Patrick Zwinkels, senior project manager and partner of SmartTeam, knows better than most how diversified and volatile project management can be. “Project teams are often of a temporary nature and comprise all types of external parties and employees from different departments. This makes it extremely difficult to make all the relevant information available for everybody and, in addition, facilitate effective communication.”
Due to the high time pressure associated with large-scale projects there is often no time available to immediately provide project teams with a fully integrated IT environment. This despite the fact that increasingly higher levels of speed and flexibility are expected from project organizations, for example, through the provision of project information and reports. This usually leads to the use of innumerable ad-hoc spreadsheets that are exchanged via mail or cloud storage locations, with the result that a great deal of information is managed in the personal e-mailboxes of different people. To address this gap in the market Patrick, together with Harm Horstman – owner of HH IT Services, decided to develop their own software solution. The result is the SmartTeam Toolkit, a user-friendly project management platform in the cloud, that combines all operational processes, information and communication about a project in one shared web environment. It can be implemented very quickly, while maintaining extensive flexibility.
Straightforward and flexible license model
Patrick has been working in project management since the beginning of the nineties and later worked as a project manager for various organizations. “The project world is a world run by professionals, in which software usually plays a secondary role. All kinds of different ad hoc solutions are used, including many Excel spreadsheets. However, these are strongly linked to the person who created them and don’t present an integral overview of a project.”
HH IT Services has been working with the Thinkwise Platform for years building data solutions for customers. “At one point we introduced Thinkwise to a customer,” says Harm. “Thorough research showed that the platform was very well suited to satisfy their requirements to be able to integrate different data sources, combined with a flexible user interface. Since then we became more and more knowledgeable and experienced with the platform. When I first thought of the SmartTeam Toolkit together with Patrick, the choice for Thinkwise was actually quite obvious.”
Selecting the right low-code platform for the development of software solutions for customers is, of course, a major strategic decision, so Harm and Patrick also evaluated other platforms.
“The license model was decisive,” Patrick added. “Thinkwise provides a very straightforward and scalable license model for the type of application that we offer. This was essential, because we have to support large projects, involving parties from around the entire world, which sometimes involve hundreds to thousands of people. Apart from the functional match, our application would be far too expensive with the license model of other low-code platforms.”
Development and practice
“The data model was leading during the development of the SmartTeam Toolkit”, says Patrick. “We wanted to create a data structure that was as generic as possible to support large projects. However, at the same time it also had to be possible to quickly make it user specific by easily adding certain properties.”
Furthermore, HH IT Services was working on a uniform multi-grid interface for the simple presentation of lists and overviews for the various users in the project environment: “Everyone views a project from a different perspective. A contract manager’s focus is on the contracts, which assignments are there for extra work, if there are any changes, and which objects do they apply to. A site manager views everything from the perspective of the objects, the work and the progress made. In SmartTeam they see the same interface, but from a different perspective. Thinkwise is particularly suitable to visualize information in this way.”
The first beta version of the application was ready within six months and shared with a small group of colleagues. “We immediately received many positive reactions,” says Patrick. “There is no other software available in the market that presents this kind of an integrated view of all the activities and information about a project. Especially considering the speed and flexibility with which you can set up the platform.”
Princess Ariane Wind Park
A year later the SmartTeam Toolkit was ready for production. Patrick Zwinkels was contracted at that time as a planner and subsequently as a sub-project manager during the construction of the Princess Ariane Wind Park, which involved no less than 82 wind turbines, a mega project of the energy supplier Vattenfall. This turned out to be the ideal project to test the SmartTeam Toolkit in practice.
Patrick: “An important part of the planning is monitoring the progress of a project. There are many subcontractors and as the client you need to be able to verify what is being reported. In SmartTeam we could easily link all the photographs concerning the progress of the project to the relevant objects. By adding a visual component, the reports were easy to review and compare with the actual result.”
More processes were gradually included in the SmartTeam environment and an increasing number of parties and participants were added to the project, as was deemed necessary. “I started during the tendering stage, but the platform was also used later during the construction of the wind park, and was used as the basis for the transfer to the maintenance and management organization. Everything is recorded in the platform, from the agreements with all the parties and the contract management through to execution of the work and return of the construction site to the landowners.”
Closed information chain
The major strength of SmartTeam, according to Patrick, is the ability to be able to integrate all the information within a project in one environment, without lengthy IT projects or being restricted by a fixed framework.
“If you have already organized certain activities with Excel or another tool, you don’t have to put that aside right away,” Patrick explains. “With SmartTeam you can integrate all these things in the environment. During large projects it is ultimately about the chain of information, the creation of overviews and the possibility to produce reports. SmartTeam combines all these processes together in one correct data model, with a user-friendly interface in which the participants can carry out their work and administration, and all this from a cloud environment.”
SmartTeam offers project organizations a solution to integrate their traditional multitude of ad hoc systems in one robust data environment, so that projects can be managed more efficiently and transparently.
Integrated and scalable
SmartTeam runs on Azure in the cloud, including the underlying SQL database. This allows the capacity of the environment to be easily increased to meet new requirements, and data and information is made available to employees on all platforms via a web application.
“There are generic solutions available for project management, but there is no system that offers the user-friendly and complete integration of all processes in one environment, the way SmartTeam does,” says Patrick. “Our cloud-based Thinkwise solution ensures that uniform information and communication within projects is available to everyone involved, consistently, reliably, sustainably and efficiently, and always online.”
He emphasizes that the participants in the wind park project were also greatly impressed with SmartTeam. “No one had ever seen a system that provided a complete overview of all activities and all the information within a project. I personally call this freedom in restriction. You are bound by one environment and one data structure, but within that structure you have the freedom to use your own organizational tools and or solutions. The main added value is in the cooperation in one environment, and you can only really appreciate that when you work with it yourself.”
Thinkwise as partner
At HH IT Services, people are very satisfied with the partnership and results achieved up till now. “Thinkwise is a very accessible and friendly company to work with,” Patrick concludes. “Their license model is very attractive for us and shows that with a relatively small investment you can add a great deal of value for organizations and install a good software solution in a short time. Just like Thinkwise, we want to offer our customers the best possible solutions, which challenge the established order. I think that we have found each other in this respect and that we have a fantastic future together as partners.”