As with every project based organization, Waterschap Aa en Maas was facing challenges fulfilling its budget plans in time and within reasonable costs. With a large number of projects in the pipeline, and its current manner of project scheduling and resource allocation, they wanted to explore the opportunities for employing a data-driven Decision Support System to improve the likelihood of on time and on-budget project completion. We were asked to develop a Management Flight Simulator to help the management team explore the impact of various assumptions on their ability to perform. The goal was to deliver a tool that enables the client to prioritise projects on the basis of their expected impact on strategic objectives.
Over the course of 3 months, our team employed a number of soft and hard Decision modelling approaches ranging from facilitating an objectives mapping session, through a Group Model Building exercise, and numerous weeks of mathematical modelling. We designed a tool that took as input an excel format Gantt chart outlining project timelines, start dates, and anticipated resource consumption. The inputs were then ran through a System Dynamics Model, which simulated the organization's decision making practices, information feedback processes, resource base, and historical accuracy of predicting project resource consumption. The output was a comprehensive dashboard showing the number of projects running together, resource consumption over time, predictions for delay and actual resource consumptions per project and a number of other important KPIs. The project was delivered in a 1-day event where the senior management of the organization could challenge each-other's assumptions as well as the model's basic assumptions. The modelling team would then make real-time edits to the model and demonstrate the scale of impact different assumptions had.
The key project outcome was probably the surfacing of decision making practices, processes assumptions. Throughout the intervention, we discovered that there are numerous low-hanging fruits that can be gathered by simply ensuring that multiple projects do not kick-off in parallel, and that administratively blocked resources are re-allocated to a resource pool. As requested, we provided the management with a tool that could be used to test the performance of alternative program schedules under varying conditions.