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A Professional Services Firm’s Guide to Making Conferences Meaningful

Posted by Evan Creech-Pritchett on May 09, 2024

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

Reframe Your Thinking About Conference Selection

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

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

Discover How to Be Methodical and Objective in Your Approach

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Optimize Your Conference Strategy

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

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

Don’t Forget Your Follow Up Strategy

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

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

Make Your Professional Services Firm’s Conferences Meaningful

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

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

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

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The Importance of Benchmarking in Measuring Business Growth

Posted by Lindsay Diven on May 02, 2024

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

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

Why Benchmarking Matters for Project-Based Firms 

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

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

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

Getting Started with Benchmarking 

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

Step 1: Define Relevant KPIs 

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Gather Internal Data 

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

Step 3: Find External Data for Comparison 

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

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Analyze the Data 

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

Step 5: Incorporate Benchmarking into Management Practices 

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

Harnessing Benchmarking for Strategic Advantage 

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

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

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

 

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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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Management of Change Series: The Many Faces of Marketing in Managing Change

Posted by Evan Creech-Pritchett on January 18, 2024

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Marketing is like the Swiss Army knife of a company. Whether it's analyzing market trends, crafting messages that resonate with customers, or collaborating with top-tier decision-makers, marketers are the glue that holds these diverse aspects of a business together. By actively embracing change, they not only stay ahead of the curve but also contribute significantly to the company's adaptability and long-term success. Let's explore a bit about what marketing entails and how it is beneficial for companies to embrace change.  

The Many Faces of Marketing in Managing Change

The External Researcher

Marketing serves as the economic detective, constantly staying ahead of industry and economic developments. The role involves continuous research and analysis, with a particular focus on external factors that impact the business. Marketing often uncovers the initial clues to market change, making it an integral part of the change detection process.

This role involves monitoring competitor movements, tracking consumer behavior shifts, and anticipating economic trends. By interpreting these clues, marketers not only provide early warnings about potential disruptions but also position the company strategically to proactively respond to emerging opportunities. In essence, they act as the business's radar, navigating through the dynamic landscape to ensure it stays on course despite the change in economic currents.

The Positioner/Communicator

Once change is detected, marketing's role evolves into that of a positioner and communicator. The task is to internally convey the change to the executive team and then respond through market communications to customers, essentially defining the company's market positioning. Internally, marketing collaborates with the executive team to determine necessary business changes, constructing communications that help employees understand the impact of the change positively and accurately. In positioning, marketers look into the perspectives of customers, competitors, and industry analysts, communicating through various channels such as social media, articles, papers, and presentations. These external communications demonstrate the company's awareness and capability to navigate a changing environment while providing value to customers. The Executive Team Participant

Marketing teams function as analysts, consistently monitoring the industry landscape to anticipate future business trajectories and align the company accordingly. Serving as the middleman of both customer relations and the company's positioning, marketing assumes a pivotal role in internal transformations. Effective communication stands as a cornerstone, entailing the reinforcement of core messages through systematically delivered and timely directives. Leveraging a proactive communication approach across various channels ensures that our workforce is well-informed at every step of the way, fostering an environment valuing input and feedback.

The Technology Evolver

While marketing spearheads internal changes, it must also adapt its own processes, especially in terms of technology. Forbes.com refers to this as "Adaptive Marketing," emphasizing that marketers must embrace change rapidly and radically due to evolving technologies. Implementing process changes and calculating organizational impacts become differentiators, emphasizing that technology alone does not solve problems; it merely highlights them.

One such technology is AI. Marketers use AI to make engaging social media captions and blogs, leveraging algorithms that analyze user behavior for optimized language and style. Additionally, AI tools curate video content by identifying and cutting out snippets of interest, intelligently captioning them for social media sharing.

This integration not only expedites content creation but also helps to build personalized connections with the audience. Embracing AI is crucial for marketers navigating evolving technology, offering efficiency and a competitive edge. The integration of AI into marketing processes allows for a responsive approach, aligning campaigns with ever-changing audience preferences. In the era of adaptive marketing, AI serves as a powerful ally, adding to human creativity and driving impactful, data-driven initiatives.

The Influencer of the Company Culture

Having a good company culture is important. It's like the secret sauce that helps our team do their best work. At Full Sail Partners, our organizational culture revolves around collaboration and adaptability to change, and we prioritize creating an engaging and fun work environment.

This commitment is evident in the events our marketing team organizes, both internally and externally. These events also serve several purposes. Beyond providing a source of enjoyment, they are designed to strengthen team bonds, encourage idea sharing, and even attract new talent. Whether it's a casual gathering or a virtual meet-up, these marketing events play a pivotal role in maintaining connectivity and enhancing collaborative efforts within our team.

