hel·i·pad

/ˈheləˌpad/

noun
  1. a landing and takeoff area for helicopters.

At ExtensionEngine, we use the Agile methodology for delivery. We do Agile development, we do Agile design and we do Agile project management and online instructional design. Our model for charging for our work is time and materials. We don’t do fixed bid, waterfall projects (we experimented with that once in college and, ya, we don’t talk about ever going back to that dark place again…).Agile is awesome for delivering great products, but if you don’t have experience with the methodology (or you haven’t done it with us before) it can be hard to develop enough trust to take that leap and “see what happens” in 4 or 6 months when the project is supposed to launch.

We develop a project plan and that is what we use to set expectations at three different levels:

  • 50,000 foot view – Relationship
  • 10,000 foot view – Helipad
  • Ground level view – Jira, Basecamp, Github, etc.

For years, we used spreadsheets. Then we shifted to best-in-class software and a strict requirement for APIs. Harvest. Expensify. Bill.com. Zoho. Google Drive. These all integrate with Helipad to set and manage expectations so you get what you want, when you want and how you want it.

Helipad is the place from which you take off from and safely land at ExtensionEngine.

We needed an internal tool to provide us with ongoing data on our own projects and performance. There wasn’t a product on the market that would meet our needs — so we developed one ourselves!


Background


Helipad is an internal tool developed by ExtensionEngine to provide a continuously updated assessment of overall company health by collating and presenting data collected across its projects. It quickly answers the question: How are we doing?

The Challenge

An organization’s senior management sets strategic direction. Project Managers are immersed in the day-to-day details of getting the work done. What lies in between represents the very health of an organization — the ongoing work flow, billings and expenditures, timeliness of projects, and measurements of customer satisfaction. Getting one’s head wrapped around this picture — broader than that of the PM and more detailed than a strategic vision — can be a challenge.This was the case with ExtensionEngine, a dynamic company with hundreds of employees based on two continents six time zones apart working on multiple projects. To be able to assess our health and progress at any given time, we needed a tool that would allow us to:

  • Determine how our projects are going, whether they are on time and on track.
  • Track spending vs. progress to determine if projects are profitable.
  • Identify pockets in our overall workflow that need attention.
  • Better manage workforce assignments.
  • Immediately integrate and crunch time-tracking data.

The Solution

ExtensionEngine tasked some of its top developers with the mission of developing a tool to meet these internal needs. The result is Helipad, a tool that provides an overview of EE’s work flow and performance. Helipad features include:

  • A continually updated picture of all company projects and their current status.
  • Drill down into individual projects to view budget burn-down vs. project progress, billings, team members, and customer satisfaction to date.
  • Pages for each employee displaying skill sets, current assignments, and feedback.
  • Real-time syncing with Harvest time-tracking software.
  • Integration of historical project data.
  • A clean, attractive graphical interface that makes it possible to absorb pertinent information at a glance.

The Result


Helipad is a valuable tool that helps EE assess our current health and spot potential problems before they become real problems. The display makes it easy to quickly identify trends in the data that may point to insufficiencies so that we can correct course. The employee database allows us to continually assess resource allocations are optimized and to determine the best way to make reassignments to keep projects on track. Project tracking makes it possible for us to learn what is working, what isn’t to achieve the continuous improvement that is part of our company culture.

ee_adminHelipad