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A Few of My Favorite Things About Deltek Vantagepoint Reporting

Posted by Terri Agnew, CPA on April 06, 2022

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In my prior experience as a Controller of Architecture and Engineering (A&E) firms, I was often the “go-to” person for creating reports for PMs and Executives using Deltek Vision. Over time, I learned exactly which tab(s) the options were on for the various reports, which navigation menu item to choose to find the report base I needed, and even which color names were my favorites to use for the group headings.  Now with Deltek Vantagepoint, report creation has been made even easier with a few excellent enhancements. So, with the musical the Sound of Music in mind, let’s highlight the Deltek Vantagepoint report upgrades as “A few of my favorite things” …about reporting!  Feel free to “sing” along. 

Favorite Thing #1 - Organization of Reporting Menu

My first “favorite thing” may not be as pretty as “raindrops on roses” but it sure will save time!  Unlike Deltek Vision, Vantagepoint has only one Reporting option on the Navigation menu. All the standard base reports are now found on one “Reports” tab within Reporting. Likewise, all Saved Global/Personal reports will be listed on one “Favorites” tab. Instead of navigating through a dozen + menu items to find the report needed, now simply search for the report by name on either tab or filter by the type of report if you choose.    

For example:  Don’t scroll through the full list searching for the Time Analysis Report. Using the name of the report, start typing “time” in the search bar and “voila”, the report will populate.   

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Just even knowing the type of report rather than the name of the report, it can be filtered based on report type and list just those reports. This filter is like navigating the reporting menu tree in Vision.  

Graphical user interface, text, application, email

Description automatically generatedFavorite Thing #2 – No more than 4 Option Tabs!   

Unlike the many “whiskers on kittens”, there are no more than four tabs to review for reporting options.  In Deltek Vision, some reports had two tabs, and some had up to seven! In Deltek Vantagepoint, at most there are only four tabs. 

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Columns & Groups:   Always start by deciding how the report should be grouped/sorted and which columns are wanted on the report. Keep in mind the headings of the columns can still be changed just like as in Deltek Vision but now there is only one header, not a header line 1 and line 2.   

Options:  This tab contains all “other” options for the report selected. Time selections, activity options, budget options, financial detail options – if the report has the option, this is where to find them all!  Having all the options consolidated to one tab makes it easier when creating a report as the user can simply skim through the options available from top to bottom.  There is no need to go from tab to tab any longer! 

Chart:  Not all reports have the ability to utilize charts, so this tab is not always an option. However, if the report data makes sense to also be shown in a bar, pie or line chart, this is the tab to set it up. 

Layout:  This is the tab with the choice to override the report defaults for report layout (portrait vs landscape), paper size, font, borders, headings & footers.  Advanced tip:  If a user has special options for a report, consider adding the options selected as a note in the footer for a reference as needed. 

Favorite Thing #3 – Easy Searching for Columns & Groups  

My third “favorite thing” is how easy the column and group options can now be selected in Deltek Vantagepoint. This may seem basic but having one quick and easy selection area is as satisfying as some “crisp apple strudels” with my coffee. 

Does the user want to know part or all of the name of the column or to add YTD data columns only? Does the user want all columns for hours? Use the filter! It will save time as there is no need to scroll through the long list of column options. 

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Favorite Thing #4 – Colors for Grouping & Headers, now Actual Colors not Words!!   

Let’s face it, sometimes data is boring and can be hard to read if there is too much of it on one page!  Adding some color to grouping labels can help the eye focus in on a particular detail.  The new color selections in groupings & headers are related to my favorite thing #2Want a blue like “blue satin sashes”? In Deltek Vision, to figure out if that blue was cornflower blue or light steel blue, the user had to select the color by name, preview the report and decide if it was the color desired. Now the color selection actually shows the true color visually! 

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Another great place to use colors to brighten up a report is in the Column Heading. This option can be found on the “Layout” tab of reporting. Use a nice bright color to liven up what used to be a basic black & white report. Better yet… does the firm have an approved color palette? Find out the color codes for the firm’s colors and type in the code of the color to use in reports. Now reports will match the company branding. The user doesn’t have to be limited to the 140 colors shown in this grid. Here is a website that shows more color options:  Color Hex Color Codes (color-hex.com). Select a favorite color or the company’s brand color to liven up those reports! 

Favorite Thing #5 – Select Report Options, Records and Save the Report - All from One Screen! 

My last favorite thing about Deltek Vantagepoint reporting reminds me of “brown paper packages tied up with strings”. Deltek took three areas from Vision reporting and combined them to one page. In Deltek Vision, users had to go to one screen for Options, go back to the main reporting page and navigate to a second screen for the records selection, navigate again to the main reporting page and go to a third screen to save the favorite report. In Deltek Vantagepoint, all three of these reporting functions are executed from this main reporting screen! 

