Workflow Assistant

for

Maire Tecnimont

We collaborated with Maire Tecnimont to create a software solution for Project Control processes, aiming to reduce manual tasks and improve Forecasting activities.

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In this case study, we detail our collaboration with a division of Maire Tecnimont that is responsible for the planning and operational oversight of all projects.

Our objective was to devise and construct a software solution that would resolve the principal concerns, frictions, and issues without significantly disrupting the routine operations of stakeholders involved in the Project Control processes.

The belief is that reducing the time spent on manual tasks can, in the medium term, enhance the quality and precision of Forecasting activities.

Challenge

Workflows strongly based on Excel files

The primary challenge was to address key issues without significantly disrupting the stakeholders' regular operations. This was crucial, as we wanted to avoid upheaving their well-established routines with a tool that, while capable of solving many problems, could potentially introduce new ones that might worsen the situation.

Another significant obstacle was the extensive reliance of the stakeholders’ workflows on Excel files, which, due to their nature, are highly flexible and undergo frequent changes. These alterations can occur due to purposeful decisions or unintentional errors. Therefore, we had to balance accommodating the changes in Excel files and establishing fundamental design structures to ensure a robust and reliable workflow.

Outcome

Reduce manual tasks and focus on the real value

The scope of a software solution named Workflow Assistant was defined through design activities, outlining its functional requirements and logical architecture. This assistant encompasses a variety of tasks that a user can enlist to perform specific integration or validation actions on their Project Control Excel files.

For instance, if users want to integrate a model with data from another model, they can easily select the appropriate task, upload both files, and click the 'Integrate' button. The Workflow Assistant then conducts all necessary validation checks, ranging from structural evaluations of the file to sanity checks of all data types within the sheets.

If the validation process succeeds, the Workflow Assistant integrates the two files, migrating data from the input file to the target file and delivering the resulting integration to the user.

Whether validation and integration succeed or fail, the user receives a detailed report with all the relevant information regarding the outcome of the task's execution. Therefore, if a task fails, the user knows precisely how to rectify the issues to ensure the successful completion of the task.

By reducing the time dedicated to manual tasks, we saw a medium-term enhancement in the quality and precision of Forecasting activities. They now perform fewer monotonous operations and can focus on higher-value tasks.

Methodology

Operational dashboard and Excel automation

Following an in-depth analysis of the AS-IS, we have produced a possible TO-BE solution that includes:

  • Operational Dashboard — A web application configuring users, roles, and projects and executing workflows for updating Excel documents with automation and data validation.
  • Excel Document Automation — Automatic functions for pre-filling and updating Excel documents based on configurable heuristics.
  • Excel Document Validation — Configurable automatic checks to validate the structure and data of Excel documents.
  • Operational Workflows — A collection of standard Project Control workflows designed to guide and assist Cost Control Engineers in manually and automatically updating Excel documents.

Additionally, there was a non-functional requirement to store KPIs related to these tasks, which the business could leverage for strategic considerations.

Task’s lifecycle

As we discussed, the application relies on tasks that receive inputs and perform integration or validation operations.

Once the inputs are loaded into the task, WFA will perform a structural validation check to ensure that all relevant sheets, columns, and cells are present. It will then perform a data validation check, including standard checks such as data types and mandatory values, extending to more custom task-specific checks (e.g., cell A4 must contain a number greater than 10).

Should these checks fail, the user will receive a validation report with a clear list of all identified errors and instructions on resolving them. After passing the validation check, WFA will perform the task's integration operations by extracting and processing relevant data, eventually producing an output file that the user can directly download from the platform.

Insights

The strength of this application lies in its remarkable flexibility and scalability. It is possible to evolve a task or add new ones based on user needs. The ease of integrating new tasks makes Workflow Assistant an excellent solution for companies that have this type of requirement and want to approach change gradually.

Indeed, once the application's backbone was developed and the first integration task added, users began using and testing the application immediately, gaining significant benefits right away while we were still developing the subsequent tasks needed to fulfill the entire contractual objective.

Conclusion

Enhancing project management

In conclusion, the collaboration with Maire Tecnimont on the Workflow Assistant project exemplifies how tailored technological solutions can significantly enhance efficiency and precision in project management. By focusing on automating and validating Excel-based workflows, which are pivotal in project control processes, the solution has streamlined operations and improved forecasting activities' accuracy.

The operational dashboard and the suite of automated tasks have effectively reduced the burden of manual tasks on the stakeholders, enabling them to dedicate more time to strategic decision-making and less to mundane data manipulation. The Workflow Assistant's flexibility and scalability mean it can adapt to evolving business needs, ensuring long-term relevance and utility.

Moreover, the implementation of the Workflow Assistant has demonstrated substantial improvements in user satisfaction and operational efficiency. Stakeholders now enjoy a less stressful environment, free from the errors and inconsistencies that manual handling of Excel files often introduces.

This case study underscores the value of understanding client needs deeply and crafting solutions that address immediate challenges and provide a foundation for future enhancements. Maire Tecnimont’s commitment to innovation and excellence in project management is reflected in the success of this project, positioning it as a leader in adopting advanced technological solutions in its field.

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