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New Year’s Resolutions for Deltek Vision Users

Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Jan 04, 2017 @ 02:18 PM

As the New Year starts, many people find it the perfect time to identify areas of opportunity to improve themselves. In addition to making resolutions for their personal lives, many people also focus on creating resolutions for the workplace. To support this process, our team of Deltek Vision experts at Full Sail Partners has put together a list of New Year’s Resolutions for Vision users.  

New Year's ResolutionsTop Resolutions for Vision Users

  1. Make sure your firm is using the most current version of Deltek Vision. The latest version is 7.6 and is full of new enhancements. Learn more about Vision 7.6 in this article.
  2. Clean up duplicate records in your Vision database, specifically the Vendor and Client records, to prevent billing errors and other problems.
  3. Go paperless for Accounts Payable (AP) Invoice Approvals that require consultant/project manager sign-off.
  4. Setup a yearly reminder for the accounting department to run the 1099 Initialization process after all AP checks have been processed for the year and before any AP checks are processed in the next year. It can be run in either period since it is not period specific. This process transfers the “Paid This Year” amount to the “Paid Last Year” field on the Miscellaneous tab in the Vendor Table Maintenance and resets all vendor “Paid This Year” values to zero.
  5. Start using Revenue Generation in Vision to allow for recognizing project revenue as it is earned, matching revenue with expenses incurred to data. Without this, Vision recognizes revenue only as it is billed.
  6. Stop printing reports for directors and project managers. Instead, have them use the Vision Dashboard. Custom Dashparts can be created to give each user individualized information that is relevant to them.
  7. Remember to never un-post or create journal entries to control accounts. This is more about accounting best practices.
  8. Login to Vision more often than timesheet completion requires and manage your timesheet frequently to avoid over or under billing clients.
  9. Take the time to understand and implement standard functions in Vision such as Expense Report Approvals, using Benefits Accruals, and Account Groups for General Ledger Reporting to decrease workload.
  10. Plan to attend more Full Sail Partners’ webinars to learn helpful tips and new tricks in order to fully harness the power of Deltek Vision. Check out our past webinars here.   

Do More with Deltek Vision this New Year

With each New Year comes both potential opportunities as well as challenges. Begin this New Year by following these resolutions. Do more with Vision and save your firm much wasted time.

By the way, as you are closing up last year, check out our recent article about Year-End processes for Deltek Vision users here.

Do you have a tip of your own? Comment below with your New Year’s Resolutions for other Vision Users.

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Topics: Tips, Deltek Vision

Top 5 Fears Keeping You From an ERP Implementation

Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

describe the imageMy momma was always full of advice. Some I took with great results, but others … well let’s just say I had to learn the lesson the hard way. At this stage in our lives, we’ve all moved on from those tender years where momma was our greatest guide, but we are all still attuned to receiving advice from those more experienced. Or at least we should be. Take for example, the ERP Implementation process:

Most savvy business professionals know the ERP acronym, but not all have taken the advice.  But why?  What’s keeping some companies from “pulling the trigger” and bringing this all important piece to their success puzzle – especially when their competitors are?  In my years talking and working with a variety of firms, I have gathered the top five fears why companies, like yours, haven’t completed an ERP Implementation. 

1)      You say: “It’s going to cost too much.”

We hear:  Fear of Being Out of Control

We solve: An ERP system will address this fear by managing costs and stopping       financial leaks.

Problem:  The industry says that ERP implementation can be expensive and many companies wonder where the money is coming from. Many function under the notion that it’s easier to just do the quick fix and move on.

Solution:  The right ERP system, implemented correctly with the aid of the right consultants, will fix those expensive leaks in processes. Furthermore, with a detailed IT growth plan and the information from the new ERP, the initial costs will be recouped and you’ll be well on your way to a better financial and technologically focused picture.

2)      You say: “I don’t have the time to research an ERP.”

We hear:  Fear of Where to Start

We solve:  Taking the first step with an ERP and controlling your future will eliminate this fear.

Problem:  It can be daunting to think about the work it will require to research and discover the right consulting firm who will help find and implement the right ERP. But, in this scenario, consumers are being reactive rather than proactive - spending days living those old clichés “with your head in the sand putting out fires.” 

Solution:  It’s time to take action - focus on goals and the future. An ERP is a planning, forward-looking mechanism designed to give control over an organization’s future. If the research and work is done at the beginning of the ERP implementation, energy will be focused on the future. 

