Thomas Cook Online needed a new enterprise project management system to accommodate the rapid growth in its European online travel business. It chose Microsoft Project Server 2010 following a positive experience with a previous version, and worked
with Program Framework, a Microsoft Gold Partner in project and portfolio management. Thomas Cook Online key account holders are more productive and make better use of the company’s existing Microsoft assets.
Thomas Cook Online launched in 2010 as part of the Thomas Cook Group, which traces its origin to 1841. It is the web-based division of the holiday company— the first United Kingdom (U.K.) travel agency to offer consumers a way to buy holidays, currency,
and travellers cheques on the Internet. Previously, e-commerce departments were part of the tour operators in each country. The firm aims to become one of the top three online travel agents in Europe.
To meet future growth and support business change, Thomas Cook needed to improve delivery and clarity across its IT projects, programmes, and portfolios. In 2009, the company centralised its email messaging system for its offices in Germany, France, and
the U.K., and during the past 18 months has increased the number of employees from around 40 to more than 200. The number of websites has stayed the same at around 30.
Andreas Ernst, Head of Change Portfolio, Thomas Cook Online, says: “We needed a more integrated enterprise project management (EPM) approach to support our evolving process framework and project delivery. We wanted to provide a common EPM platform that would
create a strong foundation for the future.”
In particular, Thomas Cook Online wanted to meet three business transformation objectives:
Ernst says: “Our goal was to deploy an EPM system that gave real-time information on the status and financial impact of projects that was easily seen and accessed by all stakeholders.”
The company wanted to give its employees better access to information—for example, being able to compare the performance of different suppliers—aiding the decision-making process and ultimately helping to define the company’s portfolio roadmap. Ernst says:
“With such insight we can learn lessons for future project performance. For example, we’ll introduce strategic modelling to improve alignment with organisational strategy.”
Ernst had previously enjoyed a positive experience with Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007—this significantly influenced his choice of technology. Working with Microsoft Partner Program Framework, the company chose an EPM solution using Project
Server 2010 and Microsoft Project Professional 2010 built on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. These technologies offer Thomas Cook Online flexible work management solutions by combining collaboration platform services and structured execution capabilities.
Project Server 2010 is the engine of the solution, which simplifies time and status reporting by intuitively creating reports and building powerful dashboards. Users can choose from preconfigured and localised best practice report templates. In addition,
Project Server 2010 uses Excel Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and other business intelligence (BI) features included in SharePoint Server 2010.
James Butler, Head of Client Services, Program Framework, says: “We offered Thomas Cook Online insights into best practice usage of Project Server 2010. We showed how the company could take advantage of its flexibility in a single demand management module
to manage all types of work effectively—from simple tasks to complex projects, whether following a traditional waterfall model, or using an agile delivery methodology.”
Program Framework held an envisioning workshop with Thomas Cook Online to help establish what was required, gather data to populate the system, and identify staff training needs—from account managers to senior executives. It also used its proprietary Project
Server Framework to simplify the deployment process. Butler says: “One of our key tasks is helping users deal with change, allowing for rapid adoption of the new technology and fast return on investment for our customer.”
Around 60 account holders at Thomas Cook Online use the new system. And, having changed the way they manage projects, they’re now more productive. They’re also making much better use of the company’s existing Microsoft solutions, such as Microsoft Office
2010. Active engagement by Program Framework helped reduce the complexity and time to deploy the solution, and manage culture change within the business.
Delivers stronger project governance and enhanced decision making. Poor access to information and lack of consistency are now a thing of the past with the unified project and portfolio management system. Ernst says: “Microsoft Project Server
2010 has provided us with stronger project governance, improved prioritising, and centralised document storage. All staff now have visibility of projects.”
Creates scalable and connected work management platform. Through Project Server 2010, users can bring together related Microsoft technologies to gain additional value from the EPM platform. Teams can work with their preferred productivity
tools using Microsoft messaging and collaboration software as well as Microsoft development technology.
Provides performance improvements for large projects. By offering 64-bit compatibility through Project Professional 2010, Microsoft ensures that customers with complex projects, such as Thomas Cook Online, will experience
Helps ensure fast time to market and widespread adoption. Program Framework used its experience of customising Project Server 2010 to ensure knowledge transfer and rapid delivery of the solution, which is likely to be extended to Hungary
and India. Ernst says: “Program Framework was proactive in its approach. It embedded the new processes and ensured that all users were comfortable with the solution, while minimising the cost to the company.”
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