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Posted: 3/16/2012
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Smashing Ideas Digital Agency Uses Hosted Solution to Improve Project and Resource Management

Smashing Ideas, a digital media agency, wanted software that could manage its employees’ time while supporting Macintosh users. Smashing Ideas chose Microsoft Project Server 2010 hosted by Microsoft partner Project Hosts. Smashing Ideas is using the solution to easily meet the needs of both PC and Mac users, to free up IT resources for support issues that are more urgent, and to improve its resource management capabilities.

Business Needs

Smashing Ideas is a full-service digital media agency based in Seattle. Its 75-person staff develops interactive content on web, mobile, and other platforms for a wide variety of clients.

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* In a weekly meeting, we use Microsoft Project Server 2010 to identify every resource that is overallocated or underallocated and come up with a plan to address them all—in just half an hour.  *

Barbara Pritchard
Director of Production
Smashing Ideas

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“Our company is all about our people,” says Barbara Pritchard, Director of Production at Smashing Ideas. “Thus managing our time is one of the biggest challenges we face. We have to ensure that all of our clients and projects are covered while keeping a level workload for our employees.”

Smashing Ideas typically has 50 to 70 projects active at a time. For many years, the company managed projects using Microsoft Project 2002. The company was generally happy with the solution. But it encountered occasional stability problems with the aging software, especially for employees who develop iPhone and Macintosh applications and work almost exclusively on Macintosh computers. “We want them to work efficiently, but we couldn’t get project management software to work on the Mac,” Pritchard says.

As a medium-sized business, Smashing Ideas has a small IT department that faces occasional high-priority support issues in applications used for client-facing work. Also having to support Project 2002 was a burden, especially because it lacked deep expertise in the software.

Smashing Ideas was looking for a new project management solution that could help the company effectively manage resources while supporting Macs and easing the burden on IT.

Solution

Smashing Ideas looked at almost 20 alternatives. Jennifer Freeman, Executive Producer at Smashing Ideas, says, “We looked at solutions that were web-hosted or were easily shared between PCs and Macs. We liked Project 2002, but we were willing to move away from Microsoft if something better came along.” However, no other tools could match the resource management capabilities of Microsoft products.

Starting in April 2011, Smashing Ideas explored upgrading to Microsoft Project Server 2010 and having it hosted externally. It investigated several providers and settled on Project Hosts, a Microsoft partner with a Gold Enterprise Project Management competency and a Silver Hosting Solutions competency. “They were responsive to our questions, and they clearly had been doing project management for some time,” Pritchard says.

Scott Chapman, President of Project Hosts, says, “As a hosting company with a specialty in Project Server 2010, we focus on providing our customers with secure, available, high-performance solutions. And in this case, we were able to provide Smashing Ideas with a remote desktop connection so that employees could use the full Project Server 2010 solution from a Mac.”

Smashing Ideas started using the solution in June 2011, with 15 producers managing work using the Microsoft Project Professional 2010 desktop application. Two additional staffers in finance take advantage of the solution daily, and another four managers use it as well. Staffers use a separate system for time sheets, and producers update their project plans with that data every Monday.

Smashing Ideas creates a “pitch file” when a client expresses interest in a project. “We can grab a template, post a plan based on the project type, and quickly compare the time frame with the resources needed,” Pritchard says. Pitches then become “expected” or “finalized” with the client, and producers can easily filter their current and forecasted resource views by these categories.

Eager to take advantage of business intelligence, Smashing Ideas plans to develop dashboards and explore other enhanced features of Project Server 2010 in coming months.

Benefits

Smashing Ideas is using Microsoft Project Server 2010 hosted by Project Hosts to satisfy all employee needs, free up IT resources, and improve resource managements.

Improves Resource Management

Smashing Ideas has used the upgrade to Project Server 2010 to improve its mission-critical resource management capabilities. Pritchard says, “In a weekly meeting, we use Microsoft Project Server 2010 to identify every resource that is overallocated or underallocated, and come up with a plan to address them all—in just half an hour.”

Although good resource management has always been the company’s goal, now it can achieve that goal more efficiently. “Project Server 2010 has helped us streamline our efficiencies,” Pritchard says. “It doesn’t take us as much time to manage everyone else’s time.”

Best Solution for Diverse Operating Systems

With the hosted Project Server 2010 solution, Mac users can easily access project management software using remote desktop connections. “In the past, Mac users had a very hard time,” Pritchard says. “They had to troubleshoot connection issues and lost hours. They’re much happier now with Project Server 2010.”

Indeed, with the user-friendly interface of Project Server 2010, some employees are gaining a greater appreciation of project management as a discipline. “When I train new producers, I love watching them realize that their work in Project Server 2010 can affect the people around them, can help people not need to work overtime,” Freeman says.

Better Use of IT Infrastructure

Because Project Hosts manages the Project Server 2010 solution, the Smashing Ideas IT team is freed up to focus on issues that are more urgent. “With Project Server 2010 hosted externally, IT doesn’t have to drop the support they’re offering the studio as a whole to troubleshoot project management software,” Pritchard says.

Smashing Ideas has no plans to shift away from the hosted model. Pritchard says, “Putting aside the infrastructure cost, if we shifted to an internal solution we would have to hire another IT person.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview




Organization Profile

Smashing Ideas is a media agency that creates immersive, interactive digital content. Based in Seattle, it employs 75 designers, developers, animators, and producers.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Project Server 2010
  • Microsoft Project Professional 2010

Vertical Industries
Advertising

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Enterprise Project Management

IT Issue
Interoperability

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Project Hosts

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