Furthermore, we emphasize open communication as a fundamental aspect of our work culture. Ensuring that every team member has a voice is of paramount importance to us. We value the contributions of each individual, fostering an atmosphere where everyone feels acknowledged and appreciated. In our recent company get-together, we had everyone share where they were and what the weather was like. It was a cool way to get everyone involved, and since our team is all over the place it was interesting to hear the range of weather. Marketing also created the "Virtual Water Cooler" on our Microsoft Teams where folks can post birthdays, life events, and other non-work things. This positive atmosphere contributes to the resilience and adaptability of our work culture, particularly in the face of dynamic changes in the marketing and technology landscape.

Marketing Roles Organically Manage Change

Adapting to change is a constant in the business world, and marketing teams play an organic and pivotal part in ensuring smooth transitions. Marketers continuously engage in market research, create internal communication strategies, and position businesses effectively to keep them ahead. Functioning as early detectors, they monitor external factors, providing crucial insights for strategic adjustments.

Moreover, once a change is on the horizon, marketers collaborate with leadership to ensure a positive and accurate message to the team. And, as with our own team, marketing excels at fostering a positive company culture through organized events, both in-person and online, strengthening team bonds and fortifying our work culture. In essence, the many faces of marketing naturally set the stage for managing the ongoing challenges of a dynamic business environment.

 

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Running an Effective Meeting: 4 Key Strategies for Productive Collaboration

Posted by Sarah Gonnella on January 04, 2024

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In today's fast-paced professional services firms’ environments, meetings play a crucial role in fostering collaboration, aligning teams, and achieving organizational goals. However, ineffective meetings can be a drain on productivity and morale. To ensure that meetings are valuable and efficient, it is essential to follow certain best practices. In this blog post, we will explore four key aspects of running an effective meeting: setting clear objectives and goals, planning the meeting and agenda, employing a skilled facilitator, and having a diligent note-taker.

1. Objective and Goals of the Meeting:

The success of any meeting hinges on having a clear objective and well-defined goals. Before scheduling a meeting, it is crucial to determine how it aligns with the broader growth efforts and yearly goals of both the team and the organization. By doing so, the meeting becomes a strategic tool for progress. Participants can better understand the purpose of the gathering and how their contributions fit into the larger picture.

For example, the goal of a marketing, business development, or sales-oriented meeting is to ensure you are accomplishing the goals set out in your yearly business plan. Within the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, that includes ensuring you know what is going on with your project pursuits. Key objectives in bi-weekly meetings would include knowing recently won/lost pursuits, new pursuits and managing follow-up on upcoming proposals, along with understanding resource forecast projections. An example core objective in a quarterly meeting would be evaluating where you are against your goals.  

2. Meeting and Agenda:

To run a productive meeting, careful planning is essential. The meeting should involve the relevant team members and decision-makers who can contribute to the agenda items. The agenda itself should be thoughtfully structured, with a focus on deadlines and the outlined steps needed to meet them. By sharing the agenda in advance, participants have time to review and prepare, ensuring a more engaged and productive discussion. Balancing chit-chat time and getting down to business is important, as it fosters team cohesion while still maintaining a professional atmosphere. Coming out of the meeting, attendees should know their action items and tasks to accomplish.

3. A Good Facilitator:

A skilled facilitator plays a vital role in guiding the meeting towards its objectives while ensuring active participation and collaboration. The facilitator should encourage open discussion, allowing all voices to be heard. Additionally, the facilitator should review outstanding items from previous meetings to track progress, providing context for the current discussion.

Staying focused and time-conscious is crucial, as it helps keep the meeting on track and ensures that all agenda items are addressed. If new topics arise that are not on the agenda, the facilitator can suggest moving them to a "parking lot" list, to be covered either if there is enough time or in the next meeting. A good facilitator is like a good train conductor who sees the path ahead and knows when to slow down and when to speed up to accomplish the items that are most impactful to keep the department or company running smoothly.

4. Note-Taker:

An often-underestimated role in meetings is that of the note-taker. The note-taker should diligently document meeting minutes, capturing important discussions, decisions, and action items. By doing so, a reliable record of the meeting is created which ensures that information is not lost. Clear documentation of action items, next steps, and responsible parties is crucial for accountability and follow-up.

