Blackboard Taps Smartsheet to Manage Campus Payment System Implementations
Blackboard Inc., founded in 1997 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is an industry leader providing enterprise technology and solutions for education. Blackboard Transact provides an all-in-one, campus payment card and door-entry system that gives students access to everything from vending machines to financial aid services.
When the Transact team needed to move from siloed tools to a solution to help them manage simultaneous installations across multiple campuses, they chose Smartsheet.
- Large (2000 - 9999)
- North America
- Project Visibility
"The best compliment we got — and it’s really a compliment to Smartsheet as well, was from several vice presidents and business leaders who said, 'You guys do a better job managing our team’s resources than we do."
Senior Director of Product at Blackboard
A college student pauses in front of a campus vending machine, swipes her student ID, and heads off to class munching from a bag of veggie chips.
It's an unremarkable, everyday activity. But behind the scenes, there are digital miracles taking place, and Blackboard Transact is the company that makes them happen.
50+ Client Implementations a Year, and Not Much Time to Complete Them
Installing the student payment system on one campus is challenging enough. But let's say you need to set up the system on many campuses. And, you need to do the work during the short window of time when most students are off-campus.
That's a typical scenario for Blackboard's Transact team, which does scores of client implementations per summer. For each project, the team needs to: understand requirements, manage equipment delivery, review technical requirements, set up servers, and then get the systems up and running. It’s a complex process and there is no time for errors or inefficiencies.
Early on, managing the projects was just part of the challenge the team faced. They also had problems sharing pre-sale information with clients, managing expectations after the sale, and organizing multiple workstreams and disparate teams.
"Our clients range dramatically in their degree of IT abilities and resources," says David Minutella, PMP, Senior Manager of Client Services at Blackboard Transact. "With Smartsheet, we can say, we'll provide everything including professional project management."
How 'Living Timelines' Help People Communicate
Prior to adopting Smartsheet, the Transact team had trouble keeping big projects organized. "We were sending a lot of emails back and forth, and working out of Excel documents that were really complicated and difficult to manage version control," says Minutella. "It was giving an unprofessional impression."
After adopting Smartsheet, however, the team was able to accomplish three key objectives:
1. The presale task overview sheet helped set expectations and increase confidence throughout the project.
"We would share the plan sheet in Smartsheet with everyone on the project team," says Minutella. "It was just one piece of paper or one screen to look at, rather than everyone emailing the documents trying to figure out what we're doing. "
2. "Living timelines" gave clients better visibility into the project.
"We actually use timelines to drive most of our customer interactions," says Taran Lent, Senior Director of Product at Blackboard.
3. Sharing sheets with vendors in the field allowed for real-time updates and information.
“It takes a lot of coordination,” says Lent. "You need all of the critical parties coming together at a very specific moment ‘this day at this time’, and you need to have access to the facilities, network data jacks activated, keys to equipment and device configuration for everything to happen successfully ."
No More 80-Minute Project Update Meetings
Since adopting Smartsheet, the Blackboard Transact team has been better able to distribute workloads across multiple contacts, while still giving visibility to company leadership. They’re no longer holding 80-minute status meetings for each project, each week, saving thousands of hours of project management. And they’ve created an organized, professional experience for their customers, which in turn has helped them close more deals.
“The best compliment we got," says Lent, "and it's really a compliment for Smartsheet as well, was from several vice presidents and business offices who said, 'You guys do a better job managing our team's resources than we do.'"
In the end, though, the biggest impact just might be on Blackboard itself.
“There’s a lot of different people contributing in different ways,” says Lent, and Smartsheet has helped “create a sense of shared ownership.”
The team collaborates. Clients are thrilled. And a lot of students arrive to campus and head to class happy and ready to learn.
Learn more about Smartsheet for Project Management or contact us for more information.