@Elisabeth Chin is a content developer at Praxent, where she writes articles about software development, product strategy, and more.
In 2017, Praxent won a new client with a thriving retail business and the need for process automation. Bursting at the seams with the amount of work being handled, the company was ripe for an operational makeover that would scale with their business. The company had only a small internal IT team and no technical subject matter experts in charge of maintaining their inventory and data management system. We stepped in to serve in both capacities.
Creating and implementing a digital strategy for this client has been an exciting journey. Aligned on a vision for process automation that would open wide the door for growth, we dove head first into discovering and developing the tools to make it all come together.
The result for our client: A custom data management system plus a sustainable process for ongoing maintenance and improvements.
The result for us: Inspiration for strengthening internal operations in a growing branch of our own business.
Process Automation and Custom Data Management for an Austin-Based Retail Company
Global Resale refurbishes and sells used technology devices like laptops, cell phones and servers. In a huge warehouse, they test these used devices by the hundreds, scanning for quality and functionality. Once scanned and assessed, Global Resale creates product attributes that are visible in their store for customers to make educated purchases in line with their budgets and needs.
When Global Resale came to Praxent, they were testing nearly 1000 units simultaneously at their manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas. The process they were using to run the tests created a significant amount of data pollution. And the cost per test was eating into their profits.
Their infrastructure was poorly integrated, cumbersome, and expensive. It broke often and required a lot of manual maintenance. Plus, Global Resale was forced to pay extra for tech support almost every time something went wrong.
We partnered with Global Resale to deliver a process automation solution that would relieve their integration woes. We modernized their existing software, creating a flexible, all-in-one system that now serves as the digital infrastructure for managing almost all of their business data, including inventory, repair tracking, batching, sales, and more. As an extension of their team, we took ownership of Global Resale’s business objectives, creating a technological infrastructure that works seamlessly with the company’s business model.
With the improved system up and running, we began the transition into ongoing maintenance and support, stepping in to serve as an IT team for Global Resale.
From Custom Solution to IT Support: Working Out the Kinks of a Company-Wide Data Management System
Our process automation project resulted in a renewed digital infrastructure for Global Resale, company-wide. In order to maintain efficiency and productivity for this system, ongoing technical support is essential; yet, implementing an internal process at Global Resale that capitalized on IT talent was initially a serious challenge.
While the integrated data management solution extended the company’s productive capacity, in the process it also brought growth pains. As employees at Global Resale encountered small bugs and issues, or management sought to add new features to the growing list of the system’s capabilities, all parties faced the need for a process to handle requests in an organized and cost-effective manner.
We came alongside Global Resale to identify a sustainable solution for managing ongoing system maintenance. We eventually landed on Jira Service Desk as the ideal platform for facilitating clear communication and prioritization between Global Resale and their IT team at Praxent.
Jira Service Desk: A Process for Streamlining IT Support
Before Service Desk, employees and managers involved in running the day-to-day business were sending requests to their Praxent IT team at random and in bulk via email, text messages, or phone calls. Prioritizing these requests was nearly impossible due to the number of people and opinions involved in submitting requests. The resulting disorganization was a threat to budget and productivity.
Implementing Jira Service Desk encouraged Global Resale to delegate an IT director who serves as the single point of contact with the IT team at Praxent. Concurrently, our internal point of contact with the client helps vet issues and assign them within Praxent as they come, working with the client to make sure the most important items are handled first.
Teams on both sides of the service desk now enjoy a more streamlined experience, and IT has operated under budget for the past six months.
Catherine Vo and Kelly Morrison, Business and Technology Analysts at Praxent, describe how the process for requesting features or reporting bugs now runs like a well-oiled machine. Here is their step-by-step summary of our workflow with Jira Service Desk:
Global Resale employees and managers discuss and prioritize bugs and feature requests internally prior to entering anything in Service Desk. This step has empowered Global Resale to take on greater ownership of managing their own digital infrastructure.
By communicating with each other first, the company is able to better understand how their system works together and what’s important for each branch of activity, whether it’s sales, inventory or factory floor automation.
If the IT director at Global Resale determines the issue or feature warrants a ticket, then he opens a Jira Service Desk request and sets the priority of the ticket.
When the ticket is opened, our point of contact at Praxent receives an email.
Thanks to Jira Service Desk customization features, we were able to set up the ticketing system with custom fields so that we get the exact information we need from the client when they submit a request.
Our designated point of contact within Praxent reviews the ticket and asks for any needed clarification by commenting on the ticket. When the ticket is ready to be worked on, it’s assigned to a developer.
The developer works on the assigned issue and updates the Praxent point of contact for Global Resale once the task is resolved.
The Praxent point of contact updates the status of the Jira Service Desk ticket. Jira Service Desk then notifies the Global Resale IT director that the task is complete.
Less Email, More Results: How Service Desk Facilitates Internal Cooperation
Time and again, we’ve seen from clients like Global Resale that growth pains represent opportunities to improve internal operations. Not only do we coach clients on making the most of these opportunities, we also apply this same optimism to our own business at Praxent.
Over the past two years, we began building an in-house marketing team to own our brand development and boost online visibility. The marketing team develops and executes the company brand strategy while managing all content on the Praxent website, including functionality, graphics, blogging, case studies and content updates, plus creating additional marketing materials such as slideshows and pamphlets.
As website bugs, design requests, and new content proposals began to come in full-force from the rest of the company via email and instant message, our small marketing team struggled to respond to the highest priorities while not losing track of lower priority items that deserved future attention.
When the Praxent marketing team saw how well Jira Service Desk worked for Global Resale, they decided to harness cross-benefits of using the system internally, as well. Today, our marketing team uses Jira Service Desk for:
With Jira Service Desk, anyone in the company can submit a website bug alert, content update, or graphics request. Our marketing director prioritizes all tickets as they come in, assigning them to designers, writers and developers.
With JIRA Service Desk, marketing has set up a process for funneling requests that matter, and weeding out the ones that don’t before they even make it to the director’s inbox. Custom fields in Service Desk require Praxent teams to thoroughly think through their request and provide all required information before submitting a ticket. This step has cut back the amount of time the marketing team was formerly spending on gathering requirements. While one-off email requests may be easier to send, they often lead to half-thought requests with very little information about what needs to be done and why.
It didn’t take long for the rest of Praxent to discover that requesting help from the marketing team in an orderly fashion was far more likely to produce desired results. While using Jira Service Desk is a discipline that takes some getting used to, the hassle is minor compared to the advantages enjoyed by all.
Prioritizing, Communicating, & Getting Work Done
In his article on habits for highly effective software projects, our CEO, Tim Hamilton, emphasizes the importance of long-term planning and prioritization when developing software. Using Covey’s matrix as a conceptual guide, he makes the case for sorting feature requests and product development goals into one of four quadrants:
At Praxent, we’ve taken this mindset to heart. Not only do we coach our clients on a prioritized product development rhythm, but we also cultivate the same discipline internally. All internal decisions at Praxent, from development, to design, to marketing and business, are based on urgency and importance.
With Jira Service Desk, we now have a tool we can use to help drowning teams implement a rhythm of prioritization and clear communication.
Praxent is a custom software company and digital consultancy that empowers thought leaders, growth companies and visionary startups to unlock their greater profitability and company valuation through strategic technology tools.