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Business Development Calls Made Easy with Deltek Vantagepoint CRM

Posted by Cate Phillips on May 04, 2022

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Before the pandemic, I used to volunteer to judge high school debate and often found myself sitting in a public-school library on a Saturday morning staring at those cheesy posters where the words say “Attitude is Everything” …those have not changed by the way. Except 25 years later, those words still ring true. I do not know about you, but if I am rolling into a Zoom business development (BD) call with a bad attitude, it is doomed to fail. Since attitude is important when it comes to developing relationships with clients, how can the new and improved Customer Relationship Management (CRM) power of Deltek Vantagepoint make it easier to keep those business development calls on track? 

Attitude and Deltek Vantagepoint CRM? 

I started writing this on a debate kick, and it therefore must continue… As any good debater will tell you, something should not be fully considered until it has been argued from both the pro and con sides. So, how can business development calls be made easy with Deltek Vantagepoint CRM? Let us compare how it would go from both attitude perspectives. 

Bad Attitude Scenario 

5am – snooze 

5:30am – snooze again, since I went to bed later than normal last night, that is the mental self-justification I will go through this morning. 

6am – wake up, grab phone, check calendar. Okay, good, first meeting is not until 8am, I can sleep more, reset alarm. 

7:15am – grab phone, what? Why? I should have gotten up earlier so I could work out and do my morning stuff. I am grumpy about it.  

7:45am – showered and dressed, sitting down, I must scramble to review a prospect’s info in Vantagepoint. I glance at some fields. I notice that I am about to be talking to the Facilities Director at an airport. My engineering firm has done the type of project they are looking to do but only in Europe. My job is to impress the Facilities Director and get him to introduce us to the architect and then hopefully she will want to bring us in on this massive project.  

8am – meeting starts, I am not as ready as I should be. It goes okay, but it is not a slam dunk. He agrees to let me call him back, but I know in my gut he is not going to be calling the architect immediately to sing our praises. 

8:30am – I guess I should get the notes in the system. I am super discouraged and annoyed at this point, but I try to rally myself to get my activity recorded with enough detail so that I can perhaps salvage this a bit when I do my follow-up. 

Here is the rub folks. The Deltek Vantagepoint CRM is there to help me, and it is a great tool in my toolbox. I did not use it here to my full advantage. 

Good Attitude Scenario 

5am – snooze 

5:30am – I am up! I am not necessarily happy about it, but it happened. I get started on my morning stuff. 

7am – sitting down in my office now, I will not bore you with the details of my morning ritual, but I fed my mind, body and soul before I walked in the door. I am happy I have an entire hour to prepare for my call.  

Here is what I do to prepare using Deltek Vantagepoint CRM: 

Since the project will a subcontractor opportunity to the architect that is always the prime at this airport, she is the contact record I want to peruse. I know I have only got 30 minutes to get this Facilities Director to agree to introduce me to her. From my networking, I know that if he says give this firm a shot, she will consider it. I immediately then go to look at the projects associated with these two contacts. 

I also know that she has been a little unhappy with the engineering firm they used from a well-placed cold call by my Business Development Representative (BDR) last year. How do I know this, you ask? I have an excellent memory, and it simply always unfolds perfectly when needed. NOPE. My team and I always track everything inside Deltek Vantagepoint.  

I read my Activity notes from three years ago when I had drinks with someone that reports to the Facilities Director at a conference. She was the one that clued me in to how key the Facilities Director was in terms of getting the architect’s attention. Then I reviewed the notes our BDR had in there from the cold call. Those notes were in an Activity from the call placed and on the Competition tab of my project.  

Next, I double checked his and her LinkedIn pages and saw no new connections between us that I did not already know about in advance. My project is at a Lead stage and being the awesome Relationship Manager that I am, I enjoy seeing my projects get into our system, and I lovingly monitor the data associated with them. 

I also have a custom field in my Deltek Vantagepoint CRM that gives me something to brag about here. I can query my CRM to find past airport references, and I have 2 or 3 case stories (bragging rights) ready to tell if I get the opportunity in the call. 

8am – The meeting starts, and I am ready to kill it. During the call, the Facilities Director mentions another two of his colleagues that I was not aware of, and their roles could be important should we get this project to the awarded stage. I jot down their info so that our Marketing Associate can fill in the gaps with some research and get them entered in the system.  

8:30am – The call is over. It was the slam dunk I deserved. He was impressed with the stories I was able to tell, and since I was aware of the pain that the current engineering firm is creating with the Architect, this allowed me to effectively differentiate our firm. He said that he would be emailing her right away before he forgot, to ask her to get coffee and discuss what we can bring to the table. We scheduled our next steps. I was able to use the Outlook Connect to immediately get the appointment calendared and tracked in the CRM in one fell swoop. 

Which Attitude Won the Debate?    

Obviously, this debate was destined to go for the Pro - we all knew that, right? The bad attitude not only set me up to perform poorly, but it also affected my ability to leverage my Deltek Vantagepoint CRM correctly. So, here I have proven a good attitude + a great CRM = successful business development efforts. Ready to maintain a positive attitude in your business development efforts by fully embracing Deltek Vantagepoint CRM?  

Stay tuned for future blogs on this topic that cover other parts of the sales cycle and project lifecycle prior to the awarded stage. 

 

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Search Engine Optimization Basics for Project Based Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on April 20, 2022

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The primary goal for the AEC digital marketing program is to get a firm found online. This can be done through creating content highlighting the firm’s expertise and subject matter experts. However, it’s not enough to just publish this content on the firm’s website or blog. To have the right potential clients find that content, the content needs to appear in searches. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.  

According to HubSpot, the definition of SEO is techniques which assist a firm’s website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This makes a firm’s website more visible via search engines like Yahoo!, Google, or Bing for those who are seeking solutions that a firm’s brand, service or product could offer. 

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series and will provide an introduction to SEO techniques AEC firms can utilize when building their digital marketing program.

