sales@onepager.com +1.303.779.0344

Case Study: Empowering Merck’s PMO to Communicate Massive Amounts of Data

With so much happening at any given time, it is essential that Merck’s project management organization has the tools to efficiently deliver mission-critical information to all stakeholders, from scientists and researchers to administrators and executives. This traditionally proved challenging due to the shortcomings of legacy technology. But not anymore.

Headquartered in Kenilworth, New Jersey, with facilities across the globe, Merck is one of the world’s top five pharmaceutical companies. The corporation employs some 68,000 individuals, and has dozens, if not hundreds, of drugs and therapies simultaneously in development.

Download as PDF

Challenge

Merck’s 100-plus project managers are faced with a significant task: Ensuring the on-time and on-budget delivery of hundreds of extremely complex, overlapping projects. That means handling multiple Microsoft Project files (each containing hundreds of lines) at once, and ensuring that all individuals involved understand their interwoven roles and responsibilities.

Traditionally, the PMO lacked a streamlined method for displaying the full breadth of their project and portfolio plans. Individual plans could be visualized using Project’s built-in Gantt chart viewer, but there was no way to show two, three, four or more discrete projects in a single context. As a result, most plan data – what tasks were on time, which were in danger of falling behind, which were already late, potential bandwidth issues and bottlenecks – was communicated verbally, in piecemeal fashion, at monthly meetings.

"Information sharing was primarily verbal. There wasn’t anything comprehensive available, and it wasn’t at all visual. We tried several applications for creating visual project schedules, but none stood out."
- Larissa Wilsie, Project Management Specialist at Merck

This method of plan communications posed particular problems when it came to changes in priorities, strategy and schedules. Without an easily communicable and centralized repository of project data, disseminating information about shifts – and their downstream effects – was more difficult than it needed to be.

"Information sharing was primarily verbal," said Larissa Wilsie, a project management specialist at Merck. "There wasn’t anything comprehensive available, and it wasn’t at all visual. We tried several applications for creating visual project schedules, but none stood out." All told, the PMO’s yeoman’s efforts kept projects moving at impressive rates, but there were surely time- and effort-saving efficiencies to be created.

Solution

The Merck project management organization prides itself on finding innovative solutions to intractable challenges. This philosophy drove leadership to seek out a way to easily share highly understandable data about multiple projects at once, with different information available to different groups of stakeholders. The search identified OnePager – a plan communications application designed to produce timeline visuals from Microsoft Project data – as a potential fit.

"We were able to pull three, four or more projects into a single image. That wasn’t possible with other tools."
- Mandy Dancho, PMP, CPM, Senior Project Management Specialist at Merck

With OnePager, Merck project managers simply click a button in Project, which sends the desired data (an entire plan or a curated subset) to the visualization application. OnePager automatically turns the information into a Gantt chart, which can then be customized with colors, milestone shapes, fonts and other visual branding elements. Individual line items, likewise, can be organized, grouped, or sorted into swimlanes.

Representative Data

Perhaps most important for a PMO handling such a high number of complex projects, OnePager supports the inclusion of data from multiple Project files into a single timeline summary. As a result, project managers can quickly and easily show how multiple plans impact one another, and anticipate potential conflicts and bottlenecks before they become problematic.

"We were able to pull three, four or more projects into a single image," said Mandy Dancho, PMP, CPM, a senior project management specialist at Merck. "That wasn’t possible with other tools."

Additionally, since OnePager uses source data directly from the system of record, changes to project strategy or priorities are reflected in the visual with minimal effort.

Results

The Merck PMO’s effort to streamline and improve the efficacy of plan communications has delivered a number of positive results. In particular, project managers’ ability to communicate complex plans and dependencies has improved greatly. Rather than attempting to exchange information verbally or by drawing a timeline in PowerPoint (at a cost of 4-6 hours of non-value-add work), different views of plans – including more or fewer projects, with any desired level of granularity – can be created and presented almost instantly.

"Even project managers can’t easily understand a 700-line Microsoft Project schedule," Dancho said. "It’s very helpful to look at end-to-end development and see what it looks like in one shot, on one screen."

At a practical level, conversations about staffing and task assignments have become far more actionable. Teams and individuals can see exactly what will be on their plate at any point in the future, allowing for proactive shuffling of assignments and an increase in on-time task completion. Likewise, reporting to senior management has been simplified; gaining understanding and buy-in is easier with a clean Gantt chart than a verbal description of a 700-line Project file.

"All our teams are different, and what everybody wants to see is different. OnePager gives us the ability to customize timelines for what any team needs to see. The impact of that ability is truly amazing."
- Mandy Dancho, PMP, CPM, Senior Project Management Specialist at Merck

Finally, Merck project managers report that the PMO’s credibility appears to have increased among other organizations, due to the new-found ability to rapidly show accurate, up-to-date plan data in a highly digestible format.

At an organization as large as Merck, with work occurring on so many projects at once, those efficiency gains and communication improvements have tremendous real-world impact.

"You can make timeline graphics look however they need to for your team," Dancho said. "All our teams are different, and what everybody wants to see is different. OnePager gives us the ability to customize timelines for what any team needs to see. The impact of that ability is truly amazing."

About OnePager

Developed and sold by Colorado-based Chronicle Graphics, OnePager is the timeline presentation software solution that empowers project managers to turn project files and spreadsheets into beautiful summary graphics in seconds. No matter the size of a project or the application used to create the original plan, OnePager turns real data into concise, instantly understandable visual project plans, suitable for PowerPoint presentations, emails, web pages, wall charts and more. Want to be a project management superhero? OnePager makes it possible. Click here to start your free 15-day trial today.

15-Day
Free Trial