Full Sail Partners Blog

7 Fundamentals for Success When Approaching Software Customization

Posted by Peter Nuffer on May 23, 2024

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When considering an ERP system, a key challenge is ensuring that the chosen product not only supports your existing business processes but also offers enough extensibility to adapt to your evolving needs. Deltek Vantagepoint's open architecture provides a solution to this challenge by allowing you to effortlessly add fields to existing information sets in the native Hubs or create unique sets of records through User Defined Hubs with just a click of a button.

Moreover, the RESTful API offers easy access points for integration with other systems, while the consistency of the database design ensures that changes are made with stability in mind. Furthermore, the ability to schedule or trigger actions as simple as a column change or email alert, or as advanced as a stored procedure to manipulate data locally or webhook to an external application's webservice enabled platform, are all available within the Deltek Workflow engine.

With all the potential that Deltek Vantagepoint unlocks, when it comes to extending functionality through customized aspects, it's essential to build your project on a solid foundation for success. There are seven critical elements for approaching software customization to maximize your Deltek Vantagepoint system. Let’s delve into them here.

#1 Determine Whether There is a Need for Customization

It's the first thing to ask - do we really need this, or even better, is there a way to accomplish what we need natively in the Deltek Vantagepoint environment? Working with your Full Sail Partners consultant will help identify all the possibilities and leverage Deltek's existing features to their fullest potential.

#2 Gather Key Stakeholders

Making a software customization change for your business needs can often feel like venturing into the unknown. Your key project stakeholders are your ultimate end users – identify, cultivate, and leverage their needs and expectations. Identifying priorities early on enables your development team to create an actionable plan that has the most impact on the organization.

#3 Assign a Project Owner

Identifying a primary project owner is crucial for guiding your project to success. Be a “Leader of Change” in your organization by appointing the right captain to steer your ship on the correct course. The project owner acts as a representative for the overall stakeholders, providing visibility into day-to-day developments. Increased visibility helps identify and solve impediments quickly and fosters understanding between developers and stakeholders.

#4 Document Requirements

For many software customization projects, subject matter experts may not fully understand how extending the functionality of your Deltek system can benefit them, while your development and technology team needs to know what to deliver. Overcoming the technology-subject matter communications gap is essential. User stories complement business analysis techniques, making it easier to identify project requirements without adding extra effort. Focus on stakeholder requirements, needs, and goals for the solution, avoiding the trap of defining technical specifications.

#5 Define a Minimally Viable Product (MVP)

Identify the features you must have to see a return on investment. List out the must-haves from your requirements gathering and user stories to establish what is necessary to get organizational buy-in to the solution. Don’t be afraid to rough things up a bit – your end users won’t hesitate to critique the new system. Think outside the box and approach your solution from every possible angle. End users do unpredictable things, so it’s essential to anticipate their needs.

#6 Get to Work Stage Testing

Before releasing development efforts, your software customization should undergo a thorough testing process to ensure it works as intended. There are four main stages of testing: unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing. Keeping key stakeholders active and engaged during testing is crucial for detecting and fixing bugs, resulting in higher-quality software. Allow for internal testing to identify bugs and system flaws as early as possible from real-world usage.

#7 Plan the Release and Set Testing Guidelines

A successful software customization project requires careful planning for the release. Define a clear roadmap that outlines the timeline, milestones, and dependencies for the deployment of the customized solution. Ensure that all stakeholders are informed about the release plan and understand their roles and responsibilities. Regularly communicate progress updates and address any concerns to maintain alignment and momentum toward the release date.

Squeeze More Functionality out of Your Deltek Vantagepoint System

Now that you have reviewed the seven critical elements for approaching software customization to maximize your Deltek Vantagepoint system, are you ready to proceed? Full Sail Partners’ consultants are available to evaluate and discuss your needs. We can leverage our expertise in Blackbox Connector and our pre-built custom solutions to help you achieve your goals. Let us bridge the gap between what Deltek Vantagepoint offers and what you want your system to do.

 

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Mergers and Acquisitions: Harness the (Data Integration) Beast

Posted by Lisa Ahearn on May 16, 2024

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Mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace in the professional services industry.  When firms join forces, they are typically hoping that 1 + 1 = more than 2!  By leveraging the best that each firm has to offer in terms of talent, diverse market penetration, client/contact lists, and means and methods of success, goals can include forming a stronger company that continues to successfully execute projects, attracting top talent, and growing in revenue and profitability.   

During the merger/acquisition process there are of course many things to consider.  Change management around topics such as corporate cultures and people management, branding, client loyalty, processes and procedures, and systems must be included in those considerations! 

Full Sail has helped many firms going through mergers and acquisitions with the integration of their ERP systems, when at least one company is using Deltek Vision or Vantagepoint.  While an exhaustive list of lessons learned would be too long for anyone to compile or read, we’d like to share some of the top things we recommend. 

Get the Right People at the Table 

Make sure that management/decision makers, system administrators/power users, and data consumers from all firms involved are represented in the discussions around data integration.  Sometimes the best intentions of management have unintended consequences for the day-to-day users, and sometimes the day-to-day users are not yet aware of intended changes in policies and procedures.  In the cases of acquisition to a greater extent, and especially in the beginning, some of the users may feel too intimidated to speak up and indicate that the consequences of decisions would have a negative impact on their day-to-day activities or ability to report on crucial data.  Getting a thorough understanding of how each firm uses their system(s) and data to achieve its goals, and what they would like to be able to do better, are important when making decisions about how to set up the new single system.  Invite CRM, finance, project management, and HR representatives to participate.  In our project-based environments it is important that PM’s have input along with the marketing and accounting/finance teams! 

Consider involving a third party such as Full Sail Partners, to help facilitate the conversations.  There are many aspects of system setup that can easily be overlooked or may not have been used before.  A neutral third party can also contribute ideas and best practices that can help combine currently-disparate methods into workable solutions to move forward.  Additionally, having someone to help the firms involved stay on task and accountable for timelines can prove to be valuable during a time when there are many conflicting priorities.  Full Sail consultants in finance and CRM can help explain system functionality.  Full Sail’s human resources consultant can help identify the most appropriate HR policies from each firm.  And a data migration specialist can help streamline gathering data from one system (Deltek or not!) and get it set up for, and then imported into, Deltek Vision / Vantagepoint. 