How SEO Works

Search engines crawl the internet to scoop up tidbits of phrases and key words to index them. Then when a user types in a phrase, question, or key word into the search engine, it provides results to the user based on those indexes. Search engines are searching for the websites, webpages, blogs, etc. that the firm is publishing.  

Search engines also look at the firm’s website structure and design, visitor behavior, and mobile optimization. So, it’s not just about the content that is being published, but the framework in which it’s published too.  

The Elements that Can Increase Organic Traffic    

Organic traffic is what most AEC firms are aiming for and includes the unpaid visitors (or traffic) that comes to the firm’s website through the search engines. The firm isn’t paying for any of that website traffic.  

There are elements of the website, structure, webpages, and even the firm’s social media channels that help or hurt getting organic traffic. Some of the elements that have the most impact are described below. 

Consistent Content Creation 

The website needs to be updated on a regular basis. Publishing genuine content that interests the targeted personas greatly improves SEO. The more often producing and updating content, the “fresher” it appears to search engines. Make the content easy to read or skim by using small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists and bullet points. Also, link to internal and other external pages throughout the content.   

SEO Friendly Webpage Structure    

Each webpage has a built-in structure that is universal no matter what program the firm is using for its website software. Each page usually has a hierarchy of headings that tells the search engines the importance of the content. For example, the heading tag called H1 is the main header tag. This is typically reserved for the title of the page. Then there are heading tags H2, H3, etc. Just like in a printed document, these should be used to help guide the reader (and search engines) through the webpage content.  

When creating new content, don’t cram it full of all the keywords. Make sure the keywords, topics, and phrases are spread throughout the piece and flow naturally into the content. Be sure to use keywords in the title tags (H1, H2, etc.). Also, make sure that the content is easy to read and/or skim by using many small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists, and bullet points, for example. 

Image Optimization 

Another SEO component is how fast the webpage loads, and images are the biggest culprits when it comes to slowing down webpage load times. Since AEC firms tend to have very visual websites, it’s easy for the websites to be slowed down dramatically due to the number of images. Make sure that every image on the website is compressed and is the right image format for the screen (as opposed to print-level quality).  

Meta Descriptions 

A meta description is the text that appears in the search results underneath the page title. See the screenshot below for the example that appears with the search of “Deltek Vantagepoint Upgrade.” Meta descriptions can be added to the backend of the firm’s website builder and should be written to include keywords and phrases. The meta description should also be relevant to the content that is on the page, so keyword stuffing will actually hurt the results. Also, the meta description length should be between 150-300 characters. 

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URL Structure 

Did you know that URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator? Just like the webpage structure and meta descriptions, search engines display the URL on the search results. Consider following these SEO best practices when creating URLs: 

  • Use clear, descriptive words in the URL as opposed to random numbers and letters. For example, www.fullsailpartners.com/fspblog would be better than www.fullsailpartners.com/453=?45659. 
  • Try to use shorter URLs whenever possible. There is some research that shows that shorter URLs perform better because URLs that are too-long will be cut off in search results. However, it’s just as important to be descriptive in the URL so don’t cut the URL length just to cut it. 
  • Use keywords in the URL. If the page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. But don’t go overboard or appear too spammy. The search engines know it and will penalize the content. For example, a spammy URL might be www.fullsailpartners.com/vantagepoint-partner/upgrade-to-vantagepoint/vantagepoint-upgrade-services. A good way to test this is to look at the URL through the eyes of a searcher and ask if it looks natural or like a robot wrote it.  
  • Use hyphenations instead of spaces. Every search engine interprets special characters or spaces the same. Use hyphens to separate the words in the URL.  
  • Use geographic location names, if applicable. If the content is about a specific location or a project in a specific location, use that location name in the URL. This can include city names, neighborhoods, or other regional descriptors.  

Off-Page SEO  

Some of the secret sauce to improving SEO happens off the firm’s website. Search engines like Google rank how popular a firm’s website is. If the firm’s content is popular, it sends a signal to search engines that it’s the best content, making it more of an authority in that topic area, thus a higher ranking. So, what makes a firm’s website popular? Let’s introduce a few strategies. 

Authority Building Through Backlinks  

One way to build authority in the search engines is how popular they rank a firm’s website. One factor they use is called ‘backlinking.’ Backlinks are links from other domains that points to a firm’s website or particular webpage. Each backlink is considered to be a “vote” of confidence for the content that’s being linked. Other websites should also be linking back to the specific firm’s website. Even better is if the backlinks are from higher authority domains such that end in .edu or .org. 

Think about the various ways in which the firm’s website can be backlinked. Some might include: 

  • Sponsoring industry conferences and events. Ask the host entity to place the firm’s logo on its website and link back to the firm’s website. 
  • Write articles for industry websites. Then, make sure the article has a link back to the firm’s website. 
  • List the firm in online industry directories. For example, Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) has a rather established one. 

Google My Business 

This is probably the easiest task to improve SEO is to make sure the Google My Business is set up for every office location for your firm. Make sure that the firm’s name, address(es), and phone number(s) are correct on the firm’s website and that they are also the same at what’s displayed on the Google My Business page. It sounds so simple but can be quite complex especially the more offices the firm has and how often the offices move locations.  

Getting Started with SEO 

There is no exact science or formula to rank first, or even on the first page, in a search result. Basically, if the content provides value to the people searching for it, it will rank better. Here are some best practices to keep in mind as content is developed for the firm’s digital marketing program: 

  • Research for the key words, phrases, or questions that the firm’s personas would be searching.  
  • Conduct those same searches on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to see what pages and content is already ranking high.  
  • Review those pages and content to identify what qualities, format, content type, etc. that those pages possess.  
  • Make sure to create content that is better than those! 
  • And, if some of the firm’s content ranks high with those searches, evaluate those pages and content to see what’s working. Repurpose that specific content in new ways and create new content like that. 

