We always love hearing how companies around the world use Teamwork to transform their workflows and help their teams to become happier and more productive. So when we heard that implementing Teamwork Projects helped our pals at Ella’s Kitchen to do that and go on to win an Association for Project Management’s PMO of the Year Award, we knew we had to learn more about how they did it. We talked to Ellen Jarrett, Head of PMO (or as they like to call it, the Make Stuff Run Smoothly team!) at Ella’s Kitchen about their 4 best practices for rolling out new project management software — and their top tips for making Teamwork Projects work for you.

The first thing the team at Ella’s Kitchen did when they started using Teamwork Projects? Customized it! “Customizing what Teamwork Projects looked like was a really immediate win for us,” Ellen said. Straight away, they put their brand’s own stamp on everything, from setting the banner color to their own “Ella’s Kitchen red”, adding their logo so it appeared across the whole site, and using the internal company font. “When you go into our Teamwork Projects site, it doesn’t look like it was off the shelf. It looks like it’s been designed especially for us as our own online project management system, and I think that is genuinely critical,” Ellen told us.  Making the system look engaging and familiar ensured that the new tool didn’t feel intimidating to users; instead, it felt like an extension of their own team. (They even refer to Teamwork Projects internally as “Smooth Operator”! We’ve never felt so cool.) Another way they used customization to improve adoption straight from the get-go was by switching off the features they weren’t using right away. “Things we didn’t use in the beginning, like links or time tracking, we disabled those so that when people first logged on to the system, they were only seeing the tabs that we actually used,” Ellen explained. “It stripped out complexity and helped to keep it clear and simple.” “Without those customization options, I don’t think we would have had such an easy onboarding experience with Teamwork Projects,” she said. Do it yourself:

Once they had the site set up just the way they liked it, they started to run interactive training sessions to get everyone on board and comfortable with using Teamwork Projects. “We had no more than 10 people in our training sessions at any one time, and we asked them to bring along their laptops,” Ellen said. In the session, the Smoothly team talked through the reasons why they were installing the system in the first place and what benefits it would bring. Once they had explained the rationale behind the change, they moved on to the practical side.  The team at Ella’s Kitchen set up a training demo project that they used in their sessions, with pre-assigned “Attend training session” tasks already set up for each attendee. As part of the training, each person had to log in to the system, change the due date on their task, and more, finally ticking it off to show that they had been to the session. For Ellen, the essential thing was that the attendees actually used the system in the training session. “It’s important to break down that barrier of first logging in and using a system. Once they did, they could see how easy it was to use.” The combination of outlining how it’s going to help them to perform better and getting them to experience it first hand proved to be a winning one.  “I remember excitement, I remember a buzz,” Ellen said. “I remember several people going ‘Oh look!’, and ‘Oh wow, isn’t that clever’, and that was really nice to see that other people were sharing our excitement about the system.” Do it yourself:

When setting up accounts for new team members, the Smoothly folks want to ensure that every user has a consistent experience. To do this, they start by putting themselves in the user’s shoes when creating the account. “We use the Impersonate function to go in as that user and set up their view,” Ellen said. From there, they can customize a few things, as well as stay confident that the new starter is seeing everything they should be seeing (and nothing that they shouldn’t). “It’s great for making sure that they’re added to the right projects. At Ella’s Kitchen, unless it’s a restricted confidential project — which we can have on occasion — we like to have it so that everybody is able to see all projects,” Ellen said. “But unless they’re on the project team for that project, we’ll make them Observers.” (They’ve found that this helps them to reduce noise.) “We also customize the Daily Report email to only show a certain amount of days’ worth of tasks, as well as choosing the time it gets sent out.” All of this helps to provide a more, ahem, smooth experience. It means that the new user isn’t overwhelmed with notifications on projects they don’t need updates on, they’re not inundated with emails that stress them out instead of keep them on track, and they’re set up for success right from the beginning. Do it yourself:

Every six months, the Smoothly team send a survey to all staff about project management at Ella’s Kitchen.  In it, they ask their colleagues:

  • What are the biggest challenges with projects?

  • What’s going well?

  • What do you think of the project team meetings?

  • What could be improved in the process?

That survey helps the team to identify areas that their process and system can have an impact on. “Obviously if there’s anything around things like communication, timelines, and so on, Teamwork Projects will be our default place to go to make those improvements,” Ellen said. The surveys help the team to take a pulse on team satisfaction with their processes, as well as to continuously improve. “We’ll get ideas every six months on what we need to get better at or maximize,” she told us. “We also keep up to date with the emails and blog posts from Teamwork Projects so we can be the first to know about new feature releases,” Ellen explained. “We make a point of reading those and seeing if there’s anything new we can introduce.” But before they make any major shifts, they go back to their Best Practice Principle #2 to make sure they do so in a way that brings the whole team with them. “Before rolling anything out that would substantially change our use of the system, we always get people in a room and explain it — and show it! — to them first,” Ellen said. “I think that’s important in order to keep people on board and make sure that they understand the benefits of what you’re introducing.” Do it yourself:

  • Subscribe to the Teamwork newsletter (you can do it right from this post — just scroll up to the top!)

We love hearing how teams use Teamwork Projects, especially when the results speak for themselves. (As well as their award, the Smoothly team has seen massive increases in Ella’s Kitchen’s NPS score, visibility, communication, and overall satisfaction — woohoo!)  How did your team address the challenges of rolling out new project management software? Let us know in the comments below.