We recently spoke with Michelle Basson, Head of Solution Design and Innovation at Herotel, who has been working with Smartsheet since 2019 and has been a client of PPS since the start of 2022. This case study takes you from the very beginning right up to Herotel’s plans for the future.
What challenges/problems necessitated a change in the organisation?
Herotel is the largest fixed wireless internet service provider in South Africa. The need for a solution platform began when multiple independent wireless service providers were consolidated by Herotel, with the dream of connecting all South Africans to faster, more affordable internet.
With these companies coming together, it is to be expected that there were various working practices, methods and approaches to projects and tasks. Michelle described how departments were using a multitude of platforms and project communication was mostly by email and phone.
The One Herotel project was initiated, the objective was to ensure the alignment of processes and standardisation, along with the visibility of projects to the larger business, to see the same thing and talk about the same thing. This included the rebranding of all the individual companies to have the same look and feel as well as starting the journey of standardisation. Michelle explained that at that point in time, Herotel did not yet have a specialist platform to support this large business transformation project, but Michelle had been using Smartsheet for some smaller projects and task tracking. Her role in this project was Project Coordinator, and Smartsheet was selected to be the project platform. After obtaining her Smartsheet Certification, Michelle became the subject matter expert and began building out a variety of project plans and dashboards to demonstrate what could be achieved with Smartsheet and to share the metrics with stakeholders.
Herotel was made up of 30 different branches, all of which needed visibility. Straight away, Smartsheet provided a platform where everyone could look at the same data and everyone could refer to the same source sheets for that data and have all of this in one environment.
“That was the beauty of it, getting a first version of standardisation in place, even if it wasn’t the most perfect solution yet, from there it just grew and became this wonderful environment of thinking outside the box and growing ideas.”
Herotel considered other project management platforms, but it was the ease of use of Smartsheet that meant Michelle could hit the ground running with the project straight away to make a change in the business.
“I remember opening Smartsheet when I was first assigned a licence, before I had done my certification, I started clicking around and it was easy, intuitive, easy to navigate, everything made sense, and it felt natural to use. The UX and UI side of it was awesome for me, it ticked all the boxes.”
The licensing possibilities were also incredibly important because they allowed Herotel to manage the project budget better whilst still being able to share data and information via published dashboards with everyone without them requiring licenced access due to the permissions flexibility with Smartsheet.
“It was the ease of use, the no-code, low code type of environment that was very attractive to us and made it stand out from the rest.”
As Michelle advanced through the One Herotel project, using Smartsheet for weekly project check-ins, feedback reports and sharing reports to executives in Dashboards to see live data and make real-time decisions about the project, they very quickly started seeing the possibilities of Smartsheet and how other areas of the business would benefit from Smartsheet.
“People started realising what Smartsheet could do, there was this ‘I want that’, ‘how can I get access’, ‘where can I learn about this’ attitude. I would share information via links instead of emails, show them how Forms work and share template sheets with them, giving them some editing permissions and getting them confident in that environment where I could then hand sheet ownership over to them and I can step away.”
Expanding the Smartsheet Solution
Through the success of the One Herotel project, various other departments started to reach out to ask for help on how they could get a project up and running in the same way. Michelle started building operational environments to assist in making the day-to-day of different departments and branches easier. This process saw Michelle be approached by several individuals across Herotel looking to learn more and become fellow advocates of Smartsheet.
“I've got a couple of counterparts throughout the business that started reaching out. I assisted with training or solving problems and understanding what they were trying to solve. It reached a point where we had weekly sessions where we would transfer skills. They were fanatic about having this world where you can create and grow your capabilities however limited or advanced that is, you can make a change to your day-to-day.”
“It was this hallelujah moment where people just realised, if I just put in a bit of effort to understand this platform, it's going to make my life so much better.”
Rolling Smartsheet out in different regions across multiple departments as a cross-functional resource, marketing, Sales, Field Operations, Systems and Networks departments to name a few.
“We now have team members in various departments, that can create their own sheets and maintain their own dashboards. We might assist them in the initial setup and support them on certain elements, but then this magical moment happens when you realise that they’ve got this and you can take a step back. It’s a beautiful moment, I've felt so overwhelmed with satisfaction and gratitude for being able to know that we could have made a change in that person's life.”
Working with PPS to evolve and advance
Being based in South Africa, Herotel needed support closer to their time zone and with vast experience in the South African market, PPS was onboarded after a recommendation from Herotel’s Smartsheet Account Manager, Stacy Martin.
