International Project Management
When Göksun Tan enters her project office on Monday mornings in Building 18 at the Gütersloh location, her attention generally turns first to the large writing board on the wall across from her desk. In a few minutes, the erasable board will be filled with a long to-do list of new jobs that have to be completed. “I find it good to have the jobs literally in front of my nose. That way I can always check what still has to be done. As the responsible project manager, I have to maintain an overview so we can complete the job successfully and in the agreed-upon time.”
In the current case, an international entertainment company has hired Arvato Supply Chain Solutions to deliver its products in Europe. To that end, the associated IT, reporting, transport, logistics and warehousing processes have now been put in place over the last six months, in some cases from the ground up. “The special challenge with this job is the large number of components. The product range includes approximately 10,000 articles that must be individually registered, stored, handled and dispatched throughout Europe. To make sure all of that runs smoothly, the related processes, some of which are pretty complicated, have to be coordinated in detail with the customer and internally, too, at an early stage and precisely implemented,” explains Tan.
Since early 2018, she has been leading a team of experts at the Gütersloh site that was assembled specifically for this job according to the requirements of the customer. “In five years of project work, I’ve never once seen the exact same combination of team members working on another project together,” she says. “But that doesn’t hurt the quality of the work; in fact, it brings in new ideas and that leads to progress.” In her work, she relies on many standards and tools that were developed for project work only in recent years. “In that area especially, we’ve made a lot of progress compared to the early years. In the past, the account managers handled their projects more or less by themselves. Now we can create a clear layout and roadmap of any project with tools like SharePoint and Jira. All the team members can look at the information for themselves and get familiar with the work. That’s naturally a huge help when it comes to realizing the jobs our customers have for us.”
Busy Period prior to Go-Live
In recent months, Tan has held more than a dozen meetings per day to review the processes and workflows with different parts of her team. During these meetings, the processes have been rehearsed, tested, recreated and given a field test. Everyone in the team contributes experience and technical knowledge from certain fields, which ensures a very broad range of expertise and improves the work of the project. Moreover, since the project is integrated into the Arvato network, the team also receives a good deal of support from those connections. For example, colleagues in France help the project team handle returns; they are registered and collected locally and then transferred to Germany.
“Ultimately, handling a job successfully is always a joint effort that includes many participants from the group,” says Tan. For example, we almost always work with IT, the Trade & Compliance team, the Transport Management team, the Sales/BD team and Purchasing. Without their support, it wouldn’t even be possible to carry out projects like this” says Tan.
On the go-live day, the months of planning and preparations pay off. The first live orders come in, the deliveries start, and the daily processes swing into action. “After just a few days, we’ll know how things are going and whether all the processes and workflows are operating according to plan,” says Tan. If everything goes all right, the hypercare phase begins, and the final hand-off to the account manager is prepared. Important information (e.g., KPIs, SLAs, etc.), processes and responsibilities are recorded in a business process document, and the document is then ultimately passed on to the responsible account manager. That’s rarely an easy step for Tan: “When this hand-off process is completed, it’s time for me and most of the team to say good-bye. That’s generally not fun, but it’s just a fact of life for a project manager.”
The Foundation is Interest in Other Cultures
Since 2013, Tan has worked on or managed many projects in Europe, North America and Asia. So far, she has never had any regrets. “For me, nothing could be worse than doing routine jobs all the time. I like change and new things. Arvato gives me both.” The job requirements for employees in project management are high, however. Broad technical and language skills, a willingness to travel a lot, a high degree of flexibility and a strong interest in other cultures are just a few of the attributes called for in international project management.
At the same time, though, internal staffing requirements are growing because of the large external demand. As a result, Arvato is visiting universities to recruit new employees for the Solutions Design team in Düren, for example, and these new workers travel to their first assignments soon after being hired. “I like it here: flat hierarchies, direct personal give-and-take, helpful and considerate behavior, and very flexible and dedicated colleagues — we have a good foundation for the future,” says Tan, before turning to the board on the wall again. There is much to do...
Göksun Tan has been managing international projects at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions since 2013. She is currently working with her team on implementing services for a client in the high-tech industry.