Mark Anthony Group uses MS Project to unite teams

With brands like Mike’s Hard Lemonade proving a hit with bar goers, Vancouver’s Mark Anthony Group (MAG) has chosen a project management system to coordinate across their dispersed workforce.

As the company grew, opening

offices across Canada and in the United States, systems development manager Mihai Strusievici said its old system of using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to manage project timelines via e-mail was getting in the way of their business growth and productivity.

“”The need was for a way to better take advantage of our resources, to better collaborate inside the project teams, and to deliver the project faster and better,”” said Strusievici.

MAG’s IT department supports a number of different business groups within the company, from manufacturing and marketing to field sales, and typical project will involve people from different business groups, with different schedules and tasks.

“”Usually we have multiple projects running at the same time, which makes it very difficult for myself as a systems development manager to manage those projects in a manual way, with e-mails and pieces of paper,”” said Strusievici.

While the firm looked at a number of different enterprise project management solutions, Strusievici said he settled on Microsoft Project 2002 because MAG was already a user of Microsoft software. MAG installed Active Directory last year to store its employee information, and also use Microsoft Office.

“”Other products didn’t take advantage of all this infrastructure and didn’t make sense for us in our environment,”” said Strusievici. “”All MAG is using Microsoft Office, and Project has very easy integration with Office.””

MAG first began using Project within the IT group on a pilot basis, fine-tuning the software and customizing it for the company before adding business groups one by one and bringing the employees up to speed.

“”We haven’t used outside project management training yet but we’ve probably come to the point where we’ve mastered the basic functions and will want to look at training for the advanced features,”” said Strusievici.

While it’s difficult to quantify the benefits the company has seen from the project management tools, Strusievici said there have been intangible benefits.

“”Right away, we saw a lot more visibility in how projects are run, and we saw easier collaboration, which leads to a happier project team,”” said Strusievici. “”It has eliminated a lot of frustration.””

While MAG’s in-house IT staff handled the Project instillation and set-up, Microsoft Canada product manager Joe Galati said most customers work with a reseller or partner to customize the solution for their own particular business needs.

“”You always need a partner to come in and help you understand what are the processes, policies and procedures that you want to undertake when you’re managing projects, and what kind of reports do executives want to see,”” said Galati. “”A partner can help a company understand that for themselves, and tailor the solution to fit their needs.””

Because of MAG’s existing Office infrastructure, Galati added the learning curve for getting the users up to speed with Project and its features is significantly lessened.

“”It’s part of the Office family so there’s not relearning that has to occur in learning to use the menus or the help engine, and all the other features they’ve come to know in Office,”” said Galati. “”It’s a very easy to use tool. Inputting tasks, assigning people to them and setting out a project timeline is really easy to do.””

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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