Decide how the new Company will be Added 

There are several options for adding a new company to Vision / Vantagepoint.  Many firms will use the multicompany function.  Some companies will enable or expand an organization structure.  Others will incorporate the additional company’s data directly with their own.  It is critical to think through how you will need/want to report on and analyze financial aspects of the companies, and configure the system to meet those goals. 

Another aspect to consider is the currencies in which the companies operate.  Vision / Vantagepoint can be configured to handle transactions for multicurrency operations. 

Examine and Align the Data 

Data migration specialists work with firms to identify and ready the data.  In order to make sure all the necessary data is brought into the new single system, it is important to identify all the systems the merging or acquired firm uses currently to hold data.  Is there one ERP?  Is there an accounting system, a marketing system, an HRIS system, and some spreadsheets?  Deciding which data will be incorporated into the new system is an important first step and is also necessary to scope/estimate the migration effort.  This will start to lay a clear groundwork for the migration process. 
 
The firms will also need to decide how much data will be brought into the combined system.  Do you plan to bring everything from day one of business, a certain number of years, or only GL balances?  If not bringing in historical data, where will that data be kept and how will it be accessed for operational needs or potential audits?  Address how redundant data will be handled.  If both companies have some of the same clients and contacts, how will you identify what should be kept from each?   

Assigning “data owners” is recommended so the data migration specialist knows who to ask when questions arise.  These data owners would also be responsible for participating in meetings about the data, developing a comprehensive test plan for users, and then reviewing and testing the migrated data. 
 
After identifying the higher-level parameters, consideration must be given to the details.  Decide on code formats and systems for numbering records such as the chart of accounts, employees, firms, and projects.  Alignment is needed for the chart of accounts, so mapping the new company’s accounts to the existing “like” accounts and identifying any new accounts that are needed is often one of the first steps.  Project numbering and work breakdown structure (WBS) will need to be carefully reviewed.   Keep in mind that not all systems have the same type of WBS, and even if both companies are using Vision / Vantagepoint they may be using the WBS differently.  Labor categories, labor codes, billing terms, accounting periods, and even the overhead projects all need to be given consideration.  For example, if the new company’s existing system does not use an equivalent to labor categories, and the Vantagepoint environment requires them, how will that be handled?  Will overhead time be loaded, and do the companies have the same overhead projects, will more need to be created, or will some need to be combined?    

Staff Training and Communications 

Staff at both companies will need training and communication about the changes.  Training and communication should not be an afterthought!  Employ sound change management throughout the process.  Those on the M&A team may forget that the rest of the staff don’t know the decisions being made.  The employees at both firms may be nervous or anxious about the changes.  Giving employees the information they are allowed to know in a clear, concise, and timely manner can help. Offer the info in easy-to-consume bits, but don’t overwhelm them with too many separate communications. Even something as simple as a list of who can be contacted for questions in specific areas will be helpful!   

Training is critical, even if both firms use the same system.  There are as many ways to use Vision / Vantagepoint as there are firms that use it!  Be sure to cover new processes, nuances in the database such as user-defined items, and add-on products.  Prepare a training plan and send the training session invites well in advance.  Have a leader from each firm in the sessions (in case any employees start asking the trainer questions on decisions), in addition to your top-notch trainer(s) or Full Sail consultant and someone in an equivalent training-type role from the other firm that can help “translate” questions that may be asked in company-specific lingo.  Record the training sessions so those that cannot attend can catch up and those that would like to re-watch can do so.  Consider incorporating “cheat sheets” and infographics so people can have a handy reference the first few times they go through a new process.  Make sure back-office staff are comfortable doing their jobs in the new system.   

Company growth is both exciting and challenging.  Involve the correct people, carefully consider processes, procedures, and data, and communicate with your staff.  Reach out to the Full Sail team for guidance.  We love to see our clients succeed! 

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A Professional Services Firm’s Guide to Making Conferences Meaningful

Posted by Evan Creech-Pritchett on May 09, 2024

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Conferences are more than just gatherings of like-minded professionals; they are opportunities for growth, networking, and strategic advancement. However, navigating them can be a bit daunting without a clear strategy in place. Let’s talk about some key concepts that will help your professional services firm on the way to mastering the art of impactful conference strategies.

Reframe Your Thinking About Conference Selection

Choosing the right conferences to attend is extremely important for maximizing your professional services firm’s time and resources. It is important to focus on more than just the prestige or popularity of an event; consider factors such as the relevance of topics covered, the caliber of speakers and attendees, and the potential for creating meaningful connections.

Moreover, you should consider the location and timing of the conference. Make sure that it fits well with your schedule and provides convenient access to travel arrangements. By reframing your thinking to prioritize quality over quantity, you can ensure that each conference you attend offers genuine value and opportunities for growth.

Discover How to Be Methodical and Objective in Your Approach

Approaching conference selection with a methodical and objective mindset can help streamline your professional services firm’s decision-making process. Start by clearly defining your goals and objectives for attending conferences. For example, are you expanding your professional network, gaining industry insights, or showcasing your expertise?

Next, conduct thorough research on upcoming conferences, evaluating factors such as agenda, speaker lineup, past attendee reviews, and cost-effectiveness. You should consider creating a checklist or rating system to objectively assess each conference's suitability based on your criteria. This allows for a more organized and informed selection process. By taking a systematic approach, you can identify the conferences that align best with your objectives and priorities.

Learn How to Be Mindful of Any Emotional Biases Influencing Your Decisions

It's essential to be mindful of any emotional biases that may influence your professional services firm’s conference selection process. Whether it's the fear of missing out on a popular event or because you’ve always attended, emotions can cloud judgment. Practice self-awareness and introspection to identify any biases at play like confirmation bias or sunk cost fallacy.

Furthermore, you should seek feedback from trusted colleagues or mentors. This helps to gain different perspectives and mitigate the impact of personal biases on your decision-making process. By approaching conference selection with a clear and rational mindset, you can make more informed choices that align with your firm’s professional goals.