Furthermore, sharing the meeting minutes afterward is essential to keep all participants informed and ensure that everyone is on the same page. With the advent of AI, note-taking might become a thing of the past. I know our team has been exploring software that will assist with analyzing the content, offering summaries, outlining tasks with due dates, and even providing insights based on the discussion.

Follow Key Strategies to Ensure Productive Meetings

Running an effective meeting requires careful planning, active facilitation, and diligent note-taking. By setting clear objectives and aligning the meeting with broader goals, you create a purpose-driven environment. Thoughtful planning, involving the right people, and sharing the agenda in advance help participants prepare and contribute effectively. A skilled facilitator encourages collaboration, keeps the meeting on track, and addresses outstanding items. Lastly, a diligent note-taker documents important insights and ensures that action items are clearly defined. By following these strategies, you can transform meetings into productive spaces that drive progress and foster teamwork at your professional services firm.

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From Good to Great: How Strong HR Practices Propel Professional Services Firms Forward

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on July 20, 2023

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It is often the case that many professional services firms underestimate the need for robust Human Resources (HR) functions until they find themselves in a critical situation. Some firms may recognize the need for assistance but struggle to determine the specific type of support required. Here are common statements we frequently hear from clients:  

  • “We have purchased our new HRIS system and are ready to implement but we don’t have structured HR processes and procedures in place, so we don’t know where to start.” 
  • “We are a small family-oriented company that has managed so far with payroll, our admins and our executives taking care of the main Human Resources needs.” 
  • “The managers are responsible for addressing the employee concerns and needs for their departments.” 
  • “We have experienced so much turnover, especially in our HR Department. We need to assess our job descriptions and determine what we really need as a company.” 

Do any of these situations resonate with your firm? If so, it is clear that your organization would greatly benefit from the expertise of an HRNA (Human Resources Navigational Analysis). 

The Consequences of Neglecting HR Guidance 

First and foremost, let us consider the profound impact of operating a firm without an HR department or the guidance of an HR professional. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: 

  • The potential for litigation issues such as discrimination or harassment lawsuits. 

  • Low employee morale results from insufficient workforce engagement efforts, ineffective recruiting practices, subpar performance management, and undefined company culture. 

  • Non-compliance with company policies and relevant governmental regulations. 

  • High turnover rates due to non-competitive benefits and compensation plans, inadequate or unstructured training and development programs, and a lack of employee recognition initiatives. 

Statistics That Highlight the Necessity of Dedicated HR Personnel 

According to a recent 2023 article in LegalJobs, several HR statistics support the essential requirement for dedicated staff and leadership in managing HR functions. Consider the following: 

  • 43% of HR professionals find it challenging to recruit employees due to intense competition. 

  • 60% of candidates abandon job applications if they are overly complex. 

  • Nearly 30% of new employees quit within the first three months. 

  • 74% of new employees believe they have not reached their full potential. 

  • 61% of newly hired employees do not undergo company culture training. 

  • Onboarding processes have helped 71% of employees better understand their roles and responsibilities. 

  • Diverse companies are 70% more likely to penetrate new markets. 

  • Highly motivated and committed teams are 21% more effective.

  • 41% of highly motivated teams exhibit lower absence rates. 

  • 67% of employees value a respectful relationship with their employer. 

  • 84% of HR departments believe that employee recognition increases engagement. 

  • 82% agree that recognition enhances morale and happiness. 

Build a Strong Foundation with the HRNA Approach  

Our HR Consultant can assist your professional services firm in addressing and potentially avoiding these challenges through the Human Resources Navigational Analysis (HRNA). This comprehensive evaluation provides your firm with a thorough review of current HR systems, documents, and processes, encompassing the entire employee lifecycle. 

The process commences with a discovery phase, involving gathering information through written and verbal means with key stakeholders. This enables our HR Consultant to assess your firm's goals, mission, leadership perspectives on HR, and the existing organizational practices and policies. Subsequently, a meeting with decision-makers is held to develop an action plan based on critical business issues and leadership priorities identified during the discovery phase. 

Next, our HR Consultant compiles a detailed assessment report that includes findings in the focus areas identified and provides recommendations to address the areas requiring further attention. Upon distributing the HRNA report to the client and reviewing it together, we determine the subsequent steps and how we can assist in implementing the recommended measures. 

The Benefits of Pursuing an HRNA 

Clients who have undertaken the HRNA process have experienced a transformative journey. They have found themselves more receptive to change and transition than they initially anticipated. Moreover, this process illuminates the significant impact of effective HR functions on a professional services firm's brand, reputation, longevity, success, and bottom line. 

If your professional services firm is eager to move forward with a Human Resources Navigational Analysis, click the image below to take the next step towards strengthening your HR functions and driving your firm's growth. 

