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Posts by Rana Blair:

Why Project-Based Firms Should Utilize the Deltek Vision Contract Management Feature

Posted by Rana Blair on May 06, 2015

contract managementI don’t know of a single Professional Service firm without a formal contract management process. Firms spend significant dollars purchasing contract templates and some even retain legal counsel for review. Everyone knows that the contract is an important document in any project undertaking.

Nevertheless, those same firms often begin work without getting the document signed!

Does the importance of the document cease once work has begun? Of course not. But what happens is that the production machine must and does begin before the administration machine can catch up. The contract seems to be subjugated to more pressing needs and the team begins operating on ‘Good Faith’.

External stakeholders have a vested interest in the firm’s contract habits. Professional Liability Insurance applications have at least a few questions relating to whether or not a contract is required, how much work is performed without a contract, and so on. Even the bank wants to know about the status of firm’s contracts and the processes employed. Banks analyze aging or large Accounts Receivable (AR) and next ask about the project’s contracts status. Both want to assess the risk inherent in providing their products to the firm.

It’s All About the Risk

Business is risky. There is no way to eliminate it, only to reduce. Written contracts certainly mitigate risks. Signed ones reduce it further.

Having a signed contract doesn’t guarantee against litigation. There are always competing interpretations of the language after the fact. Better contracts decrease collection time and reduce disputes.

Not having a signed contract does not mean that the firm will not be paid. As long as it is clear that money was to be exchanged for services, there will be some value exchanged. However, the firm might have to perform more work than intended for the stated amount. Additionally, it might mean considerable expense or time attempting to get those dollars.

The truth is, all Professional Services firms have a tendency to do some work without a contract. How much, how often, and with whom is important information that should be assembled and available for review by stakeholders to stay informed about the risks of the firm.

Leveraging the Deltek Vision Contract Management Feature

The Contract Management feature included in Deltek Vision’s Finance Core is one such tool that can be used to assist in accumulating information on this risk factor in the firm. The tool and system are designed specifically with project-based firms in mind. Let’s take a look at how this feature can help:

Track It

Deltek Vision Contract Management allows users to track multiple contract documents, their origination and approval dates, status, and fees requested per document. Because the information is entered on each project, it makes a variety of reports and workflows available allowing for efficient and integrated contract tracking. Optionally, information can be extended neatly into the Project’s Work Breakdown Structure which will allow users to easily see which documents created and amended the fee on each level.

Identify It

By using the Contract Management area of the Project Info Center, users can add the information to reports already in use. Both the Project Summary and Office Earnings allow the Contract Management fields to be selected as columns to appear along-side the existing data on firm reports. Contract statistical data can also be used as a filter on other reports.

Manage It

Integrating project contract information into Deltek Vision allows users to employ the powerful workflow engine in the software. Vision Workflows enables Contract Management users to automate the reporting and informing process around Contracts.

Consider these workflows:

    • Notify Project Manager and/or Principal when a contract has been marked as Approved
    • Remind a user of special handling when a contract exceeding $XXX,XXX has been created
    • Update a column on the Project record when a contract record has been inserted

Use It

Deltek Vision Contract Management users can leverage the information about contract status in other organizational processes. The Contract Management fields are available as filters on any project-based report. This allows the contract status to become a part of the firm’s management process.

Consider using Contract Management data and filters in these activities:

    • Client Management – Create a Project List report for active projects and sorted by Client. Include Contract creation date and status as columns to get the most from the client check-in call.
    • Collections Management – Create a scheduled report for outstanding AR where contract documents are in ‘Pending’ status. Create an AR alert for projects with certain contract status’.
    • Employee Management – Use the Optional Sales Credit feature to measure employees’ participation on specific contract documents. Use in reviews or statistical reporting.

Know the Risk and Accept It

None of us live in a perfect world where a single project meeting hasn’t been had until the contract is signed. However, our focus should turn to understanding and measuring the risk that will be taken on. Firm management should be well informed of the status of the firm’s contracts and have the necessary information on hand should they need to intervene. To support this, contract tracking and management should be integrated with the projects to which they relate. Your Vision software is already well equipped to assist you in the mechanics.