Tips to Optimize Your Conference Strategy

Once your professional services firm has selected the conferences to attend, it's time to optimize your overall strategy to maximize your experience and outcomes. Start by creating a detailed itinerary, including sessions, networking opportunities, and any additional events or meetings. Leverage social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with fellow attendees and speakers before the conference. This will help facilitate meaningful interactions and collaborations.

Also, consider attending workshops or interactive sessions that offer hands-on learning experiences and opportunities to develop your skills. These activities will enhance the value you derive from the conference. During the conference, prioritize quality over quantity when networking, focusing on building genuine connections rather than collecting business cards.

Don’t Forget Your Follow Up Strategy

Finally, don't forget the importance of post-conference follow-up. One effective strategy is to have dedicated individuals responsible for follow-up tasks, so that no potential leads slip through the cracks. Whether it's sending personalized emails, brochures, or scheduling follow-up meetings, prompt and tailored communication can leave a lasting impression on your contacts.

You should also consider leveraging tools or systems to streamline the follow-up process. Scanning business cards or badges at conferences allows for the inputting of contact information directly into your database, and it is a very efficient way to track connections. By prioritizing follow-up efforts and utilizing available resources, you can maximize the return on investment from attending conferences.

Make Your Professional Services Firm’s Conferences Meaningful

Mastering impactful conference strategies requires a combination of strategic thinking, mindfulness, and proactive planning. Reframe your professional services firm’s approach to conference selection, adopt a methodical mindset, and be mindful of emotional biases; you can then optimize your overall strategy and make the most of your conference experiences.

Remember to prioritize quality over quantity and focus on building genuine connections. Furthermore, always follow up with your connections post-event. With these strategies in place, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the conference landscape with confidence and purpose.

Need a deeper dive into making your conferences count? We’ve got a LinkedIn Live with a conference guru that brings all these points and more together. Click below to watch today!

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The Importance of Benchmarking in Measuring Business Growth

Posted by Lindsay Diven on May 02, 2024

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For project-based firms like those in engineering, architecture, and consulting, failing to measure and understand business performance against industry standards can lead your business towards stagnation or decline. Benchmarking, the critical practice of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best practices from other companies, is not just beneficial—it's essential. Without it, firms remain blind to their operational inefficiencies and market position, risking obsolescence.  

By rigorously examining internal operations against recognized standards, firms can pinpoint critical deficiencies and implement strategic changes, ensuring survival and fostering growth in an ever-evolving marketplace. This article will guide you through the importance of benchmarking, how to get started, identify key performance indicators, and effectively integrate these practices to drive business success. 

Why Benchmarking Matters for Project-Based Firms 

For project-based businesses, every project represents a complex interplay of resources, time, and client requirements. Benchmarking provides a structured approach to analyzing these elements by focusing on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive business success. It allows leaders to make informed decisions based on data-driven insights, rather than intuition alone. 

The importance of benchmarking in this sector cannot be overstated. It helps firms: 

  • Identify Efficiency Gaps: Benchmarking can highlight discrepancies between a firm’s current practices and the industry's best, allowing for targeted improvements. 
  • Enhance Competitive Advantage: Understanding where you stand in the market can help you leverage your strengths and address weaknesses, setting you apart from competitors. 
  • Drive Strategic Planning: With a clearer picture of how well you perform against benchmarks, you can prioritize initiatives that drive growth and enhance profitability. 
  • Improve Financial Performance: By aligning operations more closely with successful benchmarks, firms can improve profitability through better resource management and cost control. 

Getting Started with Benchmarking 

Implementing a successful benchmarking process involves several steps, from choosing relevant KPIs to analyzing external data. Here’s how to get started: 

Step 1: Define Relevant KPIs 

Selecting the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is crucial as these metrics will guide your benchmarking efforts and influence strategic decisions. For project-based firms, understanding both financial and operational performance is essential. Consider the following essential metrics: 

  • Utilization Rate: This measures how effectively the firm uses its billable staff. A high utilization rate often correlates with higher profitability and is a clear indicator of workforce efficiency. 
  • Net Labor Multiplier: A critical profitability metric that assesses how much revenue is generated per salary dollar paid. It highlights the financial effectiveness of human resource investment. 
  • Operating Profit: Looks at the firm’s earnings before interest and taxes, providing insight into operational efficiency and overall financial health. 
  • Current Ratio: This financial ratio measures a company's ability to pay off its short-term liabilities with its short-term assets. A strong current ratio indicates good liquidity health, crucial for maintaining smooth operations and responding to unforeseen challenges. 
  • Employee Turnover: An important metric for understanding employee retention and satisfaction. High turnover can indicate underlying issues in workplace culture or compensation, affecting project continuity and increasing recruitment and training costs. 

Beyond these metrics, firms should also tailor additional KPIs based on their strategic goals and industry specifics. For instance: 

  • Client Satisfaction Scores: Measure the satisfaction levels of your clients through surveys and feedback mechanisms. High satisfaction scores are often indicative of repeat business and client referrals. 
  • Project Completion Rate: Tracks the percentage of projects completed on time and within budget, crucial for maintaining client trust and operational efficiency. 
  • Billable Efficiency: Compares billable hours to total hours worked to assess how much of the workforce’s time is generating revenue. 

By defining these KPIs, firms can not only gauge their current performance but also set benchmarks that align with both industry standards and internal aspirations. This holistic view enables leaders to make informed, strategic decisions that drive growth and improve efficiency. 

Step 2: Gather Internal Data 

Once KPIs are defined, the next step is to compile data from your operations. This involves tracking these metrics over a significant period to establish an internal baseline. Utilize your existing ERP, such as Deltek Vantagepoint, to extract historical data, ensuring it’s accurate and comprehensive. 

Step 3: Find External Data for Comparison 

Once you've gathered and analyzed your internal data across selected KPIs, the crucial next step is to seek external benchmarks for meaningful comparison. This process, while challenging, is essential for gaining real insights and is entirely achievable with some diligent effort. 

A straightforward approach might involve hiring a consultant to dive deep into the metrics and performance of your competitors. However, a more cost-effective method is to leverage existing third-party studies and industry reports available online. These resources provide a wealth of comparative data and are often underutilized. 

