You're part of a company serving a state population of about 2 million. It takes about eight hours to travel from one side of your operational footprint to the other – and you are undertaking hundreds of projects a year.
What do you need? Well, an understanding customer base wouldn't hurt but, for Great Plains Communications in Nebraska, US, the answer was even simpler: project management software.
Great Plains Communications is Nebraska's biggest independent telecoms provider, bringing fibre/high speed internet, cable TV, ethernet, data and voice services to 92 rural communities scattered across the state's broad expanse.
Those 2 million people are spread wide – Nebraska is only a little smaller than the whole of New Zealand, with a strong rural base (famous for its corn and beef) served by the company's 18,500km regional fibre network. The most common project undertaken by the 230 Great Plains Communications employees is hooking up residences and businesses to that fibre.
Project manager Jacque Ell can remember two distinct eras – Great Plains before ProWorkflow and the same company afterwards. She stops short of saying it was like night and day but there is no doubt it made a significant difference to the company.
"Before this tool, we were constantly emailing spreadsheets back and forth," she says. "No one had the correct version and if you were missed off the email, you didn't know what was happening with that particular project."
Great Plains Communications hasn't measured productivity and other gains made since introducing ProWorkflow six years ago but Ell says: "It's made a lot of difference. Now we upload documents and everyone has the correct or the latest version. If you are missed off an email, you can still go straight to the right document.
"We have technicians and employees all over the state so I think you can see the advantages it gives us. Each project has hundreds of different tasks and, with that amount of work, we needed something people could easily use to get in and get all the necessary information – and communicate it – from one point.
"It's a great tool – easy, user-friendly and clean…not cluttered up with a lot of information on screen. Even someone who isn't tech-savvy can pick it up quickly."
The New Zealand-based project management software is cloud-based, meaning it can be based here - but still serve Nebraska.
ProWorkflow started as software which could be downloaded over the internet before transforming into a software-as-a-service company (meaning software licensed on a subscription basis and centrally hosted). It uses servers round the world to service clients in more than 100 international countries.
Its growth has been significant since it began in 2002 as a simple programme. In 2007, it celebrated totalling 100,000 projects in 20 countries round the world, with the project and time management software reaching a million hours (over 500 working years) in the same year.
Earlier this year, ProWorkflow totalled over 2.1 million projects in over 100 countries; its customer base is heaviest in the US but is also includes and serves businesses with workforces ranging in number from 20 to thousands.
Founder Julian Stone says software as a service enables all IT issues to be normalised through the user's browser.
ProWorkflow's choice of service providers and management commitment to service is the platform for its complete online solution for managing companies' projects, time, information and assigning work to staff or contractors, he says.
It can be integrated with automated software to create even more efficiencies and time for staff to concentrate on more lucrative tasks – and can also be combined with accounting software to keep track of payments.
When he was developing the product, Stone made usability top priority after long research of existing project management software – discovering legions of disgruntled users who found the products unworkable or based on unsustainable business models.
"We aimed to make things simple, as easy to use as possible so we are constantly looking for ways to improve."
For more information, visit: ProWorkflow