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing 

SEO is just part of the overall digital marketing plan for AEC firms. Other components include identifying the persona, setting goals, and developing a content strategy. To learn more about each of these components, check out the entire Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series by clicking the link below. 

 

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Amplify Business Intelligence Visuals with Informer

Posted by Timothy Burns on April 12, 2022

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A favorite song is structured to be both instantly recognizable and memorable. It’s written with a predefined structure that is thought out to capture the listeners attention and invoke an emotion. There are several standard ways in which a song is written and some basic rules song writers “should follow” when it comes to writing the song.  

The same can be said to developing business intelligence visuals for project-based firms. A business analyst, like a songwriter, must decide on the different visuals that will come together to create a melody to allow firm leaders to make decisive, but critical decisions. The visuals must grab the attention quickly and be easily understood to the audience. 

This article breaks down how to the Blackbox Connector for Informer amplifies the firm’s Deltek Vantagepoint data to make memorable melody. 

Understanding the Business Intelligence Visual Structure

The basic parts of a song include the intro, verse, pre-chorus/lift, bridge, break, and outro. Let’s compare that to creating a business intelligence dashboard using Informer.  

The intro is self-explanatory – it’s the intro the song or the very first visual on the dashboard. And, it’s one of the most important parts. Typically, it’s the very top left corner visual. This is where the most important statistic or data should be displayed.  

The verse gives the listener (or the viewer in our case) the idea of what the song is about. It typically sets the tone or topic of the entire dashboard.  

The pre-chorus/lift can build anticipation. In a song this includes increasing the volume or rhythm or pulling back and creating silence. When building the business intelligence visual stack, it can be the visuals that keep viewers scrolling through or keep them on the page.  

The chorus is often the most memorable melody of the song. It usually repeats itself throughout the entire song. And, just like in a song, it can repeat the same visuals but maybe for different regions or offices. For example, the dashboard may have several charts that show utilization rates by office with different separate visuals scattered throughout for each region of offices. Think about that one main theme of the dashboard – utilization rate, hit rate, profit, sales target – whatever the theme for that dashboard and make sure it’s repeated in a way that makes sense to make it memorable. 

A break is usually an instrumental part of the song that allows for some breathing room. When creating business intelligence visuals, make sure there is ample white space or breathing room between each individual chart or graph. This gives the audience that break before consuming the next information. 

A good song has an outro – the end of the song. The outro closes out the song just like the business intelligence dashboard needs to close out.

Putting the Structure Together   

Understanding the basic structure of a song (or business intelligence dashboard) is just the first step. Next is to understand how each part works together to create different melodies. Below are some common song structures in modern music and how you can think about these when designing dashboards using Informer.  

Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus  

This is probably the most common song structure in today’s music, especially in pop music. And, it’s a great way to begin with designing the BI dashboards.  

Examples of some songs using this structure include: 

  • “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple 
  • “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles 
  • “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix 

Informer visuals using this structure can include visuals showing the following: 

  • Total potential revenue in the pipeline 
  • Opportunity count by office 
  • Total revenue won YTD 
  • Opportunity dollar about by stage 

An example Informer visual using this structure is shown below. 

 

Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus   

Songs that use this structure often get stuck in your head and therefore become popular. The bridge helps add a surprise or variance breaking up the repetitiveness of the song. Using this structure when designing the business intelligence dashboards can add a new angle or different theme while supporting the main goal or theme.  

Examples of songs using this structure include: 

  • “Happy” by Pharrell 
  • “Every Breath You Take” by the Police 
  • “Fix You” by Coldplay
 

Taking the example from above, the bridge added could be: 

  • Total potential revenue in the pipeline 
  • Opportunity count by office 
  • Total revenue won YTD 
  • Top 10 largest clients by YTD revenue 
  • Opportunity dollar about by stage

By adding the top 10 largest clients, the viewer can get a sense of what clients the firm should be focused on, which stays with the theme of the overall visual – business development. But that specific chart is revenue earned not expected revenue or sales won. It’s a different angle of information but still very helpful to the business development team. 

An example Informer visual using this structure is shown below. 

Create Visuals Easily with Informer Discover Tool 

Informer is a business intelligence tool that uses the Blackbox Connector to connect to Deltek Vision or Vantagepoint and create a standard set of datasets. Using the Blackbox Connector with Informer allows the team to start building visuals right away instead of spending a lot of time building datasets and programming visuals.  

Once the data is connected, go to a dataset and select the Discover Tool. Then choose a field, in this example Project Summary is selected. The Discover Tool instantly recommends visuals based on the data selected. The tool recommends visuals based on the fields and columns selected and changes the recommendations as you select more or less options. 

Each recommended visual can then be adjusted or further designed based on the needs. It can then be saved to be used later to create dashboards (called Reports in Informer).   

Tips for Choosing the Right Visual Structure 

Knowing the structure and different visual types while using the Informer Discover tool to make the visuals easily, how do you decide what visuals to display for firm leaders? The dashboard should not just be pretty, but also functional. It’s helping firm leaders make critical decisions, after all. Below are a few tips to choose the right visual structure. 

  • Understand the audience – Knowing who will be using this dashboard to make decisions will help determine the key metrics to display. What information does the audience need to be successful? Keep in mind that the visuals are just an overview and the audience can drill down into the data, if desired. 
  • Stick to one main theme – It doesn’t make sense to throw in a chorus of playing ball in a country song about losing ‘the girl.’ So don’t mix in too many different types of data that don’t support the main theme. It’s okay to create multiple dashboards and tools like Deltek Vantagepoint and Informer allow users to quickly access different dashboards, if needed. 
  • Incorporate different visual types – Sticking to one main theme, doesn’t mean using the same visual. Create a visual story by choosing different types of charts, graphs, and tables. Just be careful to select the visual that matches the data type. The Informer Discover Tool does this easily by recommending the visual types for the data selected. 
  • Use color wisely – Every color can tell a story. Don’t use too many colors to distract viewers. Instead use color to show differences or areas to the viewer should focus. Using red for negative, green for positive, and grays to show values is a great way to use color wisely.  
  • Keep it simple – Because the Informer Discover Tool makes it easy to create different types of visuals for any type of Vantagepoint data, it might be tempting to add it all to a dashboard. It’s very important to keep in mind the end-user or audience that is using the visuals to make decisions. Keep the most important visuals in the top left corner. If the viewers are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of visual stimulation or there’s too many clicks to drill down to data, it won’t be valuable to them.  

