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    NAA Services Case Study: NAA provides bespoke Project Management Mentoring to Oaktec

    The NAA has recently provided a specialised set of workshops on Project Management implementation for member company OakTec, who many of you will immediately think of as Paul Andrews and his Pulse-R engine concept…

    In the last few years however, the OakTec business has grown to 10 employees and currently has lead responsibility on three large collaborative R&D projects.

    Those of you who have participated in this style of project will know that it can be an interesting challenge ‘herding’ the partners, meeting the Monitoring Officers and the requirements of each funding body, while at the same time delivering the projects. Imagine what it’s like now for OakTec, leading three projects at the same time!

    Of course, company growth also has its own challenges; we’ve got used to seeing Tom Harrison in the business, but an additional eight people also now trying to interpret what is in Paul’s head presents an extra degree of challenge! Paul has previously worked with Carol Holden on several collaborative R&D projects and knows that the NAA is used to balancing many projects at the same time from different funders. That’s why Carol got a call from Paul to ask if the NAA could assist.

    The NAA agreed that three half-day workshops (with ‘homework’) at a rate of one every two weeks would work best, with the following approach:

    • Session 1: Introductions and a general overview of basic project management good practice
    • Session 2: Monitoring, financials and systems
    • Session 3: Rolling three-month planning session

    Session 1 went well and then ‘lockdown’ commenced which clearly presented a challenge for hands-on workshops and resulted in a move to virtual meetings initially using Cisco Webex, then Microsoft Teams. Those who have been through a timing plan session with Carol know that it is very hands-on, so the NAA had to find a different way to deliver that session. Royal Mail post and ‘relayed’ delivery meant that the NAA could get the sticky task pads to everyone to complete their elements and following this get them all back to OakTec’s headquarters together with six-month layout sheets.

    Then the fun came in trying to direct Paul, Angela & Christina in the OakTec Board Room as to how and where to attach everyone’s sticky pads onto the planning sheet. The outcome was achieved using a combination of IT devices and as always, the key learning from the rolling wave planning session wasn’t just the timeline that comes out, but the discussions, and also the hows & whys that get raised by all the participants’ increasing commitment and understanding of the projects.

    The NAA had to change session three into three successive two-hour sessions to cope with the challenges of a remote workshop and the additional homework and logistical challenge to undertake the rolling three-month planning session.

    At the end of the sessions, the team at OakTec had a bespoke approach relevant for them and the delivery of their three collaborative R&D projects with:

    • a structured approach
    • templates to assist in the implementation of the approach
    • a common understanding of the approach and the projects between the key delivery staff
    • delegation of Paul’s workload to others.

    OakTec is now engaged in and committed to the continuous improvement of the company’s project management approach, as no system is static. As a result of this Oaktec needs to evolve with the needs of the company, which necessitates holding regular reviews to see which areas are working and which need improvements.

    Paul Andrews said “Co-ordinating the management of three large multi-partner projects creates many unique challenges. Our partners and collaborators include businesses in Mexico and Kenya, a global OEM, international fuel companies, along with UK SMEs.

    “Together we are delivering clean air solutions to major infrastructure projects and off-grid bio-power in developing economies whilst at the same time working to commercialise a suite of technologies. The current global crisis adds to the complex nature of these deliverables, but also provides opportunities to work in new and more efficient ways.

    “We realised early on our need to implement tight project management systems to give our internal team and partners a clear understanding of what is needed in terms of deliverables, timelines and budgets and the support delivered by Carol and NAA has really given us the tools to enable this. Our team all agree this support has been of great benefit especially as we know there is always someone to call on if advice is needed to refine the processes.”

    The NAA can assist you in your project management needs, from bid support for grant funding, project management of your grants, implementation of project management or other business systems. If you would like to explore these opportunities please contact either Carol or Paul so that the NAA can discuss your requirements and develop a package that is appropriate to your needs. Also take a look at the NAA website and the quotes that other members have said about its services.

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham