Organizational process improvements

PROJECT TYPE

Workflow analysis and process implementation.

MY ROLES

Advocate, Research, Mapping, Testing, Implementing, Training

Team Roles

Collaborating Teams

  • Design

  • Marketing

  • Copy

  • Project Management

Tools

  • Asana

  • Google Docs​

BACKGROUND

In 2018, Our Daily Bread Ministries did not have a consistent project management solution. Old systems had been decommissioned without new tools or processes to replace them. In the resulting void, processes were becoming ad-hoc across the marketing and design teams. Digital design and digital marketing had been operating for years without project management leaving those responsibilities to be picked up by myself and digital marketing product owners. Communication was happening across multiple channels including email, meetings, text, chat, and JIRA. 

In a landscape that was continually becoming more fractured and disparate and with the number of digital design projects continually climbing, the team had reached a saturation point that needed to be resolved.

I turned to research I had done at the end of 2015 around project management tools and workflows. I had seen this as a major concern at the time and knew it was going to get worse. I had been presenting and advocating for the organization to adopt Workfront as a solution to these problems without success. Based on the capabilities of that software and the needs of the team, I began testing alternative solutions that could be instituted with less budgetary impact.

GOALS

  1. Standardize workflows and project management tools across marketing and design.

  2. Consolidate official communication.

  3. Demonstrate to leadership that process and workflow convergence and standardization is mission critical and cost-effective.

  4. Achieve team buy-in for adoption success.

  5. Increase staff capacity through reduction of administrative time.

RESEARCH

The research process started by interviewing project managers and staff about existing projects and processes. I was working with the Project Management team to document project pipelines for the most common and critical projects across a diverse landscape of work. This included understanding all current roles, project stages, communication, hand-offs, approvals, file delivery and distribution, and archiving.

Once we had gathered this information, we identified areas for process alignment and new workflows were mapped out and presented to those individuals we had interviewed to gain confidence and further insight into any aspects that may have been overlooked. With agreed upon workflows in hand I set out to researching a spectrum of potential tools and systems that might meet the needs of the teams.​

Workflow mapping

I narrowed the findings down to 3 potential solutions representing different balances of financial investment and staff time investment. The best-in-class system, Workfront, would have been a higher financial cost but much easier to implement out of the box. The mid-tier solution, InMotionNow was closer to a financial investment we felt more confident in getting approval for but would require more customized set up and time. The third solution, Zoho, was very affordable and customizable but required much more investment of time to build it to suit the team's needs.

Testing

We chose to test Zoho while beginning conversations with InMotionNow. Amy Cerra, the creative director, took on communication with InMotionNow to begin exploring system set up, demos, and cost breakdowns. I began with Zoho by building out the workflows we had established into the system and acting as administrator.

Zoho proved to be burdensome to set up but we were able to get an operational prototype and begin running sample projects through to test viability. We found there was a steep learning curve that concerned us since we would need to train a department of around 40 people to use the system. We also discovered in more advanced testing that some of the advertised system integrations were not functioning correctly. It was disappointing to pull the plug on that option but if something was not going to work we wanted to find out fast, which we did.

InMotionNow was looking like a better option all the time but still came at a price that made leadership uncomfortable. We took what we had learned from our research and chose to go back to the drawing board.

 

Aubree Berg presented a new option for us to consider called Asana. Upon review it looked like it could offer the tools we would need at a price point that leadership was willing to invest. We salvaged the work that had gone into Zoho and ported it over to Asana. Initial tests went very well. It offered the communication consolidation we needed and multiple ways to set up projects and track and report on them.

We felt confident enough in Asana as a solution that we began running a small number of existing projects through it and I began running all digital projects through it because we had no legacy systems or processes to contend with.

Rollout

During our expanded testing we were getting inquiries from other global offices about similar process frustrations that we had been experiencing and questions were being asked about our Asana testing. The office in India decided to test out Asana in parallel to our tests. They were immediately impressed by the capabilities and customization options. The testing was also being discussed by other US departments and they began to setup their projects in Asana. We had not accounted for other offices or teams needing similar solutions to what we were looking for and the cart started to get in front of the horse. Instead of putting the breaks on their work we were encouraged at how successful this solution was to more than just our immediate needs and because of the quickly growing interest and adoption we were able to leverage that enthusiasm to move the project toward formal adoption much more quickly.

Once we saw how quickly adoption was happening, we moved fast to institute training for work teams. We wanted to make sure that it was being used organization-wide consistently and to its full potential. I remain on a reference team for additional training and questions as new staff is onboarded.

What started as a project to unify and support marketing work has been beneficial across the global organization.​

Organizational statistics showing continued growth and adoption

Benefits realized

As a result of the organization's investment in Asana, we have seen widespread adoption both locally and globally. This has not just solved our immediate process and workflow needs but it has become a great solution to other emerging issues. Here are some of the additional benefits that we didn't foresee.

  • We now have easy global transparency into the work of different offices.

  • We can more easily route projects through teams both locally and globally with fewer handoffs.

  • We have a standardized project archive and memory that anyone can access. This makes it much easier to step in and support a coworker who is out sick or is new.

  • Insight into staff workload that was not previously visible.

  • Staff capacity insight has been valuable in organizational initiatives prioritization.

  • Earlier collaboration on work that spans multiple offices.

  • Ability to track and report on all projects.

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