Effective project management is child’s play for Mattel

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels March 17, 2022
The toy manufacturer is using Adobe Workfront to help bring new products to stores quickly and effectively.

An image of a barbie doll
(Image sourced via Pixabay)

Multinational toy manufacturer Mattel has deployed Adobe Workfront to make it simpler for people across the business to manage the process of bringing new products to market.

Mattel was faced with the challenge of managing projects across 10 brands, such as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, and 15 groups globally. Many of the employees across these brands and groups were using disparate and unconnected systems.

To create a single view of project workflow, the company has simplified and modernized development and marketing operations by implementing Adobe Workfront, with assistance from digital consultancy IBM iX. Speaking at Adobe’s annual Summit conference, Will Cistone, senior manager for IT at Mattel, said the implementation has produced a range of benefits:

The project creation process is much simpler. It's 100 times faster than the way they used to do it. If you have the internet, you're there. It's not hidden in a local server, or an app installed on someone's machine. And then there’s the global nature of the platform. The ability to collaborate in a single Workfront solution helps everyone get their jobs done much faster.

Cistone said there were several software options that Mattel could have used to help manage its workflow. The selection process came down to two simple factors – user experience and ease of implementation:

As long as you have access to the internet – whatever your device is – you can access Workfront, which is vital, especially when you work with global teams. And the user interface was another big selling point. It's very intuitive, easy to configure, and easy to use, which also impacted our training and made it much simpler for users to learn and adopt.

Jeff Hron, director of information technology at Mattel, explained how the company recognized its business teams needed a more effective project management platform that could provide a holistic view of ongoing activities. His team decided to prove the benefits of Workfront to the company through a targeted rollout process:

As we were defining our strategy, we felt that it was in our best interest to not go with a ‘big bang’ approach and to deploy Workfront to all teams at the same time. We felt that to be successful, we needed to target teams that we felt were ready and highly motivated to be early adopters.

The implementation process started in Mattel’s American Girl creative services team, who were already using another project management tool and were ready to transition to a modern system. Hron said that “quick win” helped the implementation team understand what might be possible. The team then targeted other areas of the business:

We went after teams that were ready and immediately willing to be early adopters, like our digital engagement group, our Hot Wheels brand creative team and our global franchise creative team. This targeted approach helped us to keep the scope manageable, to learn more about Workfront along the way, but – more importantly – it allowed us to work with IBM iX to define a repeatable process to deploy Workfront to our teams, and try to repurpose and reuse templates, dashboards and workflows.

Align on a common process

Hron said one of the unexpected consequences of this methodical rollout process was that they generated a “lot of buzz and demand” across Mattel. Targeting individual teams first helped to spread the word across the rest of the business:

Our approach really unlocked a lot of opportunities for us to go after some of these broader use cases, like product development and marketing across all our brands. I think our targeted strategy accelerated our ability to then deploy Workfront to more broader use cases across the company.

Cistone said the global rollout of the platform has created a single, real-time view of ongoing projects. Mattel’s global product development teams work on roughly 4,000 projects annually. Workfront allows these teams to update product development milestones actively and to review assets, such as packaging materials, that are being created. Senior stakeholders, meanwhile, can view project milestones and plan how they use resources, said Cistone:

We know the source of the reporting is coming from a single system versus augmented Excel sheets and people manually intervening to change it. The trust and integrity of the data in this reporting is much more believable. So, it's a great step forward to know there's a single source for all this information.

As part of the implementation process, the team created an integrated data lake that is fed with updated project information from Workfront on an hourly basis. This integrated approach to data ensures front-end reporting solutions always have accurate and timely information. When it came to lessons learnt during the implementation process, Cistone pointed to the importance of strong and consistent leadership:

Having the same people from beginning to end is vital, just for user buy-in. You also need strong partnerships with people like IBM iX and the internal IT team. Open, candid discussions really do help throughout the entire project.

Cistone said it’s also important to manage user expectations and requirements. Large global teams will have entrenched ways of working. It can be tough to transition these teams to a new way of working on a single solution:

You need to be careful not to design to exceptions. So, a lot of that is about internal process, but just make sure you don't go down rabbit holes for brands – ‘for this brand, we do it this way, and for this brand, we do it this way’. Instead, you need to align on a common process.

Hron said one of the key challenges for other CIOs will be to ensure that their business maximizes Workfront’s features. He said that, with IBM iX's help, Mattel has worked hard to flesh out user requirements and, more importantly, unlock new demands:

You need to constantly demonstrate and showcase the features that Workfront offers, whether it’s workflow proofing, automation or all the different types of templates that can be created. We needed to help our teams think differently and not rely on how they do things today. We really needed them to see what is possible with Workfront. So, I think the technique that we used of constantly showing Workfront, and demonstrating it with IBM iX's help, went a long way to make sure that we were maximising all the functionality that the software offered.

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