To get started today you can:

  • Review our technical webinar on the Contract Management feature
  • Enter a test contract or two to understand how the feature works
Later you can:
  • Identify how your current process can improve with automation, integration and reporting
  • Backfill existing contract data
  • Contact a Full Sail Partners consultant for more advanced training to customize menus, write workflows and complex reports.
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Management of Change: The Project Manager's Perspective

Posted by Rana Blair on October 29, 2014

management of change pmThis series has been exploring how change management is viewed by a variety of perspectives: executives and finance to date with marketing, HR and IT yet to come.  We’ve advocated that change must be understood and handled differently from each department’s “normal” day to day activities.  However, for our focus on project management, this series will take a somewhat different turn.  Project Managers already have, in their very work DNA, the ability to see, to scope, and to manage change.  It’s what they do on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis: it’s what project management is all about.  

The specifics

Let’s first take a closer look at our terms – project management and change management – in order to make the clear connection.  Tim Creasey, Director of Research and Development for Prosci Research takes us through this process.  

change management

From these terms, he offers next the vital connecting visual and description.

change management2

“As shown in this image, both project management and change management support moving an organization from a current state (how things are done today), through a transition state to a desired future state (the new processes, systems, organization structures or job roles defined by 'the change'). Project management focuses on the tasks to achieve the project requirements. Change management focuses on the people impacted by the change.

Any change to processes, systems, organization structures and/or job roles will have a 'technical' side and a 'people' side that must be managed. Project management and change management have evolved as disciplines to provide both the structure and the tools needed to realize change successfully on [both] the technical and people side[s].” 

But there’s more

In our first piece, we offered a definitions of change management with user adoption as the important second step in the management of change.  Once again, project managers are well positioned to ensure that not only are the processes of change implemented correctly, but that the people involved in the change are empowered to take full advantage.   

As we’ve discussed, both project management and change management have as their leading characteristic, a specific focus on the people involved in the change.  Also we stated in beginning of our series, user adoption requires a clearly defined and financially measured goal with training, clear communication/marketing and leadership buy-in as necessary parts to be successful.  Each of these attributes is an important part of ensuring that the people part of change is not only smooth but wholly embraced:  there is, after all, good reason that the company utilized valuable energy scoping out the change that will take your company from its present state to its future, more desired, state.  And since a company is really the embodiment of the sum of its employees,   

The company will only change

 when the individuals fully and entirely

commit to the change.

Final phase

No project would be complete without this all-important final phase - project review.  We all well know that no project would be complete without really looking at those phases which were well executed and which were not:  it is here in the post-mortem where real learning occurs and where there is a final determination of success and of change. 


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Deltek Kona: 'Spaces' for all Shapes and Sizes!

Posted by Rana Blair on August 26, 2014

Deltek Kona Spaces"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." This saying could never be truer than when talking about collaboration. We as humans have an intrinsic need to work together. Unfortunately it seems that at times as humans we also have a  need to butt heads! More often than not in the business world, this butting of heads is a result of how we communicate. Luckily, Deltek has recognized these faults with collaboration and has introduced a solution that you may or may not of heard of by now – Deltek Kona!

Since the release of Kona there have been many upgrades to the platform. If you are a long time user, you have probably recognized some of these changes. Well, now it is time to identify some of the most important changes made to Kona spaces, and how these changes impact your professional services firm:

Organizing Deltek Kona Spaces

If you’re reading this, chances are you are using Deltek Kona frequently and have been added to a number of Kona spaces. 

The Deltek Kona team has developed some tools that allow you to categorize your spaces.  You can then use the classifications you’ve created just for you to adjust what you see and what content is emailed to you.

Space Categories

After assessing the types of spaces you are involved in, you may find that there are multiple spaces for different objectives such as Billable projects, Internal Work Groups, or Company Initiatives. Create a category for multiple spaces so they can be grouped together and used as filters.  The categories you create are just for you and can be changed any time.   

To create categories, go to Manage under the Spaces pane and then Add Category.  To assign spaces to the new category, simply enter the space and choose edit, then assign it to the desired category.

$5 Tip:  Don’t go make categories now.  Read on to find alternative thought processes on creating categories.

