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Downer Group Sees Big Upside from Project Management Overhaul

Downer Group, a $7 billion engineering, construction, and maintenance company, a few years ago realized that its growth-by-acquisition strategy had a cost beyond what it had spent on the deals themselves.

In a Forbes article about Downer, Chief Planner Douglas Marr explains that a series of acquisitions over the years had led to "a siloed approach to our project management methodology." In 2012, Downer launched an organization-wide centralization and standardization effort to address that challenge. Central to this initiative was the company's move to embrace enterprise project portfolio management.

Downer, the article notes, has around 20,000 employees in Australia and New Zealand, with customers ranging from very large companies—Rio Tinto and Bechtel, for example—to smaller industrial plans performing maintenance.

Downer's initiative included establishing a project management office to help drive process standardization and efficiency across the company's distributed operations, and moving to a single enterprise ERP system, Oracle's JD Edwards 9.1. In addition, the company introduced a single project management system, Primavera P6 Enterprise Project Portfolio Management, in part because, "more and more of our customers (were) requesting that we use Primavera P6," Marr says.

The full article is well worth a read and is packed with detail about Downer's journey, implementation approach, and the benefits the company realized (including some unexpected ones). Some of the more interesting aspects covered include:

  • Rollout steps—and the rationale behind them
  • How Downer used "the business model of every drug dealer on the planet" to drive engagement with the technology
  • The approach to culture change for its project managers
  • What the company's managers like about their new world

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