Cisco Systems: An AtTask customer profile

Cisco Systems' Communications Resource Center (CRC) needed a single tool to help manage its communications projects. AtTask boosted the CRC's on-time delivery dramatically, helped define what resources are needed, and how they are being deployed.

Author's Note: Speaking with end users about how they made their technology decision and why is part of my routine here at the Kusnetzky Group. This practice has led to the creation of the Making the IT Decision collection of eBooks. This time, I spoke with Dan Taylor, Manager in the Cisco Systems, Inc.'s Communications Resource Center (CRC). The CRC provides consulting and web development services to other groups within Cisco — some pre-funded, some pay-for-service.

A bit about Cisco

Cisco designs, manufactures, and sells networking and information technology products worldwide. Some of the products the company offers are Internet protocol (IP) communications products, storage products, IP phones, access points, and servers. The company was founded in 1984 and is headquartered in San Jose, California.

What were you doing that required this type of technology?

Six teams were combined into one new team with the idea of being able to better provide communications expertise across the company. This made it possible for groups that never had communications expertise to have access to the appropriate staff members. To deliver the work for both client bases, the CRC had to use two separate tools to track projects. Management requested regular reports on CRC projects and resource expenditure, and this caused a massive, once-a-month scramble that ate up man-hours and compromised work already in the pipeline.

What products did you consider before making a selection?

We looked at about six different products, including four different home-grown solutions. We selected a product that was already being used by Cisco’s Communication Services Bureau, software by AtTask.

Why did you select this product?

AtTask offered a fast ramp-up and eliminated the need for two separate product management tools. It was easy to use for the team and offered powerful customization and reporting options. AtTask also came with one additional bonus: The solution cost 15 percent of what competing solutions cost and would take a few months to implement, rather than a few years.

What tangible benefit have you received through the use of this product?

AtTask made the exercise of creating workflows simple and user-friendly, and now the team is able to build a disciplined service delivery environment that enabled us to turn around new requests much quicker than ever before. Furthermore, AtTask provided the team with instant visibility into project activity, status, schedules, assigned resources and next steps through dashboards and reports, boosting the CRC's on-time delivery rate from 96 to 99 percent in just one fiscal quarter.

The level of utilization we are able to gain by being able to see who is busy and what they're working on was important. Most of our workers are contractors. Keeping them all busy is key to our success. This tool has helped us maintain a high level of utilization.

What advice would you offer others who are facing similar circumstances?

The first piece of advice is to become comfortable with what you don't know. When a group starts up, there is no way of knowing what resources, and how much of them, will be required.  It is important to use tools that that do that for you. The next step is being able to see what the output will be.

Start thinking outside the box to isolate what you don't know and then look for products that will help you get an understanding so you can build a viable business.