Space Favorites

With or without using Space Categories, you can also use the Favorite tool to mark one or more spaces as a Favorite.  This is helpful for spaces where there is a lot of activity or information that you refer to frequently.  Like categories, the list of Favorites can be used as a filter to narrow what you see in your Deltek Kona session.

To mark a Kona space as a favorite, go to the space in the list of spaces and click the down arrow to the right of the space name and choose Favorite.

$10 Tip:  You can also hide spaces.  The only way to find the hidden spaces is to use the filter drop-down.  (See below.)

Positioning Spaces

Spaces are natively organized first by Network, then Favorites, then everything else alphabetically.  Perhaps there is a space that you don’t want to mark as a favorite, but would like to see in your space view without scrolling or you have spaces that are at the top of the list but don’t need to be seen immediately.  This is often helpful for personal or reference spaces that don’t have a lot of new conversation content but need to be easily accessed

To reposition a space, simply click in the middle of the space name and drag it to its new position

Filtering Space Views

Once you’ve assigned spaces to categories or have marked them as favorites, you can begin to use the Space Filter tool in a more advanced way.  To access the filters, look for the down arrow just below the space search box and above the first space.  The dropdown will reveal the standard categories, favorites, and categories you’ve created. 

$25 Tip:  The filter selection remains even after you log out of Deltek Kona.  If upon logging in again, you cannot find the space you’re looking for, go to the filters and reset to All.

Using Categories and Favorites in Email Settings

Once you’ve organized your Deltek Kona spaces on a more granular level, you might want to revisit the Notifications area in your profile.  One of the most exciting features in Deltek Kona this summer, is the ability to turn on the Conversation Digest for only one category or only for Favorites.  Furthermore, you can choose to mark the conversations as read once they are emailed in the Digest.

$1,000 Tip:  If you are not inclined to choose just one category for your Deltek Kona spaces, considering creating a category for spaces that you just don’t care that much about.  Then, tell Kona that you’d like to receive a periodic Conversation Digest for that category and that you’d like to mark the conversations as read.  This will still let you know what you’ve missed in a compact format, but will also keep your Kona view cleaner for all that you do wish to digest from within the application. 

If the ability to filter your Deltek Kona spaces doesn’t seem useful to you, then you have not been properly introduced to the “Kona Life”, let us help you discover how Kona can make yours and the lives of your group members easier:

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If you are intrigued by the mention of Billable Projects as a space filter, ask about Kona business and integration with Deltek Vision Projects and Opportunities, and with Project Navigator

Join the 21st Century and Get More Social with Deltek Kona

Posted by Rana Blair on May 28, 2014

In the last 200 years we’ve developed a variety of methods for communicating with one another.  We’ve taken the journey from individual letters delivered by horse to instant mass communication.  How can things get any more social than that? Deltek Kona, that's how!

Being ‘social’ involves more than just communicating and working together. Merriam-Webster defines social as relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other”. 

The key phrases “talking to” and “doing enjoyable things with” only seem to reference something outside of the workplace.  In the 1980s, the focus was on output and productivity.  In the decades that followed, we labored to attain the ever elusive ‘work-life balance’.  In the new millennium, we strive toward contributing fully in our work and personal lives without restrictions of time and space.  We want to enjoy ALL of our life.

get more social, deltek konaDeltek Kona, released in spring 2012, combines all that we know about working together with the best methods of communication.  It presents that blend to us allowing us to talk to each other AND do enjoyable things with each other across our work and personal lives.  Guided by the principles of confluence, immersion, accessibility, and digestibility; the innovators at Deltek Kona have found a way to leverage the best of all the communication tools developed in the past 50 centuries (not a typo: we still draw on walls to convey our thoughts) to help us interact in a more social and enjoyable way today. 

How does Deltek Kona help us get more social?

Use Deltek Kona to Create a Hometown

Kona is organized around context specific spaces or groups.  Each space is formed with a level of focus appropriate for its purpose.  There are no limits to the number of spaces an individual can belong to or the number of members in any one space.  Each space landing page is the “hometown” for the group allowing members to participate in and view interactions that are taking place.  Over time, users begin to become acquainted with each other’s concerns, thought processes, and involvements.

