Ariat gives work chaos the boot: 7 enterprise work management tips

A portrait of Jessica Wright, a woman with shoulder-length hair and black glasses

If you’ve spent time around horses, Western culture, or a rodeo arena, then you know the Ariat brand. A premier Western and riding outfitter, Ariat produces cowboy boots, work boots, English riding boots, belts, bags, gloves, workwear, and clothing for adults and children alike. What you may not know is the depth of Ariat’s commitment to innovation and technology.

Ariat’s core values include innovation, dedication, balance, and possibilities. Ariat strives to “redesign, reimagine, and reshape our world, while staying true to the values and traditions that keep us authentic.” Those values permeate the business, from the textile designers selecting boot leathers, to the apparel experts seeking out the best moisture-wicking fabrics, to all those who wear test Ariat’s products—including ranchers, construction workers, welders, ropers, bull riders, and even a creative services traffic manager named Jessica Wright.

“The thing I would want most people to know and understand about the brand is the passion and attention to detail that goes into designing every single piece,” Jessica says. “Technology is key with Ariat.”

To carry out its commitment to innovation and quality, Ariat knew it had an opportunity to transform the way their creative team worked. When Jessica joined the company three years ago, they were about a quarter of the way through the implementation of a new enterprise work management platform, Workfront, which would become a big part of Jessica’s role.

A sample work week for the creative organization may involve fielding 17 new project requests (four of which are rushes) that include a total of 192 deliverables while also wrapping up 12 projects that include 96 deliverables. This volume of work is not surprising, given that just one catalog can feature more than 500 different SKUs—and all of Ariat’s in-store displays, photoshoots for the marketing team, and packaging (boot boxes, clothing tags, size tags, etc.) are managed in Workfront. Reflecting on what her team has been able to accomplish with Workfront over the last three years, Jessica shares 7 helpful tips for getting the most out of your work management solution.

7 tips for getting the most out of enterprise work management

1. Load up on training.

Jessica spent the first three weeks at her new job watching as many Workfront webinars as possible to get a thorough introduction to the platform. She also attended Workfront’s annual user conference, Leap, where customers gather annually to gain skills to master modern work. Jessica spends time in the Workfront community, a website designed to help Workfront customers and partners do their best work.

2. Lean on the experts.

“I leaned on Tony, my Workfront consultant, a lot,” she said. “Once every week for 30 minutes, or every other week, we would go over any changes we might need in our custom forms. And the reporting features have been huge for me. Often he’ll build me a report, and all I have to do is make minor adjustments, which is fabulous.”

3. Consider roles and responsibilities up front.

Having a full-time administrator ensures that organizations are getting the most from their technology implementation. Currently, Jessica is stepping up to monitor all the forms and reports in Workfront, responding to requests to adapt and change those forms as needed.

Jessica recommends planning for these system administration duties up front, building them into official job descriptions and appointing a co-admin as needed. These steps can keep the ongoing maintenance of the solution much more manageable and seamless (having a co-admin would have made an enormous difference during the two weeks Jessica spent working from home and recovering from an unexpected appendectomy!).

To this end, Jessica invited Ariat’s director of IT to attend Leap, Workfront’s annual user conference. Eventually having IT take on the system admin role will free her up to focus on her marketing champion role and key trafficking responsibilities, making sure her designers get what they need and everybody’s hitting their task deadlines in a timely manner.

4. Recruit an executive champion—and collaborate often.

Ariat’s implementation started in the marketing organization. Over the last three years, other departments have raised their hands to request access to Workfront. Now sales, customer service, and the credit department are all using the platform. As adoption spreads and you scale work management throughout the company, Jessica advises recruiting an executive champion who understands companywide needs. “Make sure that you’re continuing to share the experience, whether it be challenges or successes, with your executive champion,” Jessica advises. “Involve your executive champion in meetings and webinars because they look at the platform through a different scope,” she says.

5. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to drive adoption.

Ariat uses KPIs in employee reviews. Jessica recommended that every sales rep include at least one Workfront-related KPI in their performance plans to help drive adoption and streamline work processes throughout the company. “I feel like a system like this that’s growing within my company and being touched by so many people would benefit from being part of the KPI system,” Jessica says.

The sales force sells Ariat boots and apparel into various retail outlets and inputs the information that designers and copywriters use—work that’s critical to business outcomes. Encouraging adoption and compliance among this team, with historically less interaction with company technology, is important. Jessica sees the potential of a single platform for work to get everyone in sync, even those in traditionally less tech-savvy roles.

6. Keep the big-picture purpose in mind.

Every marketing asset, whether it’s a specific clothing tag or a boot box, goes into Workfront as its own project. “If we have a tag for moisture wicking for a long-sleeved shirt, we might have one design that goes on 20-30 tops, because all that’s changing is the image or a SKU number,” Jessica says. A single catalog can have as many as 500 SKUs—too much for one person to keep track of without a platform like Workfront to do so much of the heavy lifting.

Even with the assistance of a work management platform, it’s a big job—but a rewarding one. “I like seeing things come to fruition,” Jessica says. “I like seeing the request come in, seeing the design team work on it, seeing how we are sharing it out to the customer. I like being a part of something that is helping our company and customers.”

At the company’s regular “All Boots” meeting, Jessica especially loves hearing the emails from the customer service team. “I can’t tell you how many times we get letters and pictures showing that our boots saved someone’s leg or foot in an accident,” she says. “That’s what makes our job even better. We all have passion and pride in what we do. A lot of Ariat’s core values are the same as mine, as a family person. It’s very much to me a second family.”

7. Celebrate success.

When asked about her biggest success so far, Jessica points to the custom forms that have been refined over time, which help her collect information in an orderly fashion. Because the forms are so precise and easy to duplicate, her team has more lead time than ever before. “A lot more preplanning is happening,” she says, “which I’m grateful for. It allows us to plan for our design team and copywriting team.”

Another success has been watching adoption increase, especially among the on-the-ground sales force. “For me, it’s a huge success when I’m experiencing people being in the system,” Jessica says. “Because it’s a lot of people. There are 300 people just in our building, and then you add all of our sales reps out in the field, and it’s probably another 150. It’s a lot to think about this many people working in the system that I am building and continuing to groom.”