Take, for example, Deltek's annual performance study specifically tailored for the architecture and engineering sectors. This comprehensive analysis reviews critical KPIs and distinguishes high-performing firms from their peers. Interestingly, recent findings suggest that while overhead and utilization rates are consistent across the board, top performers often share distinctive traits. These include enhanced efficiencies throughout their project lifecycle and a robust set of standardized company practices. 

In addition to industry-specific reports like Deltek's, broader marketing and business studies can also offer valuable insights. For instance, the marketing research firm Hinge regularly publishes analyses on high-growth firms across various professional services industries. These reports not only highlight what successful firms do differently but also challenge common misconceptions, such as the idea that high growth in certain smaller firms is merely an anomaly. 

The key takeaway is that valuable data is out there; you just need to know where to look. By comparing your internal metrics against these rich data sources, you can identify where you stand relative to the industry's best and learn from the strategies that set top performers apart. This process doesn't just measure your current performance—it provides a roadmap for where you need to go to achieve similar success. 

Step 4: Analyze the Data 

With both internal and external data at hand, perform a thorough analysis to identify trends, gaps, and opportunities. Look for patterns where your firm excels or underperforms compared to industry benchmarks. This analysis should go beyond mere numbers; it should help understand the underlying causes of discrepancies and what they mean for your business operations. 

Step 5: Incorporate Benchmarking into Management Practices 

Effective benchmarking should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Integrate these practices into your regular management routines. Regularly update your benchmarks and internal assessments to keep them relevant. Use benchmarking insights to set realistic performance goals, inform strategic decisions, and drive continuous improvement across your organization. 

Harnessing Benchmarking for Strategic Advantage 

Benchmarking transcends being merely a tool for measuring success; it is a comprehensive strategy that cultivates a culture of continuous improvement and strategic agility. For leaders of project-based firms, embedding benchmarking into daily business operations is crucial for illuminating the pathway to enhanced performance and enduring growth. 

By adopting benchmarking, your firm not only aligns with industry standards but also positions itself to proactively respond to evolving market conditions and capitalize on emerging opportunities. In a business landscape that is constantly changing, the firms that will flourish are those committed to measuring, comparing, and adapting based on solid data. 

To further explore how benchmarking can be seamlessly integrated into your strategic planning, I invite you to learn more about our Navigational Analysis Process. This tailored approach will guide you through identifying, analyzing, and leveraging critical data to not just meet but exceed industry benchmarks, ensuring your firm's competitive edge. Let's navigate your path to success together—click the image below to begin your journey. 

 

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What You Need to Know About OCR and ICR Technologies

Posted by Evan Creech-Pritchett on April 25, 2024

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Without efficient document management, project-based firms would fall to pieces. The advent of advanced technologies, particularly in scanning and document processing, helped firms streamline this crucial aspect of their operations. Traditional scanning methods often fall short, only capturing document images without extracting crucial metadata such as client names, dates, or invoice amounts, unless manually inputted by associates.

What is OCR?

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, also referred to as optical character reader, plays a pivotal role in modern document management systems. It involves the conversion of images containing typed, handwritten, or printed text into machine-encoded text. Various sources can be converted such as scanned documents, photographs of documents, scene photos capturing text on signs or billboards, or even subtitled text overlaid on images from television broadcasts.

OCR technology was developed by Emanuel Goldberg, making its debut in 1914. Initially, it was developed to aid the visually impaired in reading characters. Over time, OCR capabilities have evolved significantly, becoming useful in various everyday applications such as airport processes, mail handling, and banking.

Early iterations of OCR systems required training with images of individual characters and were limited to working with one font at a time. However, advancements in technology, and most notably in AI, have led to the development of sophisticated systems capable of achieving high accuracy across a wide range of fonts. Modern OCR systems can support various image file formats as inputs, enhancing their versatility and applicability.

Some OCR systems can even reproduce formatted output closely resembling the original document layout, including images, columns, and other non-textual components. This capability ensures that the digitized documents retain their visual integrity and readability, further enhancing the utility of OCR in document management and data processing tasks.

OCR engines have evolved into specialized software applications tailored to specific subjects such as receipts, invoices, checks, and legal billing documents. These applications offer a multitude of functionalities, including:

  • Entering data for business documents like checks, invoices, and receipts
  • Extracting business card information and integrating it into contact lists
  • Creating digital versions of printed documents
  • Enhancing document searchability by converting scanned documents into searchable PDFs

These applications show off the versatility and significance of OCR technology in modern-day document management. The adoption of OCR solutions is poised to become increasingly integral to firms’ operational workflows, driving efficiency, accuracy, and overall productivity.

What is ICR?

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) software goes a step further than OCR, recognizing various fonts and handwriting styles. This distinction is crucial for grasping the nuances of modern document processing. ICR swiftly extracts information from scanned paper documents, digitally storing it for analytical reporting and seamless integration into business processes. Its self-learning systems continuously update recognition databases, achieving accuracy rates exceeding 97% for structured forms.

An important application is Automated Forms Processing, pioneered in 1993, streamlining data extraction from real-world forms. While OCR focuses on machine-printed text, ICR excels in deciphering hand-printed characters, though it faces some challenges with cursive handwriting. As businesses embrace digital transformation, ICR's adoption promises enhanced efficiency and accuracy in document management, revolutionizing data processing workflows.

Benefits of ICR

While OCR remains a cost-effective solution for basic document management needs, ICR offers advanced features tailored to the requirements of project-based firms. Not only does the ability to decipher handwritten notes and diverse fonts expand its utility beyond OCR, but the automatic retrieval of relevant data mitigates the risk of human input errors, a common challenge with manual data entry processes.

ICR in Accounting

In the realm of accounting, ICR proves particularly invaluable, streamlining the processing of various financial documents such as accounts payable, invoices, purchase orders, and payroll forms. For larger firms handling a high volume of documents monthly, ICR significantly reduces the time and effort expended on manual data entry tasks, thereby enhancing operational efficiency.

Mobile Expense Retrieval with Deltek Vantagepoint

Leading ERP systems provider Deltek has embraced ICR technology within its flagship solution, Deltek Vantagepoint. Leveraging ICR capabilities, Vantagepoint's mobile expense feature enables users to capture receipts via photographs, with the software automatically extracting relevant text and populating fields. This eliminates the need for manual data entry, empowering accounting teams to track project budgets seamlessly throughout the project lifecycle.

