Category Archives: CaseStudy

Stalis explain how business growth needs more advanced management tools

Stalis Ltd is a Healthcare information domain specialist with more than 25 years’ experience in delivering information management solutions to the NHS. It specialises in data extraction, quality assurance, integration, transformation and reporting in all aspects of healthcare and has earned a reputation for delivering on-time, value for money solutions. In a unique approach, Stalis works in close partnership with its customers to implement a solution that is designed to meet and exceed their aspirations and vision.

The majority of projects it undertakes are data migration from legacy systems into an organisation’s new system; it also provides business intelligence solutions and consultancy services. Stalis’ customes are primarily Acute Trusts and, more recently, community-based services such as Mental Health.

Delivering projects on time, within budget and to a high standard is crucial to its business success. Stalis uses project and resource management software from Asta Development to manage its staff working across multiple projects, programmes and project portfolios and the efficient allocation of resources, particularly staff, which is essential to this business.

Business growth requires more advanced management tools

In 2006, as part of an ongoing quality review of operations, Stalis recognised that it needed a more robust and consistent method of monitoring and managing projects and resources and controlling costs, especially as it was on the cusp of substantial business expansion. Its existing methodology of using standard spreadsheets was no longer going to be able to support the growing needs of the company while maintaining and improving profitability.

As well as a rapid rise in the number of projects it was undertaking, Stalis would also be expanding the types of project it was taking on, moving from fewer developments of bespoke solutions to more product-oriented implementations. This would mean implementing some third-party solutions requiring Stalis to manage external resources while expanding the number of its own staff with a corresponding expansion in skill profiles.

Ali McGuckin, Client Services Director with Stalis Ltd, is responsible for operations, including project delivery to time and to budget, and ultimately is responsible for the implementation of Asta software.

“We had been using inhouse spreadsheets, mainly for expenses, there was no management of projects so it was hard to tell how much time people were really spending on project tasks. We were taking on more projects and, with the acquisition of investors and a new financial system, it became clear we needed to manage projects better, report in a more structured and diligent manner and provide more accurate and up-to-date time analysis. This was particularly key for monthly board reporting and internal operations management. We drew up a business case and presented it to the Board, the ultimate decision makers.”
Ali McGuckin, Client Services Director, Stalis Ltd

Asta Development chosen over the competition

Ali and the team wrote a specification of their needs, and then looked at five companies’ products. “We dismissed two companies straightaway as they did not match up to our scoring system. We had further demonstrations from the remaining companies and chose Asta’s software. Not only did it fulfill our needs but we liked the people and their approach, we felt that they were more on our wavelength and understood our needs.”

“This all happened at the outset of the biggest project we had ever taken on, so it was crucial we got it right. Asta Development made some changes to the software for us to match our needs exactly. We were on a budget, so couldn’t invest in the amount of training we would have liked, but because the software is highly configurable, we were able to configure it as we went along — it grew with us as our experience grew. We reconfigured it again after 18 months to fit our needs even better – after all, busnessses change and the way we develop software has changed.”

In fact, Stalis’ business has continued to change and grow, so much so that reporting has become even more important to the organisation than ever before. Stalis is now evaluating a new product from Asta Development, the new Dashboard Reporting Tool. This is a powerful and fast solution for generating accurate management reports on any combination of project data. With access provided via the web, everyone involved can easily view consolidated information.

Asta software is employed throughout a project’s lifecycle

Stalis employs Asta Development’s planning and resource management software right from the outset of a project’s life. It is used from tender stage, to give the initial outline plan, to the proposal stage for the Trusts, providing a timeline and key activities, through to contract win and allocation of resources and then on an ongoing basis.

“ We have to be quite nimble on resource allocation,” explains Ali. “With a small team it’s important to use resources wisely, people have to be spread around. Fortunately Asta’s software makes this a painless task, we can look at work in progress, and by way of a simple bar chart we can see exactly which individual resources are over- or under-used and it helps us realign resource where it is most needed.”

At any time, the team is working on two to three projects, although this may not sound many, they are large, complex projects and often long-term. Asta software not only helps with the allocation and management of resource and time, but gives a clear indication of forecast requirements.

