Organisation - May 31, 2011

Kameloen affects income of LEI

The sudden loss made by the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI) in the first quarter of this year was partly due to Kameleon, the new project management system, which slowed down the submission of projects and timesheets.

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While LEI made profits in the past few years, the institute suffered losses in the first quarter of this year. The average productive work hours per employee fell to 75 percent, six percent below the target set by LEI. Did the workload suddenly go down? Well, the executive secretary of the employees' council, Paul van der Wielen of the Social Sciences Group, says there is no need to panic as the order backlog with assignments is fuller this year than a year ago. It is just that the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (ELI) has alloted its assignments later due to the merger of the LNV and EZ ministries. Van der Wielen, however, has been given another reason for the disappointing results in the first quarter by employees: the project management system Kameleon, introduced in LEI from 1 January. The introduction of Kameleon cost LEI employees extra time, as a result of which they had less hours to declare as gainfully employed. In addition, unlike earlier project management systems, Kameleon requires a lot of signatures.
'Employees keying in and recording their projects in the system need to constantly get these authorized by their department managers before they can fill in more details', says Van der Wielen. 'The system also runs into snags now and then. A project code is only assigned after all its entry steps have been completed and after authorization. In the meantime, the code is needed by the project manager to make payments and to allot to project workers. In some cases, no hours can be declared although work has probably started on the projects. Moreover, project participants from outside the organization cannot be paid on time, leading to unpleasant situations.'
Laan van Staalduinen, Operational Management Director of the Social Sciences Group, confirms that these problems exist. It took LEI two months to key in all the projects into Kameleon. Only when this had been done could employees declare their hours in the system, she says. 'Kameleon is not a piece of cake.' The system has bugs and employees have to work in a different way. Fortunately, project administration has been running smoother since April and many general hours have now been converted into project hours, says Van Staalduinen.
According to Van der Wielen, Kameleon has yet to live up to the wishes of its users, although the system has already been introduced in Wageningen Imares since 2009 and in the Animal Sciences Group and Rikilt since 2010. 'Although improvements have been made since then, we at LEI still come across unpleasant effects of the introduction of Kameleon. To carry on without the necessary improvements will adversely affect the results of Wageningen UR.'

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