Operating from the suburbs of Chicago, Interwork Architects has been handling everything-but-residential projects for their clients since 1995. According to Susan Reid—project manager-turned-partner at the firm—Interwork is unique because their 20-person team operates as a family, committed to balancing their professional and personal lives. This is in contrast to the downtown Chicago firms that operate with the sort of intensity—and long, late hours—that one expects from a big-city office.
Another thing that sets Interwork apart from its competitors is that Interwork doesn’t employ the same large team structure that most architecture firms do. Because of the fast-paced nature of their assignments, most projects only need one or two people. And this type of company environment and culture works; their employees are happy. In fact, turnover isn't an issue for Interwork, which says a lot.
Reid, who has more than 20 years of experience, has been at Interwork for five years now. In addition to typical partner responsibilities—like new business development—she handles team assignments, project tracking, and time management: "who's working on what; who has time; who needs time filled and all of that."
Before Mosaic, Reid was managing "all of that" on spreadsheets, something that, while common in the industry, is very inefficient. Because of the fast nature of Interwork’s work, Reid was running her spreadsheet from a week-to-week perspective. But that lack of foresight meant that no matter how meticulously she assigned work, she couldn’t avoid unbalanced workloads—some people were overloaded while others didn’t have enough.
"It was just hard," she said. "There was no way to forecast people’s time...there was no way to know how long the team was going to spend on each project coming in." The most Reid knew was how much time each member of her team had available in the current week. "It was difficult to assign something," Reid said. "You either guess and hope for the best—or say, this project's going to go to George and that means nothing else can go to him. But then whatever else comes, you’re out of luck. So, that's how it was, and we did the best we could."
Doing the best they could worked out OK—until it didn’t. According to Reid, "The bottom line wasn’t bad, but how we were getting there was bad." Reid operates on the philosophy that her staff is her number one, which is why it was essential for her to show them that Interwork was thinking about their overall workload—not just their day-to-day. That was something that she simply couldn’t accomplish with a spreadsheet. And she tried—with numerous spreadsheet iterations. But none of it was working well. "I needed it to be more visual."
During the height of the 2020 pandemic, with everyone working remotely, no one really knew what anyone else was doing, and the manual nature of Interwork’s processes became even more apparent. Assessing workload, tasking assignments, and determining who could take on new work was taking Reid 20 to 30 hours per week—time that she wanted to be spending to support her team and generate new business.
One "fateful day," Mosaic reached out to a founding partner on the Interwork team, Rich Gordon. "Rich came to me and said, 'look at this,'" Reid recalled, as Gordon showed her Mosaic’s website. Immediately, she knew Mosaic was exactly what she needed to manage resources. And the demo confirmed it.
Despite all of Reid’s research into resource management tools, she had never seen anything like Mosaic. According to Reid, everything else on the market was just a different version of the same problem that she was facing with her spreadsheet. "I’m a pretty quick decision maker," Reid said. "I know if something is good or not. I know if it's worth it or not." And Mosaic was good—so good, in fact, that Reid told the Mosaic team immediately that she needed this.
The visual nature of the application was particularly appealing to the Interwork team. "Obviously, in our industry, we are very visual people," she said. "So, the way that the application is laid out—as soon as I saw it, I knew that our staff was going to love this. They’re going to respond so well to this, and it’s going to make them want to use it."
According to Reid, not only is Mosaic fun to use, but the experience is also incredibly intuitive, which meant that several people on her team didn’t even need a tutorial. The user experience was that familiar.
While Reid spends most of her Mosaic time in the planner, she’s recently been diving more into the reports. Her favorite: the Variance Report, which helps her optimize the time her team is scheduled. "We’ve been hitting our goals because of it," she said. Additionally, Mosaic helped the Interwork team forecast their staffing needs. At one point this year, Interwork had so much work coming in that they knew they couldn’t handle it at their current headcount. With the help of Mosaic, Interwork hired two new employees to handle their growing books. Basically, Mosaic has been essential in helping Reid answer the question: "Do I have the right team available to take on that project?"
With Mosaic, Reid now spends only five hours a week planning—that’s at least 15 fewer hours than she was spending with a spreadsheet. As a result, she’s been able to do more team mentoring as well as business-building and revenue-generating activities. She recently attended her first business lunch in a year and landed a new project from it.
The best part for Reid is that Mosaic has gotten everyone at Interwork on the same page. "We’re all looking at the same thing," she said, which makes them more agile in managing and adjusting workloads. And because "everyone can see everything," collaboration has improved across the board. According to Reid, the team now has conversations about what they’re working on instead of making assumptions. "And that’s huge," she said. "Mosaic has made us more of a team." This was particularly important while the team was all working remotely. "I feel like we got that collaboration back without being able to be together," Reid said. "And now that we’re back together, the collaboration is even better."
As for what Reid would recommend for anyone else in spreadsheet hell, she says, "Get Mosaic. Just do a demo. It will change how you do things." For Reid, Mosaic is "freedom"—from spreadsheets and from time-consuming manual processes.