Technology changes the way farmers work

The new system will improve service delivery in rural areas

PSNext will enable farmers to better manage and monitor their workers
Improved delivery in rural areas
A new project management system called PSNext, introduced by the National Department of Agriculture in Pretoria, is set to make history and change the way South African farmers and their teams work.

According to a media release on a website dedicated to the new system, www.psnext.co.za, the department is also involved in a large number of projects for the benefit of communities and farmers, such projects include erecting a variety of fences (including elephant fences), drilling boreholes, rural development, rehabilitation of irrigation schemes, and various other community projects. A R600-million project is now planned to upgrade the Vallharts/Taung Irrigations Scheme.

Jaques Mulder, who is responsible for all engineering and construction projects, says they have been able to achieve a dramatic improvement in delivery by using the PSNext enterprise project management system.

“Previously, due to lack of information, it was difficult to manage teams in the field. Team productivity was low resulting in communities suffering as some urgent community needs were not met.

“Now, with the aid of PSNext, the work is clearly scoped and managed on a weekly basis. Teams who perform on target are rewarded with incentives. In cases where team members under-perform, they are placed under pressure from their peers as the whole team suffers.

“For example, we now find that the same teams are able to drill more boreholes in one quarter compared the whole of the previous year – a dramatic improvement in service levels,” says Mulder.

Other benefits include much better management visibility by using a project dashboard. “Our directors are now able to clearly view the status of all projects in PSNext. Any variations from the plan are clearly exposed to allow further investigation,” according to the media release.

PSNext also improves management productivity: “Management reports are now printed in minutes that previously used to take days to produce. Due to the web based nature of PSNext, our staff are able to view and extract current documents. Expensive mistakes are avoided as the latest version of the document is visible and strict version history is maintained. In addition, our staff are automatically notified via email when they are assigned to new projects and tasks,” says Mulder.

The department is now implementing the concepts of Earned Value with great success. “We are now able compare the budgeted cost of work with the value that has been delivered. This is in turn is compared to the actual cost of work performed. This allows projects to be easily compared based on cost performance and schedule performance.

“The only downside to the new system is that labour problems have increased. Goofing off is no longer an option,” Mulder concluded.
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