For the last 9 years, I work as a planner and controller of a multinational Brazilian oil company. The team consolidates all the planning information of the whole company, analyses it, and reports to the company board of directors.
For all these years, I’ve struggled to deal with some basic business scenarios:
- At the very end of the process, someone in the chain of information submits a last-minute update that cannot be ignored
- The board decides to change the plan
- The existence of multiple simultaneous plans, for optimistic and pessimistic scenarios
- Changes in the organizational structure
The current information systems used or developed by the company are too restrictive to accommodate their business cases. The general solution is to create entire systems using dozens of spreadsheets. It is a patchwork of data, susceptible to data loss and zero control.
To address this, I decided to develop, on my own, a new system that is both flexible and powerful. The overall core propositions are:
- Versioning: instead of overwriting data whenever there is a change request, the system should be able to preserve the existing data and generate another version. Both should be accessible, in other to allow comparison and auditing.
- Branching: not only sequential versioning (v1, v2, v3), it should allow users to create multiple current versions. Creating scenarios of event temporary exercises should be effortless.
- Multiple dimensions: for each unit (ie, a project in a list of projects), the user could insert the future CAPEX, OPEX, production, average cost, number of workers, or any arbitrary dimension. It’s all about capturing future series of values, regardless of the meaning.
- Multiple Teams: in the same organization, users can create inner teams that deal with different aspects of the business. The system should allow to users set the list of units to control (projects, employees, buildings, or whatever), their dimensions of measurement, and then control the user access to all this information. It’s a decentralized way to create plans.
- Spreadsheet as a first-class citizen: small companies might not use them much. But any mid-to-big companies use spreadsheets for everything. Importing and exporting system data as Excel/LibreOffice/Google Docs is a must.
With this feature set in mind, I started to create a spear time what is now temporally called Project Curva for the last 3 months. I will post more about it in the future: the used technology, the technical challenges, and some lessons learned.
A beta is due at the end of April 2021.
The project is called NiwPlan and can be checked on NiwPlan.com.