“Everyone updates their time sheets and these are appplied to the projects on a weekly basis,” explains Ali. “Everyone uses the software, even our contractors. Once we’ve analysed the need and the resouces available we can see what is left against what needs to be done. The software also helps us to predict based on sales forecasts for the year. If we predict we will achieve a certain amount of sales in a year, the software lets us look at the resource required to service those projects and tells us what the head count will be if those sales are to be met. So it helps us know what we can realistically achieve.”

Asta Development software is relied upon to produce accurate and timely reporting

Asta’s software is also used to generate monthly reports to the Board on all the month’s activities. These “resource effort reports” cover project work, product development and non-project work. The reports give consistent, accurate, up-to-date and reliable management reporting information and they are also able to specify how money is spent, track revenue, differentiate between time spent on chargeable as opposed to non-chargeable work, show more accurate forward planning including what if scenarios and show project performance (sales estimate versus actual).

Said Ali, “We used to use spreadsheets as our reporting tool, but it was time-consuming and completely inaccurate. The software lets us report project activity by customer and by activity type, it lets us report on financial costing in terms of planned versus actual and ultimately gives us stricter cost control leading to cost reduction and improved profitability of individual projects. And we know that all of this will be up to date and accurate.”

Asta Development’s value goes deeper than project management

“Having visibility of all projects and resources and making sure we are on budget against what we estimated is, of course, of paramount importance to us,” said Ali. “But when it comes to having to explain why something took longer or cost more, we know that the software contains the answer. We consult it to find out where something slipped or overran. We can pinpoint the certain areas where the problem occurred, for example, we might find out that someone new who was not up to speed was working on the project – so it helps us keep track and provides an audit trail.”

Asta’s software provides other, less expected benefits too, outside of project management. Because time recording is integrated with expenses and linked to a project, the finance department knows which project-related expenses to cost back to the customer. It helps with invoicing because they know what to invoice to which customer.

“For us,” said Ali, “the software links costs, people and projects together, everyone knows exactly what they are being charged for, it’s clear to the Trust and it’s clear to us. But more fundamentally, Asta’s software has changed the way we record our time, and this is what project work heavily relies on.”

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Pera Technology – De-risking the NPD process with Asta Powerproject

If a company is not absolutely certain that its ideas will work in the marketplace, new product development (NPD) can become high risk. Pera Technology brings the knowledge to explore opportunities, the commercial relationships to take the product to market, has access to relevant technology expertise to effectively create the new products and has many years of experience that allow it to foresee and dodge the pitfalls. New product development is a rigorous and intensive process: Pera Technology needed a trusted resource to help it align all of its processes and communications in one place – it chose Asta Powerproject from Asta Development.

“We chose Asta Powerproject because not only did it compare well on price and benefits, it was more robust and had stronger support”
Dr Mark Holden, Resource Manager, Pera Technology

Dr Mark Holden, Resource Manager, Pera Technology, explained: “R&D projects are high risk and things change throughout the process. We need to be able to plan the entire process realistically, identify the skills, resources and experience and hence calculate the cost of research. Before we used Asta Powerproject we had only our account system and spreadsheets. Information was not always up to date, and not easily shared as people had their own versions. The task was made harder because we operate out of several geographic locations. The driver was to find one system to be an accurate information and communication tool for all.”

Pera Technology looked at a number of systems: “We chose Asta Powerproject,” said Mark, “because, not only did it compare well on price and benefits, it was more robust and had stronger support. Our interaction with the sales team was encouraging, it is UK-based and we felt they understood their software so well it gave us more confidence – we believed
Asta’s sales support would be better – and two years down the line it has proved to be so.

Pera Technology’s focus on training proved the right strategy

Asta carried out training on site with all of the staff, 35 UK users and those working from Estonia and Spain. Pera Technology was in the process of reorganising and had a cultural shift to make, since most people liked working with their spreadsheets. “It was cost-effective to carry out the training in-house, in fact half the price of our investment with Asta was for the training service to implement Asta Powerproject,” Mark explained. “Asta gave us good guidance on how long it would take to implement a cultural change, from installation to seeing benefits that would make us understand and trust the software – and they were accurate! We liked the close links with Asta: it got to know our business model and how we operate, and tailored the training for our business.”