3)      You say:  “It’s going to take too long to implement.”

We hear:  Fear of Failure

We solve:  An ERP system helps you succeed by pulling together all your information for a clear picture of your newly improved organization.

Problem:  When you run a lean organization, all internal resources are at full capacity unable to see the big picture which makes for silo’d company data inhibiting the ability to see the big picture. Not having a clear picture serves only to stunt a firm’s growth:  it’s this lack of encompassing visibility which keeps a firm from being able to make intelligent decisions or to understand trends, because they are lacking departments and systems that are connected to each other.

Solution:  A good ERP system will pull together all this disparate data giving users the clear picture they need to move forward and giving everyone the gift of time. Yes, ERP implementations require some work and time to evaluate and establish new processes, establish goals, and get everything running smoothly, but the more attention is focused on the consultants and the implementation, the faster you will reap the benefits and feel the relief.

4)      You say:  “It’s going to require too much change in my current processes.”

We hear:  Fear of Change

We solve:  An ERP consultant will guide you through change.

Problem:  Even a bad process can feel comfortable, familiar. And in the fast-paced business world, we all have to find comfort where we can. It’s understandable to want to avoid the work, unfamiliarity, and making changes to numerous business processes. But what’s more important is that your competitors are already using their ERP systems. They will be on “the latest and greatest” while you are still floundering with “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Solution:  Here’s where the right consultant can really help. Someone who knows their way through the maze of settings; who knows the latest and most relevant business processes; and who, most of all, knows YOUR business and YOUR industry. Once the consultant tailors the ERP implementation to what are now highly efficient business processes, you’ll be able to appreciate the value of the phrase, “change is good.”

5)      You say:  “No one will use the system, anyway.”

We hear:  Fear of Unknown

We solve:  An ERP is such a supportive tool, it will quickly become a familiar part of your world.

Problem:  So after all the trouble of researching and implementing and ERP; the real fear is, “Will I really use it or just revert back to our old ways?”  Once the shine wears off of a new ERP system, there will be some effort every person will have to make to make the changes permanent. HuffPost Healthy article, “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)” tells us that, “On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic -- 66 days to be exact.” 

Solution:  That’s great news, because in a little over two months, with a focused effort, everyone, including you, will have turned these new processes into automatic actions. What’s more, the new processes will have included regular reviews of data giving a clear picture of the entire organization allowing responsible action for your future. We also recommend understanding more about the 8 key ways to make your implementation a success

ERP Implementation Fears Laid To Rest!

Some (or all) of these fears may have indeed been on your mind as you contemplated your company’s future success. To learn more about ERP implementation, the benefits and the return on the financial and time investment, check out Full Sail Partners’ whitepaper, “Could Your Firm Benefit from an Enterprise Resource Planning System?”

In the end, while momma’s advice may not have included an ERP implementation, her wise words still resonate and are perfectly applicable to this journey “Nothing tried, nothing gained!” Obstacles are just opportunities waiting to be discovered!

 

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Topics: Building Business, ERP, Professional Services

Departing platform 9 ¾, Project Management Training … all aboard!

Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 09:08 AM

project management trainingHarry Potter’s Hogwarts Express isn’t the only train that uses platform 9 ¾.  There are other trains, similarly magical, that take their passengers to places they’ve never been.  Take project management training, for example.  Just like at Hogwarts, project managers are trained in a kind of wizardry, i.e. transforming the business experience of their clients from nothing more than a mere idea into something special. And those lucky enough to “receive their letter” to attend, must have honed ALL their skills in order to reach their final goal – being a productive and effective project manager. 

At Hogwarts, Harry takes classes like Divination, Transfiguration and Potions.  And although the names of the classes they take are very different, the content of the classes they take is very much the same. 

  • Divination is the art of “seeing.”  A good project manager must indeed learn to read signs.  Is the project moving smoothly?  Is the client happy with progress and with process?  Are the employees on the project satisfied and therefore doing a good job?  Too often, these “signs” are definitely not clearly communicated.  They are often muddied, and it takes a good project manager to see them.
  • Transfiguration is really about how to transform yourself.  During project management training, attendees will transform their natural business gifts – financial acumen, business savvy, and communication expertise – into a project manager who really knows how to wield those skills to benefit their customers, their employees, and their company. 
  • Potions is a class on how to take seemingly dissimilar ingredients and turn them into a concoction which is business changing.  Take, for example, a handful of employees from various areas like a programmer, a writer, a financier, an administrator, a quality controller, and an executive – put them together into a cauldron-like project plan, and you have a new business process gaining efficiency, money, and time.  A potion any business would be proud of!

