Successful project management: "A good atmosphere and a relationship of trust!"

Interview with Johannes Frenck, Senior Project Manager at AUCOTEC's Professional Service

Johannes Frenck leads and manages complex projects along with the teams to implement AUCOTEC's Engineering Base (EB) platform for major customers. In addition, the graduate mechanical engineer is responsible for the standardization of project management methods. He has been gaining experience in this field for more than 25 years and this experience has been benefiting AUCOTEC's customers since 2013. This not only pleases the customers, but also Frenck himself, who particularly appreciates the direct contact.

What is project management and what are its main features?

It involves leading, organising and coordinating a project in order to reach its goal in a thoughtful, structured and above all controllable manner. There's a very apt image of us project managers: we juggle the three balls representing time, cost and quality.

Besides the implementation of EB in a complex system and IT landscape, projects at AUCOTEC also include the migration of existing data of a plant. There is always a lot of pressure to keep to time and cost schedules, with the highest quality of course. That's why we don't leave our customers, who are usually responsible for the entire project, to their own devices; we support them in project implementation and advise them on software introduction. In this, we are following the method of the Project Management Institute (PMI) from the USA, which has over 50 years of experience.

What has happened in recent years?

Due to globalization and increased competition among machine and plant manufacturers, the need for methodical, professional project management has increased significantly. Of course, this is all the more true the more complex the projects are. Since large, complex implementation projects do not occur too often in a single company, experience is often lacking, and we can provide it. Our team also provides support when it comes to the use of different methods.

Have there been any other changes?

Traditional project management mainly reflects the requirements of the top management, i.e. decision-makers and stakeholders. However, many projects today contain a high proportion of customizing and therefore development work. In addition, the scope and requirements often change during a project, so there is a need for adaptation. Agile project management is usually used for this, to provide the team members with the optimal framework for the scope of services. We combine both with the so-called hybrid approach of a newer method. My task is then also to ensure a smooth connection between the two levels.

What is most important to customers in project management?

The priorities are certainly individual, but first of all, of course, that all goals are met. The project is successful if EB enables its users to sustainably optimize their processes and workflows. For this they need a reliable partner in the system manufacturer, i.e. us, who also represents the interests of the users in their company.

However, it is also important that there is a central contact person who will move the project forward from kick-off to go-live and take care of issues such as resources, deadlines and continuous communication. Otherwise, projects all too often fail precisely due to lack of or inadequate communication and transparency. The social component is a significant factor here. Comprehensive change projects need a good atmosphere and a working relationship based on trust for all those involved!

What was your most exciting project?

It's hard to decide. We have already managed such diverse range of customer projects, both nationally and internationally. It is exciting every time, because the approaches are always individual. One interesting example is a well-known, very creative compressor manufacturer. EB was initially introduced there to deal with plant design, from planning to control system configuration. This is possible because EB records the complete 'digital twin' of the customer's plant. In this way, the control data can also be transferred directly to the predictive maintenance system. That alone was exciting. Thanks to EB's flexible architecture and agile implementation, we mastered yet another challenge: today, the customer can record plant information, including networking logic, with a mobile app on site and import it directly into EB for engineering to optimize these plants.

There are a number of other successful, groundbreaking projects that I have been able to guide. Characteristic of the most extensive of these is that different disciplines and areas were involved. With such complexity, project management is essential. And since the most exciting project is always the next one, our team is looking forward to the next challenge!