Write the Firm's "Greatest Hit" with Blackbox Connector for Informer  

Knowing all the parts and possible structures of songs and business intelligence visuals is a first step to writing that greatest hit for the firm. Remember that the point of providing BI visuals to firm decision-makers is to make all the firm’s data understandable and therefore, becoming actionable based on the information presented.  

To see the Informer Discover Tool in action click the image below to access a mini-demo.

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Business Intelligence Users Can Visualize More with Entrinsik Informer 5.4

Posted by Timothy Burns on August 04, 2021

Seeing is believing, and with Entrinsik Informer, many different types of professional services firms already have the ability to quickly visualize and analyze data to make informed business decisions. Informer, a highly ranked business intelligence (BI) solution, allows users firmwide to create customized dashboards and easily drill down into the data pertaining to their specific department and role to find the answers to questions or get status reports on areas of concern.

Informer BI logo

So much insight can be gained already using Informer. However, with the latest release of Entrinsik Informer 5.4, employees at professional services firms now have new and improved features to improve data visualization.

Enhancements with Informer Template Creation

Templates are an exciting new feature in Informer 5.4. Templates are custom formatted outputs using HTML coding. This allows total pixel-perfect control over the end product. The template code is in HTML, but being an HTML expert is not required. Many users of the Informer business intelligence tool have little or no HTML experience when they first start. Some even creating a template in less than a day.

Using the data that resides in a firm’s Deltek Vision or Vantagepoint system, firm employees are able to customize the final output into almost any format. The first step is to get the data organized into datasets so that it is easily available for the template. Then it is simply creating the template in the format the user wants.

Within the template, logical formulas can be applied. For example, if the invoice on an accounts receivable (AR) statement is past due, it can be shown in yellow highlight, or if survey is checked in an opportunity, specific survey language can be inserted into the agreement that is being sent to the client.

Additionally, users will be able to create a CSS (Cascading Styles Sheet) for templates to standardize the firm’s output and have logos readily available. Even more, there is also a way to save those commonly used expressions, so it is not necessary to retype every time.

Some of the uses for the templated output are:

  • Client Agreements
  • Compensation Reports
  • Financial Reports
  • Project Status for Clients
  • AR Statements
  • Custom Invoices
  • Governmental Reporting (DOT reports)

Once a templated output is set up, it is repeatable and can be shared firm-wide with the appropriate staff.

New Ways to Look at Data

Informer 5.4 also offers different ways to visualize data. Within the Informer 5.4 visuals tab, new visualization charts are available, heat maps and spider charts, which allow fresh perspectives to analyze important data.

A heat map is a graphical representation of data where values are guided by color accent with the deeper the shade, the higher the value. Heat maps are a great way to see concentrations in the data and are really useful if there is a lot of data to manage. In this example, at first glance, the color variations easily indicate the different values and can guide evaluation.

Informer heat map chart example

A spider chart, by comparison, is a helpful way of showing outliers. For example, a spider chart may show employees with the highest or lowest utilization. By viewing the chart, it is apparent that Mary Best is exceeding her utilization target, while Michelle Beien, Moshen Farsi, Leia Skywalker and Geoff Smith are not.

Informer spider chart example

See More than Before with Informer 5.4

The Entrinsik Informer 5.4 release was developed to improve how users can take their BI further and visualize their data so that better and quicker decisions can be made. With this newest release, users of Informer across the firm will have even better options for visualizing their data. And, going into the future, as BI needs continue to evolve so will Entrinsik Informer to meet them.

Webinar: Informer - BI

Reduce Data Analysis Time: Exception Reporting for Exceptional Professional Services Firms

Posted by Sarah Gonnella on June 30, 2021

In the professional services industry, reporting is key. The common complaint amongst professionals is they don’t have time to analyze the data, since they need to just get the job done. Time is always of the essence, but true efficiency incorporates being proactive and taking the time to evaluate the data and determine what to pay attention to or worry about. This is where exception reporting comes into play. 

Many times, though, professionals aren’t really aware of the robust capabilities of exception reporting and how it can save firm leaders and employees valuable time. Oddly, there seems to be some disconnect about the real benefits of exception reporting to their firm’s bottom line.

Reports and Graphs

What is Exception Reporting?

Simply put, exception reporting can indicate a red flag to a business. Within the professional services industry, it is especially important to receive exception reporting related to projects and people. An exception report can be a report, alert and/or dashpart that notifies a user, department, or business about data that is outside of a defined expectation of what is typically acceptable. This notification indicates action should be taken. With an ERP or business intelligence system, exception reporting can be programmed to highlight parameters of values that appear outside of a defined criteria range. 

Why Use Exception Reporting?

With growing professional services firms, the more projects a firm wins, and the more employees hired, means managing more projects and employees. Anyone in the professional services industry knows that there is no such thing as a perfect project. Whether managing projects or employees, it’s important to know what needs closer attention and when to adjust a project or processes. With the ebb and flow of projects and availability of resources, those adjustments can come at any time. When done right, exception reporting can ensure a firm is addressing potential problems or weaknesses before they wreak havoc on the bottom line. 

What Are Examples of Exception Reporting for Professional Services Firms?

Exception reporting can be simple or more in-depth for professional services firms. Below are some examples of the most commonly used exception reports along with some that are less common, but highly effective within the professional services industry.

