Sippin’ our own champagne part 2

Projects are our bread and butter. In the first couple of years of business, we had a manageable number of projects and it made sense for us to keep track of progress of these in traditional ways, such as spreadsheets and even manually created PowerPoint dashboards and reports. But very quickly we knew we needed a scalable solution to keep up with our growth. We knew there were off the shelf systems that would do this and vendors that specifically targeted Microsoft Partners. However, we were concerned that these systems (as well as the price) would direct us into their model of practicing, basically doing exactly what everyone else is doing (and we are not everyone else). So, we decided to investigate whether we could build our own solution.

The hiring of Elaine Batton could not have come at a better time, bringing her experience and history of previous systems with her. For the second edition of our three-part blog series we look at Raven, our project and portfolio management system.

‘Raven’ app

Challenge – We required a more detailed and disciplined level of reporting and a central place to view project information such as status and performance. With Elaine joining the team in March 2019, and our previous work with clients creating similar concepts, it gave us the confidence that we could create something to meet our unique needs and style of practicing.

Solution – Using PowerApps, we started thinking about what we needed to track and manage, and by late March 2019 we had a minimal viable product (MVP) produced called Raven. Why Raven? Because whilst a Raven is not a bird of prey, it is similar, and it was named one night after we were “praying” that a small gremlin of a bug would be resolved in time for us to use the app for our planned invoice and reporting process the next week. The senior consultant completed the changes and the name was cast in stone and lives on, with its watchful eye.

“Raven is great, giving us a dashboard of visibility of all projects and budgets – all the fundamental pieces.” Tom Hiscutt COO

It continues to improve, integrating with other parts of the business, our finance team for example, to track revenue recognised as opposed to just invoicing monthly.

Raven was created using:

  • A PowerApps solution using an SQL database, Power Automate flows to bring data from the CRM system, finance system and timesheet system summary information into the database
  • Power BI dashboard’s provide management and compliance reporting

Result – Project managers now have a centralised system they can easily use with updated key information. We’re able to streamline end of month reporting and track our forecasts when we are completing projects, and when we expect revenue from projects.

We are not bringing all that data into Raven, but allowing Raven to tell us where to go to for the information we need. Within a project there are links to the SharePoint folder for client proposals and contracts, our timesheet reporting system and CRM.

It continues to evolve and become more powerful, whilst remaining simple and elegant. A recent addition is an embedded Power BI report, that integrates summarised timesheet data for each project. Raven is evergreen and grows with us, focused on ease of use because of the sheer volume and complexity of projects we are managing.

“If ever I want to know the status of the project I turn to Raven and not only can I see traffic light status, I can also drill in and see the financial status, delivery status and gives me quick access to regular reports” Tom Hiscutt COO

Raven has been built with all stakeholders in mind. Our project managers have benefited greatly, whilst our onboarding has improved by having a central system to direct them to. Our managers now receive monthly reports with a clear oversight of each project and externally we are able to provide project order information (auditors, clients etc).

It’s a vital system that, certainly the project management team, the finance team and operations team use on an absolutely daily basis, – Tom Hiscutt COO

Tune in next month where we dive into our friendly automation bot – Flow bot that improves employee engagement and makes us laugh! If you missed our first edition of this blog series, catch up here.

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