Enhancing Personal Interaction

Individual users may have more than one group in common across work and personal interests.  Knowing more about what you have in common with others allows you to get more social with them as individuals.  The ability to create and store one-on-one conversations with people in your Kona network allows users continuity and privacy even when time and distance are barriers to traditional communication methods.

There are times when we are having a conversation in a group but need to direct our comments to a particular person.  Deltek Kona incorporates “@mention” functionality to expand the personal contact in the context specific discussion. Nothing encourages us to communicate more than feeling like we are being listened to and understood.

Eliminating Polarization

Deltek Kona was built to be free.  Users can enhance their organizational experience with an upgraded account.  Regardless of the type of account, the experience and interaction is the same. This removes the barriers of participation across all members of the group and continues the social experience as no one is barred from participation because they must pay.  This allows us to use Kona for all sorts of purposes, from family reunions, to political organizations, to multi-firm business projects.

Deltek Kona further removes barriers by elimination of platform dependencies.  The Kona software works the same on any operating system and internet browser.  The accessibility extends to the mobile platform where users continue to get more social from wherever they are and whenever they want to. 

Increasing Personal choice

One of the favored features of the Deltek Kona product is its flexibility with the individual users’ need to digest information and connect on in his or her own time.  From the moment one opens the Kona product, it is clear which items take priority.  A user can access a conversation with 20 unviewed in-line comments and get a clear picture within minutes.  This is the first step in creating an enjoyable social experience when working with a group.

Because the Kona team recognizes that email has its merits, they’ve enabled the individual to decide how much or little Kona activity is transferred to email.  The possibilities to limit but not eliminate are almost endless for the individual user.  Being able to choose which groups to get more social with enhances the interactions that are wanted.

With much of our productivity arising from collaborative efforts conducted across vast geographic spaces, we meet and interact with more people than ever.  The Deltek Kona tool allows us to stay informed and control the inflow of information leading to a more relaxed experience.  When we remove unnecessary stressors, we naturally take time to get more social and find common ground with those around us.  Sign-up for Deltek Kona today and join the 21st Century’s answer to communicating, socializing, and getting things done.


Deltek Kona, Social Collaboration




Task Management Tools: Lessons Learned from Project Management

Posted by Rana Blair on March 19, 2014

Task Management ToolsMy social life is full of Project Management professionals.  Engineers, IT people, Construction Managers, and Event Planners.  I quizzed a few asking about the task management tools they use and what they liked and disliked.  After several hours of phone and instant message conversations, I realized I learned very little about the tools and a lot about the groups they work in.

Stuck on the plan

Z says he loves the Gantt chart.  He likes the graphical representation of the timeline. Great!

He spent the next 45 minutes explaining that the chart is created at the beginning of the project and is never updated even when they are clearly lagging behind.  Outside factors such as varying commitment to the project and unforeseen challenges move the actual timeline and meetings are held to determine which tasks will not be delivered to make up for the time.  Notes are kept, negotiations are executed, and none are memorialized using the task management tool he loves.

Changing the Gantt is really hard with all the different dependencies that were created at the beginning.  He keeps his own notes now in a different program that allows for commenting.  He’s not the project manager on most of the projects, so he keeps them to himself.

  • Tools must be flexible enough to change the plan and allow for the inclusion of data along with the tasks
  • Group members should have confidence that the information is located in a place where they can find it

Stuff is everywhere

K works with creative types.  He works for a MAC shop, and solutions are fewer for task management tools so they use email, and Lync, and the SharePoint site, etc etc.

His group has differences in communication styles, working schedules, and even location.  More time is spent managing the information so that it is visible to the group at large, which takes up as much time as completing the tasks and collaborating on the project.  Time is lost forwarding information to people who missed it or weren’t included.  At various stages, someone is invariably surprised and disagrees with the actions taken.

  • Task management tools should not care what platform you are working on or where you are
  • Communications should be easily transparent to team members even when they fall behind

Do you remember if…?

E works on long projects with a great deal of turnover and changes to tasks and timelines. The team is actually composed of clusters from different companies but one group is the document master.