Another similarity between Harry Potter and those wishing to become effective project managers is natural skill.  Wizards aren’t made at Hogwarts, they are honed:  the young wizards who attend school already have the necessary abilities and project management is very much the same. 

One doesn’t become a project manager because of project management training;

one becomes a project manager because of their natural abilities refined at training.

Other than project management training, a good project manager must also have

Communication ability – exceedingly important!  Project management is not only completing and managing a Gantt chart, but effectively and efficiently communicating every portion of the project to every person involved … to their understanding.  The project manager is the translator of all things, so that each interested party is clear and satisfied.  A superhuman feat but one which good project managers achieve every day.

Business savvy – Someone who is good at business is just plain impressive.  Those who see ramifications outside of the project plan are the best at their jobs.  Project managers have an understanding beyond the project as to the impact to the surrounding business processes and how to structure a project to either improve or not negatively impact them.  It’s really knowing how to do your job in the project management box, but seeing and managing the effect outside of the box.

Experience – you just can’t teach experience!   People who have “been there, done that” and who then apply that experience to their projects are truly the most successful project managers.  And, to be clear, it’s not the same experience over and over, but broad experience garnered through years of accumulation.   

So how do you find out if your project management training was successful?  How do you know if you have what it takes to be a great project manager?  Just call our friends at Full Sail Partners (which could be considered the Hogwarts of Project Management).  Although they aren’t called that at Full Sail, you will have access to the likes of Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall – people who are sage, savvy, and just plain good at their jobs (oh, and really nice, too).  

Although project managers will probably never make the big screen success of Harry Potter.  They are, in fact, the real wizards working in our midst.  Their project management training has sharpened their skills to perform magic every day:  turning an idea into a project plan and then into something special for our businesses. 

Without the wand or robe, of course. Click your wand below to learn more. 

Project Managemet Software

Topics: Project Management

What is Forecasting and How Can it Benefit Professional Services Firms

Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Oct 09, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

forecastingWhat is forecasting? Forecasting is a tool that many professional services firms use to help management make decisions based on past and current data trends. 

There are two types of forecasting we will focus on in this article: 

  1. Utilization forecasting
  2. Cash flow forecasting

For professional services firms, forecasting starts with the analysis of the work that is yet to be performed and equating that to overall firm revenue. The revenue then becomes the basis for the accountant to project cash flows coming in, considering average day’s receivables, to drive what cash is available versus the cash required to cover current expenses.

Without these forecasts, it makes it much more difficult for management to schedule, staff, plan or perform the work in production that is necessary without them sitting up in bed at night on a regular basis. 

So let’s break the process down into steps and then focus on the key benefits of what is forecasting. 

  1. To properly track utilizations, it is important to establish two budgeted figures, target utilization and available utilization. Both should be established for every staff person and documented by employee in your system.
    Definitions:
  • Target Utilization is a function of the targeted billable hours over the standard hours in the work week.
  • Available Utilization is a function of all available hours minus just the benefit hours.
  • Next establish tracking of scheduled hours by employee, by week or whatever reporting interval provides management enough lead time to make good decisions about staffing and scheduling – this usually being about six to eight weeks out from the current date.
  • Consider hours that are in your current proposals to clients.  This is another reason to do pro-forma timelines with estimated start dates for the project pre-award.  In addition, you will want to weight these proposals for likelihood of award.  This will allow you a weighting of the hours to the overall scheduled time.
  • On a weekly basis look at utilizations against the target, available, and awarded plus some weighted factor of pre-awarded after say 70% probability.  
  • One engineering firm we are working with used to post the labor utilization “curves” on their message board in their lunch room and it was measured against budgeted utilization for the year as a constant.  This singular graph showed what the firm was projecting for scheduled utilization against target and available which kept staff cognizant of both the need to schedule fully.  The graph also served as a tool for staff to promote billable hours against project deadlines.

