Full Sail Partners Blog (2)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Why DEI&B Matter in Project Based Firms

Posted by Evan Creech-Pritchett on March 14, 2024

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Fostering Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEI&B) is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity for project-based firms. DEI&B creates environments that go beyond just diversity and inclusion, aiming to build equitable spaces where individuals feel welcomed, valued, and empowered. Surprisingly, not every company has a DEI&B initiative in place. Let’s review the core aspects of DEI&B, and what implementation strategies firms can use to promote these values.

Diversity

Diversity, the first pillar of DEI&B, acknowledges the variety of human characteristics and identities within a group or organization. It goes beyond just race and gender, encompassing various aspects that we don’t always think about such as age, ability and disability, socio-economic status, religion, nationality, and many more. In the context of project-based firms, where collaboration and innovation are key, recognizing and embracing diversity is especially important. Recognizing this is the foundation for fostering an environment where each team member's strengths and talents can thrive, ultimately contributing to the overall success of the projects and the organization.

Equity

Equity is about ensuring fairness, impartiality, and justice in the treatment of individuals, particularly in environments with historical disadvantages. Project-based firms need to actively address systemic biases, structural inequalities, and discriminatory practices. Achieving equity in a company involves creating policies and procedures that reward based on personal merit, ensuring everyone has an equal chance to succeed no matter what groups they may belong to.

Inclusion

Inclusion is the creation of environments where all individuals feel welcomed, respected, and valued. In project-based firms, inclusive practices involve actively embracing diversity and fostering a sense of belonging. This means creating spaces where people of diverse backgrounds, identities, and perspectives can thrive, express themselves authentically, and engage in meaningful collaboration without fear of discrimination.

Belonging

Belonging is the newest addition to DEI&B. It goes beyond diversity and inclusion, addressing individuals' emotional and psychological need to feel connected and respected within their professional environments. The feeling of belonging involves creating spaces where people can bring their whole selves to work, form genuine connections, and contribute to a collective identity and purpose.

Importance of DEI&B to Project-Based Firms

Beyond being morally imperative, DEI&B is crucial for project-based firms for several reasons: Fosters Positive Employee Engagement: DEI&B creates a positive and inclusive work culture, leading to higher employee engagement and satisfaction. Drives Innovation: Diverse teams bring a variety of perspectives and ideas, driving innovation and problem-solving in project-based settings. Broadens Talent Pool: Embracing diversity expands the talent pool, bringing in individuals with different skills, experiences, and viewpoints. Maintains Competitive Advantage: Companies with diverse teams often outperform their peers, maintaining a competitive advantage in the market.

Methods to Foster DEI&B in the Workplace

We’ve seen why DEI&B is important, but how do we go about putting these systems in place? Here are several ways that project-based firms can implement various initiatives to foster DEI&B:

  • Diverse Hiring Practices: Actively seek diverse candidates and create inclusive hiring processes. Remember to look deeper into the categories we don’t always recognize, like nationality, socio-economic status, and age.
  • Training and Education: Provide ongoing training on diversity, equity, and inclusion to enhance awareness and understanding.
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Establish ERGs to provide support, networking, and mentorship for underrepresented groups.
  • Flexible Work Policies: Implement flexible work policies to accommodate diverse needs and promote work-life balance. This can include options for hybrid and fully remote work.
  • Leadership Development: Invest in leadership development programs that prioritize diversity and inclusion.
  • Diversity Metrics & Accountability: Establish measurable goals and hold the organization accountable for progress.
  • Employee Engagement Activities/Events: Organize activities and events that encourage diversity and promote inclusion. These can be as simple as company mixers, sporting events, or other group activities.
  • Promotion of Diversity in Content and Marketing: Ensure that marketing materials and content reflect the diversity within the organization.

Making Diversity Programs Effective

Initiating diversity programs can be challenging, but it is essential for the success of DEI&B. Companies need to do three things in order to make an effective diversity program.

  1. First, you must recognize the full spectrum of diversity. As we’ve talked about already, not all aspects of diversity are easy to see. Understand that diversity encompasses various categories beyond gender and race, including gender identity, age, ability, religion, political beliefs, and socioeconomic status.
  2. Second, embed DEI&B in the company culture. Company culture is many things: the embodiment of a company’s values, its mission, and even its environment. DEI&B should be ingrained in the philosophy of the company.
  3. Finally, appoint DEI&B Leaders. Designate a group responsible for DEI&B programs and initiatives to ensure focused attention and progress. This group does not necessarily have to be management, instead, a dedicated team or individual can ensure focused attention and steady progress in promoting diversity and inclusion within the organization.

