From XU Magazine, 
Issue 25

Finding the silver linings during lockdown

Moving to a new software system can be daunting at the best of times, but two new WorkflowMax customers found the transition to be straightforward even during lockdown.
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The quick move to remote working wasn’t something any of us expected this year. Including Rocket Science and Design Activity – two UK companies that were getting their transitions to WorkflowMax underway as lockdown began. As service businesses, good job and project management is key to success so complications or challenges with setting up or using the software wasn’t an option. Here’s how both companies, and their implementation partners, made the best of the situation.

Rocket Science and Gingersnap Consulting – “Liz just got us”

Rocket Science is a policy, research and grant management consultancy with offices in Edinburgh, London and Newcastle. Before COVID-19, project managers would meet clients face-to-face and consultants would conduct face-to-face interviews. Now they make use of Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

In regards to their project management system, they used a mixture of spreadsheets and a legacy system that was written for them 15 years ago. Irene Kinroy, Head of Finance and Operations at Rocket Science, says, “The data in the legacy system was great but we couldn’t easily extract it. It wasn’t flexible and we had to have reports written by the developer. It wasn’t very good for a modern, agile business.”

Irene says she found WorkflowMax through a simple Google search. And since they had recently moved their accounting to Xero, using a project management system that fully integrated with Xero made sense.

After an extended trial with a small team, Irene was happy with what she saw and recommended WorkflowMax to Rocket Science’s management team. She enlisted the help of Liz Tobin at Gingersnap Consulting because, as she says, “You don’t know what you don’t know and during our trial we stumbled around a bit. A partner like Liz allows you to be focused and you can also bounce ideas off them. She knows WorkflowMax and advised us on how to best adapt our business processes to use the system effectively. Out of the three consultants that the WorkflowMax team suggested to us, we went with Liz because she understood our business best and just seemed to ‘get us’.”

Liz Tobin is a small business systems expert and a certified WorkflowMax consultant. She helps business owners and their teams apply the right technology and get the best processes in place to save time and be more productive.

Setting up during lockdown

Liz worked with Irene and the Rocket Science team completely over Zoom. Irene gave Liz a list of things they wanted from WorkflowMax so Liz could factor those into her business process analysis. “We did four Zoom sessions together – looking at the teams and who I’d need to train, what tasks need to be included in each project, the types of custom data they want to access, reporting requirements, and of course how everything ties in with Xero.”

Remote training sessions included scheduling and quoting, timesheets, change control, purchase orders and month-end processes. Irene says, “Liz has a very flexible training approach and offered us one-to-one and task-specific training, including report writing for project managers.”

Liz thinks the remote way of working is easier than face-to-face in a number of ways that save time and money. “If someone needs help with raising an invoice, a 10-minute Zoom meeting and a screen share is all it takes,” she says. Neither the staff member nor Liz have to book out portions of their days so they’re more efficient.

The benefits of a cloud-based project management system

The Rocket Science team has been managing their projects with WorkflowMax since 1 September 2020 and they’re going to roll out lead management soon. Irene says, “The system is more intuitive than our old one. Report writing is easier and the user interface is a more pleasant experience.” She’s looking forward to having end-to-end management of client relationships and projects all in one place.

Liz adds, “When you’ve got a less than optimal project management system but you’re all working together in an office, you can make do because it’s easy to catch up and discuss how jobs are going. But the moment you’re not in the same space, that system becomes a headache. Because it’s cloud-based, WorkflowMax gives everyone the same information wherever they are, which is so valuable.”

Design Activity and Valued – “David’s approach was exemplary”

For Design Activity, an award-winning branding and packaging design agency based in Bristol, lockdown began one week before their migration to WorkflowMax was supposed to start.

Andrew Stroud, Managing Director of Design Activity, was looking for a new job and project management solution because the system they’d been using for years was expensive, not very user-friendly, and too complicated for their needs. He says, “We’d also been looking for a new financial accounts platform and chose Xero, so it was important that our new job management system was compatible.”

After researching options and doing due diligence, they set up a WorkflowMax trial and found it to be intuitive. The fact that it completely integrates with Xero helped of course. Andrew recognised that with their limited resources, they’d need some outside help with implementation.

“If you have a dedicated IT project manager, I’m sure you could set things up yourself, using WorkflowMax’s support centre and resources. We needed to be operational quickly so the WorkflowMax team directed me to their setup partner directory which lists people who could provide support. After talking to three companies, we decided to go with David Oliver at Valued because he seemed totally aligned to our needs and expectations,” Andrew says.

Andrew had booked David to begin WorkflowMax set up and training at the Design Activity office on 24 and 25 March 2020. But because of lockdown, Design Activity closed its office on 23 March which meant the whole company went to remote working before any WorkflowMax work could begin.

Remote implementation has been surprisingly positive

David Oliver is a certified WorkflowMax Consultant and the solutions lead at Valued. They’ve worked hand-in-hand with WorkflowMax for the last 7 years and have implemented it for hundreds of businesses up and down the UK and further afield.

David says they always offered both remote and on-site set up and training. Now that they’re working purely remotely, it’s been surprisingly positive. “We can now be more flexible in terms of our delivery to clients, giving them time to consider our plan and go away to collect data. They get a top rate experience and benefit from the fact that there are no additional expenses – no travel or accommodation costs for spending days on-site. From an environmental view, remote working is far less impactful as well.”

Taking that positive attitude into Design Activity’s implementation, David worked with the team via Zoom for the entire process. Andrew says, “We gave David our client and job lists and work in progress. He used that data to set up our workflow as job templates and also set up our invoicing and quotation templates. And he provided different training for different employees depending on how they need to use WorkflowMax.” David also created a series of screenshot sequences which was a great memory aid for everyone using WorkflowMax from home.

“By the end of June, we were getting very good at using WorkflowMax so even though we could go to David for support, we didn’t need to very often because he trained us so well in the first place. I have to say that David’s approach, methodology and conversational training style was exemplary and helped us massively in terms of an easy transition to WorkflowMax,” says Andrew.

Design Activity is now doing all their job and project management in WorkflowMax. Andrew says, “It’s helping us streamline our efficiencies in terms of time capture, reporting and invoicing and giving us all the information we need without making it complicated.”  

Why leave it there?

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