     

    kpo 

    From this data, management was able to see the most important single factor for the firm, how far out they were scheduled, and if they needed to adjust staff or move project timelines to increase project throughput.  Since labor costs against labor revenue is the single most influential impact on a firm’s bottom line, forecasting in this way had this firm’s management sleeping better, while it also empowered the firm’s staff to keep an eye on utilization. 

    Since this level of tracking was in place at this particular firm, it also allowed their senior financial person to produce informative forecasts of revenue, which in turn, promoted the morale of everyone in the firm. 

    To note, when the firm had many proposals out with the results tracking per the graph above, and the firm had the ability to look at un-scheduled but awarded professional service hours as well, they knew when staffing could not meet the demand of the impending work and were able to stage clients expectation with delivery dates or let HR know that hiring was needed on the horizon. 

    So, is your firm enabling forecasting to better win work and deploy resources? If not, after reading this blog do you recognize the importance of implementing forecasting at your firm? I would forecast that the answer is “yes”!  

     

    Building Business

    Topics: Project Management, Accounting, Building Business, Professional Services

    Using Project Management Metrics to Drive Firm Growth

    Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

    Project Management Metrics - TRACQSFor firms in the project-driven Professional Services industry, managing a defined set of tactical project management metrics is key to meeting strategic objectives.

    Although it might seem efficient to have a single indicator of project success that measures the firm’s profit growth — for example, project profitability — there are pitfalls with such an approach. A better solution is to measure across a finite and efficient set of indicators that together track whether the firm is meeting its objectives, whether the specific goal relates to market penetration, service offering penetration or key account growth.

    Project Management Metrics — collectively known as the Project Management KPI — fall into six major categories. One way to remember these categories is to use the acronym TRACQS. 

    Is your project on TRACQS?

    Time - How is the project tracking against schedule plans?

    Keeping projects on schedule increases profit growth by lowering overhead and increasing labor margins. For example, when a project is off schedule and staff is reallocated it increases overhead to readjust the schedule may reduce realized utilization.

    Metric calculation: Schedule Performance Index (SPI) = Earned Value of the work performed ÷ Planned Value of the work performed (to date).

    Resources – Are we within anticipated limits of staff-hours spent?

    Using staff and labor multipliers as budgeted is essential to maintaining project margins. When evaluating which resources to use, it is sometimes argued to use a more skilled person that will use fewer hours than a less experienced person. The thought is the margin will ended up the same. However, when this decision is made business development and client relations to do the production work can result in the firm’s backlog and pipeline suffering.

    Metric calculation: Total Hours variance for budget vs. spent AND Labor Multiplier
    Budgeted versus Labor Multiplier Attained.

    Actions – Do we have action items outstanding or past due?

    It may seem obvious, but without a metric tracking action items (completed, missed, and planned), project performance cannot be corrected. Maintaining visibility and monitoring deliverables can increase client satisfaction and reduce inefficient cycles of “catching the project up”.

    Metric calculation: Number of project collaboration tasks that are past due.

    Cost – How are we doing against the budget?

    Monitoring this project performance metric provides direct insight into a firm’s profit growth.

    Metric calculation: Cost Performance Index (CPI) = Budgeted Cost of the work performed ÷ Actual Cost of the work performed.  

    Quality – Does client feedback indicate project success, or the need for correction?

    On a regular basis, survey clients about results and milestones, based on meeting the client’s expectations to the deliverables.  There is little to no change that can affect the project, if you wait until the end of the project to conduct a survey, there is little to no change that can affect the project. A satisfied client results in more work (client retention), reference-ability (more clients) which are essential to firm growth.  

    Metric calculation: A rating greater than X means quality, and anything less requires attention.

    Scope – Is the scope staying within budget? If not, do we have authorization for variances
    of planned from baseline?

    Clearly define an agreed upon scope, the client’s role or responsibilities, and qualifying what constitutes a change in scope is an essential first step. When the scope has changed, documenting “why” will allow for margins to remain intact for
    client requested change orders and allow management to take corrective action when the scope creep is due to the firm’s lack of performance to the initial scope.

    Metric calculation: Comparing where planned exceeds baseline, and ensuring that original scope plus authorizations equal or exceed the estimate at completion.

    Clearly, a firm needs to have mechanisms in place to measure these project management metrics. Almost as important, however, is finding a way to indicate variance from expected (budgeted) results in an easy-to-reference graphical format — e.g., blue for good, red for bad. Doing so will ensure that staff, project managers, and executives are all on the same page for tracking firm growth and responding to any obstacles or problems that may appear.

