ProductPlan Roadmap/Planning Board
No one wants to have to call on a Servpro franchise, but when a flood or fire hits homes and businesses, their network of franchisees across the United States and Canada is often tapped to clean up what’s left behind and mitigate subsequent damage. Headquartered in Tennessee, certified Servpro professionals rush to the scene when disasters strike to quickly remove what can’t be salvaged and repair what can be saved, be it from water and mold or fire and smoke.
But supporting a multi-national network of more than 1,900 franchises means satisfying a wide range of stakeholders, be they internal corporate employees or the franchisees themselves. For Servpro, the biggest issue they faced in their IT department was instituting a fair and transparent prioritization process that ensured initiatives with the biggest ROI and net benefits made it to the front of the queue for each of their major workstreams.
“I take pride in listening to every franchise,” Wix said. “They have great ideas and our backlog is beyond our capacity so we want to work on the things that matter the most and have the most bang for the buck.”
Jason Wix, Director of Program Management at Servpro Industries, LLC
When the Director of Program Management, Jason Wix, took on his role in the IT department more than eight years ago, he found an organization missing some of the basic elements of a modern technology delivery organization. While the team boasted 35 employees, no QA, business analysts, project managers, or product owners were in place. Over time, with his CIO, Jeff Fields, and they restructured things to have a defined process governed by the PMO. The IT includes Jeff’s direct managers overseeing the Business Requirements, Development, QA, Support, and Infrastructure. Project managers, program managers, and business analysts reporting to Jason.
Wix also saw the need for a better way to prioritize projects that would support his franchises on the ground dealing with the vast array of challenges and disasters present.
“I take pride in listening to every franchise,” Wix said. “They have great ideas, and our backlog is beyond our capacity, so we want to work on the things that matter the most and have the most bang for the buck.”
Of course, franchisees aren’t the only stakeholders with requests. Operations, the call center, accounting, and other departments all had their own wish list items and lobbied to get them implemented as well. The corporate operation’s rapid growth to 450 employees also contributed to the challenge of satisfying everyone.
The sheer volume of items people were asking for became a management nightmare, and the existing systems for managing these things weren’t cutting it. Utilizing their ticketing system (Jira) proved to be inadequate for business users. Wix found himself relying on a completely unwieldy Google Sheet for five years, trying to keep everything organized himself. Adding on, Trello and Microsoft Planner also couldn’t deliver what he needed.
The development team was working non-stop, delivering new features and functionality that weren’t necessarily worthy of being at the top of the priorities list.
Wix found himself looking for a new solution to manage the prioritization of everything and offered clarity and visibility to everyone.
Benefits: Fairness and Standardization
Wix had purchased a ProductPlan license more than a year earlier, but he hadn’t spent enough time creating the organizational buy-in needed for widespread adoption. He decided to dig into what he had in-house and fully explore what ProductPlan could offer before moving onto another solution rather than purchase an expensive project tool that would be too complicated and never be used.
Wix knew the tool alone wouldn’t quickly fix Servpro’s prioritization processes. Each of the 23 Servpro divisions had its own top five priorities, and there was no way to proceed when there were 50 different A1 items on the docket.
To mitigate this, Wix, with the help of Executive and Division Managers, created a standard operating procedure for any development request that would take more than 160 hours to implement. Each request would go before the executive team at a monthly review and approval session, with the requesting party would make their case for the item in question’s worthiness to be slated for release.
The requestor must define a problem and goals statement and present the ROI for the item to the governance board. This ensured the requestor did their homework and items lacking a solid business case were removed from consideration.
“That slowed down requests and forced non-ROI items from being considered, and now we don’t get as many requests for large items with no business case.”
With these new processes in place, it was as if a curtain had been lifted. There was no longer any mystery around why some items were scheduled, and others didn’t make the cut. It was an open and honest system.
“Everyone now knows why their item didn’t get to the top. We put the onus on them to talk through things as a group and decide what makes the top.”
The Planning Board has been the most valuable feature of ProductPlan, in Wix’s opinion. The organization had previously been using Microsoft Teams for this purpose. Still, the ability to prevent other people from changing things made it a non-starter for widespread sharing and socialization.
Additionally, the Planning Board’s versatility has also proved extremely useful. Servpro’s default approach to scoring has been to judge each item on five criteria, with 20% of the potential score allocated evenly across these options:
- Increase Net Income
- Decrease an Expense
- Strategic and Business Alignment
- Development Effort
- Implementation Effort
With a system like this, each item is holistically evaluated. Additionally, some groups have different criteria they’re using for scoring, which ProductPlan easily accommodates.
The scoring process also forces stakeholders to break down siloed thinking and evaluate projects based on their value to the organization as a whole. They can see for themselves how their request stacks up against currently prioritized items.
“We had tried to break down the silos between divisions as we got bigger,” Wix said. “People weren’t in the know about what other people were doing. ProductPlan has hugely helped out on the communication front, as well.”
With the Planning Board process established and universal visibility and standardization into how things were scored, Wix no longer has to battle with stakeholders over “why” something was prioritized. It’s all clearly defined by the scores and rankings.
Once things go through the prioritization gauntlet and are reviewed and approved by the executive team, they make their way to one of the multiple roadmaps managed within ProductPlan. These include smaller corporate enhancements and specific roadmaps for Franchise, Servpro, Mobile, Web Services, Salesforce, and Tableau.
“ProductPlan has just enough. I don’t want tools that have so much functionality that it’s too hard to learn and never gets used or we only use a fraction of features.”
Results: Rigorous evaluation, business-driven prioritization, and transparency
With the help of ProductPlan, teams can both see everything ahead of in the queue and know the "why" behind their order.
For Wix and his team, another huge win was reducing the volume of email and phone calls asking about various requests and projects. Stakeholders review ProductPlan and see a request in ProductPlan by being tagged, so it’s easy for them to track their items' status independently.
Even better, the CIO can see what was completed in the previous quarter and tap for the next. Wix’s CIO uses the Portfolio View to see a comprehensive picture of everything. Wix saves hours and hours of time now that he is no longer creating PowerPoints and aggregating data from multiple sources.
Getting Team Buy-in
Since Servpro already had a ProductPlan license, their adoption has been organic and linked with major process changes. Since the tool was intimately linked with those new standard operating procedures, its value was readily apparent to a broad swath of the organization as they interacted with it during prioritization and roadmapping exercises.
For Wix, ProductPlan sits in a sweet spot of functionality and versatility without being overly complex.
“It has just enough, but not too much,” he said. “I don’t want tools that have so much functionality that it’s too hard to learn and never gets used, or we only use a fraction of features.” He found ProductPlan easy to self-learn—and after a couple of days, he didn’t even need to rely on customer support. In Wix's words, "ProductPlan is extremely flexible, you can use it to meet whatever needs you may have."
In the future, for ServPo, utilizing ProductPlan’s JIRA integration is up next. ProductPlan’s integrations will help to gauge the effort estimates and project end dates directly in ProductPlan versus manually updating those data points elsewhere.
As it has rolled out further within the IT organization, the visibility into the process and current state of things are huge, and the prioritization feature gets everyone in alignment.
“Alignment is critical because all the stakeholders are in a weekly meeting and they know their score. They know why their request isn’t getting worked on yet,” Wix said, adding that this process forces stakeholders to “take off your department hat and rank based on the value to the organization as a whole.”
ProductPlan is extremely flexible, you can use it to meet whatever needs you may have.