“We’ve learned to adapt Clarizen to meet our changing needs. There’s nothing that can be thrown at us that we can’t figure out with Clarizen.”
Senior Director of Operations, BSG
The Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) is a strategic research consultancy that produces winning strategies in the political and corporate arenas. BSG ran award-winning research and polling programs for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Corporate clients include Uber, Toyota, Intel, Wal-Mart, NBC and Southwest Airlines. Founded in 2000, the firm is headquartered in New York, NY, and has offices in Washington DC; Denver, CO; Philadelphia, PA; and Los Angeles, CA.
In 2013, BSG was acquired by Kantar, the second largest data investment management network in the world and wholly owned by the WPP Group. WPP has more than 200,000 employees working in 3,000 offices in 112 countries.
BSG Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Carl Rossow explained the immediate challenge brought on by the change in ownership, “The first reality we faced after we were acquired by a public company was that we needed to find a better way to provide the systems and information needed to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and other reporting requirements. We needed a better system of checks and balances. Until that time, we relied primarily on homegrown tools and Excel spreadsheets. We didn’t really have a formal workflow system.” The company was also seeking greater efficiency in project management: from automating processes, to greater reporting and collaboration abilities.
The newly acquired firm began its search for a project and portfolio management (PPM) solution in early 2014. “We did a deep dive into several offerings, including project management and ERP systems,” recalls Josh Blinder, BSG’s Senior Operations Director. “Clarizen was not only a leader in the project management space, but what I really found appealing was Clarizen’s flexibility and ability to adapt to the needs of BSG.”
Clarizen offered BSG protection against obsolescence and the flexibility to address unforeseen changes, which were highly likely as a new addition to the global WPP communications services group. After several years of Clarizen use, Blinder notes, “I don’t think we ever foresaw that the system would grow to where it is today in terms of how it adapted to meet our needs for SOX compliance, user interface and integration with external systems—but that’s why we were attracted to it from the beginning.”
As BSG began to adopt and integrate Clarizen in early 2014, the firm’s first objective was to move existing project information into the cloud-based system. Clarizen Data Loader was used to move thousands of Excel spreadsheets from BSG databases into Clarizen. BSG typically manages more than 2,000 projects and 800 proposals with Clarizen. “Migration to Clarizen was actually really easy,”
Clarizen has enabled BSG to more easily data mine past work and proposals, review client lifecycles, automate cumbersome and time consuming processes, better manage staffing needs, provide custom dashboards based on executive preferences, make financial information more accessible and reliable, and easily capture and share institutional knowledge.
- Compliance crunch – BSG quickly realized they needed better project reporting and visibility to understand project health and status at any given time. The company also needed a more accurate way to recognize and report on revenue. “As the acquisition took hold, we started to understand that our company was going to grow and grow rapidly,” Blinder continues. “One thing that became clear was that the way in which we were doing things—using manual, spreadsheet-based methods—needed to change.”
- Revenue recognition – Accurate, timely and comprehensive revenue reporting is a critical requirement for SOX compliance. “Typically, Clarizen will recognize revenue when the project is completed,” notes Blinder. “Clarizen allows us to recognize small increments of project completion and assign a revenue value to it. Instead of having to call everyone involved in a project and ask them ‘where are you with this project’, Clarizen allows our accounting people at the end of the month to easily understand where projects stand and how to recognize
Rossow also explains how audits are now much less of a manual process. “Clarizen reports are all time- and date-stamped so auditors like Deloitte can easily determine if the revenue has been recognized at the right point. It would take us two to three days longer to close the books each month without Clarizen.”
- Workflow hub – Clarizen goes beyond project management, helping BSG teams across the office and around the world to collaborate in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Clarizen is enabling BSG to capture and share critical information about past, present and future projects. BSG has used the Clarizen Web Services application programming interface (API) to developed custom applications that integrate Clarizen data with outside data and third-party applications, including the Box’s cloud-based content management system.
“All of our statements of work (SOWs) are accessible from within Clarizen by linking back to Box through the Clarizen request module—we call it our proposals module,”Rossow explains. “It’s all tied together. It’s more than just workflow. For instance, I can look at the entire lifecycle of a project, including the original proposal, the work we did, and what we billed them—all from within Clarizen. It’s helping us deal with everything from SOX compliancy to project management.”
- Single sign-on – “We have built a website that our employees log into using their Clarizen credentials, which lets them access several systems,” Blinder notes. “For instance, a team member may be ready to invoice a client for work, so they log in to the website and chose our invoicing request utility.” For the invoicing request utility, BSG uses Clarizen to automatically populate all of the invoice fields—description, project number, client name and contact. Rossow comments, “It’s saving time and ensuring accuracy in so many ways.”
Flexible, adaptable platform – Any ERP can be customized, but often at a huge cost, with a lengthy professional services engagement. Fortunately, this was not the case with Clarizen. “Clarizen empowers us to easily make modifications and customizations more than any other solution out there. When you peek under the hood of the product you start to see how flexible and adaptable it really is.
Busting bottlenecks – Clarizen has helped BSG automate many processes and streamline the flow of information. “We no longer have to wait or chase down data—which was the source of bottlenecks in the past.” Rossow explains. “It has all of the mechanisms to ensure that people are providing the necessary information.”
- Supports flexible growth through flexible platform
- Eases compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and other reporting and auditing requirements
- Streamlines workflow management and eliminates bottlenecks
- Reduces time spent on status meeting by more than 4 hours per week
- Saves approximately 20 hours per week in manual data verification
- Saves at least two FTEs for finance/compliance and overall project management
- Accelerates end-of-the-month closing by 2-3 days
New York City, NY (HQ)