     

    Whitepaper: Quality Driven Relationships

     

    Topics: Project Management, Client Relationships, Building Business, ERP, Professional Services

    How to Define Success with a Project KPI Dashboard

    Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Jul 10, 2013 @ 08:36 AM

    kpi dashboardsAt the core of a project-based firm’s business is the need to monitor the progress of your projects. As Project Manager’s we are busy and we need quick, real-time information to help us steer our projects. Just as a dashboard in a boat identifies and provides feedback regarding the status of our voyage – the speed, the wind angle, the wind force, and the navigational direction – a dashboard can provide the same information about your project.

    Specifically, a project KPI dashboard can examine some simple indicators that allow a project manager to gauge which project(s) need more attention.  They should be examined on a regular basis. 

    What Project KPIs should I be looking at?

    • Accounts Receivable - Overdue AR can be a warning sign for many problems including:  client dissatisfaction, overall project communication issues, and client insolvency (they can’t pay us if they have no money. . . should we be loaning them more money?).  Make sure your AR is in line with a Summary AR Dashboard Part and one for each individual project.  We recommend examining this Project KPI at least twice every billing cycle.

     Tip to Think About:  What is my outstanding AR?  Not only the amount, but how many days out is it? 

    • Unbilled Labor – A large amount of unbilled labor is a serious risk not only to the project, but to general firm cash flow.  The company cannot get paid for it if it doesn’t get billed.  A Project Manager should monitor this Project KPI closely all the time, but especially after invoicing.  Make sure to avoid carrying large amounts of unbilled labor from billing cycle to billing cycle.

    Tip to Think About:  How much labor is sitting on my project that has not been marked as billed?  In other words, have I been billing my project progress correctly?  

    • Estimated to Complete (ETC) and/or Estimate at Completion (EAC) – These schedule based measures will help you determine not only if you are on budget, but if you will finish the project within the overall budget as well.  Compare the EAC to the overall budget and if it is greater, you may decide to either reduce future expenditures or accept the fact that you going to be over budget. 

     Tip to Think About:  How much more do I need to finish this Project?
     When over  budget, confirm that you didn’t forget to send out additional services  contracts. 

    • Summary Key Performance Indicators - Above the project level, the measures are usually about Net Revenue, Utilization and Backlog.  By putting these Project KPIs on your Dashboard, you can improve your performance and make your boss look good too.

    Tip to Think About:  What is your Boss being measured on?  How can you manage your   projects better with the use of Project KPIs to improve those Summary Key Performance   Indicators?

    There may be other metrics your firm utilizes.  Share with us what you have on your project KPI dashboard.  Also, be sure to check out our past webinar: Get the Work Done.

    Topics: Project Management, Tips, Technology Solutions

    Benefits of Business Process Evaluation

    Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Jul 03, 2013 @ 08:30 AM

    There are shelves and shelves full of books — actually, entire libraries — that offer insights into business process management. There is a simple reason for this: it’s one of the most fundamental and effective ways to improve firm growth. 

    So what areas are involved in a business process evaluation? At a very high level, it’s about answering the big questions needed to effectively guide your firm, such as: 

      • Are business objectives appropriate?
      • Are key policies and plans effective?
      • Do results validate business strategy?

    At a more granular level, this type of inquiry involves examining existing business processes to find pain points, bottlenecks and inefficiencies that could be improved. In this regard, it’s a process that every business can benefit from — but especially firms that are project-based, such as professional services firms. For these types of companies, the exercise can point to solutions for: 

      • Streamlining business processes, minimizing redundancy and saving money
      • Gaining insight into operational metrics you can’t currently see — such as work backlog, etc.
      • Making better decisions on uses of internal resources, based on up-to-the-minute data

    Choices in Approach

    Business Process Evaluation

    How you conduct this type of self-examination depends on your goals, resources and desired return on expense/effort. For example, it could be highly focused, with internal staff looking at one particular process in one section of your organization. Or it could involve examining complex processes spanning several separate parts of the organization, which might require using an external consultant. 