Identify Unsubmitted Timesheets with Ease

Having timesheets completed on time allows for timely billing and improved cash flow. Additionally, having the ability to list the staff who have worked less than expected hours for a selected time period lets managers know who to focus their efforts on and helps avoid mass emails to the entire company. Below is an example within Deltek Vantagepoint. Managers can identify which of their employees need to receive notifications or reminders and can quickly send one. Accounting and principals will also find it helpful to know which managers are underperforming. Additionally, business intelligence tools, like Entrinsik Informer, can provide insight in a visual way to alert those department managers who have the most employees slacking on their timesheet.

Deltek Vantagepoint Unsubmitted Timesheets - Floor Check

Draw Attention to Accounts Receivable (AR) at Risk

Accounts receivable “at risk” refers to the likelihood that a client or project is beyond the expected timeframe. For some firms, this may be 45 days and others may deem more than 60 days as being unacceptable. The longer the DSO (days sales outstanding) cycle, the more likely a business is offering credit to its clients. The longer the bill goes unpaid, the more likely a firm may not collect 100 percent of what is owed. Providing accounting, project managers and principals a list of “at risk” accounts allows a firm to focus just on those that are beyond the normal threshold. 

A project manager might be managing 50 projects. With an exception report, the PM can quickly see that they have 10 projects that need attention related to AR. For accounting and principals, an exception report may be one showing which project managers, principals or divisions have the most AR “at risk” to narrow down individuals or groups that need further attention.  

Entrinsik Informer At Risk AR

Resource Allocation Balancing

Another example of an exception report is one providing management information to demand the resources they need. With a resource allocation report for a project-based business, it outlines competing priorities required to execute on projects. It provides those overseeing projects the ability to determine who is over and underutilized allowing them to readjust those out of balance to maximize the effectiveness of the firm’s resources.

Deltek Vantagepoint Resource Allocation ReassignmentSpotting Projects in Trouble

A projects in trouble report is another exception report that identifies variances from the plan or project data. This type of report identifies the reason(s) a project may potentially be in trouble. The Blackbox Connector for Entrinsik Informer has an out-of-the-box BI reporting solution that can report on common reasons a project may be in trouble and includes:

  • Over budget or approaching budget
  • Low gross margin ratio percentage
  • AR is at risk or getting old
  • Percentage of time used is beyond expected days
  • Actual hours exceed budget
  • Low expected revenue
  • Project past expected completion date
  • No current activity

4 Entrinsik Informer PMs with Potential Projects In TroubleProject Feedback to Manage Expectations

Listening to feedback from clients about a project is essential to ensure project success. Projects require adjustments along the way and the best way to ensure a project is meeting client expectations is to provide a method for clients to provide quick feedback. The most effective method for professional services firms we have seen is the Client Feedback Tool by Client Savvy. This electronic feedback is quick, effective, and provides indicators when someone records a low score. As a result, an exception report alerts the team and leaders that follow-up is required, and potential mentoring of their employees is needed.

Client Feedback Tool Surveys Needing Follow-upReduce Employee Turnover with a Burnout Report

In professional services firms, a commonly used phrase is “our employees are our greatest asset.” This is true for so many reasons as they are often the primary contact with our clients. They also have the project knowledge as well as the technical skills required for project success. Having to replace an employee on a project costs time and money and can potentially result in a poor product or project delays. Ensuring that employees are maintaining a work life balance goes a long way to keeping productive staff. Providing executives and managers an exception report on identifying employees that may potentially be burnt out can help reduce turnover. In a burnout report, criteria might include employees that have:

  • Not taken PTO in the past 6 months
  • No PTO scheduled for the next 6 months
  • Consistently working more than 8 hours a day

Entrinsik Informer Employee Burnout IndicatorBeing Proactive with Exception Reporting Adds to Bottom Line

Training project managers, principals and teams on project details to look for across the board is essential. Exception reporting is a great way to quickly identify variances between what is expected and what is happening to help identify potential issues sooner. Utilizing business intelligence like exception reports offers firms the chance to proactively make adjustments and reduce data analysis time. Exception reporting can be a positive thing to help achieve better processes or avoid costly issues and should be a part of professional services firms’ operational strategies.

Key Performance Indicators

Entrinsik Informer Ranks High According to the BI & Analytics Survey 21

Posted by Chris Simei on March 17, 2021

Completed by BARC (Business Application Research Center), the worlds’ most comprehensive survey of business intelligence (BI) end users, the BI & Analytics Survey 21, was conducted from March to June 2020 and included 2591 responders in all. It examined user feedback on BI product choices and use across 36 KPIs. This extremely detailed survey provides great insights into the benefits and drawbacks of a plethora of BI tools.

Not surprisingly, Entrinsik Informer achieved excellent results and customers reported an outstanding user experience. Additionally, Informer received high ratings for its ease of use, ad hoc query capabilities, operational BI, and data preparation. Informer also demonstrated business benefits and business value and received praise for self-service and functionality.

BARC BI Survey logo

Ease of Use 

One of the biggest advantages to Informer for the majority of its customers and a huge strength of the product is its ease of use. The interface is accessible and allows for the creation of personalized dashboards and reports. Even more, the analysis pipeline is simple to use with drill down capabilities on visualizations and simple exploration of data using pivot tables. Therefore, technical professionals are not required anymore.

Ad Hoc Query Capabilities 

The BARC report indicated that ad hoc query is a key function of Informer, and it offers the ideal synergy for report creation. With a drag-and-drop functionality and easy data access, the query process is quite fast and simple. Yet it remains both versatile and scalable with many options for data sources. 

Timely Operational BI Data

Informer has implemented an effective pipeline for using near real-time updates. Initial reports can be sent out that end-users can custom update when needed. This setup creates an agile work environment for all users granting situational awareness all of the time.

Simplified Data Preparation

Informer users appreciate the data preparation and transformation process which happens in the Data Flow interface. Data Flow allows a review of the incoming datasets such as appending incomplete entries and normalization of inconsistent fields. This feature also has options for data governance and security.

Tangible Business Benefits

Users consider Informer to be beneficial to their business development and consider it to be a market leader in the BI software realm. Informer has a solid understanding of market niches and drives insights which provides for a more collaborative effort. Futhermore, value is given by the ability to query and access data across the organization.

