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How innovative leader Arizona State University leverages Tempo’s toolkit

From Team '23

Tempo Team

Based in Tempe, Arizona State University (ASU) is one of the largest universities in the United States, with approximately 16,000 faculty and staff. The UTO is the university’s central IT department, which provides support to five campuses across Arizona, as well as campuses in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., and global research partnerships. It has 585 full-time staff, with another 877 distributed, non-UTO technologists across the university. 

John Wilson and Edwin Amador both work in the University Technology Office (UTO). Wilson is the systems analyst principal and Amador is the systems analyst. They have been using Timesheets by Tempo and Tempo Capacity Planner since 2016.

Reworking Jira and adding Tempo to their toolset

Back in 2016, the department decided to look at the tools they were using to see whether they were still meeting everyone’s needs. They determined that one of their tools was much more than they needed and the set up of Jira also needed some work.

“Four years ago, ASU was using Jira, but with little to no governance or dedicated internal support,” Amador said. “Since then, we have completely turned our ecosystem around from the wild, wild west that it once was to the premier work tracking tool that the institution offers. Tempo has been extremely instrumental in that success.” 

Wilson agrees that Tempo’s tools were a critical addition to their toolset. 

“In the end, we saw that Jira and Confluence included most of the collaboration tools we needed, but it didn't include the time management stuff that we needed,” Wilson added. “When we added Timesheets and Planner into the mix with Jira and Confluence, everything we needed was available with that suite.”

How the work of the UTO is organized in Jira

The work of the UTO is broadly grouped into different categories. First are “projects”, which are high-profile, high-priority, and high-impact schemes which have a definite beginning and end. There are also “products” and “services”, which are support for and maintenance of university-wide products, including the university’s websites and student-facing pages and other tool suites like Microsoft, Zoom, Slack, Atlassian, and Tempo. 

They took everything that was in flight in their previous project management system and made it work in the new one with four different unique sets of configurations, which are called ‘packages’. Using what they learned from their initial deployment, they subsequently expanded into enterprise-wide support, adding an additional 5 UTO and 8 non-UTO package designs. An integral part of the templates has always been the marriage between Jira and Tempo.

“We need to make sure we collect the information that people need – no more and no less,” Wilson said. “That's a principle that's very broadly understood, but we also wanted to make sure that we tried to future-proof our designs.”

Because the UTO has standardized these templates, the data can now roll all the way up to leadership in a very simplified manner regardless of the type of work being done.

How Tempo answers questions at all levels

All levels of management want to know how much time and energy has been put into the different categories of work at the UTO. Jira and Tempo are critical to answering these questions. 

Tempo has offered the flexibility to change reporting based on the organization's needs. Here are some of the questions the UTO has been able to answer at different levels:

For leadership

  • How much work can we do? 

  • How much work are we doing? 

  • What non-project work are we doing? 

  • What work can we stop doing? 

  • How much new work can we take on? 

For supervisors (team leads) 

  • How much time is my team taking to do what they do? 

  • What kind of work takes the most/ least time? 

  • Do we need more resources? 

  • Does my team have capacity to take on new work?

For project managers 

  • How much time is it taking to complete this project? 

  • How much time do different types of work take? 

For service partnerships 

  • How much time/work did we do for each customer?

With insight into these and other questions, management can leverage Tempo to take appropriate action.

Using Reports with Timesheets and Planner

Tempo Reports provide visibility into the data that’s been generated in Timesheets or Planner. 

“Without Tempo, we would not be able to aggregate our data within the Atlassian tool suite. We'd have to rely heavily on API development for reporting needs,” said Amador.

One staff member, for example, does quarterly billing to see how much work was done for other departments so that the UTO can charge for the work. First, she needs to validate that people doing the work have been logging time. The saved log time report filters the appropriate users and the relevant dates for the quarter, so she doesn’t have to reenter the parameters of the report every time.

With the right permissions, she can easily go in and see the number of hours each of the eight users logged in the past three months, and identify which users need a nudge to log more time. She'll send anyone lagging behind an email asking them to please log time for the three-month period.

Another example is reports in Planner. Teams at the UTO are spread across several different projects. They can be working on a project, or on products, or on legacy-type projects. Reports for Tempo Planner allows portfolio directors to forecast any future work and plan ahead for any upcoming projects or big initiatives that the university is working on.

“Tempo reports can quickly generate insight for someone as high up as the CIO or your everyday standard user,” Amador said.

Using Tempo Accounts

Tempo Accounts are used to aggregate time logs for reporting, and they are another feature of Timesheets by Tempo that is leveraged at ASU. So how does the UTO create and integrate Tempo Accounts into their projects? Each one of the projects gets a single account so that they can collect all the Timesheets data they need regarding work on that project.

The team at the UTO created very clear naming schemes for all the different elements in Jira and Tempo, including Tempo Accounts. The UTO’s naming scheme is that the name has to be the same on the project, on the Tempo Account, and several other places, including the teams. 

“Thanks to our naming conventions, it's really easy to determine the type of team that each Jira project needs,” Wilson said.

Using Tempo Planner

More recently, the UTO has pivoted their attention to planning with Tempo Planner in order to paint a better picture of resource utilization. In their current organizational setup, they are focused a lot more heavily on Tempo Teams – which makes it easier to manage the work done by a group of people with a team lead – based on projects, products, and service teams. This enables them to get a better understanding of their capacity as a whole at the organization. 

“One of the ways that we like to plan is by products, projects, or services,” Amador said. “For instance, I am dedicated to Atlassian support. I get planned weekly to work roughly 38 hours on Atlassian support and I set that plan to repeat. Because that's the primary function of my job, that repeated plan can extend for a whole year or even two years. There's a lot of set-and-forget for our teams, which has been really great.”

When the director of the department runs the planned versus actual report, he will be able to see if Amador is actually spending 30 hours on Atlassian support instead of the 38 that are planned for him. Then he can decide to move him to a different tool or use those 10 extra hours for something else.

“The goal is to plan at a quarterly effort, but the jury's still out on that one,” Amador said. “We're still trying to work our way to see how that's going to work with our tool and our resources and our portfolio directors.”

Track only what is needed

When starting out with Jira and Tempo, there’s a lot to keep in mind, but the first thing is that it’s important to track just those things that people need.

“You need to talk to the people who will be pulling information out or who you will be reporting to in order to find out what kind of information they want,” Wilson said. “We've restructured the way we build our accounts and the way we build our teams around who is going to be asking us for information and who's going to want to be creating their own reports. That's the key thing.”