    When Full Sail Partners begins any new engagement with a client, we typically start with a business process evaluation. Generally this involves understanding our client’s various front and back office processes — potentially, all processes along the project lifecycle, including: 

      • Business development tracking
      • Estimating and business capture
      • Project management and project profitability
      • Employee utilization and realization
      • Billing, A/R and firm financial reporting
      • TQM

    To appreciate the impact of a business process evaluation, consider the case of one of our clients, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE), a 500-person firm based in Northbrook, Illinois. Along with the client’s initial concerns, our evaluation identified an inefficient paper-based process for initiating new projects that required anywhere from several hours to several days per project. Following our business process evaluation and implementation of a paperless process, (among other improvements), the client was able to reduce the required time to a few minutes per project. That efficiency gain, multiplied by the approximately 7,000 projects that WJE handles each year, resulted in $1.8 million annual savings, according to WJE’s Controller. 

    There are other potential gains of a business process evaluation that are not directly tied to process efficiencies. For example, it can provide visibility to timely and accurate data that helps leadership make better business decisions. This was an additional gain from the project at WJE; principals were able to see clearly the potential conflicts of servicing a new client, allowing them to forego business development expenses and effort on a client that could not be serviced. 

    Another example is gaining visibility into an organization’s work backlog — knowing exactly how much work is in the pipeline, and even more importantly, whether one has the staff on hand to do the work (and if not, specifically what type of staff are needed to fill the gaps). As a result, a firm can make better decisions about whom to hire (and when), and which projects to pursue. 

    Evaluating ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness is an essential part of guiding an enterprise. Whether it’s performed internally in a very focused way, on a broader level by an external firm, or somewhere in between, it has the potential of allowing you to reexamine and reengineer your standard operating procedures and in turn, drive greater efficiency and visibility. Both capabilities are critical to consistently delivering value to your clients — and increasing profitability and firm growth.

    Interested in a business process evaluation? Contact us to begin the process.

    Topics: Building Business, Case Study, ERP, Professional Services

    Deltek Vision How-To: Displaying Graphs on Reports and Dashboards

    Posted by Full Sail Partners on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 @ 09:05 AM

    describe the imageIn this Deltek Vision How-To Video, we will demonstrate how to configure a graph from a Deltek Vision report to display on your dashboard. Firms that optimize their dashboard gain greater visibility into to their company as a whole.

     

    Looking for more information on how to optimize your Deltek Vision system? Check out these other How-To videos.

    Topics: Tips, Video, Deltek Vision

    Resource Forecasting: 3 Challenges and Solutions

    Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Jun 05, 2013 @ 01:15 PM

    resource forecasting challenges solutions smallDo you lose sleep at night wondering if you have the capacity to handle work coming in or even worse if you have too many people?  As a manager of a professional service firm, managing your human capital is a daily necessity to achieve firm growth and the anticipated performance expected from your employees.  As the market changes, your firm needs information readily available to make quick decisions about acquiring, training, and scheduling your talent.  Many firms rely on resource forecasting tools to handle the management of their employees.  Let’s take a further look at some of the challenges firms have with managing their resources: 

    Challenge #1: What are my employees currently doing?  In the past, to see what an employee was working on, managers would go to the desk of their employees to check on the progress of their projects.  However, now resources aren’t always in the same office, state or even country.  Managers are finding they need to easily identify on a daily basis how their employees’ time is being used so they can plan for future work.

    Solution - Collect and Measure Time.  As a professional service company – time is what we sell.  Sometimes there is a product that we deliver, but we still internally measure how valuable that product is based upon how much time we have spent creating it.  By capturing an employee’s actual time against a project your firm can now measure that time against what was forecasted to determine the variance. That variance provides you with data to use when projecting future projects.

    Challenge #2: How do I match skills with available work?  Some firms are small enough that managers know everyone. However, for a larger firm or as a small firm grows, you don’t necessarily know the skills available within your firm.  Being able to match skills to the work you pursue and win becomes a juggling act.  Not all firms have the critical information available to predict when they need to hire an employee with specific skill sets.

    Solution - Identify the Right Resource.  In an ERP, your firm identifies skills, training, role, and experience.  Having this information available allows project managers to identify the right resource based on real-time information.  An integrated solution provides your firm with the ability to search for similar past projects and determine how much experience (time data) they have working on this type of project.  The availability of this employee data allows project managers to make decisions about their collective skills and come up with a plan to increase / diversify their skills needed for the project.

