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With a legacy of design excellence and service established more than 60 years ago, the 20-person PBWS Architects team focuses primarily on educational facilities for all ages in the LA area. According to Kirstyn Bonneau—a partner with more than 15 years at the firm—PBWS has the ideal mix of new architects and experienced ones to produce the best results for their clients. And the culture at PBWS is a good one—they maintain an open office where it’s easy to chat with the partners. Because the team is smaller, “you get to do everything, but you don’t have to be an expert in everything,” Bonneau said. As a rule, everyone at PBWS wears a lot of hats, including Allison Ward Moorman, a project manager accustomed to heavy spreadsheet use who has been with PBWS since 2017.
Prior to adopting Mosaic, the PBWS team was using a lot of spreadsheets—and, according to Bonneau, “things weren’t happening that should have been.” Their top-down staffing projection sheet—a color-coded Excel document—”mostly got updated, but sometimes not very well.” At the same time, the team would complete the three-week-look ahead sheet every Monday with what they were working on for the next three weeks. Then it was up to Bonneau to fill in the gap and make sure these two resources told the same story. But what they were really missing was “a thorough review of where we stood on the projects and how the staffing was impacting the project budgets.” It was, as Bonneau put it, “very much just gut check, hand wavy stuff.”
The team tried to use their accounting software’s widgets to provide some helpful data, but the tools were far from intuitive and it was taking valuable time away from their architects doing what they were great at: drawing and working with clients. Without an intuitive, comprehensive resource management tool, “it took us a lot longer than it should have to realize when we were behind on a project or when a project scope had gotten pushed beyond what was in the contract.” If the team could see that happening sooner, “then it’d be easier to get additional services for that scope creep” instead of “eating costs or spending a lot of time trying to convince a client of what happened and why they should pay us more for it,” Bonneau said.
Enter Mosaic. During the initial demo call, the team was impressed with how straightforward, visual, and flexible Mosaic was. “It’s simple enough that the project managers—with a few tutorials and some instruction from Moorman—can use it," Bonneau said. According to Moorman, one of the big problems with using their accounting software was that everyone was afraid to mess something up in there. “With Mosaic, you can push things around, nudge things, and you're not going to hurt anything.” Plus, “the user interface is nice. The fonts are good. It’s clean,” she said. Bonneau agreed: "The user interface is a big part of what sort of sold it to us, because it doesn't look like accounting software,” she said. "It's less intimidating to the staff.”
Ultimately, the team chose Mosaic for its workload planning and budget comparison (i.e., spent-versus-planned) functionality. “Those are the main things we’ve been working on getting people familiar with,” Bonneau said. One of the biggest challenges that PBWS has experienced getting everyone using Mosaic is the fact that it's new. “Managers are not used to having to think about [their work] in this way,” Bonneau said. Fortunately, though, they’re getting their feet wet. "The nice thing about being an early customer of Mosaic is that we just sort of started dipping our employees' toes into it,” Moorman said. "It's like, OK, this is what the work plan is. You need to just start putting those things in. Don't worry about the big picture. Just take this one little thing. So, that's how we replaced the three-week look-ahead with Work Plans. Just get your workload in for the next three weeks. And then it was like, OK, we're replacing the staffing projection Excel sheet. Now you need to work on your phases. And so we kind of rolled it out to them. And then every month, it gets a little bit more detailed. That’s been a good way to roll it in.”
Partnering with Mosaic early also enabled the PBWS team to provide feedback about what was—and wasn’t—working. And Mosaic listened; they’ve been pleased with Mosaic’s efforts and willingness to respond to feedback.