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Asta Powerproject still fits the bill for Wandsworth Council Design Services 10 years down the line

The Design Services department at Wandsworth Council is a multi-disciplinary in-house consultancy providing services to maintain and carry out construction and refurbishment work on council properties and public buildings. The department employs Asta Powerproject to help it demonstrate how it can deliver best outcome for the council and to manage its large number of projects successfully from bid, design and construction stage all the way through to implementation and certification.

“Design Services deals with the larger projects won through a fee-bidding process. We use Asta Powerproject primarily for demonstrating our ability to carry out project work at the bidding stage, and for monitoring our resources. By far the most crucial use of the software for us is monitoring our own cash flow and fee-claiming process, and reviewing and monitoring our income over the year”
Bob Holt, Deputy Head of Design Services, Wandsworth Concil

Bob Holt, Deputy Head of Design Services, explains the value of using the software: “Design Services deals with the larger projects won through a fee-bidding process. We use Asta Powerproject primarily for demonstrating our ability to carry out project work at the bidding stage, and for monitoring our resources. By far the most crucial use of the software for us is monitoring our own cash flow and fee-claiming process, and reviewing and monitoring our income over the year.”

Still bringing advantages 10 years down the line

Abbie Snelling, Consultant Business Coordinator,  has been using Asta Powerproject for many years – a proficient user, she was onboard with the software’s initial implementation and has witnessed first hand the benefits it has brought over the years.

She explained: “Prior to using Asta Powerproject, we did all our fee and programming work manually. It was very time-consuming and resource-heavy. When Bob instigated the search for an alternative way in 2000, we researched many providers. We began by exploring MS Project, and even attended a training course — but it fell short. Asta Powerproject turned out to be more user friendly in comparison and its functionality more intuitive. It also catered more for our needs on the financial side. There were some limitations to MS Project that Asta Powerproject did not have, and we found it more versatile.”

Now, 10 years later, Abbie can substantiate why they chose Asta Powerproject: “Just one example of how the software helps us improve on efficiency can be seen in invoicing. When we generated our fee invoices manually we could spend 10 minutes to do just one. Now by clicking a few buttons we can generate a new fee invoice to send to our clients in just 2 to 3 minutes – so it has more than halved our time on this task. Before we had different spreadsheets and databases; it was all very time consuming. Now we have Asta-generated macros tailored for us – they do the calculations at the click of a button.”

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Denbighshire County Council’s ICT can provide more for less with the Asta Powerproject Suite

Denbighshire County Council ICT department started to use the Asta Powerproject suite a few years ago following the announcement of a number of budget cuts that would necessitate a reduction in people resources. A busy department managing about 60 live projects at a time (and a pipeline that was always full), the ICT department soon recognised that a more professional approach to resource planning and management would be essential to face the challenge of providing “more for less.” Like many other organisations it was using basic, disparate project management systems and spreadsheets that were not interconnected and could not provide a whole view of all projects, the true workload and the ability to future plan. The department implemented the Asta Powerproject suite to help maximise the available resource that was stretched across a growing number of projects.

Transformation of services is key to cost effciencies

Robert Douglass is Systems Project Manager for the Business Solutions department within ICT. He helps coordinate the transformation of service delivery throughout the Authority and maintaining best practice implementation throughout the department.

“The role of Business Solutions is important to the Authority,” said Robert. “Computer systems can make services more efficient, and efficiency can make resource and cost savings. The Asta Powerproject suite helps us manage transformation-based projects.”
Robert Douglass, Systems Project Manager

One example where Asta Powerproject was used to deliver a project that transformed the service and significantly reduced the resource required was the setting up of a Proforma invoice system. The function had been paper-based for many years and had become very timeconsuming. The Proforma invoices would be sent to a department whose responsibility it was to type up the invoices and process them.

“Business Solutions developed a webbased system to automate the invoicing process, which freed up resource to be deployed more effectively elsewhere,” explained Robert. “This project was quite complex and Asta Powerproject helped us to manage each stage of development, from design to delivery. It is particularly good at managing highly structured projects.”

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