Resource Management by Smartsheet gives Cornerstone a clearer view of resource planning to meet travel technology demands
With Resource Management by Smartsheet, Cornerstone Information Systems can more easily and accurately plan resourcing for customer projects to set customer expectations about scheduling and completion.
"Resource Management by Smartsheet reduced the workload for resourcing by about 90%."
Director of Customer Experience, Cornerstone Information Systems
Business travel has been drastically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with overall bookings sharply down and new restrictions and rules in place to safeguard health. Cornerstone Information Systems provides travel management software and services for customers, including travel agencies and corporate travel managers.
By focusing on solutions that are helping customers adapt their travel programs in the face of the global health crisis, Cornerstone is as busy as ever. With Resource Management by Smartsheet, Cornerstone can improve productivity and organize resources to meet changing customer demands.
Creating technology products to help customers plan
“We have not slowed down; while our transactions have gone down, our work has not,” says Laurie Reese, executive vice president for Customer Services at Cornerstone. “And that’s because people are finding the value in the data and the products that we have.
“We can help clients as they let travelers start to travel: to get information to travelers about whether they have to quarantine or have a COVID-19 test, and to help the travel managers at companies know where their travelers are and approve those trips. We’ve shifted focus a bit to make sure that people can get the data they need when they need it, and to help them re-enter the world of domestic and international travel.”
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Cornerstone created technology products that help customers streamline and automate their corporate travel programs. These products are complemented with services that save customers time and effort while enabling personalization to improve each traveler’s experience.
When the pandemic led to flight cancellations and localized lockdowns, customers needed help tracking the value of unused tickets or keeping up with testing and isolation requirements in travel destinations. Cornerstone is developing new products and evolving existing ones to meet these needs.
More accurate resource forecasting with Resource Management by Smartsheet
The company’s products leverage automation and data analytics to deliver fast and effective results for customers, but its internal project management used to rely on inefficient manual processes. Requests and updates lived in email or spreadsheets, or even handwritten project logs. The customer services team introduced Smartsheet to evolve its processes to enable growth and improve efficiency.
“I could go back to stories from 2002 of what we called the ‘blue folder,’ where we manually wrote down our projects and passed the folder around from desk to desk,” says Jenny Tracy, customer services facilitation manager at Cornerstone.
“Smartsheet is so automated; it’s so much more in alignment with what we do as a company with automation and data and trying to be more efficient. We’ve gradually taken steps to make it more efficient, connecting the dots from when a sale closes in Salesforce all the way through the project and to the end. That’s really what Resource Management by Smartsheet has done for us.”
Cornerstone began using Smartsheet for project management, oversight, and time tracking. However, they needed more to forecast and plan resource utilization. Reese and Amy Burns, director of customer experience, attended Smartsheet ENGAGE 2019 and learned about Resource Management by Smartsheet. They thought it might help them with resource forecasting — essential to closing sales for new customer engagements.
“Having Resource Management by Smartsheet is really important because a big project development ties up a lot of people,” Tracy says. “So when the next project comes in, Laurie and Amy are looking at the pipeline and saying, ‘Oh, Jodi is doing this item and she can’t be taken off it; she’ll be open on Nov. 30, but maybe Jerry will have some time before that; Mark is on vacation for another week.’ Being able to see all those occupied dates can help us establish where the openings are to start the right people on a new project.”
Lasting project process improvements
“When Smartsheet was introduced, we were able to create templates and shore up our project process,” says Burns.
“The next step we integrated was the Control Center process, which connected the dots between the sales process and project implementation process: being able to pull the project in, spin it up, assign resources, and really have that be collaborative and visible to people in the company. Then the third piece is Resource Management by Smartsheet and being able to project out our resourcing. Resource Management by Smartsheet has reduced the workload for resourcing by about 90%.”
More accurate resource forecasting is especially important because many customers put projects on hold in the early days of the pandemic. Resource Management by Smartsheet provides visibility into which projects are on hold, which are stalled, and whether the people assigned to them have been furloughed or reassigned. As customers make decisions about when to restart projects, managers can more quickly reassemble or create new project teams.
Tracy says that having a clearer view of resource availability is also important for meeting customer demands as well as company profitability goals. Managers can track work against budgets and make sure the fullest possible service is being provided.
Efficiency gains through Smartsheet automation
“We have a process called SOW Express that we originally created through Salesforce,” Tracy says. “People could buy buckets of project hours, and we could do work against that. It was kind of automated, but once we got Smartsheet involved, it was really automated. Customers may not fully understand the true efficiency we developed, but if they look at their own data, they would see how much quicker we can get to their work. And we have a dashboard to show the hours available and make sure we don’t leave thousands of dollars on the table.”
More effective project execution boosts profitability
As Resource Management by Smartsheet helps Cornerstone track and visualize data in more detail, the company is initiating a deeper analysis of the time it takes to execute projects. With a better understanding of both the work hours and the speed to execution for work that’s been done in the past, Cornerstone can optimize planning for future projects to improve profitability and process efficiency.
Tracy says she was initially skeptical of Smartsheet, but was won over by how easy the platform was to learn and use. With Smartsheet Academy lessons and online tutorials, she was quickly able to build her skills and attain Smartsheet Product Certification, and is now confident she can tackle more ambitious projects.
“Smartsheet was one of those tools that I probably would not have touched before without some hesitation,” Tracy says. “The power of Smartsheet is huge, but that shouldn’t cloud your view of how easy it is to use.
“I think people can get caught up in that. I was lucky enough to have managers like Amy and Laurie who could help me get over my fears. So if you are taking a look at Smartsheet, it’s best to work within the platform to really see how great it is.”