Looking Ahead

As technology continues to evolve, Deltek remains at the forefront of innovation, exploring additional applications of ICR to further streamline business operations. Stay updated as Deltek continues to test and integrate ICR capabilities into various facets of its ERP system, promising even greater efficiency gains for project-based firms.

 

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Simplifying Project Budgeting in Deltek Vantagepoint: A Comprehensive Overview

Posted by Terri Agnew, CPA on April 18, 2024

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In today’s world of project management, monitoring project costs incurred & projected, as well as forecasting project profitability, are crucial for the success of any project. Deltek Vantagepoint, a leading project management software, offers a robust solution for this by integrating contract management, project budgeting, and project planning tools. This article provides a comprehensive overview to help project managers and consultants effectively leverage this robust project management tool.

Contract Management, Project Budget, and Planning Integration

Deltek Vantagepoint stands out by allowing users to view and manage contract values, budget, and planning information simultaneously. This seamless integration is visible in the Project Review form, where important data such as contractual fees, budgeted estimated costs at completion (EAC), planned costs (ETC), and projected profits are displayed comprehensively. Users can drill down to the details in the work breakdown structure (WBS), allowing budget management from a high-level overview or down to any of the specific phases or tasks.

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Detailed Budgeting Process

The project budget tool in Deltek Vantagepoint enables detailed budget entries at the lowest WBS levels, facilitating accurate labor, expense, and consultant budgeting. This granularity ensures that every aspect of a project, from concept design to completion, is budgeted for. Users can switch between cost and billing views for reporting, accommodating different project management needs. Budgets are entered at the labor code level for labor hours. For expenses, budgets are entered into GL accounts for the expense and can be detailed out to the vendor, such as a subconsultant.

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Planning Tool and Baseline Budgets

Vantagepoint's project planning tool allows for establishing baseline plans reflective of the original contract. Project managers can update estimates to complete (ETC) based on real-time project developments, such as changes to the schedule, staff availability, and scope changes, ensuring that the resource plan reflects current project realities. This dynamic approach to project management allows for timely adjustments and re-forecasting, essential for maintaining project profitability.

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Analyzing Project Performance

The integration of budget and planning tools within the Project Review view facilitates a comprehensive analysis of project performance. At the bottom of the Project Review form, there are several key performance indicators (KPIs) such as effective multiplier, % expended, % earned, and profit margins which are automatically updated based on the latest budget and planning data. This real-time feedback enables project managers to identify deviations from the budget early and take corrective actions, such as requesting additional services or revising estimates.

Comprehensive Project Overview

By returning to the project review screen, users can evaluate the overall financial health, including profit margins, effective multipliers, % expended, % earned, and overhead. The system provides insights into how actual spending and planning adjustments impact project profitability, offering a complete picture of the project's financial status. This holistic view and real-time feedback enable project managers to identify deviations from the budget early and take corrective actions quickly to avoid major budget overruns, ensuring the project remains on track financially.

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Mastering Project Finances with Deltek Vantagepoint

Vantagepoint offers a powerful suite of tools for simplifying project budgeting and planning. By integrating these processes, project managers can maintain tight control over budgets, adjust plans in real-time, assist in decision-making, and ensure project success. For project managers and consultants looking to optimize their budgeting and planning processes, Deltek Vantagepoint provides a comprehensive solution. Click the image below to see how these tools are used effectively to manage project finances efficiently in a 15-minute demo.

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Understanding the Impact of the Organizational and Work Breakdown Structures in Deltek Vantagepoint

Posted by Jenny Labranche on April 11, 2024

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Welcome to the matrix, you have the power to build a solid structure and allow your data to flow.  However, it is beneficial for one to understand the difference between Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) before you lay that foundation. During both the implementation of Deltek Vantagepoint and throughout a firm’s growth, professional services firms should understand the connection between the Organizational Breakdown Structure and the Work Breakdown Structure.  

A typical first step is to consider whether the firm needs to re-organize these structures. Whether it be the uniqueness of each, or the relationship between the two, the attention paid to these early stages of development is instrumental to the flow and reporting of information in your Deltek Vantagepoint database. In the following, we’ll explore some areas to consider when designing these structures in your database.  

Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS)

When it comes to designing the Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) in Deltek Vantagepoint, it's important to consider the specific needs of your professional services firm. The OBS can range from simple to complex, depending on the size and requirements of your organization. Here are some examples of different OBS approaches.  

  • Location Approach: With this approach, the OBS is organized based on the physical locations of your offices or project sites. Each location represents a hierarchical level in the structure, allowing you to track and manage projects and resources across different geographic areas.  
  • Discipline/Department Approach: In the discipline or department approach, the OBS is structured around different functional areas or departments within your organization. This allows for efficient resource allocation, project assignment, and collaboration within specific areas of expertise.  
  • Market Sector or Business Development Driven: This approach focuses on organizing the OBS according to your firm's market sectors or business development strategies. Each market sector or business development unit can be assigned a hierarchical level, enabling you to analyze performance and profitability based on these segments.  

Deltek Vantagepoint provides flexibility in designing your OBS, offering up to five hierarchical levels to accommodate your specific requirements. It also allows for the allocation of overhead requirements within the structure of the database. If you plan to utilize the multi-company functionality in your database, it's important to reserve level one for different companies within your enterprise.   

Financial accountability is a crucial aspect of any professional services organization. When building your OBS, it's essential to consider the financial implications. For example, if you use a two-level OBS structure, such as office and department, each combination will generate an income statement. This means that someone within your organization should be responsible for reviewing and managing these statements.  

Deltek Vantagepoint also enables the extraction of various cross-sections for combined financial reporting. For instance, if you have a mechanical department in three offices, you can create a mechanical income statement that provides accountability at different levels:  

  • Office Accountability: You can track the financial performance of each individual office separately, gaining insights into the profitability and expenses associated with specific locations.  
  • Office/Department Accountability: This level of accountability allows you to analyze the financial performance of different departments within each office. It helps in evaluating the contribution of each department to overall profitability.  
  • Overall Department Accountability: By consolidating the financial data of the mechanical department across all offices, you can assess the department's overall performance and make informed decisions regarding resource allocation and strategic planning.  

