Improving delivery framework and strengthening project management with Workfront

We selected Workfront because it provided comprehensive collaborative software, an issue tracking system, and many more.

At Xchanging, we provide business process services; procurement management, information technology outsourcing, and HR managed solutions to some of the world’s leading companies including Gatwick Airport, Lockton and Hiscox. 

In 2014, we took a look at our internal project management processes and came to the conclusion that a large-scale revamp was necessary. We began to search for a solution that would establish change management as a core IT competency and move our organisation along the project and portfolio management (PPM) maturity model by evolving each of the five dimensions—people, PPM processes, technology, financial management, and relationships—from collaborative processes to an enterprise project management state.

The challenge

With both full-time and flexible contract staff primarily in the United Kingdom and India, our Group Technology and Change (GTC) team had always followed a multistep project plan and stage-gate approval process methodology for software releases, technical implementations, and business change. However, the process was manual and cumbersome.    

1) Lack of project uniformity
GTC had disparate processes for project plans and stage-gate approvals. Project managers typically created plans and tracked tasks in spreadsheets, which they often distributed via email. Projects had to cycle through hour-long meetings, attended by at least 10 individuals, before approvals were granted for projects to move along to the next step. 

The process to prepare basic status reports was also lengthy and error prone as PMO staff often had to spend several days per month manually preparing spreadsheets and presentations. Lack of uniformity across procedures caused inefficiencies and negatively impacted project control.  

2) Poor Task Prioritisation and Capacity Planning  
GTC struggled to compare work requests and prioritise them strategically, leaving project managers unsure if employees were doing the right work at the right time. Prioritisation remained challenging because there wasn’t one single source of truth, where all information—updated plans, financials, live status updates, time recording, workflow, instant reporting, and valuable, real-time management data—could be drawn to make informed decisions. GTC’s approach to capacity planning was also inconsistent. 

Teams used Microsoft Project or spreadsheets to estimate the utilisation of flexible contract team members during a project’s duration. However, that approach provided no real visibility into how effective GTC’s capacity was at any given time. We sought to improve resource efficiency and increase outputs each year. With more effective capacity planning, we could avoid the cost of hiring additional resources. 

We wanted to avoid duplicate work by breaking down projects into tasks that could be documented, assigned, prioritised, tracked, and recorded in an enterprise project management system. Doing this would not only give us a way to drive efficiency, but also improve project management and visibility. With key capabilities top-of-mind, we began to search for a solution that would move the organisation along the project and portfolio management (PPM) maturity model by evolving each of the five dimensions—people, PPM processes, technology, financial management, and relationships—from collaborative processes to an enterprise project management state.

The solution

We selected Workfront because it provided comprehensive collaborative software, an issue tracking system, multiple scheduling paths including forecasting, portfolio management, resource management, real-time reporting and analysis capabilities, budget management, time tracking, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery. 

Workfront also surpassed competitive offerings in key areas such as support, integration, implementation process, and cost.  To onboard the system, Workfront was onsite with GTC for three weeks. From day one, GTC built their project delivery framework into the work management system. Because Workfront offered real-time data, it immediately changed the way the team was able to follow the process, enabling them to become 20 per cent more efficient.

Benefits

Since deploying the cloud-based Workfront solution, we have achieved the following benefits:  

Reduced meeting time from 6 hours to 30 minutes  
Within 3 months of implementing Workfront we reduced meeting time from 6 hours to 30 minutes. Something that now takes five minutes in Workfront was taking an hour in person. We have six different rounds of approvals for every project, with up to 10 approvers needed at each stage. That’s about sixty hours of work condensed into 5 hours, which is a huge amount of time that can be used more effectively. 

Cut project set up time from 24 hours to seconds  
Using templates, GTC simplified the onerous process of setting up a project. Each template includes so much detail that project planning is 70 – 80 per cent complete from the beginning, making project manager’s lives a lot easier.  Workfront’s templates have improved project set-up speed, planning, and quality while enforcing our delivery methodology. 

We modified our process to convert the project plans of our repeatable work into several templates—sometimes retaining and sometimes deleting task predecessors, individual tasks, hours, and more. GTC project managers now have access to a large library of reusable plans to jumpstart their initiatives. These templates include project outputs and artefacts, as well as resource types and required resource duration for GTC’s business delivery and business transformation projects. 

Increased visibility into projects and capacity  
Workfront gives the GTC team greater visibility and control over portfolios, programs, projects, and resources. With Workfront, GTC has improved its understanding of resource utilisation versus capacity, and it is beginning to achieve efficiency savings by enabling users to increase outputs.
 

Established a proactive, more mature PMO function  
Workfront provides greater insight into GTC projects. Project managers know teams are working on the right projects at the right times and managers can ensure everyone is working more strategically. By helping us automate the enforcement of methodology, governance, and the stage-gate process, Workfront has enabled our PMO to evolve from a reactive to proactive entity with enhanced predictability, transparency, and risk management capabilities. Workfront has removed the additional administration required to provide great service, enabling PMO to add intelligence and insight to GTC projects.    

The maturing of the GTC group’s project environment is serving as a model to be adopted company-wide. Since the initial deployment, we have increased our licenses nearly 4x in support of our growing project delivery capabilities. Looking ahead, we are interested in rolling out Workfront resource management capabilities and integrating Workfront with our SharePoint site and SAP financial system. With both project management and resource management capabilities in place, we’ll be able to use Workfront to map costs against time against resources and considerably improve our estimation process.

Stuart Fiszzon, Head of the Office of the CIO, Xchanging

Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stuart Fiszzon, Head of the Office of the CIO, Xchanging.