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COWI

How Investment in Learning Transforms Business Results

The Company: A global consultancy with a 360° approach

COWI is a leading Danish consulting group that offers world-class competencies within engineering, environmental sciences and economics. COWI has over 6,000 employees and has been involved in more than 50,000 global projects.

Challenge

  • High levels of project write-downs and post-project claims on its larger and more complex initiatives.
  • In need of a comprehensive strategy to deliver outstanding project management and the means to measure and document real business results.

Solution

  • Sat up a Project Management Academy, offering blended learning methods to redesign COWI’s approach to training.
  • COWI were present in practical learning sessions to inject their own culture and practices into training.
  • Co-created a series of Key Performance Indicators to measure the Project Management Academy’s impact and effectiveness.

Impact

  • Since 2011 450 level 5 project managers throughout COWI have taken part in the PMA.
  • The number of project depreciations has halved.
  • In 2014 COWI achieved record revenue and operating profit.
  • In 2015 the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) awarded the PMA the ‘Excellence in Practice Gold Award’ (EiP).

The Challenge: Transforming engineers into business professionals

In 2010 COWI was experiencing high levels of project write-downs and post-project claims on its larger and more complex initiatives. To make matters worse, its use of ad hoc training meant there was no uniform approach to project management.

With over 17,000 on-going projects throughout the world, successful project management is central to COWI’s performance. However, while COWI boasted world-class engineers, as COWI CEO Lars-Peter Soebye observes, ‘business acumen is not something we are taught as part of our education.’ COWI not only needed a comprehensive strategy to deliver outstanding project management, but the means to measure and document real business results.

The Solution: From strategy to results

We knew close collaboration was crucial. After all, with 80 years’ success to its name, COWI knows its business better than anyone. We fused its internal knowledge with our own expertise to set up a Project Management Academy (PMA), offering blended learning methods to completely redesign COWI’s approach to training.

By combining both our strengths we were able to ensure senior project managers from COWI were present in practical learning sessions to inject their own culture and practices into training and maintained credibility with participants.

We also co-created a series of Key Performance Indicators to measure the PMA’s impact and effectiveness, and allow us to continually adapt and develop the programme.

The Impact: Award-winning success

The results speak for themselves. Since 2011, four hundred and fifty level 5 project managers throughout COWI have taken part in the PMA. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of project depreciations has halved.

In 2014 COWI achieved record revenue and operating profit, which Lars-Peter Soebye attributes to the PMA, which he regards as ‘a true game changer’. In 2015 the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) awarded the PMA the ‘Excellence in Practice Gold Award’ (EiP).

But more than that, our work with COWI proves the value of learning and practical training in taking an already respected and high-performing organisation to new levels of success.

As Soebye explains, ‘the business case to justify the investment in the Project Management Academy showed an upside on our financial results by launching this initiative, and the case turned out to be watertight.

In 2014, COWI achieved record revenue and operating profit, which Lars-Peter Soebye attributes to the PMA, which he regards as ‘a true game changer