Author: Andrew Koprowski

 

In my last post I talked about the benefits of having a dedicated Workfront system administrator. But from my experience with clients I’ve learned that not everyone anticipates needing full time resources to support a SaaS application. More often than not this stems from a lack of context—being unsure of what duties a sys admin could or should take on and not knowing just how much time those activities can consume. If your organization decides that it needs a Workfront administrator but doesn’t know what to expect, I have created a “starter” list of roles and responsibilities I have performed while working as a Workfront administrator:

 

1. User profile management (1-2 hours per month)

While your account rep will almost certainly ensure you don’t go over your license count for any extended period of time, it can be incredibly helpful to keep track of how close you are to the threshold, whether licenses are appropriately allocated across groups, and whether accounts need to be deactivated. Additionally, it’s a good practice to regularly validate that users have all the appropriate settings—layout template, job role, team assignments, etc.—even more so if you’re leveraging group administrators. Most of this can be easily done by setting up a few key reports. But they still require someone to manually check the information. Below are three simple reports I’ve used in the past:

  • Quarterly license audits
  • Bi-weekly Human Resources termination audits
  • Monthly groups and teams audits

 

2. Report and dashboard management (4-8 hours per month)

This one is no small feat. Depending on where you are in your Workfront journey, creating and managing reports could actually account for the vast majority of your time. The trick, of course, is to create a suite of reports that can be flexibly applied across users through a combination of wildcard filters. But the path to get there is not always so easy…or quick. In my experience, work in this area typically falls into one of three categories:

  • Create reports and dashboards to support project managers, project teams, and executive leadership
  • Customize layout templates for different user personas by applying dashboards to enhance the user experience
  • Quarterly report and dashboard audits

 

3. Custom fields and forms management (1-2 hours per month)

Custom fields can get tricky. Staying on top of field consistency and eliminating redundancy can be the difference between sys admin sanity and overload. But your users don’t really tend to care about all that so long as the fields and forms they need are to their liking. So it’s a “shadow” responsibility for any prudent admin to consistently review custom fields, make sure they have the right data type (string, date, currency, etc.), and that there’s as little redundancy as possible. Doing so will ultimately help keep the Workfront instance leaner and reduce the overhead associated with changes.

  • Create and update custom fields and custom forms to support the various teams using Workfront
  • Review fields across user groups and identify opportunities to consolidate

 

4. Create and maintain standard PMO processes and training documents (8-32 hours per month)

While Workfront is certainly a powerful tool it can’t technically dictate or enforce what your processes and procedures look like. It can help provide some structure; but it still requires users to take an appropriate set of actions in any given situation. That said, your processes certainly need to be simpatico with Workfront. And your procedures need to tie the two together. The Workfront administrator is a powerful resource for helping to do just that: defining procedures, mapping processes, and creating or maintaining training materials that educate staff on how to apply a process in a Workfront-driven world.

 

5. Troubleshoot technical Workfront issues and bugs and coordinate with Workfront technical support when necessary (40-48 hours per month)

I mean, come on, can you imagine a world without a support desk?

 

6. Test Workfront beta preview releases and inform executive leadership and the PMO of Workfront Release changes (4-5 hours per month)

Release management is a big one. There are really two scenarios: 1) completely new functionality or features are being released and you need to assess whether it makes sense to leverage them; or 2) features are being deprecated and you need to game plan how to roll out and train staff on alternatives. The latter doesn’t happen very frequently but when it does it poses a huge risk. Which is why someone needs to stay on top of the releases.

  • Workfront conducts three releases a year that have minor and significant changes to the software. It is recommended that a Workfront administrator or a dedicated resource review and test all new features in the Preview Sandbox region prior to launch
  • Testing is conducted to confirm that current workflows and processes will not be negatively impacted

 

7. Project development and management (1-2 hours per month)

These activities ring particularly true for organizations that don’t yet have fully matured project management methodologies—organizations where project plans may be subject to frequent change or the portfolio/project hierarchy is still fluid. But even teams that have been “PMO-ing” for ages will still find that they need to make the occasional change as they better learn how to take advantage of things like workflow automation and some of the other collaborative features of Workfront.