 

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The Business Benchmarking Process: 4 Key Steps

Posted by Wendy Gustafson on June 29, 2023

06-29-23 Benchmarking_BannerAt Full Sail Partners, we firmly believe in the transformative power of the business benchmarking process. It serves as a vital tool that empowers professional services firms like yours to make well-informed decisions, streamline operations, and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. To achieve optimal results, we advocate adopting an approach that encompasses four essential steps. These steps lay the foundation for a comprehensive and effective benchmarking strategy, allowing you to unlock the full potential of your business. 

#1 Look for Benchmarking Resources

If you're just getting started in the world of benchmarking, it's always beneficial to get a glimpse of how other professional services firms handle this process and measure up against your own company. There's an abundance of industry experts and organizations out there who generously share valuable insights into their benchmarking practices.

By taking advantage of these resources, you'll gain valuable knowledge and a broader perspective on benchmarking strategies. You'll be able to see firsthand how successful companies approach this process and uncover valuable tips and tricks to apply within your own professional services firm. So, don't hesitate to tap into this wealth of information and discover the key to benchmarking excellence.

Here are a few of our personal favorite resources that you'll want to check out:


There are countless other companies and organizations out there who are also avid benchmarkers, so don't hesitate to explore further and discover even more insightful resources.

#2 Choose Your KPIs to Measure Success 

This is where we get to choose the meaningful measurements that will serve as your benchmarks or standards. Don't worry, we've got an array of exciting key performance indicators (KPIs) to explore—financial and project-related statistics that provide valuable insights into your professional services firm's performance. It’s like finding the perfect recipe for success! 

In the world of professional services firms, there's a whole bunch of KPIs that can help you gauge your organization's financial and operational health. Here are some of the widely used favorites: 

  • Accounts Receivable
  • Average Collection Period
  • Chargeable Ratio
  • Chargeable Ratio times Net Multiplier
  • Current Ratio
  • Debt to Equity Ratio
  • Employee Realization
  • Employee Utilization
  • Estimate at Completion (EAC)
  • Estimated to Complete (ETC)
  • Net Multiplier
  • Net Revenue per Technical Staff
  • Net Revenue per Total Staff
  • Overhead before Discretionary Distributions
  • Profit on Net Revenues before Taxes and Distributions
  • Return on Owners’ Equity

Now, it's time to do some soul-searching and consider which of these metrics truly encapsulates success for your unique organization. Establish corresponding benchmarks that align with your firm's historical performance, industry surveys, specialized standards, your company's philosophy, or even a delightful combination of factors. The goal is to create a tailored measuring tape that fits your organization like a glove.

When selecting professional services firms to benchmark against, think about factors like industry, geography, and size. The more similarities they share with your firm, the more relevant and valid their metrics will be. It's all about finding those perfect benchmarking buddies who can inspire and guide you toward greatness.

#3 Diligently Track Your Data

With the metrics identified and the benchmarks set to evaluate your professional services firm's performance, it's time to engage in diligent data tracking. Fortunately, there are various options available to streamline this process. 

While traditional methods like one-off spreadsheets and makeshift workarounds may seem tempting, we highly recommend exploring sophisticated software packages tailored to your specific needs. These solutions range from advanced accounting software that effectively monitors financial statistics to specialized project management tools designed to meticulously track individual projects. 

However, allow me to introduce an even more compelling alternative: a purpose-built Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system such as Deltek Vantagepoint. This comprehensive solution seamlessly integrates data from both the front office (project-related activities) and the back office (accounting operations). Imagine having a reliable sidekick that offers real-time, comprehensive visibility into all the aforementioned metrics. But it doesn't stop there—Deltek Vantagepoint also optimizes project and staff oversight, automates manual processes (including Customer Relationship Management and business development), and significantly enhances operational efficiency. 

Whether you opt for a combination of software programs or embrace the unified power of Deltek Vantagepoint, it is essential to utilize consistent and continuous data collection. This is an ongoing endeavor that ensures you stay well-informed and propels your professional services firm towards remarkable achievements. So, let's implement robust systems, leverage cutting-edge technology, and diligently track that data to stay ahead of the curve as accomplished benchmarkers. 

#4 Use Your Benchmarks to Make Data-Driven Decisions 

This is where we close the loop and ensure that the right data reaches the right people in a timely manner. It's all about fostering a management commitment to utilizing data for decision making and trust me, it's a game-changer. 