Proven Business Value

Which BI tool creates value for your business is a key metric to consider when selecting the right solution. Informer’s good ratings show that the promise to increase reporting productivity does hold up and this core competency has delivered on every level. The value-add comes from accessibility empowering all departments to create their own reports working with real-time insights to make decisions.

Self-service Abilities

Informer enables all users to benefit from the BI tool. Simply put, elaborate SQL knowledge is not required, and it appeals to clients with multiple data structures allowing flexible integration of a variety of data sources. With its easy set-up, all users can generate insights and reports which drive business decisions without having to rely on IT.

Intuitive Functionality 

Client needs are met with the capabilities of Informer with its dashboards, ad hoc query and distribution of reports. Entrinsik continuously looks to improve these core functionalities such as the update in April 2020 including more flexibility with personal alerts and scheduling individual data updates. Informer 5 focused on client concerns and found solutions that are useful to them. 

In the BARC survey, Entrinsik was also rated as a top vendor in customer satisfaction, price-to-value, vendor support and implementer support. Furthermore, Entrinsik recently made major enhancements to Informer with the version 5 which includes visual attractiveness enhancements. Additionally, Informer has an intuitive report creation that is easy to set up and runs directly on databases, flat files or operational business applications. As far as customer base, Informer is mostly used by mid-sized firms between 100 and 2500 employees. Entrinsik’s familiarity with its clients allows them to anticipate and handle their growing needs timely and thoroughly.

Price-to-Value

Based on the survey results, Informer has a lead over the competition with consistency and its delivery at a bargain price. Two-thirds of clients have stated that the price-performance ratio is a main reason for choosing the tool. Many Informer clients like that it follows a subscription-based pricing model so that costs are predictable and flexible based on use.

BI Product Customer Service

BARC’s data shows that around a third of clients said their good relationship with Entrinsik is why they purchased Informer. The responsive support of Informer shows the commitment to clients after the purchase is made. Entrinsik also has an online presence which offers supplemental instruction in the way of tutorials, webinars and manuals.

Product Implementation Support

There is the right balance of individual flexibility and assistance with Entrinsik. Clients are able to rely on implementation specialists for help with integration and installation. Also, the Development Toolkit offers an internal development team to adopt solutions. Everything is targeted at a fast implementation time period so clients can pursue their own business agenda.

Entrinsik Informer is Worth the Investment 

According to BARC, the Entrinsik Informer BI tool is mainly used for reporting based on 97% of its customers who depend on it for reporting and the ad hoc query functionality. 85% of survey participants used the tool to view data insights and two-thirds of users found benefit from using the available dashboards. These functions of Informer make it the perfect self-service tool for IT and BI professionals, and even those not familiar with BI can use Informer to gain insight.

The BARC B&I Analytics Survey 21 download link

The Best Business Intelligence (BI) Tool for Deltek Vantagepoint Users

Posted by Chris Simei on February 03, 2021

One of the topics that keeps arising from the Deltek user base is utilizing business intelligence (BI) tools. Firms are seeking out BI tools for different reasons, but all are seeking to provide further analysis and visibility to employees within the firm. Some of the key products firms are investigating include Power BI to Tableau to Informer. So, what is the best BI tool for Deltek Vantagepoint users? Let’s dive in and discuss why firms are seeking out BI tools and discuss what we have found to be the best solution.

BI info 2

Clients Want More

The Deltek Vantagepoint product is robust and provides many out-of-the-box visuals and dashboards, but there are some further capabilities that require users to turn to a BI tool. Some of the most common features include:

  • Report upon any table or field not just pre-selected datasets
  • Create visuals combining different hubs or tables (For example, Project and GL Reports)
  • Drilldown capabilities from a visual
  • Combine outside data from payroll, marketing solutions, etc.
  • Track against goals, KPIs, and industry benchmarks

Why Informer Stands Out Amongst Other Business Intelligence Solutions

  1. Cloud Compatible – Deltek users in the cloud need not worry. A benefit of Informer is that it is Deltek cloud compatible. The API is pre-configured, and the data connection is already established. For your technology team, this is an important point since this would require a significant effort to establish.

  2. Ease Burden on IT – Deploying a BI tool can be cumbersome for technology teams. Our streamlined approach to deploy a BI solution saves time and resources. Most tools require in-depth data base programming skillsets, such as SQL. One of the key benefits of Informer is its intuitive and user-friendly capabilities, including dataset and visual design.

  3. Integrated Security with Deltek Vantagepoint – Informer utilizes the same security protocols utilized with your Deltek product streamlining the login process. A key advantage is user data is synchronized so you can mirror security preferences used in Deltek. As an example, when users are disabled within your Deltek product, they are also disabled within Informer.

  4. Combine Outside Data – Users can combine multiple outside data sources. For example, firms can bring in payroll data or other third-party solution data for further analysis.

  5. Out-of-the-Box Standards – No more starting from scratch and spending months and even years building out something that could be available to you day one. Our team has built what we call the gold standard, a starting point for project-based firms. On the first meeting, our team will show you how your data looks in our out-of-the-box datasets, visuals and dashboards. We will then work with your team to tweak datasets to your definitions and work with you to validate the data. Our gold standard includes visuals from the Executive down to the Employee and every role in between.

  6. Drilldown Capabilities is Built-in – Informer offers built-in drilldowns to transactional data on visuals. The drilldowns are automatically configured on visuals. In other BI tools it is just another thing you have to design, but not in Informer.

  7. Send Reports and Alerts Based on Conditions – Informer allows users to tap into their data and email certain filtered views to internal or external recipients. Emails and alerts can be scheduled on any conditional criteria. For example, as Project Managers utilize 80% of their budget, an email can be sent with a link to their dashboard and a breakdown of time on their project.

