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How SaaS-Based Project Management Helps ATB Automate Workflow

ATB Financial’s deployment of AtTask project management tool is a lesson in how overstretched IT departments could leverage business units for enterprise SaaS rollouts.

What if your overstretched IT organization could outsource technology evaluation, piloting and other deployment functions to business units? For some types of applications you already can.

Take the case of Alberta, Canada’s dual-headquartered ATB Financial. There, the adoption of a cloud-enabled enterprise project management solution is a study in how a business unit can double as an extension of an institution’s IT organization.

It all began when the marketing department at ATB (US$29 billion in total assets) sought a more effective way for its creative services team to manage projects than complex spreadsheets and Microsoft Project.

“We needed a business-friendly tool for automating the flow of work in our department,” recalls Bill Gattinger, traffic and direct marketing manager for Calgary and Edmonton-based ATB. “Traffic managers were the only ones who understood the existing tools. They ran around with paper attempting to help team members keep track of it all. The situation became so unsustainable that we could count on failing at something, every day.”

But the creative team’s imperative to streamline thousands of tasks conflicted with IT’s mandate to migrate core systems to an SAP infrastructure. “When we asked IT, they indicated they had more urgent priorities,” Gattinger says.

[ATB Financial invested in a a high-profile core system replacement initiative that is helping the Canadian bank achieve its goals of putting people first and making dreams come true: ATB Financial Implements a New Core System with a 'Big Bang']

With that, the creative team embarked on its own technology initiative, starting with a comprehensive process mapping exercise to assess needs. Multiple stakeholders participated, drawn from four lines of business as well as marketing staff. “We visualized every pathway,” Gattinger says.

Meanwhile, Gattinger surveyed the market and learned about SaaS-based AtTask from an industry colleague in early 2012. Upon evaluating the tool at home one evening, he discovered it answered all of the department’s challenges. “We spent the next four weeks complying with the IT department’s rigorous requirements,” he says. “Then, we purchased a handful of licenses with marketing funds.”

Soon afterwards an AtTask on-site implementation representative arrived. During the three-week deployment the earlier mapping exercise paid off by enabling ATB to quickly create the desired solution.

Since AtTask went live in June 2012 the departmental user base has grown to more than 100 people -- ranging from creative team members to everyone who feeds work into the department. The solution gives everyone real-time visibility into project progress and provides a collaboration platform.

Due to the resulting efficiencies, four traffic managers have been reduced to one. Additionally, all printing jobs now go out to bid, which Gattinger says saves in the “low six figures” on yearly costs. Subtracting the AtTask licenses, there remains a net budget positive of at least $100,000 annually. “Beyond the cost savings, we’re more accountable, we get jobs done faster and our customers are a whole lot happier,” he says.

AtTask’s anywhere, anytime capabilities are also dovetailing with the ATB’s corporate employment model reboot. That initiative includes designing new headquarters facilities in both Calgary and Edmonton to assume “a portion of all employees will work semi-permanently from home,” Gattinger says.

Most notably, AtTask adoption is attracting attention throughout ATB. Currently, the facilities, finance and market research departments are all in the preliminary stages of considering the tool. “Every couple of months I get a call from another interested department,” Gattinger says.

As with most business-initiated SaaS adoptions ATB’s has been an ad-hoc effort. That doesn’t diminish the fact that it contains all the basic elements of any successful technology initiative: Challenge identification, needs assessment, solution evaluation, compliance, implementation, evangelizing, benefit realization and -- possibly -- an enterprise-wide phased rollout.

Snapshot:

Institution: ATB Financial (Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta)

Assets: US$29 billion in total assets

Business Challenge: The marketing department’s creative services team needed a more effective way to manage projects.

Solution: AtTask SaaS-based project management tool.

[Moving to the cloud is not done overnight. Where is your insurance company when it comes to migrating to the cloud? Learn how one enterprise is making the shift. Attend the An Enterprise Journey to Hybrid Cloud session at Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, March 31-April 4.
You can also REGISTER FOR INTEROP HERE.]

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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Anne R Gabriel
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Anne R Gabriel,
User Rank: Author
3/11/2014 | 5:47:35 PM
re: How SaaS-Based Project Management Helps ATB Automate Workflow
Thanks for the post, Pamela. Always good to have more resources.
Pamela Mitchell
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Pamela Mitchell,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2014 | 10:39:51 AM
re: How SaaS-Based Project Management Helps ATB Automate Workflow
Nice post. really helpful. I am a project manager and love to learn more about project management techniques. For that i used to surf online with many sites like Projecttemplates. net and more. If someone wants more interesting tips for learning project management. give this site a try!
Anne R Gabriel
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Anne R Gabriel,
User Rank: Author
3/3/2014 | 6:30:35 PM
re: How SaaS-Based Project Management Helps ATB Automate Workflow
IT's my sense that marketing was absolutely understanding of IT's situation during the core systems migration. Indeed, as you point out, what's important is that IT organizations can put similar initiatives to work by establishing formal policies and procedures for business units/end users to follow.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
3/1/2014 | 1:49:42 AM
re: How SaaS-Based Project Management Helps ATB Automate Workflow
The core systems initiative was/is huge for ATB Financial, so hopefully the marketing department understood the reasons for the prioritization. As you note, tho, sometimes competitive or compliance considerations arise that must be addressed, even if the bulk of IT resources are committed elsewhere. One of the benefits of hosted/cloud-based solutions is that they can provide a flexibility in terms of deployment that otherwise might not exist. This also strikes me as another aspect of the IT consumerization trend -- give end-users and business units the tools and capabilities to have more control over their destinies. Very interesting implementation.
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