Client Success Story

The Magic Mix of Innovative Products and Smart Resource Allocation

A prolific digital product consultancy with renowned clients experienced 11X growth in seven years, in part due to conscious, data-driven resource management practices supported by Accelo.

Background

WillowTree is a full-service digital product consultancy that designs and builds mobile applications, websites and more for leading brands in a wide variety of industries. Offering full-cycle product development, rapid prototyping, growth marketing and more, WillowTree has solved problems with its innovative products for companies such as FOX, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Marriott.

The business has come a long way since its founding in 2008, thanks to its focus on “human-centered design.” Before diving into a project, WillowTree’s team dissects the processes and outcomes that matter most to its clients, whether they require an immediate pivot  or a long-term solution.

Challenges

In 2016, WillowTree had about 100 employees. Though the firm’s teams were managing their workload well, WillowTree sought to take on bigger projects and clients. However, it was never quite clear if or when they’d be able to do so with their existing resources.

Jason Ye, Associate Director of Resource Management and Delivery Operations, says their workflows were unnecessarily complex because of the three core systems they used to get a sense of how they’d be able to handle current and upcoming projects: 

  • Sales pipeline software
  • A timesheet logging platform
  • A resource management tool

Because they conducted revenue forecasting using yet another system and had just three staff members dedicated to allocation at the time, leadership had little concrete guidance for assigning work and knowing when it was time to hire.  

“We needed an analysis of our resourcing needs coming in, what we had currently active and what we were building for project work,” Jason explains.

Solution

WillowTree needed software that could simplify scheduling, timesheets and upcoming work for the Finance and Resource Management teams yet keep up with its ambitious delivery, commercial and talent recruiting goals.

Accelo fit the bill — and then some. While they wouldn’t have a need for every product since they were using each client’s software tools for functions like project planning, the platform won out over other options because of its time tracking and employee utilization analysis.

At first, WillowTree primarily used Accelo’s schedule dashboard to assign tasks and get a bird’s eye view of who was available, often from within a project.

“We really like the flexibility of the timesheet overview. It helps to be able to quickly see hours logged in an easy-to-read format and in real time,” Jason says. “The fact that reporting around timesheets and data is also accessible at the project level is incredibly valuable to us. It’s so easy to get into the exact project you’re looking for and get all the information you need.”

This focus on accurate time tracking and resourcing data has made more expansive platform usage possible. Over several years as WillowTree’s clientele and team grew, Accelo’s data and vernacular began to seep into the Resource Management department’s processes more deeply. 

Along with internally referring to all projects based on the percentage status available in Accelo, the team began tagging tasks with skills, tracking those skills and roles against utilization and relying on the project and revenue data compiled by the platform.

One of the most impactful shifts came when they started creating placeholder projects to weigh revenue forecasts against utilization. Jason describes this seemingly simple capability as powerful. 

“It allows us to see not only the revenue forecast but the resourcing we’ll need to hit that revenue. If we’re dropping in utilization, we should see a drop in revenue. If our utilization is high and we need to hire more people, the revenue associated with those projects should also be above our target. Otherwise, we need to reassess.” 

WillowTree’s tech-savvy team also set up convenient integrations using Accelo’s API:

  • On Fridays, Slack reminders are auto-sent to remind staff to fill out timesheets 
  • PTO logged in their HR system populates as scheduled hours in Accelo

Results

With its resource management supported by Accelo, WillowTree has scaled by a factor of 11 — growing from a team of 100 to a team of 1,100 — in seven years.

The processes they established in the platform helped the business as it built a new middle management layer. Its project management team has grown from 10 to 50 people and its allocation team from three to 40. 

“Accelo has been with us through this entire growth process,” Jason says.

He recounts one acquisition through which they acquired a company that was using NetSuite OpenAir. With help from Accelo’s team, they migrated data and moved 150 new team members to Accelo with ease.

“There was a bit of a learning curve for everyone to learn a new software, but because Accelo is so straightforward, it allowed us to move them over without much of a challenge.”

As the scaling continued, WillowTree began building custom data visualizations and reports in Google Data Studio, exporting all the task and project data out of Accelo and into a custom Google Sheets ecosystem for cross-departmental reference. This automated process alone has saved an immeasurable number of hours and reduced inaccuracies for the flourishing business.

WillowTree’s success story is a prime example of the power of streamlined workflows.

Even though we’re a big organization, Accelo helps us a lot in that it’s super simple. It doesn’t get in the way of itself like some other platforms.
Jason Ye, Associate Director of Resource Management and Delivery Operations

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