Conclusion

Embracing and valuing the concepts of DEI&B in project-based firms not only aligns with social responsibility, but also drives positive organizational outcomes. By actively fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, project-based firms can create environments where individuals thrive personally and professionally, ultimately contributing to the success and innovation of the organization. To learn even more about DEI&B and how Full Sail Partners is helping firms with this initiative, check out the replay of our LinkedIn Live by clicking the image below.

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Management of Change Series: The Role Human Resources Plays in Effective Change Management

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on March 08, 2024

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The goal of change management is to facilitate successful transitions within a company from the current state to a desired future state. This involves effectively managing the people, processes, systems, and culture impacted by the change to minimize resistance, mitigate risks, and achieve the desired outcomes. In every company, HR’s main role is to function as the “grease” if you will between the goals of the company and how the people in the company contribute to achieving those goals. 

According to an article from AIHR, HR plays a variety of roles in supporting change:

  • Being an active member of the change management team.
  • Being a coach to a manager who is a change leader.
  • Providing training on change management.
  • Helping to build processes the organization can follow for change management.
  • Leading the change as HR professionals.

Managing the People 

How do HR professionals help employees embrace change?

Companies are truly the embodiment of the people who work there. Each employee is both a distinct, individual working personality and a significant piece of the whole company. And because company leaders recognize the importance of their people, the HR function plays a vital role in the overall change management process. Communicating directly with leadership, HR helps people get ready for change by supporting employees throughout the change process, providing transparency, addressing concerns, explaining the reasons behind the change, and soliciting feedback. With employee buy-in, morale will remain strong through the journey of change.

Managing the Processes

How do HR professionals help engender a culture that accepts and supports change? 

Training and Development: HR identifies the skills and knowledge gaps that may arise due to the change and develops training programs to equip employees with the necessary competencies to adapt to new processes, technologies, or ways of working. They also provide coaching and support to managers to help them lead their teams through change effectively. 

Change Readiness Assessment: HR conducts assessments to gauge the company's readiness for change, including evaluating the current culture, identifying potential resistance, and assessing the capacity for change adoption. Based on these assessments, HR develops strategies to address any barriers to change.

Change Planning and Implementation: HR collaborates with other departments to develop change management plans that outline the objectives, timelines, resource requirements, and communication strategies for implementing the change. They coordinate with project teams to ensure that change initiatives are executed smoothly and effectively.

Employee Support and Assistance: HR provides ongoing support to employees during the transition period, offering resources such as counseling services, employee assistance programs, and access to relevant information to help them cope with any challenges or uncertainties arising from the change. 

Performance Management: HR revisits performance management systems and processes to align them with the new objectives and priorities resulting from the change. They may adjust performance metrics, goals, and feedback mechanisms to ensure they support the desired outcomes of the change initiative. 

Culture Alignment: HR works to align the organizational culture with the desired state by promoting values and behaviors that support the change. They may initiate culture change initiatives, promote collaboration and teamwork, and recognize and reward behaviors that demonstrate alignment with the change objectives. 

Feedback and Continuous Improvement: HR gathers feedback from employees and stakeholders throughout the change process to assess the effectiveness of change initiatives and identify areas for improvement. They use this feedback to refine change management strategies and ensure that future changes are implemented more successfully. 

Minimizing Resistance to Change

How can HR professionals prevent common roadblocks to change?

Suggestions from a Principal Change Management Advisor at Prosci are:

Getting in Early to the Process: HR must be present at the early stages of the change process. Often, team leaders, project managers and executives forget about the “people side” of change in their efforts to move forward. It is very important for HR to be there at the beginning of the change process to advocate for the employees.

Having Clear Communications: Lack of clear communications in companies can lead to unnecessary misunderstandings. HR will be the mediator between change management teams and employees, so they need clear communications to update people on the change timeline. In order to have a successful employee experience and keep morale high, communication is a necessity.

Getting Leadership Support: Leadership must back all processes in change management. There needs to be a clear vision for change that HR professionals can understand. Then they can relay change objectives to the rest of the company in a consistent manner.

Managing Expectations: HR professionals should manage leadership and employee expectations during change initiatives. With good communication and the right support, HR teams can manage expectations, preventing push back and increasing buy-in from all team members.