The OBS in Deltek Vantagepoint offers the flexibility to design a structure that aligns with your professional services firm's needs. By carefully considering the OBS approach, financial accountability, and the ability to generate cross-sectional reports, you can effectively manage projects, resources, and profitability within your organization.  

Projects and the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a critical component that determines how a project is organized and how revenue and costs flow within a professional services firm. Most firms find it effective to build their WBS based on project budgets, aligning with the fee and scope defined in the client contract using a bottom-up approach. The best practice is to build your WBS to mirror your contract for smooth management of resources, budgets, and billing.    

Deltek Vantagepoint provides the flexibility to define up to three levels in the WBS, commonly referred to as Project, Phase, and Task. However, these labels can be customized to match your firm's preferences. Furthermore, the WBS allows for the assignment of accountability within a project. You can designate a project manager, as well as phase and task managers, based on their scope and budget responsibilities.  

It's important to note that project builds and WBS structures do not have to be identical across all projects. While each professional services firm may have its own unique requirements, it is generally recommended to have at least one WBS level 2 for every project, indicating another variation in the WBS. Additionally, projects can be built with no WBS level 3 or only certain portions of the WBS level 2 extending into the WBS level 3.  

The OBS and WBS structures function both individually and in tandem to support overall financial and operational accountability within your organization. At the lowest level, the WBS drives how revenue and costs are allocated within the OBS. Here are some additional factors to consider when working with the OBS and WBS structures:  

  • "Mirroring" the OBS in WBS for Overhead Projects: For projects involving overhead costs, it can be beneficial to mirror the OBS structure within the WBS. This helps ensure that the appropriate overhead costs are accurately assigned to specific projects, allowing for better cost tracking and financial reporting.  
  • Combinations of Cross-Charge, Intercompany Billing, and High Accountability in WBS: Consider how cross-charges, intercompany billing, and high levels of accountability will be incorporated into your WBS. Deltek Vantagepoint offers capabilities to support these requirements, allowing you to accurately allocate costs between different departments, offices, or business units within your professional services firm.  

By carefully considering these aspects of the OBS and WBS structures, you can establish a robust framework for financial and operational accountability within your professional services organization. Deltek Vantagepoint empowers you to customize and tailor the OBS and WBS to meet your firm's specific needs, ensuring accurate project tracking, cost allocation, and financial reporting.  

Is it Time to Update Your OBS and WBS Structures? 

In the ever-evolving landscape of professional services firms, it's crucial to regularly assess and update your Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in Deltek Vantagepoint. As your business needs change and evolve, it becomes imperative to optimize your system to ensure it aligns with your current requirements. This is where Full Sail Partners can help. There is no one size fits all, and with the guidance of our consultants, we can help you develop a solution.   
 
By combining project attributes, you can create a powerful framework that enables efficient project management, resource allocation, and financial reporting. However, implementing such changes requires expertise and guidance from both functional and data consultants to ensure a smooth transition. We specialize in Deltek Vantagepoint consulting services, including OBS and WBS optimization.  

Our experienced consultants can work closely with your team to analyze your current structures, identify areas for improvement, and design a new and more productive system tailored to your unique needs. Timing and cutover planning are critical to the success of any system update. Our consultants will guide you through the entire process, ensuring that the implementation is seamless, minimizing disruption to your operations, and maximizing the benefits of the new OBS and WBS structures.  
 
Now is the perfect time to get creative and strive to get the most out of your Deltek Vantagepoint system. Don't let outdated structures hold your firm back. Explore the possibilities of a Navigational Analysis and let us help you unlock the full potential of Deltek Vantagepoint and drive efficiency, profitability, and growth within your organization. Learn more about how a Navigational Analysis can help your firm by clicking the image below.  

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5 Mistakes Made During an ERP Search

Posted by Bryce Crosby on April 04, 2024

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Selecting and implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a complex and critical process for any size professional services firm. Those investing in an ERP need to understand it can take significant time and is a decision that will impact your firm for many years if not decades. Here are five common mistakes made during an ERP search and our advice on avoiding them.

#1 Insufficient Needs Assessment

Mistake: Failing to thoroughly understand and document the professional services firm's specific business requirements and needs. It’s important to keep the “end in mind.” What are your long-term goals? How will you know if this project is successful or not? “Easier” isn’t a real goal. Easy is subjective. Business requirements should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART GOALS AND OBJECTIVE SETTING).

Consequence: Choosing an ERP system that doesn't align with the organization's unique processes both current and future needs, leading to inefficiencies and potential failed implementations. It is very important to be on the same page across the entire firm. The firm needs to come together as one, and not have fragmented processes for an ERP implementation to be successful.

Our Advice: Make sure that every department (from business development to project tracking to forecasting to billing) has their needs documented. Understand where there are inefficiencies and where you need improvement. What measurable results are you looking for from those improvements?

#2 Lack of Executive Involvement

Mistake: Not having strong executive sponsorship and involvement throughout the entire ERP process. This includes the evaluation process, selection, kick-off, key milestones, and ongoing commitment to improvement. Change Management really starts with the leaders of the company. As we all know, change is not always easy. Having leadership be an advocate and having strong communication downstream will ensure you reach the “end in mind.”

Consequence: Lack of commitment from top management may result in inadequate resources, funding, and overall support for the ERP project, increasing the risk of failure. Executive involvement can ensure that all departments are aligned and that everyone can see the bigger picture.

Our Advice: Ensure C-Suite is involved throughout the evaluation process, so they can be an advocate during the implementation, and they share the strategic vision and benefits this will bring to your professional services firm.

#3 Inadequate Vendor Evaluation

Mistake: Rushing the vendor selection process or not thoroughly evaluating potential ERP vendors. Many vendors can seem similar on the surface. Taking the time to dive into specific differentiators and finding the vendor that is best suited for your needs is important.

Consequence: Choosing a vendor without considering factors such as financial stability, support capabilities, industry expertise, and long-term viability, can lead to problems during implementation and ongoing use.