  8. Schedule Data Updates On-Demand – Users can schedule data to be refreshed on-demand or at specific time intervals. Datasets can also be scheduled on separate intervals. Some BI tools lack this flexibility, and all data is refreshed at one time. For example, opportunities may be updated every two hours, projects updated nightly, and income statements updated monthly after postings.

  9. Mobile Accessibility – Dashboards can be viewed on-the-go on any mobile device. One of the key differentiators between Informer and other BI tools is its drilldown capability. Informer content is automatically configured for mobile viewing without any additional development.

See Informer in Action

If you are ready to see more, we recommend checking out this previously presented demonstration webinar to see highlights of the capabilities of the product. Firms that have moved to Informer are finding tremendous benefits. Check out this case story to see how two firms moved from clunky and time consuming methods to up-to-date data with the click of a button. If these two webinars don’t provide you enough information, please feel free to email info@blackboxconnector.com to schedule a demonstration or discuss your specific needs.

Learn More

Power BI, Tableau, and Informer each offers unique features, but our clients believe Deltek users will find Informer to be the best business intelligence tool option. Be sure to join our upcoming webinar providing a more in-depth analysis of the capabilities of each of these products and learn what the future holds for BI tools.

Webinar: Informer - BI

The Roadmap of Business Intelligence

Posted by Chris Simei on July 01, 2020

BI infographics

Business intelligence (BI) is playing an increasingly critical role in the strategic planning of organizations. The output of established analytics can be used to track performance against business goals, identify inefficiencies, optimize processes, report and share information consistently, and identify unrealized business insights, all in real-time across a growing number of browsers and devices. The options are plentiful, and it can get overwhelming as you determine where to start.

Before you can reach these autonomous, pilot-cockpit-type dashboards, you will need a strategy. This will remain fluid and evolve as you adapt to your firm’s needs.  However, it is important to establish a roadmap to ensure that your efforts remain focused and deliver value where it is most needed. Let’s take a look at how to get there.

Identify Pain Points at a High Level

A basic first step is to summarize key pain points impacting your business. What are the questions your business is hoping to answer with its data? What are the information voids in your company? What reports are being run week after week to make decisions? Oftentimes, the pain points will evolve with your BI and shed light on areas needing attention. 

An easy and high-value place to start is exception reporting. Exception reporting highlights potential problem areas in your data based on a set of criteria you define. Examples may include:

  • Executive staff need to have visibility when a branch has not met its profit goal;
  • A project manager wants a consolidated dashboard to display his or her projects as he or she may be stretching the budget;
  • Administrative support staff wish to easily see what project records need review and approval;
  • An employee wants to view a dashboard of outstanding items (i.e. timesheet submissions, learning and development courses, annual review progress).

This proactive approach to quick-glance data can be a strong starting point to develop your BI strategy while staying focused on important metrics that require action.

Review Organization Structure

How does your organization structure support your reporting needs?  If you would like to produce reports by organization units (i.e. division, practice, group), then you will want to ensure that your system supports that structure. In the case of Deltek products, you may consider how you are utilizing organizations, teams, timesheet groups, and custom field associations. Furthermore, the firm and system structure will ultimately affect the data that is accessible by different groups.

Define Role Based KPIs

Each role in your organization has a unique business function. Frequently, these roles can share a responsibility that cascades down the business’s organization structure.

Consider the various roles in your company. How can they be grouped into subsets that could be measured together; such as, will a project manager be measured with the same standards as a project principal or supervisor?

One fundamental metric for any company is managing accounts receivable (AR) – getting paid for services or products that have been delivered. Here is an example of role based KPIs, starting at the top of the organization:

  • CEO wants to ensure that the AR Aging is in a healthy position to deter cash-flow concerns. CEO is pleased as long as the AR >60 days is less than 10% of the total AR balance at a company level. If that target is not met, CEO can interrogate the data.
  • Group manager ensures the total accounts receivable >60 days remains below 10% of the total AR balance for his or her entire group. Data can be summarized by project principal and prompt a discussion with any principal who is above the 10% threshold.
  • Project supervisor ensures that AR >60 days is below 10% for each project he or she is responsible for. BI can prompt a discussion with any project manager who is approaching the threshold.
  • Project manager is responsible for ensuring that invoices are paid per the 30-day payment terms. Invoices aging over 30 days must be chased and addressed. 

This example illustrates how a single metric is relevant to all roles. Therefore, a CEO can reference a dashboard in discussion with a group manager, who can then take it to the project supervisor, and onward down the hierarchy, directly to the project manager. Since this metric is consistently measured, each role understands the importance and relevance of his or her responsibility. This ties all roles to the financial success of the company.

Educate Team Members

It is important to educate on how defined measures are calculated. By doing so, your teams will clearly understand how their work is being measured and how their project success influences KPIs. BI tools can offer sophisticated and shiny visuals, but the end-user must understand how to use the data. Otherwise, the insights will be lost, or worse – misleading. Clean, simple data and education can provide clear definition to team members. Furthermore, it will give consistent data interpretation across all roles.

Measure the Firm’s Success

As you navigate through the BI journey, pause to measure the success of your BI strategy and the analytics you are measuring.  It is critical to gather feedback from the intended audience to understand how the BI tools are promoting productivity as well as transparency. Are the end-users interacting with the data and making smarter decisions because of it? By being agile in the BI development strategy, you can confidently deliver the most valuable analytical tools for your firm and ultimately power project success.

Key Performance Indicators

What Metrics are Important for Your Firm to Track?

Posted by Amanda Roussel on April 08, 2020

business metrics

“What gets measured gets done” is a common phrase heard in the business world. This thought process relies on business metrics that can be tracked and focused on within an organization. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the critical measurements which business leaders pay close attention to consistently. There are many leading and lagging indicators that can be analyzed to gauge a company’s health and employee productivity. So, what are KPIs that leaders and employees use to determine if their firm is operating effectively?  

Leading Indicators Look Forward

Firm leaders must always be looking to the future. New business is crucial to maintain a successful operation of a company. Likewise, appropriate staffing is necessary to ensure employee productivity.

