Planet Argon Created Unified View Data, Unlocks Confident Decision-making with Parallax
Headquarters: Portland, OR
Company type: Software Development Shop
Planet Argon, a Ruby on Rails development agency specializing in maintenance and support for existing Rails apps, is an agile shop with a team of account managers, project managers, and an engineering manager who collectively control the flow of sales to projects.
The information exchange between sales and operations primarily occurred in spreadsheets, which had hundreds of rows and columns to show the trajectory of finances and how the forecast breaks down by project, client, and developer or team. Unfortunately, these spreadsheets were inherently fragile and prone to risk as one formula cascaded down into another—so when one data point was off, or when one formula was unknowingly broken, it was incredibly difficult to pinpoint where the issue was occurring.
“Our spreadsheets were using up a lot of bandwidth from management – and caused a strain on the team mentally – as we looked at the data and regularly had to ask ourselves, ‘Is it reliable? Is it accurate?’,” said Michael Kurt, project manager, Planet Argon.
The team got to a point where they felt like they were chasing data from all over the place, and once it was compiled together, they still didn’t fully trust that they were making decisions based on accurate insights. Fortunately, Planet Argon operates in a fluid manner, and the team was open to change.
The search for a new solution sparked an internal assessment of Planet Argon’s operations. In addition to unreliable spreadsheets, they discovered that the different processes and workflows they leveraged weren’t clearly defined, which was especially impacting resource planning.
The team would win projects, but then they’d have to ask themselves if and when they had the right resources to execute. They would regularly scramble to revise project schedules in order to match them up with their resources, which sometimes led to delays that could result in financial implications for the company.
They also realized their data wasn’t inclusive to all teams. Project and operations managers could easily track and understand the data in their spreadsheets, for example, but when it was passed to sales or account managers, they didn’t have a clear understanding of what they were seeing. “A lot of the data we thought was universal wasn’t actually universal, and we needed a more transparent process for sharing and discussing insights,” said Kurt.
The Planet Argon team knew they wanted a tool that could help them better visualize data for everybody and have it gathered in the same location and with the same view. They assessed how different solutions presented the data that mattered most to them, and they also sought a flexible solution that met the needs of their current team and could eventually scale with them when they started to grow.
“We wanted to feel confident that the data was reliable, and we wanted it to be presented to everybody the same way so that we could easily communicate across all roles,” said Kurt. “Parallax was a match for that.”
The Planet Argon team integrated Parallax, a resource planning and strategic forecasting solution, with other existing solutions like their CRM and time tracking tools to create a better, more seamless workflow between systems and across teams. Parallax also provided a forward-looking view into current and upcoming projects to help improve resource planning.
“The Parallax platform essentially forced various process improvements on us, from sales to project management to operations and resourcing, so that our entire team could work smarter and faster,” said Kurt.
“Rather than navigating disparate systems, Parallax created a unified environment that improved transparency across our teams and made the sales-to-projects workflow much easier for everyone to follow and understand.”
Since implementing Parallax, the Planet Argon team has gained:
Improved capacity planning capabilities
The team can easily see how new work will impact the team and individual capacity depending on which month the project lands on. For example, before Parallax, the team could forecast within their spreadsheets and see how capacity percentages would change during certain months, but there wasn’t a chart or graph that helped visualize these insights for everyone.
Now, a project manager can enter an employee’s time in the platform to see how their capacity will be impacted month-over-month based on current and upcoming work, allowing them to identify and resolve any capacity challenges ahead of time. This helps ensure specific people (and their areas of expertise) are available when they need to be available.
“When you see percentages immediately rise and fall on a graph, forecasting becomes really simple. Parallax makes it really, really clear which months have open time and which months are overloaded from a capacity perspective, so we can better strategize and figure out how to move work around and avoid unnecessary stress for our team and our clients,” said Kurt.
Parallax also helps significantly cut down the amount of tedious, back-and-forth communication that project managers had to conduct across teams to confirm availability and capacity for required resources. They now can easily see who is available and when within Parallax.
Reliable, forward-looking resourcing insights
Parallax has significantly improved the company’s resource planning process, especially for Planet Argon’s project managers, who are responsible for knowing where people are and where they need to go in terms of current work and upcoming work.
Before Parallax, they had challenges answering questions like: Can I see far enough ahead to reliably put somebody full-time on a project? Can we start this month, next month, or the month after? Is every team member going to be sustainably employed for a long period?
“With Parallax, we have access to resourcing insights and forecasting data that provides us with a lot of forethought. We can look ahead and feel confident in our decisions about what the team can and cannot handle from a resource and capacity perspective. It also helps inform when we need to hire and who we need to hire to handle incoming work,” said Kurt.
Planet Argon project managers are now quickly answering deeper, more impactful questions like: Can we afford to slot in a new project on top of a client that we’re already working for on retainer? If so, can we use the same expertise we have on the new project as the ongoing project? How many available hours are required for this new project, and how many are available from existing team members? Do we need to bring somebody else in?
Increased speed for decision-making
Planet Argon unlocked faster decision-making for teams based on accurate, reliable insights. With Parallax, they gained the ability to quickly play around with hours for different projects and team members, spreading them out over a month, two months, or even 12 months to see how forecasts are impacted. In other platforms, it can be difficult to play around with scenario planning and see the same level of financial and project-level details, whereas the Parallax platform is quick, responsive, detailed, and malleable.
“I need to be able to mess around with numbers and see how changes impact near- and long-term plans. It’s very helpful to be able to quickly put some hours in, see what the finances are based on those hours for that person, and then delete them and try again. Parallax has saved me a lot of time – maybe five to 10 hours a week on forecasting alone because I can easily see all my projects or all my people on one page,” said Kurt.
“Within the first 30 days of working with Parallax, it was very clear that going back to our old methods was not an option and that this was the solution we needed. We could see that this platform was going to force change within our organization without causing a ton of disruption to people’s jobs and processes. The Parallax team just nailed it.”
What’s Next for Planet Argon?
The Planet Argon team has its sights set on mastering utilization moving forward. “The information is already there, and those calculations are already made for us—that’s invaluable. The ability to quickly see utilization data within the platform is going to help us better track employee utilization and project utilization so we can see where improvements can be made in the future in terms of our service offerings,” said Kurt.
Beyond that, the team is focused on leveraging Parallax for continuous workflow improvements and refinement of their capacity planning, resource planning, and forecasting processes.