There are several subsets within the group that make decisions for the project.  The discussions are held live and communication to the rest of the group on action items is relayed using email. One person updates a spreadsheet that is now too big to email and can only be accessed with a login to a program installed on a workstation.

  • The tool should allow new members to get up to speed quickly
  • Data should be accessible from anywhere to any team member

Lessons learned about task management tools

After multiple discussions on task management tools, these common themes continued to ring true. Solutions should be:

  1. Transparent
  2. Modifiable
  3. Flexible
  4. Accessible

Do you have further insight in to the task management tools your company is enabling? Respond in the comments section and let us know! 

How to Use Social Collaboration Tools in a Professional Services Firm

Posted by Rana Blair on March 05, 2014

SOCIAL COLLABORATION TOOLSLet’s be clear: people are not squirrels. That being said, when you’re trying to get your firm’s employees to interact with each other effectively, it may seem like trying to herd the little woodland creatures.

Most firms’ leaders already know that the most effective answers to this challenge involve improving collaboration, communication and teamwork. Easier said than done, right?

Fortunately, social collaboration tools can improve the effectiveness of not only your individual employees themselves, but also the separate functions within the firm and also the organization as a whole. Here are some of the ways a firm can use these innovative tools to add value throughout the organization.


From the CEO or partner’s perspective, social collaboration tools have the potential to improve productivity at every level within the organization. Here’s how:

  • Individual employees are empowered to share information and collaborate on projects more efficiently and keep their managers and colleagues up-to-date in real time.
  • Functional units can collaborate more effectively, because managers have better insight into the status of all ongoing projects. Managers also have a central location for all project communication that doesn’t disappear when an employee leaves.
  • Differentiating your firm from the competition by providing a collaborative environment for not only your internal team members, but outside consultants and clients. 

As an example, collaboration tools such as Kona make it far easier to include clients as team members throughout the process. Compared to other firms that simply use emails and phone calls to keep clients in the loop, a firm using these tools can enable more integrated and up-to-date communication with clients, and at the same time, create a more enjoyable customer experience. 

Project Managers

On each project, project managers can get better visibility into milestones and issues, improving project efficiency as well as the client’s experience in several ways:

  • Improves team members’ communication and accountability, while reducing time wasted in status meetings.
  • Strengthens the project manager’s relationship with the client, and also differentiates the firm.
  • Brings new staff up-to-speed more rapidly, shortening the time required before they can contribute.
  • Creates a centralized record of working issues, tagged and easily searchable. 

Marketing/Business Development

Professionals in a firm’s marketing/BD function, like its executives, stand to benefit in the long term from the differentiation that can result from effectively managed social collaboration tools. They also benefit in more tactical ways:

  • Improves communication and accountability in proposal planning, development, and review, including go/no-go decisions.
  • Streamlines event planning and tradeshow preparation.
  • Provides unified view of specific tasks across multiple BD proposal efforts happening simultaneously.
  • Enables greater consistency and knowledge transfer across multiple groups working on proposals and other repeatable processes. 

Information Technology

IT departments can use these tools to address a range of technical needs and, at the same time, change the culture to one that is more collaborative. Among its impacts, a social collaboration tool:

  • Enhances internal and external collaboration while protecting network information.
  • Is less expensive than traditional collaboration solutions such as SharePoint.
  • Improves management of complex IT projects and saves time by enabling peer support.
  • Allows the CIO and other leaders to be more aware and experience the “pulse” of individual projects and issues.

Human Resources

For the HR function, these tools can help in ways that are both strategic and logistical. Social collaboration tools:

  • Streamline and expedite recruiting and on-boarding processes.
  • Use two-way internal communication about tasks, events, and topics to create a more collaborative environment and improve employee engagement.
  • Allow HR employees to be more productive in planning and implementing internal events and initiatives.


For the accounting function, social collaboration tools bring new efficiencies to a variety of ongoing processes in multiple ways:

  • Rather than having to dig through email chains and contact multiple individuals for updates and answers, accounting professionals can streamline the month-end close process by generating repeatable steps to organize and capture financial information.
  • Contract management can be improved by creating templates with specific steps and forms to guide each project.
  • Accounting staff can create a private but accessible space to capture progress and follow-up on A/R issues, assign individual responsibilities and maintain a centralized log of progress toward resolution.