Our Advice: Make sure to consider your ERP vendor as a long-term partner. Make sure the ERP can grow with your professional services firm and that you have established strong relationships with the organization and consultants that will implement your software. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do the vendor and the consultants understand your business?
  • How long has this ERP provider been in business? Is ERP their primary focus?
  • Are there user groups and other references of similar companies?

#4 Overlooking Change Management

Mistake: Underestimating the importance of change management and employee training. This can mean different things to different departments. Some employees or departments may be affected more than others, and it is important to understand the micro level of the impact that any change may have.

Consequence: Resistance from employees, lack of user adoption, and increased likelihood of project delays or failure due to insufficient preparation for the organizational changes associated with ERP implementation. If users do not see the benefits of change, they might look at it as additional or unnecessary work.

Our Advice: Making sure to have executive involvement throughout the evaluation and implementation will help with change management a ton. Consistent reminders of the benefits this will bring both to your professional services firm and to each specific role are critical for the full adoption of a new ERP.

#5 Not Understanding the Time and Resource Commitment

Mistake: Focusing solely on upfront costs and not considering the long-term expenses associated with ERP implementation and maintenance. ERP is not a “one-and-done” investment. Consistent monitoring and evaluation of your internal processes is critical to stay on track with your long-term goals.

Consequence: Unexpected costs, and challenges in maintaining the ERP system over time, impacting the overall return on investment. Depending on how the software is deployed (SaaS vs. On-Premise), there are different ongoing costs to consider.

Our Advice: Have in mind who will be the champions of the implementation. Having a strong Project Coordinator will ensure things go smoothly. Training doesn’t end when you go live. You need to anticipate some ongoing training, periodic refreshing, and of course, new hire training. Think about questions like will there be an internal “power user” to conduct these, or will you be looking to hire consulting for this?

Carefully Tread When Doing the ERP Search

The choice you make for an ERP for your professional services firm is a decision that will greatly affect your firm down the road and must be done thoughtfully. To avoid these common mistakes when searching, organizations should invest time in comprehensive planning, involve key stakeholders, conduct thorough vendor evaluations, prioritize change management, and carefully assess the total cost of ownership throughout the ERP search and implementation process. Need help figuring out which ERP you should use? Let us give you a hand!

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When Should a Firm Using Deltek Vantagepoint Consider a Business Intelligence or Outside Reporting Tool?

Posted by Timothy Burns on March 28, 2024

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In today's data-driven business environment, project-based firms face unique challenges that require comprehensive and flexible analytical capabilities. While Deltek Vantagepoint provides robust dashboards and visualizations, there are instances where the depth and breadth of analysis needed by firms surpass what's available out of the box. This is where the integration of a Business Intelligence (BI) tool, such as Informer, becomes not just beneficial but necessary.

Navigating Complex Data Landscapes

Project-based firms often deal with multifaceted data that sprawls across various Vantagepoint tables or hubs. When the task at hand involves pulling, analyzing, and comparing this data to unearth actionable insights, Informer steps in with its advanced visualization capabilities.

For instance, constructing a dashboard that integrates financial performance data from one table with project timelines from another can reveal insights into project profitability that might not be apparent from isolated datasets.

Informer BI Screenshot

When your firm requires the integration and comparison of data across various Vantagepoint tables or Hubs, a BI tool like Informer BI Solution can provide the enhanced capability needed. This ability to build detailed visualizations using diverse database tables ensures a more comprehensive understanding of your firm's operations and project landscapes.

Merging External and Internal Data Streams

In many scenarios, the data residing within Vantagepoint needs to be enriched with information from external sources to provide a complete picture. This might include integrating information from a payroll provider, client satisfaction surveys, or external financial benchmarks. Informer allows for such integration, offering a unified platform where all data - internal and external - can be visualized and analyzed together. This holistic view is crucial for strategic decision-making, enabling firms to position themselves more competitively in the market.

Informer BI Screenshot 3

Tailoring Reports to Specific Needs

Custom reports stand as a cornerstone for firms seeking in-depth analysis tailored to their specific needs. Unlike standard Vantagepoint reports, custom reporting tools allow for the creation of highly specialized reports that dive into the nuances of your firm's data. This bespoke approach ensures that firms can extract precise insights relevant to their unique projects and operational questions, facilitating strategic decisions rooted in comprehensive data analysis.

Leveraging Merge Templates for Consistency and Efficiency

Firms might consider adopting a BI tool like Informer if they seek to enhance document creation processes. Informer Templates automate and simplify the generation of crucial documents, such as invoices and fee proposals, by allowing non-technical users to apply conditional logic to smart forms. This capability highlights a firm's need for a BI tool when existing systems like Deltek Vantagepoint require extended functionality for efficient, error-free document production. Integrating BI tools ensures consistency and leverages a unified data source for generating key firm documents, indicating a strategic move toward operational efficiency.

Analyzing Scenarios and Forecasting 

Project-based firms thrive on their ability to anticipate and adapt to future scenarios. Informer's BI capabilities extend to advanced scenario analysis and forecasting, allowing firms to model various future states based on current and historical data. Whether it's forecasting cash flow, assessing the impact of potential market changes on project viability, or analyzing risk, these insights are invaluable for proactive management and strategic planning.

Reviewing Data Just-In-Time for Agile Decision-Making 

In a fast-paced project environment, the ability to make quick, informed decisions is crucial. Informer offers data visualization on your schedule, enabling firms to monitor key metrics and performance indicators as they happen. This just-in-time capability ensures that decision-makers have the most current information on your schedule, whether it's tracking project budgets, assessing resource allocations, or monitoring project milestones against deadlines.

Informer BI Screenshot 2

Boosting Collaboration with Secure, Accessible Data

Data is most powerful when it's shared and accessible to those who need it. Informer elevates data sharing and collaboration, offering intuitive dashboards and reports accessible anytime, anywhere, ensuring a unified data approach among all team members. This seamless integration is enhanced by the Blackbox Connector for Informer, which aligns with Deltek Vantagepoint’s security protocols. It mirrors your organization's existing hierarchy and roles, simplifying user access management directly within Vantagepoint.

