Workfront Review

by Charles Orton-Jones / 3/9/2018 11:36:53 AM

The software package of the moment has to be Workfront. It’s spreading like wildfire across the Project Management industry, with hundreds of thousands of users across the globe. It’s a core part of working life at the likes of Cisco, the US Food & Drug Administration, Trek bicycles, endless FTSE 100 brands, and pretty much every Silicon Valley company you can think of.

In short, it’s a product you need to know about. But what does it do?

PM Today sat down with Simon Adler, a UK director of Workfront, to grill him about what the product actually does, and whether it’s as useful as it claims.So what does Workfront actually do?

The first thing to know about Workfront is its scope. It replaces a multitude of systems with a unified way to do the job. “There’s no more cobbling together of systems,” explains Adler. “Whether you want resource management, asset tracking, Gantt charts, handling requests, or anything else, it’s all there in one system. This avoids the Frankenstein problem.”

It’s a powerful pitch. Bolting together incompatible systems is a bane of the industry. It comes with a huge pay-off. By using Workfront to manage projects, every action is recorded in a single place. This guarantees accountability. “Workfront is a platform that provides organisations with the operational system of record,” continues Adler. “Very few organisations have a platform which manages what people are doing and how that aligns with the strategic objectives of that organisation.” With a record of actions it becomes simple to examine critical metrics, such as how many worker-hours it took to complete a job, who did what, and identify the source of glitches. Management consultants are obsessed with measurement for a reason. It’s the bedrock of improvement.

So what are the functions?

Before going under the bonnet, it’s worth noting this is a cloud-based system. Which means there’s nothing to install. Any web-browser offers a way in. There are mobile and tablet apps too.

Adler whirls through the capabilities. It really does offer the lot. It’s a purpose-built project management platform, so the basic jobs of creating, mapping, and allocating tasks across a project are done brilliantly. What really impresses is the adaptability. Want to work in a Waterfall methodology – you can. Need to break out into an Agile methodology sprint? The software makes this ridiculously easy. Bear in mind this is software built from scratch to fit the real-world work patterns of Project Managers.

The day-to-day demands of project managers are integrated into Workfront. Take staff scheduling. Workfront is a complete package for allocating jobs and tracking activities. Need an electrical engineer for a job next week? Workfront not only provides a visual reminder that the role needs filling, but uses an AI engine to suggest suitable candidates based on their qualifications, and job history. “We have our own artificial intelligence, developed in-house,” says Adler. “All of our technology is. proprietary, so we are in control.”

The functions are wonderfully intuitive to use, and versatile. One of Workfronts’ customers, X-changing, says, “Workfront has been life changing for our IT department, allowing us to identify and correct issues long before a project fails”. Workfront is for all employees, from the field worker to executives who can gain visibility into their entire organisations’ projects, from communication to reporting to resource utilisation. Managers can focus on overviews and performance trackg and analysis. Field workers use the interface to log jobs, find out what to do next, and put in requests. Adler highlights this last function. Field workers often make informal or poorly explained requests. Workfront offers templates, accessed by drop-down menus. It standardises and formalises the procedures – a subtle way to boost productivity and cut down on errors.

Any unexpected functions?

Dig deeper and there are some really valuable extra features in Workfront. Take asset management. Workfront offers dedicated tools for managing multi-stage sign-offs. When approved, the asset is handed over to a dedicated asset management library area, where all assets are under one roof. Another critical virtue is the ability to integrate with other packages. Yes, there is Slack integration. Engineers, coders, and Slack-addicted PMs will be delighted by this. Workfront integrates with all major packages such as Jira, Microsoft Office 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, ZenDesk and many many more. This only increases the sense that it’s an ‘all under one roof’ system.

Do you need it?

The headline benefits of Workfront are obvious. It systematises the running of a project. It opens it up to contributions from all workers.

But here’s the real clincher. Projects are rarely one-offs. Actions and sequences are repeated again again. A system like Workfront offers benchmarking and measurement. Workfront introduces processes to tasks, so there is no doubt what each job entails. For example, Warbutons implemented Workfront as part of an IT change management process. The software retains a knowledge of precisely what steps need to be taken, including governance requirements.

The risk of launching a product without a critical part is massively reduced, as users are automatically provided with an audit and compliance record. It’s also worth considering the benefits of moving to a function-rich specialist suite. Adler puts his case: “Right now if you look at an organisation, 30 per cent are digital natives, that will rise to 70 per cent in the next five years. This new generation of workforce is going to expect to have the right tools in place, and if you don’t, they will find somewhere that does. Workfront offers the ability to work from wherever you want, whether in a coffee shop, on a job, at home, or on a plane.” In terms of the suitable projects, it spans the full gamut.

A few popular applications include: on-boarding new workers, managing R&D cycles and product development, and processing drug testing and licensing. A major mobile phone brand uses it for managing all of their creative services initiatives. There is no limit to the size of project it can handle, nor the industry type. What does it cost? In terms of cost, it very much depends on a few factors primarily the number of users, your organisations requirements and the levels of access needed.

There are four tiers: Workfront Team for smaller organisations, then Workfront Pro, Workfront Business, and Workfront Enterprise for the very largest organisations. How do I find out more? To find out more the Workfront site hosts case studies and other explanatory resources. Workfront exhibits at trade events, hosts webinars, produces YouTube videos, and operates a large sales force keen to talk to potential customers. In short, if you are interested in the platform there are plenty of opportunities to learn more.

The final verdict?

Workfront is a powerhouse in the PM industry. A survey of large US companies ranked Workfront CEO Alex Shootman as the 14th best boss in America, one ahead of Tim Cook of Apple, and one behind the CEO of Google.

That’s fine company to be in, and doesn’t happen unless you have a fantastic product at the foundation of your business. The mission is to create a unified platform, accessible from any device, to handle all and every aspect of project management, in an intuitive way. The look and click interface is comprehensible within minutes. As Workfront becomes more popular it may become the default for major companies.

Executives may want to adopt it in order to boost their marketability. Knowing you can walk into a new job, and already know your way around their project management system, is a valuable thing to put on a CV. There are many packages in PM. Workfront wants to be the package. It’s on it’s way to achieving just that goal.

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