Imagine this scenario: You have schedule-based metrics at your disposal. Not only do they help you determine if a project is currently on budget, but they also shed light on whether it will ultimately stay within the overall budget. If the Estimate at Completion (EAC) surpasses the overall budget, management faces a pivotal choice. They might decide to reduce future expenditures or accept that the project will go over budget, while also identifying where the slippage occurred (perhaps those additional services contracts slipped through the cracks). Mind you, this is just one example. Depending on the specific underperforming metric and the degree of deviation from the desired benchmark, management will have an array of options and decisions to make. 

Now, let's uncover the secret to success in this phase of the benchmarking process: granting management access to all the vital metrics at any given moment. While manual methods can be employed to gather and present this information, there's a far more efficient way to do it—automated KPI dashboards. These customizable features, available in Deltek Vantagepoint, serve as your trusty sidekick, delivering essential data to management in a snap. 

By embracing this data-driven decision-making approach, you unlock the power to steer your professional services firm with precision and confidence. So, let's ensure the flow of valuable insights reaches decision-makers in a timely manner, empowering them to make informed choices that propel your company to new heights of success. 

Don’t Wait, Start Now! 

Regardless of the approach you choose to identify and track your professional services firm's benchmarking information, rest assured that the process yields substantial dividends. It grants your firm a more relevant and up-to-date understanding of its performance, positioning you for success. Equally important, it enables proactive measures to address underlying issues before they escalate into significant challenges, thereby increasing the likelihood of achieving both project and financial success.   

The future of a professional services firm's success begins with benchmarking. Embrace it, harness it, and let it guide us towards a prosperous tomorrow.  

 

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Leveraging the Client Engagement Lifecycle to Drive Results

Posted by Lindsay Diven on January 26, 2023

01-27-23_ClientEngagement_BannerEngaging clients is essential to any business, but it can be difficult to know where to start. However, by understanding the client engagement lifecycle, businesses can develop a process for engaging clients that leads to long-term relationships. 

What is the Client Engagement Lifecycle 

In every sales transaction, buyers (or clients) go on a journey that begins the moment they decide they need services and continues to when the contract is eventually signed. This is called the client engagement lifecycle. And you can imagine this as a funnel with the following phases: 

  • Attract 
  • Nurture 
  • Convert 
  • Grow 

A prospect is initially attracted to your firm and starts at the top of the funnel and goes through each phase until eventually you are providing services for them.  

Client Engagement Lifecycle Stages 

Now let’s go through each client engagement lifecycle stage in a little more detail.  

Attract

The client engagement lifecycle begins when you bring in new prospects. You can think of this as the top of the funnel. During this stage, it’s important to identify your target markets and personas such as project managers, facility managers, and/or directors that will be interested in your services.  

To do this, you’ll want to create marketing content and promotions that resonate with these key personas. The goal is to attract them to your firm using your expertise and/or answering their questions.  

The marketing content can be varied. It could range from written blogs to videos, webinars and podcasts. You just want to make sure the content is relevant to your target markets and personas and helps them solve common obstacles within their industry. 

Sales and technical staff will usually have little-to-no engagement in this stage of the lifecycle.  

Nurture

Once prospects have been attracted to your firm with your attract-type content, it’s important to maintain the prospects’ interests so they stay in the funnel. This is typically done through digital efforts like email marketing and offline efforts through phone calls and networking events.  

Knowing what content has sparked and sustained this interest is important so you can produce new content to continue to drive awareness. Additionally, the original content that brought them into the funnel should leave them with unanswered questions. 

During this stage, familiarity with the content which first attracted the prospects will help you determine questions they might now have. Your new content should be more specific to answer these questions with fact-based information that also communicates your expertise. Email campaigns provide a great avenue to share this fresh content. 

Your sales managers or technical team members may also follow up with the prospects to ask further questions and make introductions to your firm and its services. 

Convert

As your prospects move from the attract and through the nurture phases, it’s now time to get those prospects to make a conscious decision to move further. This is not to say they were not interested in your services before, but rather the content that you have been sharing has made them recognize you are a trusted authority and a subject matter expert. 

This stage is when specific, offline conversations need to begin, and you should convert these prospects into advocates. For professional services firms, this means that your technical staff may be meeting with the prospects over the phone or in meetings to talk about a specific project. The conversations are turning to either a request for proposal and/or proposing specific services.  

The content produced in this phase supports proposals, presentations, and other sales-related documents to close the sale!  

Grow

Congratulations, you now have new clients in your funnel. This is the stage where you will foster the ability to provide additional services to your clients. 