New Business Pipeline – This measures the opportunities in the pipeline throughout the business development or sales process. The process typically covers efforts to attract clients, engage clients, then secure clients. How is a pipeline goal determined? Look at the firm’s hit rate – the ratio of wins to the number of projects pursued – and work backwards to determine the number of calls, meetings, and proposals needed to meet pipeline goals. Other metrics include client touch points, new leads, web visits, blog views, and dollar of proposals submitted, which all feed into the new business pipeline.

Full-Time Equivalent – This number shows if a firm is properly staffed for current and future work. The concept includes hours worked by part-time employees and full-time employees to determine the full-time equivalent (FTE). A firm can look at the total number of hours worked by all staff combined for a given time period and divide it by the number of working hours in that same time period. The FTE metric could trigger human resources to ramp up recruiting efforts or signal to business developers to target work for a specific time to keep utilization where it should be.  

Lagging Indicators Evaluate the Past

To keep a firm running successfully, business leaders must constantly measure results against goals. Were the goals met? Why or why not? There are a number of factors leaders analyze here.

Utilization Rate – Many firms use utilization goals as the benchmark for employee productivity. These goals are usually set by team managers and consider billable time, employee development, and administrative time. Employees can bring their highest value to the firm when they are operating at their optimal billable utilization goal. This metric is widely used at the individual employee level and group level.

Overhead Rate – This measures a firm’s non-billable costs compared to billable costs. Overhead expenses can be monitored and adjusted if this number is higher than desired. Examples of non-billable, or overhead, costs include leases, supplies, and non-billable professional hours, to name a few.

Revenue – This popular metric is the number that sits at the top of the income statement and measures the income a firm generates before subtracting expenses. This can be measured against revenue goals to determine how the company is performing. This number is important, but it should not be the only source of motivation.

Gross Profit Margin – This metric tells the firm’s process efficiency. The higher the number, the more efficiently the work is being completed. This can be measured overall for the firm as well as at the project level.

Revenue Growth – Is your firm on the desired growth path? This comprehensive view shows leaders the growth trajectory year-over-year. If it’s not on the desired path, course corrections can be made to get back on track.

Ongoing Pulse Checks Monitor the Present

It is also important to keep abreast of the general attitude towards your firm by both clients and employees. Both clients and employees contribute to the ultimate success of your firm. Thus, both should be assessed for current satisfaction levels.

Client retention and satisfaction – Repeat clients are vital to a firm’s success and can be tracked against new clients. Keeping clients satisfied helps ensure they will continue using the firm’s services. Tools such as the Client Feedback Tool can be used to gauge how satisfied clients are with the firm’s work and communication. The Client Feedback Tool can also be used to the employee’s advantage, learning where improvements can be made, or assistance requested.  

Employee satisfaction – The employee experience is just as important as the client experience. Satisfied employees are typically more productive, resulting in a stronger bottom line. It is best to keep lines of communication open and engage with, survey, and collaborate with employees regularly.

Using Metrics Ensures Firm Success

There are hundreds of metrics that can be tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. It is key to find the proper balance of metrics that works for your firm type and structure. Knowing how to get the right data is also important. Solutions such as Deltek Vision, Vantagepoint, and Informer can provide business intelligence showing real-time KPIs, giving leadership teams the data necessary for effective decision making and business management. Clear data can be used to identify the most successful areas as well as those that need attention and improvement. This is the most effective way to regularly stay on top of your firm’s performance.

Key Performance Indicators

Data Visualization and How it is Used

Posted by Full Sail Partners on January 22, 2020

chart graphic

Business Intelligence (BI) puts together business analytics, data mining, data visualization, technology resources along with the best practices to help companies make more data-driven decisions. Business intelligence can help businesses make better choices by displaying present and historical data in their business context. Analysts can use data visualization to provide performance and competitor benchmarks for a smoother and more efficiently run organization. Analysts can also detect market trends to boost sales or income more quickly. Making sure you are using BI and data visualization properly is important. Let’s look at how you can choose the right data visualizations for your company.

Temporal Visualizations

In the temporal category, data visualizations belong if they satisfy two conditions: they are linear, and they are one-dimensional. Temporal visualizations normally have lines that either stand alone or intersect with each other, with starting and ending time. Some common examples of data visualizations include scatter plots, time series sequences, timelines, line graphs, and polar area diagrams. These visualizations are usually pretty easy to recognize and understand. Picking the right visualization all depends on the kind of story you are trying to tell. When choosing a temporal visualization, your end goal should be comparing one or many value sets. This can help you easily show the low and high values of a data set.

Hierarchical Visualizations

In the hierarchical category, data visualizations are those that organize groups within larger groups. These are best used to display clusters of information, especially if they flow from one point to another. Typical hierarchical visualizations are tree diagrams, ring charts, and sunburst diagrams. Just like any type of data visualization, it is important that you are effectively telling a story with the graphics that you use. For this type, showing levels of importance coming from a single source is the main purpose of these visualizations. The only downside is that these graphs tend to be complex and sometimes difficult to read. The tree diagram is used most frequently because of its easy-to-follow linear path.

Multidimensional Visualizations

While linear data is easier to understand, sometimes you have the need to capture your audience’s attention. Multidimensional displays two or more different variables to create a 3D data visualization. These types of visualizations are scatter plots, pie charts, Venn diagrams, stacked bar graphs, and histograms. These visuals can break down a ton of data into key takeaways, making it easier to clearly identify what you are trying to get across. Multidimensional is used to compare data and parts of a whole and show relationships between two variables. With multidimensional data, you are able to choose different colors and shapes to really customize your graphic.

Data Visualization Makes an Impact

Choosing the right visualization for your data directly impacts how it gets across to the viewers. Your main goal should always be to properly tell a story with the graphics that you use. Data visualization allows you to display specific data in an eye-catching way leading to a successful conveyance of important and relevant information.

Blackbox Connector for Informer

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