It was having that hands-on access to someone for ongoing support as well as specialist advice on their solution so they could come to PPS with several problems and learn what tools and processes will help overcome these challenges. Michelle shared that just having a closer connection with someone allowed them to gain additional skills which also allowed Herotel to get the best value from their investment.
“There are so many awesome people at PPS, with such a variety of skills that we can learn from and when we were in the process of our yearly renewal, we started talking about what other types of packages were available. We had always had an Enterprise plan and we learnt that the advanced packages just offered us so much more.”
As adoption and use cases evolved within Herotel, there became more of a need for advanced functionalities. Though Herotel could have assessed and developed some of these in-house it would have taken too much time and resources internally to do this. They were at the point where Smartsheet’s Advanced offerings were the perfect next step to enable the business to help themselves, remove the red tape and give users more power back which in turn would free up resources on Michelle’s team to focus on business solution design and innovation.
Michelle shared this vision with PPS, allowing us to advise on the best approach to take and what tools were the best for the job. This partnership meant Herotel could take their solution to the next level, opening doors for business transformation by combining their Smartsheet data with Resource Management and integrating with JIRA.
“We were starting our Business Intelligence department where we were going to have a lot of data that we would need to display visually to people in real-time, which is why we onboarded Data Shuttle and Data Mesh.” Herotel has gone on to use Control Centre, Calendar and Pivot Apps.
Head of Consulting at PPS, Andrew Gerrish alongside Mandy Farr, Solutions Consultant, built Herotel their Control Centre solution.
“With Herotel expanding rapidly over a large geographical area, the need for consistency in collecting data is essential. A standardised approach was required for gathering Key Performance Indicators across the organisation and then summarising this data in numerous ways by team, business function, department etc. Multi-Tier Control Center was ideal for this application as standard templates could be generated at team level, and they could be collated by function before being analysed by department, region and division. Without the summary roll up of data that Control Center provides, this project would have been extremely difficult and labour intensive.”
Michelle is now in the process of rolling out the new Control Centre templates with the Project Managers in the Business Systems and IT Systems departments, who have been able to upskill on Control Centre, learning from Andrew along the way. This new solution will assist with project scalability and tracking across multiple projects.
“Having our sessions with Andrew and Mandy was priceless, getting that skills transfer and the knowledge and always being able to reach out to them for support.”
Your experience with the implementation and support from PPS
“If I’d have known about PPS earlier, I would have suggested that we have started collaborating and get involved with a partner a lot earlier. But we are so happy that we're with PPS now, it's been such an awesome experience so far and I know that we will have so many more interactions in the upcoming years, more ideas, more solutions and more skills being transferred.”
“Each department has its own language but with Smartsheet, it’s nice that we can find common ground in one platform and say, hey, I see you.”
What's been your favourite moment/success in 2023?
Using the JIRA connector has given me the biggest value. Being able to give the Development department feedback as to where we are with solutions and development. That was a blind spot, on certain elements before, but now I can see everything I need in Smartsheet and have a full view of progress, risks and blockers and create reports with ease for specific stakeholders.
What are you most excited about in 2024?
I think getting even more people on board, from every nook and cranny everyone should be using Smartsheet in their day. Just taking away that mundane work and making it fun. So just getting more adoption, more visibility.
What is your favourite way to use Smartsheet?
Forms. Forms are my absolute favourite. Using Smartsheet intake forms, we guided the users as to what they needed to answer, and we incorporated that into our current ticketing system, so we get all the right answers populated as a ticket in our internal system. Forms can make so many things so much easier, I think Forms have the highest level of impact with the lowest level of knowledge required to get started.
What advice can you give to a company that is looking to elevate its PPM strategy in the next 12 months?
Obviously, to use Smartsheet, it is so intuitive and so easy to use whether it is just making your day easier or running this massive project across multiple branches and departments.
Take the time, do a course, learn as much as you can or get someone on board, like PPS so you can have that understanding of what is possible and what's not possible.
I think the biggest reason for Implementations failing is because expectations are not being met. There is so much power in knowing what the functionalities and possibilities are, even if you don't have all of them starting out. It’s good to know what you could do in the future. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Do a proof of concept with a few colleagues, test, build and try again. If it works, it works, if you need to tweak it, tweak it.
It was an absolute pleasure to speak with Michelle, she oozes enthusiasm about Smartsheet and how an effective project management strategy can see any company of any size overcome challenges to evolve into something great.