Explaining Cultural Shift: Many people comfortable with the existing culture become resistant to change. HR professionals can work with those individuals to show the value of the cultural change and how it will benefit everyone in the long run. This will take the fear out of those resistant to the changes and make the transition easier.

Leading an Effective Change and Getting Desired Outcomes

HR professionals taking proactive steps to avoid the challenges that come with change management can increase the likelihood of success in change management initiatives. Getting buy-in from leadership at the outset will lead to employee buy-in and increased morale. Furthermore, clear communication, employee engagement, careful planning, and ongoing support are essential for navigating change successfully. As HR plays many roles in supporting change, it is an essential part of any change management plan and should be included from the beginning of the process.

 

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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning? Not Science Fiction Anymore

Posted by Aria Bounds on February 29, 2024

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As many relate these terms with science fiction and robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can cause some confusion. Based on common knowledge, this is a rational thought. However, AI and machine learning technologies have been and continue to be incorporated into many software applications and personal assistant tools such as Siri and Alexa. Furthermore, it is important to note that AI and machine learning have some slight differences. So, in this blog, let’s take a closer look at AI and machine learning and how Deltek is using these technologies to improve the experience for Deltek Vantagepoint users. 

Getting Smart with Artificial Intelligence 

Simply stated, AI is the principle that machines can make smart decisions and complete tasks using logical intelligence. In theory, this means that machines using AI exhibit cognitive functions like those performed in human minds. AI works by using algorithms, and in many cases, multiple complex algorithms stacked on top of each other. Typically, these algorithms can learn from data, enhancing the ability to make smarter decisions. 

The late Larry Tesler, a computer scientist who worked for many major corporations, tried to define AI. His theorem stated that “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet,” meaning that intelligence is ever-changing. However, once something becomes common, it transitions to machine learning. Tesler’s theorem is often referred to when discussing the difference between AI and machine learning. 

Being Efficient with Machine Learning 

So, based on Tesler’s theorem, machine learning is a subcategory of AI and focuses more on the idea that machines can learn and adapt through experience. Like AI, machine learning uses algorithms to perform tasks without being programmed to, but it achieves goals by learning and figuring things out over time. In machine learning, the commonly accepted approaches are divided into four categories: 

Reinforcement Learning – a computer program navigates a dynamic environment to achieve a goal, such as a car on a racetrack. The car is given positive reinforcement when it stays on the course and negative reinforcement when it leaves the track. Over time, the program will be able to drive the car through the entire track. 

Supervised Learning – the program is given inputs and desired outputs and then it creates the connections. An example of this is creating models to predict the weather. 

Unsupervised Learning – As the name suggests, the program is given no pre-existing labels and left to figure out patterns in the data on its own. This technique is often used in marketing to identify clusters of potential customers. 

Semi-Supervised Learning – Mixing Supervised and Unsupervised, the program is given a mix of labeled and unlabeled data. This technique is often used to build translation models, as labeling all possible translations is expensive and time-consuming, but making assumptions on unlabeled data is much cheaper. 

Using AI and Machine Learning within Deltek Vantagepoint 


Deltek is advancing "Smarter Projects" by integrating thoughtful AI integration into Vantagepoint, aiming to enhance project management for project-based businesses. By leveraging generative and traditional AI, Deltek will be enhancing automation, improving data accuracy, and saving time. This goal is to support business leaders and project managers in winning and managing projects more effectively, streamlining client relationships, and project delivery. Some examples that are already available include the following.

Client Smart Summaries™ with AI:

  • Automatically generates summaries of client information using generative AI.
  • Enables executives and project managers to be well-prepared with a comprehensive understanding of client history, ongoing projects, and potential opportunities.
  • Aids in nurturing client relationships and winning more projects by staying informed.

Click here to see a Client Smart Summary in action.

 

Hey Deltek Digital Assistant:

  • Utilizes natural language for task management, like setting reminders, adding new contacts, and locating client records.
  • Designed to simplify tasks for business development leaders and executives, enhancing productivity.

Capture New Leads on Mobile:

  • Vantagepoint CRM mobile app allows for the direct addition of contacts by taking a picture of business cards using Intelligent Character Recognition technology.
  • Streamlines the process of capturing new leads and contacts, saving time and reducing manual entry.

Building a Smarter Pipeline:

  • Offers enhanced visibility into project successes and current pipeline, facilitating more informed decision-making.
  • Features a visual pipeline view, enabling teams to easily identify opportunities and threats.
  • Eliminates the need for multiple reports by providing a unified location for pipeline management.

