EP SQUARE :: Project & Interim Management

Project & Interim Management

Alex van der Linden

Project manager IT New Rolling Stock for NS Dutch Railways

April 2017 to April 2021

NS acquires new train types through third party rolling stock suppliers. However, software for travel information and other traveller-facing services is developed in-house by NS itself. The reason for this is that NS aims to harmonise such services for all train types so that design and functionality of such services are uniformly presented to the traveller regardless of train type.

In 2017 NS ran a major programme aimed at the introduction of over 200 new SNG commuter trains. The associated in-house software development project for this new train type was behind schedule and suffered major quality issues. Also, the software project was isolated and not aligned with the broader SNG programme which caused planning mismatches and priority contradictions. Due to this the NS IT software development department was in danger of causing a substantial delay in the operational introduction of SNG in the Dutch rail network.

I developed a new approach and a concrete operational planning for this project by realigning the NS software project with the SNG programme and its major suppliers CAF and Nomad Digital, thus creating a common project plan, priorities and time scales. I then translated these goals to the software development project and coached the software department to work on the prioritised and concretised SNG deliverables with a much more focused approach.

Aligning the software project with the broader NS programme goals led to an integrated approach with a strong focus on the end goal: on-time delivery of working software on the trains. First successes emerged through close co-operation between the NS software development project, the SNG programme and its suppliers, enhancing mutual trust which later developed into shared governance of the IT management of new rolling stock. My approach led NS IT to be successful and took the software development project off the programme’s critical path, allowing SNG to be introduced in the Dutch rail network on schedule.

Due to my successful intervention in the SNG project NS granted me two other major IT projects, one of which was very similar and involved software development for the new intercity train type ICNG. The other project involved the development and implementation of ORBIT on various train types. ORBIT is a sophisticated warning system for train drivers aimed at reducing the occurrence of trains accidentally passing active stop signs.

Being responsible for three main projects in the train IT domain put me in a central position to develop and influence the approach and governance of such projects within NS. I have specifically contributed to the question how agile-based software development processes within NS IT can best be tuned to the rolling stock delivery programmes which are ‘waterfall’ projects by nature. My contributions in this field are now integrated in the governance methods within NS IT.

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