An interview with Jens Thieme, Head of Group Digital Marketing & Communications at Oerlikon following the completion of a long-term project launching a new corporate website including several business units.
Mr. Thieme, Oerlikon has worked with MEDICALBOARD continuously over the past years. The result of this collaboration went “live” a few weeks ago. Could you share details of the nature of the project?
Apart from another joint project, we have re-designed our corporate website which went live in March 2021. There were multiple objectives: we wanted to transform an industry-focused corporate website into an interactive site with clear customer focus offering a modern user experience and interaction. Due to the complexity of the project, we quickly realized that we needed outside support. When looking for a suitable partner, Ulrike Neuberger from MEDICALBOARD was recommended to us and she took over the program management for both projects. When pitching for the project, Ulrike convinced us with her strong professional and interpersonal skills as well as her broad and extensive program and project management experience.
This sounds like a standard project management assignment. Wouldn’t you normally assign someone from within Oerlikon to take over the project? Why did you choose to hire external resources for this task?
We of course also asked ourselves this question. But we quickly realized that we didn’t have any resources for such a large and complex project. There are a few projects within Oerlikon which are managed by external partners that are specialists with specific competencies which Oerlikon cannot build up within a short period of time. Experience has shown that specialists with excellent project management skills are hard to find: they are either already involved in multiple projects, not interested in temporary assignments or too inexperienced to really make a difference. MEDICALBOARD was on a short notice able to provide us with the right resources for the duration of the project.
How would you describe your collaboration?
In a first step we gave an overview of the team and the project. Looking back this was the most important phase. The more Ulrike and her team understood in detail which divisions and departments were involved, the easier it became for MEDICALBOARD to take over the program management. Oerlikon is a heterogeneous and fragmented organization with many divisions – each characterized by their own dynamics, history, speed and structure. Consequently, each division has their own special requirements for a new corporate website and especially for their market specific areas. Following the onboarding, MEDICALBOARD put together a team and took over the project lead and many other important functions within the project team. I would especially like to commend MEDICALBOARD for the manner in which they complemented our internal IT partner and the digital agency (Electronic Minds) and for the solid set up and implementation of the project plan.
“With the help of MEDICALBOARD the project was well organized and structured.”
Were you inclined to shift the project to internal resources during your annual budget negotiations? If yes, why? If not, how did you justify your decision?
Budget negotiations are always a good time to question certain projects. However, we were not inclined to with this assignment. The project progress and project planning were speaking for themselves:
Shortly after MEDICALBOARD took over the project management, the first divisions and the corporate site could go live. It helped a lot that everyone could see progress and that all pending and complex tasks were handled quickly and competently. Some divisions were easier to migrate than others. That is why we took one step at a time. The larger, fragmented divisions (like Metco or Balzers) came at a later stage. For those, multiple sites, products and details needed to be adapted, integrated and migrated to the new design.
With the help of MEDICALBOARD the project was well organized and structured. We quickly realized that we could not have made this progress without the program management. MEDICALBOARD had taken over the lead. A role which none of the team members could have managed with the same quality and commitment next to their daily operational jobs.
Oerlikon is a multinational company with thousands of employees, MEDICALBOARD is a boutique consultancy with a handful of people but you still came together. How do you explain this?
Oerlikon is a multinational corporation for sure, but we should not forget, that many of our business divisions started out as start-ups and many of our employees previously worked for smaller organizations. We benefit from working with smaller companies be it partners or customers. We find new approaches, get new ideas and an unfiltered outside perspective all leading to new impulses which are very important for us. I am convinced that we avoid being trapped in our own dynamics by working with smaller partner organizations.
“MEDICALBOARD helped us to consider and adopt the specific interests and opinions of each division. We also sought feedback from our customers and took the results into account in our decision making process which had a significant impact on the success of the project.”
Complex, cross-divisional and extensive IT projects are on the to do list of many large and midsize companies. What’s your advice for colleagues in other large or middle-sized organizations?
When we first started the project (before MEDICALBOARD came on board), we missed out on the opportunity to get sufficient feedback from internal and external stakeholders. MEDICALBOARD helped us to consider and adopt the specific interests and opinions of each division. We also sought feedback from our customers and took the results into account in our decision making process which had a significant impact on the success of the project.
For colleagues who are facing a similar project, I would have the following advice:
Get everyone involved (internal and external stakeholders), show evidence, use surveys, personas, anticipate and observe user journeys and analyze data to get a clear picture.
Give direction and explain why you are taking this path from the start.
A strong and experienced project organization is crucial. Talk and listen to each other. Clearly define: who delivers what and by when and who is in charge.
Build up a good and functioning change management process to avoid lengthy discussions.
And last but not least: don’t set your sight too high but ensure that whatever you do is focused and well organized. Do the scale up afterwards.
“MEDICALBOARD gave us structure, ensured that timelines were kept and project milestones achieved.”
How would you describe the collaboration with MEDICALBOARD in one sentence?
In one sentence? That’s hard. MEDICALBOARD gave us structure, ensured that timelines were kept and project milestones achieved. Their way of working is very collaborative. You hire an agency because you need someone who makes you better. We couldn’t have realized this project with the same quality, budget and success without the help of MEDICALBOARD.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that we have had external independent feedback* confirming the successful achievement of our project objectives (customer focus, modern user experience and interaction)
*The full Lundquist report is available here.
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