Deltek's integration of AI and Machine Learning into Vantagepoint is setting a new standard for efficiency and intelligence in project management. With innovations like Client Smart Summaries™, the Hey Deltek Digital Assistant, mobile lead capture, and smarter pipeline management, Deltek is empowering businesses to navigate the complexities of project-based work with unprecedented ease and insight. These tools not only save valuable time but also enhance the accuracy and relevance of data, helping business leaders and project managers forge stronger client relationships and achieve greater success in their projects. As Deltek continues to push the boundaries of technological innovation, Vantagepoint users can look forward to even more advanced features that will further transform the landscape of project management.


It’s Time to Embrace AI and Machine Learning 

Identifying and clarifying the difference between AI and machine learning is important since you’ll likely be hearing these terms used interchangeably from now on and far into the future. We have already seen how Deltek Vantagepoint has comprehensive AI and machine learning solutions available for users. And there are even benefits to using AI outside of Deltek solutions.

I’ve found AI to be a handy tool when developing software. AI has changed how we access information on the internet – providing summaries of multiple different search results all at once, offering suggestions from official support sites, and more. AI makes finding answers to problems easier, and even when it can’t provide an accurate answer, AI still manages to point me in the right direction to find the answer. 

While most day-to-day use won’t be the same as my own, search engines now have AI supporting their search tools. For example, Bing has an AI chat that can provide context for your internet searches. It even finds answers for you that would usually take digging into multiple different websites to find.  

So, this is no longer a thing of science fiction. AI and machine learning have been added to technologies and industries that we interact with daily, providing us with comprehensive solutions to speed up data processing. It’s a science that is here to help, so don’t shy away from using your apps, websites, and smart devices that have AI!

Stay up to date with all of Deltek Vantagepoint's new features by visiting our "Powering Project Success" mini-demo series. Click the image below to watch today.

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When to Consider Utilizing Revenue Generation in Deltek Vantagepoint

Posted by Terri Agnew, CPA on February 22, 2024

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Revenue Generation is a feature in Deltek Vantagepoint that allows a professional services firm to define how a project should calculate revenue. This process is not turned on “out of the box” as firms can choose if and how they would like to utilize this feature. Vantagepoint’s default revenue method is “B,” meaning revenue is recognized only when a project is billed. Although this method works well for projects invoiced monthly for time & materials incurred, it doesn’t always align with all project types.

Additionally, utilizing the “B” method can restrict a firm from invoicing throughout the month as generally all costs should be posted and then invoiced to properly match revenue and expenses. Billing all at the end of the month can create a backlog and delay month-end closing processes. Therefore, if your projects are not billed monthly, the billing doesn’t match how the project should recognize revenue, or you don’t want to hold up your close process until all invoicing is completed, your firm should consider utilizing Revenue Generation.

Pursue Revenue Generation Methods

After deciding that revenue generation is right for your professional services firm, the next step is to decide on the revenue method(s) to be utilized for your projects. Revenue generation is flexible in the fact that methods can be different on different levels of a project’s work breakdown structure. Furthermore, your firm can create custom revenue methods if you feel one of Deltek Vantagepoint’s predefined methods doesn’t suit your needs.

Deltek Vantagepoint’s Standard Predefined Methods

The three most popular predefined methods are the Work In Progress (W), the Percent Complete Method (P), and the Multiplier (M) methods. See below the formulas and a brief discussion of when firms may choose to utilize these methods.

Work in Progress Method (W)

Job-to-Date Revenue = Job-to-Date Billings + Work-in-Progress @ Billing

Deltek Vantagepoint recognizes revenue as job-to-date billed plus work-in-progress at billing rates. This method works well for projects normally termed “hourly” or “time and materials.” One of the great features of this method is you can invoice anytime during the month and expenses posted after the invoice will still be recognized for that month and this method will match revenue and expenses. One disadvantage of this method is the formula has no limit set so if your project is “hourly to a max,” this method will not stop at the “max.”

Percent Complete Method (P)

Job-to-Date Revenue = (Percent Complete*Fee) + Job-to-Date Reimbursable Expenses

This method recognizes revenue based on a percent complete entered on the project times the compensation on the project, plus reimbursable expenses. This method does require the percent complete field to be entered, usually at the lowest level of the project where the revenue is to be recognized. The good news is there are several places to update this field – in Dashboards, in the Revenue Generation action bar, and the Project Review area. The bad news is that it does require updates regularly.