    Challenge #3: What predictions can I make about future work?  In order to make a well-informed decision on how to handle the future work, a firm needs historical data.  Without this information, you might as well turn over your resource forecasting to a psychic because your firm is just guessing.  Many firms don’t have the data available to make these decisions.

    Solution - Availability.   Project schedules require managing all types of commitments – planned and unplanned. In addition to project commitments, employees take vacation, are on holiday leave, and have internal meetings and activities.  Developing a comprehensive plan for each employee provides accurate resource forecasting to handle future demands.  This helps identify capacity excess or shortage gaps.

    The ultimate goal for any project is to end up with a loyal client that will use your firm again.  In order to do that, firms must finish the project on time and on budget.  Choosing a solution that integrates all of these data points allows your firm to report real-time information to make well-informed decisions about resource forecasting needs.  By optimizing your resources, project managers can shorten the decision cycle, increase profitability, and better plan for the future.  

    Learn more about Resource Management?  

    Topics: Project Management, ERP, Professional Services

    Advantages of ERP Systems... and Their Bottom Line Impact

    Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, May 29, 2013 @ 09:58 AM

    Advantages of ERP Systems and the Bottom LineI was talking recently with a prospective client who observed that his firm had outgrown QuickBooks (QB). The conversation eventually led to a discussion of the advantages of ERP systems over back office accounting systems — which include not only efficiency gains, but strategic improvements as well. 

    Being in the ERP implementation business, we hear a lot of customers express frustration over outgrowing QB, so I asked my prospect what it meant specifically for his firm. Off the top of his head, he named several pain points:

    • First, their QB systems were disconnected, so there was no particular place where management could view financial performance overall, let alone broken out by project manager or client. 
    • QB could display AR for a specific client, but offered little in the way of project information regarding specific services or deliverables. 
    • Last but not least, correspondence for each client was buried in various public folders on the firm’s file server. To make matters worse, the correspondence trail was incomplete due to users’ not following the correspondence logging protocol. 

    After hearing these insights, plenty of examples came to mind of ways that even a small- to mid-size firm like his could benefit from an ERP system. I mentioned a few of the most basic advantages of ERP systems over back office accounting: the value of integrated data, open architecture and user customizations.  

    I also pointed out that thanks to the evolution of niche ERP systems, small firms CAN get the type of functionality that used to be available only to firms with deep pockets. In fact, it’s now quite easy to implement an ERP system that not only addresses the accounting function, but also facilitates the firm’s core processes and way of doing business. 

    The Need For Visibility

    My colleague next mentioned how his firm actually had strong AR, and good visibility into its cash and cash management. The problem, he said, was that the organization lacked the visibility needed to help back office management play a more significant role in decisions affecting the firm as a whole. By the same token, it was difficult to get project managers more involved in the fiscal responsibility that goes with managing client expectations. 

    I pointed out that there were several other major advantages of ERP systems over basic accounting packages. The ERP concept excels at addressing the front end of the project life cycle, by facilitating tracking of projects and providing visibility. Specific examples include:

    • Managing data obtained through the business development process
    • Generating opportunity notifications and creating process flow through workflows and alerts to improve efficiencies and win rate
    • Forecasting for opportunities and already-awarded projects regarding not only revenue, but staffing requirements as well
    • Providing for audit trails of communication with clients, contacts and opportunities and supporting technical staff in the delivery of services under specific projects
    • Facilitating communication with accounting early in the business development phase regarding terms, rates, related documents and specific contract requirements
    • Integrating with desktop tools like Outlook, Word and PowerPoint to facilitate email communication and automate creation of proposal, estimating and contracting documents 

    I then suggested we establish a value proposition for the level of investment that would be needed at this critical juncture in the firm’s transition from QuickBooks. This is where my prospect’s eyes started to get big, as he saw how much time, factored by associated hourly costs, was being spent on efforts that an ERP system could automate. 

    We assessed values for each of the existing manual processes, and compared them with the reduced time and effort involved using the ERP approach. The resulting savings would go right to the firm’s bottom line. But as significant as those savings would be, I added, the real impact would come from the improved quality of the work environment, better communication with clients, and most importantly, increased opportunities for success. 

    See how today’s success-minded firms require a laser-like focus on strong project and financial management practices by downloading the whitepaper on Growth and Transition Strategies.

    Growth & Transition Strategies for Professional Service Firms

    Topics: Accounting, Building Business, ERP, Deltek Vision, Professional Services