With a single click from Outlook into the project world
Swiss ebnat AG manages product development with InLoox
The Swiss ebnat AG is an internationally operating company with a long tradition specializing in the manufacturing of interdental, tooth and household brushes. Flexible product development geared to market demand plays a central role in the company's success. This is why ebnat continues to develop its products simultaneously and in parallel, which is quite complex due to the partly overlapping use of equipment and resources as well as a multi-stage manufacturing process. In order to successfully implement projects and execute tasks without overburdening the necessary resources, the company must lift its project management from spreadsheet control to the next level. The goal is to provide more transparency and networked communication.
Thomas Hilberer, Project Manager at ebnat, explains: "The market for project management software solutions is full of providers and it was quite demanding to find the right solution. Two aspects were decisive for us. The solution had to be intuitive and easy to use, so that it would be accepted by the employees, because every solution is only effective if it is used. That's why we've been looking for software that's integrated as intensively as possible into Outlook right from the start, because everyone works with Outlook and that lowers the barrier to project work."
Adherence to ISO standards
In the selection process, it was also important that the solution meets various ISO requirements. Since ebnat is certified according to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO14001:2015, the company is obliged to provide identifiable proof of all documentation. These can be documents, drawings, e-mails, images or films that must be assigned to the respective project in a coherent manner, and in the case of construction projects, in some cases even for more than 10 years. In addition, the solution should have an integrated workflow for project applications, so that the necessary folder structures are created from the outset, directly on the company file share system. Beyond role assignment, users also need to be able to customize their views and dashboards.
Hilberer: "Another topic is the mapping of the critical path and the linking of several projects, i.e. multi-projects. We wanted a platform that could intuitively allocate tasks, plan resources, and perform timely analyses.
Since InLoox meets all these requirements and offers even more added value, Hilberer and his 8-person team, which includes ebnat's management and product development, decided to introduce InLoox in spring 2017.
The introduction took place gradually. First, the core team put the software through its paces before adding nine new employees to the team after about four months. In the final phase of the test period, 17 ebnat employees used InLoox to plan, implement, and document their projects. Because the feedback was positive and the few challenges that arose could be successfully solved with the support provided by InLoox, Hilberer started rolling out the software after the test.
All in all, the implementation was completed after six months. Eventually, 30 people throughout the company are working with it. "With all this change, it is important to coach the employees, to meet with them and take their fears, questions and suggestions seriously," says Hilberer, who sees the introduction of InLoox not only as a rollout of new software, but also as a cultural change. In his opinion, it's all about making product development more agile, more flexible and still having an overview. Such a feat cannot be achieved overnight, but Hilberer is sure that over the next twelve months he will be able to largely complete the transformation from spreadsheet-driven project management to agile and cross-departmental project work.
Currently, 30 employees are working with InLoox and ebnat also has ten viewer licenses in use. This means that all projects are handled holistically - from product development to implementation and optimization of series production. In the meantime, not only do more than 20 colleagues from the Marketing & Development and Production departments use InLoox, but also employees from manufacturing, logistics, accounting, quality management, executive management and project management. Hilberer: "The requirements for such a heterogeneous group are of course very different. We have some engineers and technicians with certified project management training and others who have little experience with such tools. In the end, you need rules, good will, discipline and stamina, otherwise the whole project management doesn't work - regardless of the solution."
He therefore attaches great importance to employee feedback in order to find out where the issues lie or what experiences and procedures are so successful that they can be recommended to colleagues as best practices or turned into templates. According to Hilberer, self-discipline and courage are needed for something new in order to live a dynamic, evolving corporate culture. And yet it is important that someone assumes responsibility so that the whole thing does not go to waste.
Positive side effects
The project manager is all the more pleased about the proactive and positive feedback he receives from his colleagues. The vast majority have had very good experiences with InLoox. The improvements in communication are emphasized, for example when it comes to coordination between different departments, such as production and logistics, or in resource planning when an employee is involved in two projects at the same time. Hilberer is also convinced by InLoox's agility: "The trend is increasingly towards agile methods, due to our fast-moving economy. So we are moving away from meeting minutes and towards notes, which are then sent directly to the team by e-mail, and this is done with InLoox." He and his colleagues also use the platform for project application workflows and the traffic light function prevents overlooking anything important. The project structure plans, the resource pool from Outlook, the Gantt chart and the dashboard views are also increasingly being used, for example in presentations for the executive team.
"As far as project maintenance effort is concerned, we have found a reduction of 40 percent compared to Excel," estimates the project manager, who also relies heavily on analysis options such as milestone trend analysis. Since the introduction of InLoox about one year ago, he can now provide information about the status quo of a project at any time thanks to the numerous real-time information and analytical tools. Hilberer: "Now those responsible for product development and management are always well informed. We soon noticed the effect that InLoox brought light into the darkness, because now we are acting much more calmly, as even those who are not directly involved in the project, but bear the responsibility for it, know more about it." With the integration of Inloox into Outlook, ebnat succeeded in establishing project management software on a central communication platform that reflects maximum transparency and high acceptance among employees and users and which is a win-win situation for everyone.
Hilberer: "We are an innovative company in which both product development and internal processes are subject to a high degree of change, which means that a suitable software solution in project management is needed to meet these requirements and, if necessary, can be further developed and adapted. If we no longer had InLoox, we'd be flying blind and if I'm honest, I can't bear the thought of going back to that anymore."
"Everyone works with Outlook and that's why entering the world of project management via Outlook is so convenient. With InLoox, Outlook and the PM world are growing ever closer together and Outlook is virtually becoming the backend of the project management world".
"The transparent presentation of the projects in InLoox provides more planning security and peace of mind. This even helps with the overall management of the company and has positive effects on all business units".
Thomas Hilberer, project manager ebnat AG
The various product development projects are part of ebnat's daily business. Given the large number of projects, it is important not to lose track of them and, above all, to set the right priorities. With the increasing number of multi-stage projects and the necessary flexibility in implementation, the manual control of the projects is overwhelming and unnecessary difficulties arise.
The project management solution InLoox offers an easy entry into a pragmatic as well as structured project management due to the seamless Outlook integration. With InLoox, project members have a platform at their fingertips with which they can control their projects from within Outlook.
Since ebnat has been carrying out its product development projects with InLoox, those responsible have an overview at all times and can manage their projects more specifically on the basis of real-time information. In addition, the double burden on individual employees due to participation in several projects has decreased and the effort required to monitor and maintain projects has been noticeably reduced.