In general, this method works well when projects have milestone billings, often called “lump sum contracts” or “fixed fee” projects. On these types of projects, you may have a billing schedule that does not match your level of effort in a month. For example, if your milestones state that you can’t invoice until you have hit 25% complete, but this month you have completed 15%, you may want to recognize 15% now and not wait until you hit 25%. In this case, the percent complete field would need to be entered as 15%. In summary, this method produces revenue based on the percent completed, not invoiced, but that percent does need to be entered into the system with some “manual intervention.”

Multiplier Method (M)

Job-to-Date Revenue = (Job-to-Date Direct Labor x Multiplier) + Job-to-Date Reimbursable Expenses

The Multiplier Method recognizes revenue based on labor incurred times a multiplier identified on the project in the “Multiplier/Amount” field. This method can be used on projects that are billed hourly or percent completion-based. Usually, when using this method, the multiplier is set once and reviewed periodically but does not need to be updated as frequently as the P method. The pro of this method is that it requires less maintenance than the P method, but the con is that it may not be as accurate. The multiplier is project-specific, which allows flexibility.

User Defined Revenue Methods

If the above methods don’t meet your professional services firm’s needs, Deltek Vantagepoint has the flexibility to create as many revenue methods as needed.

For example, if you would like to use an hourly method, like W, but would like to add a maximum amount to the calculation, there is a “Subject to Max” option that can be utilized in a formula. Likewise, if you would like to compare two formulas and have the system recognize revenue based on the “lessor of” the two calculations, that is also an option. There are many fields available to create a User Defined Calculation from project fields such as budget or compensation fields, from billing terms such as rates or Add-Ons, or even from User Defined Fields on a project.

Choosing the Best Revenue Generation Method(s) for Your Professional Services Firm

As you consider the possibilities of revenue generation within Deltek Vantagepoint, it's crucial to refine your approach to ensure it aligns with your firm's unique project management and financial tracking needs. The flexibility offered by Vantagepoint enables a tailored revenue recognition process that can significantly enhance your financial accuracy and project oversight. To effectively implement and benefit from this feature, consider the following:

  • Assess Project Requirements: Evaluate the specific needs of each project or project phase to select the most appropriate revenue generation method. This assessment should consider the billing schedule, project duration, and the nature of the work (e.g., hourly, fixed fee, or a combination).
  • Implement a Hybrid Approach: Don’t hesitate to employ multiple revenue generation methods within a single project where necessary. This flexibility can accommodate diverse billing arrangements and project work phases, ensuring revenue is recognized in the most accurate manner across your portfolio.
  • Create Your Own Calculations: Leverage the capability to create custom revenue calculations to address any specific challenges or goals your firm has. This customization can help in situations where predefined methods fall short, ensuring your revenue recognition practices precisely match your operational and financial strategies.
  • Document and Standardize: Establish clear documentation of your chosen revenue recognition methods and the rationale behind them. This documentation will serve as a valuable reference for your team and ensure consistency in application across projects.
  • Engage in Thorough Testing: Before fully integrating a new revenue generation method into your operations, conduct comprehensive testing. This testing should simulate various project scenarios to uncover any potential issues and ensure the method performs as expected under different conditions.
  • Review and Refine Regularly: Adopt an iterative approach to your revenue generation strategies. Regular reviews allow you to adjust methods as your firm evolves and as projects present new challenges or opportunities for financial management optimization.

By thoughtfully selecting and applying revenue generation methods, your professional services firm can achieve a higher level of financial clarity and project management efficiency. Deltek Vantagepoint’s flexibility not only accommodates a wide range of project types but also empowers your firm to adapt and thrive in the dynamic professional services landscape. Embrace the opportunity to fine-tune your revenue recognition processes, ensuring they fully support your firm's strategic goals and project delivery success.

Strategize and Optimize: Revenue Solutions in Deltek

Maximize your Deltek Vantagepoint's Revenue Generation capabilities with Full Sail Partners' Navigational Analysis. Our service streamlines your processes, ensuring your ERP system aligns perfectly with your business objectives. From an initial assessment to a customized action plan, we guide your firm through optimizing system functionality to enhance operational efficiency and financial performance. Elevate your firm's potential—discover how our Navigational Analysis can transform your Deltek setup for optimal success by clicking the image below.

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