Steamroller Studio Built An Employee Management System Using Productive

Steamroller Studios is a collective that mainly works within the animation and entertainment industry. They’re the creative force for some of the world’s largest film and gaming studios. In their own words, they live to create the unforgettable.

We spoke to Aaron Gilman, CEO of Steamroller Studios and Mark Cleaver, Head of Operations, about how they use Productive for innovative resource management.

How did you find Productive?

Aaron: When I first came to Steamroller, my first question was: “How are you tracking everything you do?” I quickly realized that they had six or seven different tools that were all over the place. Some people used one tool, others used a different tool, and it was a lot. The biggest issue was that these tools weren’t talking to each other.

When I joined the company, I was looking for something pretty specific: a way to track humans, not tasks. I looked at monday.com, Trello, Asana, etc. but had no luck. Then Mark suggested I try Productive since we already had it in the company.

What tools did you use at Steamroller Studios before Productive?

Mark: Before Productive, we used multiple systems. Tracking time was really important for us since we used it for payroll. At the end of the month, gathering all the data from three different tools would be a nightmare. We needed a tool that would unify all of our data.

We still use a few task-tracking tools, but since we have in-house engineers, we were able to build APIs that connect other tools we use with Productive. This means that at the end of the month, we can pull everything we need into Productive. It’s our source of truth for budgets and time logs; we also use it for resourcing.

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We use Productive to take care of our employees, which has resulted in a retention rate of 98%.

aaron gilman
CEO of STEAmroller studios

You have a unique use case for Productive. Could you tell us a bit more?

Aaron: We use Productive to take care of our employees, which has resulted in a retention rate of 98%. Each employee in the company is set a task in Productive, which holds all the necessary information about that person. The managers who are responsible for their teams are in Productive all the time, and they can’t ignore the tickets that are coming through, which means problems get solved extremely fast.

We have a tier three board set up in Productive with the specific goal of gathering staff requests. If you want oatmeal in the kitchen or maybe a taller desk, we’ll see it here. A subset of people is responsible for solving these tasks, and when they can’t, they are elevated to the next board, which has a different subset of people higher in the leadership structure. Some tasks go directly to the tier one board, which is my board and can be seen by the upper management. Those tasks are usually high-level, such as wanting a promotion or quitting. Every week, I sit down with the Head of Human Resources and review my tier-one items.

Budgeting and cost tracking have been much more helpful and quicker since switching to Productive.

mark cleaver
Head of Operations at Steamroller Studios

What other benefits have you seen since switching to Productive?

Mark: We really like the fact that we can use different types of budgets. We use a blend of budgets in Productive; we use the time and materials budget and add the do-not-exceed on top of it. We can use the time and materials budget until the do-not-exceed kicks in, and then we have no more revenue coming in from that budget. That’s how our contracts are built. Having that visibility and seeing your projections and roadmaps is great. Budgeting and cost tracking have been much more helpful and quicker since switching to Productive. I have a bunch of filters, and I can check where our budgets stand for each project, making presenting financials so much easier.

Aaron: Productive has allowed us to be more accountable. When people have concerns, complaints, or are confused about something, they oftentimes speak about it, but most of the time, they don’t hear back. Productive really filled that gap for us. We’re able to engage in dialogue with our employees quickly and effectively. That’s probably the single biggest value proposition for me.

How would you feel if you didn’t have Productive?

Mark: We would have to put much time and effort into a system that would unify the entire company. It’s a really long process; the last time we did it, the preparation process lasted about a year.

Aaron: I think the psychology side would be our biggest problem. It took about a year to get everything set up and fully onboarded. I think everyone is really happy with Productive now, and it would really suck if we had to switch it out for a different tool.

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