The tricky thing here is creating content that will be important to your clients in the future. For some clients, this is a few months down the road, and for others, a year or more. A great tool to use is a monthly or quarterly newsletter for sharing your newly created content to create new opportunities. 

Using the Client Engagement Lifecycle to Your Advantage 

Understanding the client engagement lifecycle for your specific firm and targeted markets works as an advantage for your marketing and business development efforts. When you identify your client engagement lifecycle for a specific market or persona such as a facilities director for a University Campus.  

You can then begin to create marketing content that specifically appeals to that facilities director. This specific content strategy will work to attract the right type of prospects and generate leads for your firm.  

The client engagement lifecycle is a valuable tool for businesses to use when developing their client engagement strategy. 

Wrapping it All Up 

The client engagement lifecycle is a process that businesses use to manage and improve their relationships with clients. It typically includes stages such as attract, nurture, convert, and grow. By understanding and leveraging each stage of the client engagement lifecycle, businesses can drive results by identifying opportunities for improvement and developing strategies to increase client satisfaction and loyalty. This can lead to increased revenue, repeat business, and improved overall performance. 

To learn more about content marketing strategies for each stage of the client engagement lifecycle, click the image below for our series. 

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Driving Growth with Digital Marketing: How to Optimize Digital Marketing Performance

Posted by Lindsay Diven on October 05, 2022

2022 DGS DM Optimize Digital Marketing Performance Banner

Throughout the Driving Revenue Growth with Digital Marketing Series, marketers have created and implemented the marketing campaigns and collected results. Now it’s time to analyze and optimize the marketing campaign and strategy to achieve even more efficiency towards the marketing SMART goals 

This article shares just a few of the items to review to optimize digital marketing performance. Areas to optimize include the website, conversions, content promotion and email marketing. And this article just scratches the surface but will offer some ideas to begin.  

Improving the Website 

The firm’s website is the starting place for any digital or online marketing program. It’s the key piece of online real estate that marketers have complete control of and have access to the background statistics. Some of these key statistics to track will be based on the marketing campaign goals. Others will be general performance statistics to gauge the overall site performance such as overall website traffic, time on page, etc.  

Some areas to focus on to optimize performance when it comes to the firm’s website include: 

  • Highest traffic volume pages – Look at the specific site pages that are getting the most traffic. Identify what, if any, SEO elements are on the page including specific keywords. Look at where the traffic is coming from to that page. Also, check to make sure there is a call to action (CTA) on that page to either capture that visitor’s information or move them to another page to continue the visitor's journey.  
  • Most read blog posts – Similarly to the site pages, look at the most read blog posts. Which articles or topics are getting the most views? Marketers can assume that this is the type of content or topic that their audience is interested in. Work to create either more content around this topic or repurpose those specific blog topics into other content formats.  

Increasing Conversions  

A conversion can be any action a person takes that the marketer wants them to do. For example, if there is a form on a webpage, the call to action (CTA) for that page would be to fill out the form. Each time that CTA is completed, it’s a conversion. Conversions don’t always have to be filling out a form; it can be watching a video or requesting a meeting. The idea is that the person took an action, and that action is the conversion.  

Once marketers set up their CTAs and start collecting data, it’s time to see how to increase the number of conversions. Some ways to do this are: 

  • Use CTAs – This may seem obvious, but so many AEC websites do not have any CTAs anywhere on their websites or there’s just one – “Subscribe to ACME Engineering’s Newsletter.” The easiest way to increase conversions is to start using CTAs and inserting them throughout the entire website.  
  • Make CTAs relevant to the page – Even though we just said to use CTAs, don’t just put them on every webpage and think it is done. Marketers will want to use different CTAs that are relevant to the topic of that blog or page. For example, an architecture firm has a checklist called “10 Ways to Derail an Elementary School Renovation” that they want people to download. A good place to put that CTA is on project profile pages of elementary school renovations, not their healthcare project pages.  

Using Specific Landing Pages 

Most website management systems like WordPress or HubSpot are easy to set up and update. But sometimes it’s often difficult jumping through internal hoops to get new web pages or new navigations approved internally. So, that’s where landing pages are a great alternative, especially since they are easy to create with software like HubSpot or Leadpages.  