  • Create project templates in coordination with the PMO
  • Quarterly portfolio, program, and project audits
  • Quarterly queue audits

 

8. Perform general maintenance and updates of the Workfront system (4-8 hours per month)

Invariably things need to get tidied up. Even with the most careful user base there are errors and incorrect settings. And while it’s easy enough to ignore these things, they can go a long way to ensuring data integrity. And if you don’t care about data integrity right now, you will when it comes time to perform operational analysis. Want to know how long projects for a specific line of business take? Then you need to make sure the necessary custom fields are filled out. Need to re-baseline your project benchmarks? Then you need to have confidence in your duration actuals. At the end of the day, the data is all incredibly important, and while users do their best, you need a system of checks and balances to help ensure integrity and accuracy.

 

9. Create configuration documentation for all internal changes and updates to the Workfront system (1-2 hours per month)

A lot of organizations don’t take this one seriously. They see it as needless overhead. But from experience I can tell you it’s anything but. Configuration documentation is basically a requirements and design artifact that gets created when you implement the system and gets updated with each major change you make. It serves, in this sense, as a change log so that if ever you make a serious design/architecture faux pas you have a historical record of what things got changed from so that you can more easily change them back. Trust me when I say nothing is worse than implementing a major change only for there to be user mutiny and no quick means to change things back.

 

10. Traffic intake management (8-12 per month)

Depending on your processes or how many licenses you have, the number of users that can create projects might be incredibly limited. In these instances, traffic and project set up are handled, primarily, by system administrators. They act as traffic managers and make sure all the requisite details on custom forms are filled out and that all approvals are completed in accordance to PMO processes (as applicable). While this area of responsibility is more closely aligned with business users, it can often fall within the purview of sys admins and, when it does, it can take up a significant amount of time.

 

By now, hopefully you’ve realized not just how important dedicated sys admin support is, but how much of it there is to do. It takes a lot of time from a very skilled resource and can be incredibly difficult for someone to do “in the margins”. If you’ve been doing the math you know my “starter list” can easily eat up over 70% of an FTE. And that’s before we even delve into more advanced functions like operational analysis and continual process improvement. The moral of the story is that, if you’re wondering if a dedicate Workfront administrator will have enough to do, you’re asking the question the wrong way. The real question is “who will support these responsibilities if you don’t have a dedicated administrator?”

 

If you’re interested in learning more about what to look for in a Workfront system administrator or if you’d like information on our managed services, contact us at info@leappoint.com.

 

5 questions to ask yourself if you’re debating getting a system admin for Workfront

Many of our clients ask if they should hire a Workfront system administrator. As an ex-sys admin myself, my short answer is almost always “yes”. Workfront, like any other SaaS application in your stack, needs consistent love and care to ensure you’re getting the most out it. And as such, I highly recommend adding a full-time sys admin to your team. In fact, depending on the size of your Workfront instance, you may need more than one. But before you decide to hire a Workfront administrator, ask yourself the following questions:

 

  1. Do your current resources have the time necessary to maintain and update your Workfront instance?
  2. How many users will actively use Workfront?
  3. How mature is the PMO/project management function at your organization?
  4. Does your team/department have the budget to hire a Workfront system administrator?
  5. Has your organization used a Portfolio Project Management (PPM) tool in the past?

 

Let’s take a look at each of these questions in more detail and consider how and why they impact the potential need for a system administrator.

 

1. Do your current resources have the time necessary to maintain and update your Workfront instance?

If your resources do not have the time to test, maintain, and update your Workfront instance, it is highly recommended that you invest in a Workfront administrator or hire a consulting company [insert shameless self promotion for LeapPoint] to handle admin responsibilities. One of the biggest misconceptions about SaaS applications is that you pay someone to implement them for you and then you’re done. Full stop. No more changes required. The reality though, is that environments are in an almost constant state of flux. As users gain a more complete understanding of what the system can and can’t do, their requirements often change; as teams and processes and procedures all evolve, so too must the system configuration; as new features are rolled by the software vendor you need someone there to assess what they are, if they should be leveraged, and then actually implement the necessary changes. When you start to tally up the list of things that need to be done it becomes pretty clear that it’s a difficult responsibility for someone to assume in their spare time. And that’s before routine things like fielding user questions or creating reports.

