Sciforma user testimony: Beck Associates
- Human Resources Project Management
- Tracking highly skilled workers across multiple projects and locations
- Founded in 1982, Beck Associates has grown to become one of the most successful companies in the business of integrating complex television systems for television stations, independent broadcast facilities, and mobile units such as those producing live programs at sporting events. As their market has grown in size and complexity, so has the company’s business. One of the most challenging tasks confronting Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Morris is managing his highly skilled technical workforce to meet customer demand.
What sets Beck Associates apart from the competition?
We’ve been in the business long enough to have grown up with all the new technology. Computers have invaded the industry, everything is digital today and we understand the changing needs of broadcasters. Beck’s also the only company that builds its own consoles, or control-room workspaces, so we have a lot of flexibility and can handle custom specifications or late-breaking modifications.
Tell me about your job.
I handle the business and internal operations for the company including accounting, databases, personnel, and project management. We have a very lean executive structure, and most of our people are in the field helping customers or here in our shop.
How many projects do you have going at once?
When we’re really busy it can be 20 or more at the same time, and all in different phases. For instance, we might be doing the initial design on one, installing equipment on another, or just routine follow-up work. Some of our projects are two weeks, others can take six months or more. We do jobs all over the country out of three offices, and have 50 employees, so managing resources (manpower) is one of the most important aspects of the business.
Are the projects complicated?
Very! We have to be extremely efficient. I’ll give you an example. A mobile unit we’re starting to build will require 11,000 individual cables. Each cable has to be registered in a database, correctly installed, then connected to 600 different pieces of equipment!
You’re using PSNext now, but how did you handle project management before?
We used some software, like Microsoft Project to plan out timeframes, but we couldn’t assign resources with it and used a separate spreadsheet for that. That system was so manually intensive and difficult that we lacked the ability to react quickly or spot mistakes, and we couldn’t look into the future and spot capacity issues. We work from project to project, our schedule is not our own because the customer wants it done when they want it done, so we needed a better solution.
What led you to PSNext?
We knew we needed help. My hot button for project management software is managing resources. We looked at 10 to 15 other products,but found the ability to assign and manage resources in PSNext was heads above the others. It was the only software that could manage resources exactly the way I wanted because those capabilities were built in.
How are you using PSNext?
We have people spread across offices in Texas, Colorado, and New Jersey. It’s extremely helpful to have everyone’s schedule in PSNext so we can clearly see who is available to do what job and when. Managing 20+ projects without it would leave us flailing. Other systems just didn’t have the granularity to provide us with the detailed data necessary to do this.
What features stand out?
Well, as I already said it manages resources exactly the way I want. For instance, I can plan ahead by assigning a “soft” team to a project, then go out and search the database to find the exact people I need for the project and their availability. No other software we found could replace “soft” resources with “hard” ones as easily and intelligently as PSNext. Additionally, I can do this for any timeframe, so we can be very clear with the customer on schedules and deadlines.
Was it hard getting started?
We had support from Sciforma initially for training, and they wrote us several custom reports that we use on a daily basis. The learning curve for the basic functions was quick and easy. The software has a lot of power and features! There are currently three of us using it, and I’d like to expand it in the future to let individual project managers enter data online from the jobsite in real time.
What features do you use most often?
We use a few reports all the time, basically different ways to look resources and filter the data in multiple ways. We can look at individuals for instance, or search by job classification depending on what makes sense. Knowing the capacity for our senior technicians and what jobs they can be assigned to is critical. We also create Gantt Charts on every project which are very useful. Our President, Fred Beck, looks at those reports every day.
Will you expand your use of PSNext beyond HR?
The software is capable of a lot more than what we’re currently doing with it. We’re going to learn to create more of our own custom reports, and I believe in the future we’ll do costing with it. Tracking materials will probably continue to be done in house because we have a custom database we’ve used for a long time, but I think that’s something the tool could probably do as well.
What would your job be like without PSNext?
If I had to go backward and give it up I would pull whatever hair I have left out – it’s great to manage everything in one place, and that’s what PSNext allows me to do.