A landing page is just that – one page where marketers can direct specific traffic too. Some ways to optimize landing pages are: 

  • Minimize the design – Remove any design elements, navigation, or CTAs, that would distract the viewer from taking the one action you want them to take. For example, remove the navigation/menu bar, remove the firm’s social media links, etc.  
  • Write a strong heading – Continuing with minimizing the design is to have a strong headline. This headline should draw the viewer in and make them want to read more. It should either describe a pain point they are looking to solve or some kind of aspiration they are trying to get to.  
  • Describe the benefits – The landing page should be promoting the goal of the marketing campaign. And that marketing campaign should be benefiting the potential client. Under the headline, describe what the item is and the benefits the potential client will receive. Be clear, concise and to the point. Less is more here.  
  • Place the form above the fold – Most of the time, landing pages have some type of form for the viewer to complete to get something (a PDF download, checklist, case study, etc.). Make sure the viewer doesn’t have to scroll down to see and fill out the form. Seconds count, and if it takes even just a second longer to realize there’s a form, you might lose them.  
  • Determine the right questions – There’s a balancing act between asking for enough information and too much information on the landing page forms. Firms often want all the information they could get about a lead, but the lead will balk at having to fill out too many fields on a form. Marketers should determine the right questions to have on their forms to qualify and segment leads, and not one more. This is usually done by testing and then optimizing. 

In online marketing circles, the conversion rates of landing pages are somewhere between 5-15%. But marketers should be tracking their own conversion rates and then use these strategies above to make changes and see if that rate increases.  

Promote Even More 

A previous article discusses how important it is to promote the content and ways to do that. Once marketers begin promoting, they can use that information to make the promotion even better. Some ways to do this include: 

  • Determine the best channel – Once marketers start getting data, they can see which channels are bringing in the most visitors and highest conversions. Once they know that, they can lean into that channel even more. 
  • Consider each social media channel – If the firm promotes content on different social media channels like LinkedIn or YouTube, how can the content be re-formatted into different media types or different language used that corresponds to that specific channel?  
  • Going back to the basics – Marketers should make sure that the graphics and media are appropriately sized and formatted for each social media channel.  
  • Test frequency to find the sweet spot – Each channel is going to dictate just how often the firm posts content. Once marketers start getting results, they have a baseline and then can start testing posting more or less to see how that affects results.  

Don’t Forget About Email Marketing 

Part of every online marketing program should include an email marketing component. AEC firms have hundreds, if not thousands, of contacts in their databases and should be communicating with those contacts (with proper permission) on a regular cadence. This is even more important for a specific marketing campaign, like the one they are trying to optimize.  

Here are just a few email marketing tips to get great performance: 

  • Make sure the marketing emails are coming from a person, not a generic email address like “Info@company.com” 
  • Write clear and clickable subject lines. Take time to develop the subject lines. Don’t wait to just write something to get the email sent. Use this tool to test each subject line. 
  • Limit CTAs to only one per email campaign, especially if it’s part of a specific marketing campaign. Make sure every link in the email goes to that specific landing page or CTA.  
  • Segment and personalize as much as possible. 
  • Optimize for mobile.   

Watch this replay where an email marketing expert shared even more email marketing advice. 

Always be Adjusting and Refining 

Once you begin your digital marketing program, start to analyze results and then optimize, it doesn't end there! Marketing is ever evolving with new interests, new content formats and new preferences in which our targeted audiences like to consume our content. So as marketers we constantly need to be keeping up with trends, especially out of our industry, looking at our metrics, and adjusting our marketing efforts. The good news is that this is fun and creative, and our job demand will remain high.  

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Deltek ProjectCon 2022: Be There or Be Square

Posted by Cate Phillips on September 14, 2022

2022-Deltek-ProjectCon_Banner

After two virtual years, the annual Deltek conference is back in person. Wondering if your firm should attend this year’s Deltek ProjectCon conference (formerly known as Deltek Insight)? Well first off, let’s use some math logic, so hear me out. 

In project-based businesses, like engineers, architects, consulting firms, and other professional services organizations, it is usually important to hit the mark for a successful business. What is a mark? It’s a point different from nearby points; something to shoot at or a visible indication that distinguishes something. 

However, think of a project lifecycle. I would say that most of the time folks in our world visualize the life cycle of a project as a circle. In fact, go ahead and Google “the project life cycle” and check out the images…they pretty much all include a circle. A sphere doesn’t really have a point, and by its nature, the circle is not like other shapes. As we can agree that the project lifecycle is usually a circle and that circles don’t have points like other shapes, clearly the next logical step is that since your firm really can’t “be square” then you should be there at Deltek ProjectCon 2022!  

My logic is not convincing? Here are other reasons you should attend, and as I know you’ve been thinking about it, let's just say that the new name for Deltek’s annual conference will in no way change the “insight” you will get for attending. 

