Accelerate Highlights: Alan Uren, EndFirst Plans
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Accelerate is a milestone-based program that helps Nova Scotia start-ups get investment-ready. In addition to funding, companies get access to a series of acceleration activities and resources. These start-ups are helping transform our economy. Get to know their amazing stories.
When we think of ships, bridges and roadways, most of us give little thought to the time it takes to execute plans of such magnitude. For those working in the shipbuilding, construction and transportation industries, the scale of these projects is massive, often with tens of thousands of tasks needing to be completed.
Fortunately, Alan Uren, founder of EndFirst Plans, and his team have created OVERGantt, a project management software that solves the two critical factors in project success or failure — planning and communication.
"Our target audience is almost universal," said Alan. "We didn't build this for a particular industry. We built it from the process of making better plans — making them more efficient, more streamlined and making sure we didn't make mistakes."
Alan began his project planning career in 1994. A few years later, he began working as an international program director for Priority Management where he was responsible for certifying various facilitators and consultants for projects all over the world. That's how he met his EndFirst Plans' director and co-founder, Wayne Greenwood from Sydney, Australia.
For more than 20 years, the two have been collaborating from opposite sides of the world. It wasn't until the introduction of the iPad, and more importantly Apple's MacOS and iOS interface, that Alan and Wayne recognized the potential of incorporating their tried-and-true project planning methods into software. The concept for OVERGantt was born in 2010. Research and development started in 2016, resulting in the establishment of EndFirst Plans in July 2018.
"Roughly 30 per cent of the world's GDP is now estimated to be tied up in projects at any one time. Unfortunately, the actual success rate, especially in medium to large ones, has fallen over the last five to 10 years," said Alan. "Think about all the challenges teams face trying to make sure that a project is going well. Without a proper plan in place, you're essentially flying by the seat of your pants."
As a participant in the most recent cohort of Accelerate, Alan says his experience helped to keep him grounded and manage expectations.
"It's taken some time. At first, I thought we were failing, and I was beating myself up until I started talking to other start-ups who assured us that we were on the right track," said Alan. "More important than the program money is the validation that someone believes in the product and that really made a huge difference. The support has been terrific. The mentoring has been outstanding."
Alan believes the advantage EndFirst Plans has over its competition is its ease of use and short learning curve. While other software claim to do virtual project management well, they're only telling half the story, according to Alan. "They're giving you a product that will display a plan so that you can then interact with it as the plan is being executed. What we found is that when we built OVERGantt, we built it so you can actually create the plan virtually and that's been a big interest point for folks.
"The number one mistake, hands down, is that project planners misjudge the dependencies, or links between one task and another. That's what gives you your coordinated schedule. Working from right to left, or "end first," is critical in how it's put together," said Alan. "And that's what our product enables you to do."
Of course, Alan and Wayne have their eye on their own 'end' — a successful, globally competitive company. They, too, are taking it one step at a time. "Our 12-month goal is getting the traction we need in the marketplace and hiring more people."