The Collaborative Edge

In a sense, your most important asset could also be a liability:  If your staff cannot collaborate effectively, you’re not optimizing your firm’s capabilities. Social collaboration tools have the potential to improve collaborative capabilities at every level and in every area of your organization, bringing about measurable improvements. At the same time, they can help you create a better client experience and differentiate your firm from others — critical factors in attracting and retaining clients and employees.  

Deltek Kona, Social Collaboration

4 Tips for More Cohesive Group Collaboration

Posted by Rana Blair on February 05, 2014

From the treehouse, to the garage, to the conference room, and now to the web, we’ve been doing group collaboration all of our lives. We’ve done it so much that we rarely, if ever, think about the finer details that really make the difference between a pleasant journey and a treacherous adventure.  

Group CollaborationOver the years, I’ve managed or participated in dozens hundreds of projects. I am great with communicating with people, a whiz at technology, and even pretty savvy with interpreting human behavior. Doing all three, while trying to get something done, is a challenge. I’ve learned a few things about group collaboration and the lessons are equally applicable across tools and platforms. 

Be Captain Obvious.

Be careful not to assume that everyone knows why they are assembled and what the objective is. Often, team members find themselves gathered without a complete understanding of the purpose, goal, or constraints. Too often, leaders assume that all group members have (or remember) all the details they need. The first activity using your tool of choice is to lay the groundwork. Create an accessible communication that defines:  

  • The final objective and it’s priority relative to other objectives in the organization
  • The team members and their roles, including the leader
  • The stakeholders
  • The due date

Revisit the communication frequently and highlight changes to the originally stated information. 

Even anarchists use sign-up sheets for potlucks.

No group can function devoid of guidelines on structure and communication. Guiding the team’s administrative characteristics does not quash the creative spirit. Providing structure saves time and minimizes confusion, thus encouraging the collaboration. If you don’t want to appear as dictatorial, address the appropriate considerations during the first meeting and let the masses decide. 

  • Define acceptable means of communication
  • Explain how documents and collateral are to be managed
  • Detail how activities outside of the group collaboration tool will be memorialized inside of the tool
  • Choose a process for moving seemingly off-topic elements to the appropriate venue 

When members lose their way, communicate the guidelines again. AND be willing to change previously defined processes that don’t work. 

Hammers are used to hit nails, not fingers.

“It’s really uncomfortable telling people what to do. Peer pressure goes a really long way. Can’t the software produce a list for everyone to see?” 

Really?!  Seriously?! 

Frequently, we use tools to get us out of doing the things we don’t want to do. Group collaboration tools are meant to encourage the flow of ideas and communication. No collaboration tool creator has ever recommended that you use the tool to publicly shame non-performing members. Like alarm clocks, annoying reminders can be shut off (or even thrown across the room.). The alarm clock does nothing to get us out of bed, but the boss sure does. 

  • Communicate tasks and due dates clearly
  • Ensure that the responsible party understands the dependencies
  • Follow-up on at-risk tasks appropriately (read: personal phone call) 

Let the tool serve in its capacity and you serve in yours.  

If it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a frog.

When the group collaboration tool is not yielding the success you expect, don’t blame the tool. When we find ourselves ready to throw up our hands and go back to another tool or no tool at all, it’s best to investigate for root causes and make adjustments.

  • Audit the participation of team members.  Spend one-on-one time with those who are not engaged by reviewing the project while using the tool.
  • Review how the tool has been laid out for use in the project. It is possible that features have been overlooked or are being used improperly.
  • Solicit suggestions on improving the use of the group collaboration tool.  If someone speaks up, the ensuing discussion will uncover misunderstandings or create opportunities to collaborate on finding a solution.  Either way, collaboration has taken place and a connection made. Win-win.

None of us are new to working in groups. Each of us brings the baggage we’ve accumulated from previous collaborations to our newest venture. The best thing we can do is to zero the scales, define, communicate, and revise. Group collaboration only works if the group is spending its time collaborating and moving easily from task, to topic, to task. Take the guesswork out of how to function within the group and use the group collaboration platform to propel the group.


Deltek Kona, Social Collaboration

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