Gain Some Valuable Deltek Product Insight 

We all know conferences are for learning; that’s basically the entire business case and why you or your firm is paying to be there. So, get knee-deep in your Deltek knowledge at ProjectCon. Obtain a certification through a free Deltek University exam. Add more skills to your resume and get paid more. Learn how to solve your complex challenges using Deltek technology. 

Meet, Greet and Network with Insightful Experts  

Go and have some fun gosh darn it; you’ve earned it. You made it through a pandemic and can finally see your friends and business connections in person for the first time in over two years. There are networking events being thrown just for you at Deltek ProjectCon, so don’t turn down a free party! Even better, you can finally connect with the actual experts about Deltek products, not just your colleagues.  

Fresh Insights and Latest Trends 

Best practices are game changers for professional services firms. At Deltek ProjectCon, learn how your peers are getting things done and get all juiced up on innovative new technologies. Attend the keynote and learn what “The Power of Connectional Intelligence” means. Think about robots; artificial intelligence is the future not just in cars but also in data-driven organizations. 

Future Insights Through Product Roadmaps 

For many project-based firms, there are upgrade questions such as when is Vision's end of life? At ProjectCon, you can find out more from Deltek representatives and see the updated road map. Here you also have the opportunity to ask questions that would make the Deltek staff seriously consider adding your favorite missing feature to the next version of your software. It is critical to understand the journey your firm is on, and that’s hard to do without a map.  

Deltek Newbie? Acquire Insight, Historically Speaking 

There is no better way to meet seasoned groupies than to attend a conference like Deltek ProjectCon. You know you want to hear about what happened at this conference 20 years ago. Go soak up the old-timers’ knowledge or attend beginner sessions and feel less alone.  

Upcoming Insights from Full Sail Partners at ProjectCon ‘22 

Want to see us walk the walk and talk the talk? Join seven of our incomparable consultants as they lead the following sessions. You can search out the sessions by title, topic, presenter, etc. by visiting this page: Deltek ProjectCon 2022 | Project Success Starts Here | Session Catalog 

[VPSPON-03] Single Source of Truth Between Vantagepoint and ADP 

Discover how Vantagepoint and ADP can work together to enhance your payroll experience. During this session, learn how the Blackbox Connector offering from Full Sail Partners securely and seamlessly integrates 3rd party software platforms with Vantagepoint. The Vantagepoint Payroll Interface allows firms to efficiently move Vantagepoint project hours to ADP payroll hours based on business rules. Employee data can now be integrated between ADP Workforce Now and Vantagepoint with a single point of entry upon the employee hiring process. Presented by:

Scott Seal, VP of Consulting, Full Sail Partners 

Rick Childs, Principal Consultant, Full Sail Partners 

Jennifer Wilson, SQL Developer, Full Sail Partners 

[VP-66] New and Improved Vantagepoint Accounting Features to Automate Your Business 

Join this session to familiarize yourself with the new and improved features in Deltek Vantagepoint to help automate your accounting department and business. The presentation will cover the latest and greatest features including approvals, billing, AR, reporting, dashboard, and other features to improve your accounting processes. This is a must-attend session for your financial team to learn from two consultants that have spent more than 1,000 hours helping more than 100 companies upgrade from Vision to Vantagepoint. Presented by:

Terri Agnew, Principal Consultant, Full Sail Partners 

Theresa Depew, Senior Consultant, Full Sail Partners 

[VP-22] Create a More Collaborative and Efficient Team Environment with Vantagepoint: One Firm's Story 

Welcome to the future of managing the project lifecycle for professional services firms! With Deltek Vantagepoint, see how one firm created a more cohesive and streamlined method for operating project-based businesses. JCJ Architecture will take you on a journey through its new project lifecycle. Learn how their team reimagined their processes from pursuit identification to final project execution, resulting in a more collaborative team environment. Better data provided better analysis, which resulted in better decision-making and a better business! Presented by:

Rana Blair, Principal Consultant, Full Sail Partners 

Amanda Roussel, Senior Consultant, Full Sail Partners 

Michelle Chapman, Senior Project Accountant, JCJ Architecture 

Jeanne Muscolino, Principal | Hospitality Sector Leader | Business Development Manager, JCJ Architecture 

Register for 2022 ProjectCon Today 

With all of these reasons to attend ProjectCon, we know you are thinking about what to pack already. Don’t miss the Full Sail Partners’ booth in the XPO hall. For all the latest information about ProjectCon 2022, hit up Deltek ProjectCon 2022 | Project Success Starts Here. This year it’s in Nashville from November 15 – 18th. I hope the insights you gain and the fun you have inspire you to do more in your own spherical world of projects. 

 

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