 

2. How many users will actively use Workfront?

This question really builds upon the previous.  Just because you have X-number of users does not necessarily mean you need Y-number of system admins. However, when you think about maintaining and updating Workfront for the various user bases, there’s obviously a correlation between the number of users and the number of teams, groups, and processes and, in turn, the general complexity of the configuration. Many large enterprises have hundreds if not thousands of active users. And so managing licenses, teams, groups, and companies within Workfront takes significant time and the larger your active user base, the more likely you’ll need a Workfront administrator. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule, my experience has been that organizations typically benefit from a dedicated system admin at around 100 paid licenses (Work or Plan) and an additional 1/2 – 1 FTE for every 150-200 users past that. While it may sound like overkill to some, remember that the system admins are really the ones who ensure things run like a well-oiled machine. They’re the ones who are going to make sure you’re able to use the system to drive measurable business value.

 

3. How mature is the PMO/project management function at your organization?

Successful change management takes time, energy, and money. The more significant the change, the more of each of those things it usually takes. So when we think about the project management maturity of an organization, there’s going to be a very strong correlation between how nascent or unstructured their approach to project management is and the degree of change inherent in bringing in a very structured, very robust PPM tool like Workfront (see “Has your organization used a Portfolio Project Management (PPM) tool in the past?” for more on PPM). Having a dedicated Workfront system administrator can help promote and implement PMO initiatives or related PM processes if you don’t have a formal PMO. Even if you don’t have clear workflows and processes (or perhaps especially if you don’t), a dedicated Workfront administrator can help reduce the time it takes to implement changes at your organization, especially if change happens frequently.

 

4. Does your team/department have the budget to hire a Workfront system administrator?

The one’s pretty self explanatory. You can’t buy what you can’t afford. A couple of thoughts on the topic though. When making the case for sys admin support think about the previous questions and the fact that the effort related to them isn’t really optional. If you want Workfront—or any SaaS application—to be successful and deliver valuable impact to the business, these activities all need to be given dedicated attention, even if the attention isn’t coming from a dedicated resource. So if you don’t hire a sys admin, those responsibilities still have to go somewhere. And that usually means tradeoffs in terms of productivity or quality or potentially both. The other consideration I’ll throw out is that, in a lot of organizations, it can be easier to get budget for contractor support than headcount. It’s also easier to contract out part-time system admin work than to find a direct part-time hire. Together these facts help bolster the business case for this type of support, especially when you can demonstrate the value a sys admin will bring (or the risk inherent in not having one).

 

5. Has your organization used a Portfolio Project Management (PPM) tool in the past?

Workfront is a complex and powerful PPM tool. With that being said, a Workfront administrator has the knowledge and capabilities to configure your Workfront instance as efficiently as possible. When thinking about the cost-benefit of sourcing a sys admin versus using someone from your existing team, don’t discount the learning curve required to truly become an expert. And not just an expert in Workfront. But an expert in PPM methodology as well—object hierarchy, object relationship, etc. And then think of all of that in the context of having to manage and administer Workfront as part of a secondary responsibility. It’s sort of like trying to fly the plane while building it……while trying to learn to fly…..while trying to learn to build an airplane. A Workfront system admin is someone who will come equipped with all of this knowledge, helping you drastically reduce the time to value on your Workfront investment.

 

Ok, so DO I need a Workfront system administrator?

A good administrator will know how to configure your Workfront system to maximize user engagement, increase overall tool efficiency, and improve the effectiveness of the system and the way it’s used. They will know the limitations of the tool and when to “customize” objects (i.e., develop new features that are not out of the box features) in order to meet your organization’s demands. And they’ll know how to strategically “evolve” the configuration to provide continued improvements at a digestible pace. In a nutshell, they’ll enable your organization to leverage Workfront to drive tangible business value. So do you need one? Almost certainly.

 

But not every organization can justify hiring a full-time Workfront administrator. Some organizations repurpose an existing role so that part of the resource’s time will be devoted to Workfront administrative duties. Other organizations contract consulting firms like LeapPoint to perform Workfront administrator roles on their behalf. Either way, hiring or contracting a Workfront administrator will help your organization maximize user engagement, mitigate technical bugs and issues, and reduce the time and cost of fixing, maintaining, and updating your Workfront instance.

 

Still not sure? In the next post I’ll delve into more details about what the day-to-day looks like for many admins, providing a discrete list of responsibilities to help the Workfront community get a better sense of the full scope of the role, and discussing how Workfront administrators can help drive continuous improvement for the organization.

 

Want to learn more about system admin support? Contact us at info@leappoint.com.