Power Your Projects: Elevate Your Business with Deltek Vantagepoint and Informer

In the world of project management, where data reigns supreme, the partnership between Deltek Vantagepoint and Informer emerges as your key to success. This powerful combination not only merges internal with external data for a comprehensive view but also tailors reporting to your unique needs and delivers insights in real time.

Elevate your project intelligence, streamline operations, and gain a competitive edge. Click on the image below to discover how Deltek Vantagepoint and Informer can transform your business, taking you from mere project management to powering your projects with unparalleled intelligence.

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Client Connections: Create Unique Client Experiences

Posted by Kim Stamps on March 21, 2024

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As an employee or leader of a professional services firm, you are aware of the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with your clients. For project-based industries like architecture and engineering, communicating with clients throughout the project lifecycle enables you to meet their requirements and expectations more efficiently. However, the process of communicating effectively is not always straightforward.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you were uncertain about your client’s satisfaction level? For example, you solicited feedback and received an ambiguous response:

“Hi Janet, how are you? How do you feel about the project’s progress?”  

“Uhhh, it’s okay?” 

What does “okay” imply? That is not very informative. How can you ensure that you are engaging clients and obtaining honest feedback from them? Do you have a systematic method of gathering and analyzing feedback?  A consistent feedback process to help you stay connected with your clients throughout the project’s duration is essential.  

Identify Issues Before They Worsen

The key to being successful with project management is to identify the problems before they worsen or become irreparable. This is where consistent and frequent feedback plays a crucial role in the process. While it is certainly important to get feedback at the project’s end, it is even more significant to obtain feedback at every phase of the project during its lifecycle to prevent issues that are not fixable.

Here are some examples of scenarios when feedback is postponed until the project’s end, and it is too late to do anything:   

Example 1:

“Hi Janet, I hope you are well. I just wanted to follow up with you and see how we performed on our project. I am sending you a survey to complete and share your opinions.”  

“Well, I am upset that I didn’t get a personal email to let me know about each change. I realize that you sent one to the group, but it hurt my feelings that I didn’t get one sent just to me. I will never collaborate with you again.”  

“Wow, Janet, I was unaware that you felt that way. What can I do to remedy it now?”  

“It is too late to remedy it now.” 

Example 2:

“Hi Matt, I have really enjoyed working with you to complete this project. I just wanted to check in with you to see how we performed on our project. I am sending you a survey to complete and share your opinions.” 

“While I felt that your team did a thorough job addressing our needs, I have been very unhappy with the large amount of emails and correspondence. One email to our team with each change is enough to keep us all in the loop and aware of what is happening but to get so many extra emails personally has been way too much. The time spent reading and responding to you is ridiculous.” 

“Wow, Matt, I was unaware that you felt that way. What can I do to remedy it now?” 

“It is too late to remedy it now.” 

Seeing these examples of what can happen if you wait until the end of the project for feedback emphasizes the need to remain connected with the clients throughout the process. It is imperative to frequently gauge if you are meeting the client’s expectations because each client, and even each person on the project, has different preferences and objectives. By requesting feedback throughout the project, you can better adjust to their expectations, build a strong relationship with your client, and achieve positive feedback at the project’s end.  

Client Feedback Tool and its Benefits

So, how do you go about getting this consistent feedback throughout the project lifecycle so you can ensure your projects are running successfully and meeting client expectations? The solution for you is the Client Feedback Tool. There are many benefits of having a systematic client feedback process that allows you to deliver client-centric services. 

Systematic Client Feedback Process:

The term “systematic” implies a well-organized and structured approach. When it comes to gathering feedback from clients, having a systematic process in place is crucial. This process ensures that you can collect valuable insights consistently and efficiently. Let’s delve deeper into some key aspects of this approach: 

  • Client-Centric Focus: The primary purpose of obtaining feedback is to understand your clients better. It’s essential to shift the focus away from yourself and direct it toward the client. By doing so, you can tailor your services to meet their specific needs and expectations. 
  • Speed and Ease: Feedback collection should be swift and hassle-free. Clients lead busy lives, and dedicating excessive time to providing feedback isn’t practical. This streamlined process ensures that clients can share their thoughts in under two minutes. This efficiency demonstrates your commitment to respecting their time. 
  • Fear of Negative Feedback: Feeling apprehensive about receiving negative feedback is natural. However, let’s reframe this perspective. The feedback isn’t a personal critique; it’s about evaluating your service delivery and processes. By separating yourselves from the feedback, you can objectively analyze areas for improvement. 
  • Process-Centric Questions: The questions posed during feedback collection are intentionally process-specific. They address aspects related to service quality, communication, and overall client experience. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about ensuring that your processes align with client expectations. 

Client-Centric Service Delivery:

A systematic feedback process revolves around client-centricity, efficiency, and a constructive mindset. By embracing this approach, you can enhance your services and build stronger relationships with your clients. Let’s explore the concept of client-centric service delivery in more detail.

As a professional, your goal is to exceed client expectations. Here’s how you achieve this: 

  • Understanding Client Needs: Rather than assuming what clients want, you actively seek their input. This feedback process allows you to gain insights into their preferences, pain points, and desired outcomes. By aligning your services with their needs, you enhance overall satisfaction. 
  • Process Evaluation: Your focus extends beyond individual interactions. You evaluate the entire service delivery process. Are your communication channels effective? Is your response time satisfactory? These process-oriented questions guide your improvements. 
  • Feedback ≠ Personal Critique: It’s essential to recognize that feedback isn’t a judgment of your abilities. Instead, it’s a tool for continuous enhancement. By depersonalizing feedback, you create a safe space for clients to express their thoughts openly. 
  • Client Expectations: Ultimately, your success hinges on meeting client expectations. Whether it’s timely project completion, transparent communication, or exceptional service quality, your processes must align with what clients anticipate. 

Embrace Client-Centricity with the Client Feedback Tool

In a nutshell, using the systematic feedback process of the Client Feedback Tool, your professional services firm will be able to embrace client-centricity wholeheartedly. Utilizing this approach in gauging customer needs and expectations underscores a commitment to understanding, evaluating, and improving processes to consistently deliver outstanding service experiences. Remember, it’s all about connecting with clients, ensuring their overall satisfaction, and developing relationships that continue down the road for years to come.

 

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