time to value. Without it, we couldn’t have gone live so quickly.”

New project managers come up to speed quickly with templatized schedules. “When project managers create new projects in Project Online, they have a preconfigured project that includes a pre-populated project schedule and standard lists: risk log, issue log, and a financial management app to name a few,” says Onay. “Now they have a predefined process and standardized Power BI reports to manage project financials and track budgets against forecasts and actuals. Automation and standard project management templates mean project teams can focus on higher value activities and better align with ever-changing business priorities.”

Adding value in the most engaging way

With human capital representing the biggest asset of an IT organization, time tracking is vital for assessing project costs, estimating capacity, and billing customers. Ironically, tracking time can easily consume that asset. And Onay notes that no one enjoys that task. The former manual process was a tedious intrusion on precious time needed for high-value work. Now Hitachi Vantara staff fill in online timesheets pre-populated with their assigned projects. The resulting time-saving includes project status and financial updates. Project managers previously spent several hours just in updating status and calculating project costs. “We’ve gained about 2,400 hours of extra productivity from timesheet entry alone,” says Onay. “We calculated our annual projected cost avoidance this year at more than a half million dollars—33 percent of that comes from reduced timesheet entry hours and 50 percent from project portfolio status updates.”

On-point resource capacity management and reporting rely on seamless, accurate data flows, and Hitachi Vantara is achieving that goal with its Project Online deployment. To date, the company has realized 10 percent of its productivity gains from automated, flexible capacity reporting through the solution’s interoperability with Microsoft Power BI. “One of our main objectives was to maximize IT talent,” explains Onay. “And Project Online played a key role in our refreshed resource management strategy with the advanced capabilities in forecasting time, tracking actuals, and truly superior reporting. Now our decision makers use it for predictive analysis and maximizing our talent and capacity. The Project Online ‘Engagements’ feature is key to our capacity forecasting. We use it to predict future resource needs, and we can modify those future-oriented views as business needs change.”

After just six months live with Project Online, Hitachi Vantara has a lot to show for its well-orchestrated six-month rollout. Onay’s team measured productivity increases, building an impressive array of statistics: an annual total of 7,200 hours of productivity spanning across various roles including project managers, individual contributors, PMO leads, PPM administrators, people managers, service-desk analysts, and the leadership team.

The solution delivers workplace satisfaction, too—project managers and executives alike are vocal in their appreciation, says Onay. “Project managers absolutely love the automated status reporting, which saves them several hours a week, and the financials report that eliminates a lot of complex, manual processes,” she says. “Our executives are pleased with the value the solution delivers. Our vice president of Technology Operations says this is one of the best PPM implementations he’s ever seen. One of our senior technology executives told me that since deploying Project Online, we’re light years ahead in our efficiency, productivity, and business capability.”

For Onay, it’s all emblematic of Hitachi Vantara’s customer focus—not only for its customers, but for the people who run with the mission. “It’s all about being better partners for our business units. Now our project managers can focus more on being a strategic partner, and project team members better use their time to resolve any issues, mitigate risks, and add value.”