Elaf Group is one of the largest hospitality and travel management companies operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Founded in 1981, it is a well-established leader in the hotel industry, Hajj & Umrah pilgrimages, and travel packages with more than 1,500 employees. Elaf Group is fully owned by SECDO Holdings which was voted “One of the Best Places to Work” in Saudi Arabia, placing it in an excellent position for growth.
Ahmed Ali Eziza, Program Management Office Director, started using Teamwork in 2015 after reaching the limits of MS Project. After choosing Teamwork, Elaf Group not only used the software to streamline project workflows and simplify communication, they also built their company-wide strategic plan using its features and reporting tools.
Trying to keep pace
In today’s market, businesses need more than spreadsheets, emails, and instant messages to establish goals and outcomes. Back in 2013, Elaf Group did not have standard project management tools or a framework in place, leading to a lack of efficiency in the company.
A year later, they turned to Microsoft Project to help them organize projects and share information, but they were constantly working around several shortcomings. The software was helpful for some tasks and processes within Ahmed’s department, but other teams found it difficult to use. Transparency and communication were also difficult because the software only supplied the most recent project status, not the entire record of comments and the timeline of events.
“Because the software didn’t provide the functionality we needed, we ended up using MS Outlook email messages and WhatsApp. Sometimes communication with important stakeholders was missed, and it was a nightmare to track the history of messages, task ownership, and other dependent tasks. We needed better tools with more sophisticated features.”
As improved e-commerce tools became available, Asim Abdullah Danish, Chief Operating Officer, decided that it was time to find a better solution for the entire company. The management team requested a cloud-based solution that would help their team create a collaborative environment, have a user-friendly UI, and offer responsive customer support. Their development team wanted software that could integrate with other platforms and provide robust security. In addition, everyone wanted an affordable price tag.
Overall, Elaf Group wanted project management software that would partner with them to keep pace with the pace of business. They saw their company becoming more dependent on technology to identify trends and stay ahead of their competitors.
" Optimizing the use of technology is a must for us to be responsive to customers’ behavior and interests. Delivering excellent customer service is our major success factor, and it depends on the coordinated efforts of several departments within Elaf Group. Without good software, we were struggling to make that happen
Running the company
After reviewing several other project management solutions, Asim strongly recommended Teamwork as the best software to accomplish all of the layers of objectives they had planned. Elaf Group put Teamwork to work in three different areas of their business: strategy implementation, transparency and effective communications, and project management governance.
Executive team members designed a long-term strategy with perspectives, strategic objectives, measurements, and key performance indicators which then were adapted to every unit in the company and coordinated within the annual operating plan. This undertaking was led by Asim Abdullah Danish and organized by Ahmed Eziza using the model of the Nine Steps to Success™ framework by the Balanced Scorecard Institute. This planning was not a new process, but using Teamwork, company leadership was able to track and follow up with the implementation of these initiatives for the first time.
“Now everyone in the company has the ability to see and share goals in real time. We can measure our progress at every stage without having to contact all of the managers separately for a report.”
Elaf Group is also making reporting even easier using the API within Teamwork to automate scripts that can generate the overall status for a group of projects. That data is then compiled into an easy-to-read one-page report using Board View.
“We think we’re the first company to use Teamwork this way for both project management and strategy implementation. Not many other tools are this versatile.”
Most of Elaf Group projects include project teams in different locations, cities, and countries which generated a challenge in team communications as well as task ownership across the departments. The team used Teamwork to solve the communication problem and set up ownership of tasks, and then followed up with each other using the comments on tasks or in Chat.
" The communication tools in Teamwork are saving this team a tremendous amount of time since they don’t have to write separate emails or search through their inboxes to find important messages.
Elaf Group is also handling project management governance through Teamwork. Before a project is approved, the project management office has to follow established project management standards like an approved project charter, a scope statement, and a high-level project plan with clear milestones. Using the features in Teamwork, the PMO is able to implement the project management methodology and standards, for example: New project can’t start in Teamwork unless the charter, scope, and project plan are submitted.
Also the project can’t be closed unless the sign-off fixed task is completed with a sign-off document attached. This makes sure that all stakeholders are fully informed and engaged all the time. The clear ownership set by the features in Teamwork makes it very easy to focus and to reach an effective communications among the team.
Even the finance department can rely on Teamwork for their interactions with suppliers. They can observe each project’s milestones and release or withhold payments depending on on-time deliveries or delays.
“We now have an unprecedented amount of transparency both within our company and with the outside contractors we work with. Everyone has found ways that Teamwork makes their jobs easier.”
The measurable gains for Elaf Group have been dramatic, with a six-month ROI since starting with Teamwork. Ahmed’s reports indicate progress in several areas, including:
Great improvement in team communications focus.
Maximum clarity of task ownership (knowing for sure who is responsible for the task).
Great time and efforts saving by reducing up to 80% manual emails.
70% improvement of integrating the project management practices in Elaf’s culture.
Improved cycle time of decision making based on the LIVE projects status information.
Higher optimization of the use of technology among the team.
Ahmed and Asim credit this transformation in their company to the way that Teamwork’s features work together to eliminate busywork and allow team members and managers to work together seamlessly. The cooperation received from the leadership of all Elaf Group units was also a major success factor.
At the team level, milestones have given every single person clearer accountability and understanding about the needs of each project. Not only is planning easier, but notifications on due dates means that things don’t slip through the cracks.
Communication has also been simplified because, unlike email, comments are directly attached to a task and the accompanying materials. Documents, files, links and images can all be uploaded to specific tasks or subtasks within individual projects so everyone can find them immediately.
" The team really loves working with all of these tools, and having them on mobile apps makes working remotely even easier. Administrators and project owners have come to depend on the transparency in Teamwork, as well, giving them a better perspective on the progress their teams are making each day. Filters and shortcuts help them view the exact tasks or reports they need, and project reports provide essential overviews.
So many people within Elaf Group are pleased with the results that they’ve successfully onboarded 100 users and plan to add another 50-100 in 2018. They are the first company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to have a Certified Teamwork Expert on their team, and today they have two Certified Experts on staff.
" Teamwork is a brilliant, yet simple product with so many features that it’s adaptable to any project or goals that our teams are trying to accomplish. This software has completely changed our company culture for the better, and we can’t imagine working without it.
– Ahmed Ali Eziza, Program Management Office Director at Elaf Group