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Two more quick reporting tips… (1) don’t miss that the report title can be changed directly from this screen as well! Simply click on “Project Earnings” and rename this report to whatever makes sense for the organization.  (2) Users can also email the report directly from this main screen from the “Other Actions” options. 

Enjoy the Enhancements of Deltek Vantagepoint 

While Deltek Vantagepoint users cannot all sing with the voice of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, they can certainly benefit from this list of “my favorite things.” In fact, users may discover more to add to this list! In the meantime, let these Deltek Vantagepoint enhancements make reporting a lot easier because like Maria said when feeling sad, “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”   

 


Click the image below to learn how to add the powerful, feature-rich ERP to your toolbox and get your team working on the same page of the same book.

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To Vantagepoint or Not to Vantagepoint, that is the Question...

Posted by Cate Phillips on March 30, 2022

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Project-based firms have many options when it comes to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) packages, albeit difficult choices to make. In his well-known play Hamlet, Shakespeare delivered us a Hamlet who was contemplating a major decision in his famous soliloquy. So, are the decisions around life and death that Hamlet considered at all comparable to that of choosing an ERP? Well, let’s have some fun here with Shakespeare and try to make a case for it. 

Avoid the Old Bait and Switch

In the Shakespeare play, Hamlet has all these murderous plans and ways to avenge the death of his father. The famous quote “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” isn’t so much about how fickle women can be (even though everyone knows fickleness has no gender), but rather it’s said as part of a trap to see if Claudius will reveal his guilt. What can be learned from these homicidal maniacs, other than to bring back the word ‘methinks’, one may ask? 

When selecting an ERP, project-based firms must consider the entire cost of the product to avoid feeling trapped. No one likes to feel taken advantage of or stuck in a situation that isn’t meeting expectations. When clients come from other ERPs on the market, one of the main complaints is typically that they felt like their ERP provider or consultants were constantly after more fees. They were sold a product that could do a ton, but the investment necessary to get to all those great features was hidden. The result is feeling like a bait and switch has trapped the firm into pouring more into a system which was thought to be ready for full operation.  

Deltek Vantagepoint is sold as a highly configurable project-based ERP system. Full Sail Partners’ expert Vantagepoint consultants approach sales and implementations with eyes that are wide open to balance cost with efficiencies. Vantagepoint works best when it meets each firm’s business needs, and it does take configuration and therefore an investment, to get there, but it’s well worth it. So, if project-based firms have the right expectations going in, they shouldn’t be feeling trapped. 


Wrap Some CRM/RP Rigor Around the Madness

Some of the most significant and best changes from Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint are happening in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Resource Planning Management (RP) modules. These are complete game changers in the market and none of the competition invested as much as Deltek has into fine-tuning these glorious pieces of functionalities. Deltek has been listening to client feedback for more than a decade and continues to listen as they expand Vantagepoint’s capabilities.  

So going back to the play, Polonius responds to Hamlet at one point by saying “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.” Running a professional services or consulting firm can feel insane some days. Clients can pop up out of nowhere with additional needs, and suddenly, the entire day’s schedule has been turned into something else. Deltek Vantagepoint helps wrap some rigor around the “madness” in a user-friendly way that will actually increase user adoption in project-based firms.  

Keeping the madness at bay, Full Sail Partners has now helped more than 200 firms go from Deltek Vision to Deltek Vantagepoint. The number one reason why system usage increases with Vantagepoint is because of its ability to manage the entire project lifecycle, from a prospect that knows nothing of what it’s like to work with the firm to managing the resources and how the work is delivered. Vantagepoint also offers the type of visibility into finances, operations and performance that firms need to grow. The number two reason usage increases with Vantagepoint is because the CRM makes life easier for marketers, seller-doers, project managers, and leadership. Opportunities are no longer separate files from projects, so it’s all one record in Vantagepoint.  

Additionally, with the Deltek Vantagepoint Outlook Connect and Gmail for business connect, users can see the interaction history between contacts, clients, and projects as well as quickly log emails into Vantagepoint. This feature allows users to bring Vantagepoint into their email inboxes. And this tool comes with other features like the ability to synchronize calendars and schedule meetings while saving them in Vantagepoint at the same time. To learn more about the Vantagepoint Outlook Connect, check out this mini demo. 

 

Keep that New ERP Feeling Longer  

To put it lightly, in the play, Hamlet was worried about the “afterlife” in that other famous soliloquy when he said, “to die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream.”  This is similar to how many of our clients are worried about their “aftercare,” with continuously improving their processes with Vantagepoint once they’ve made the leap to get there. A Full Sail Partners’ service becoming more popular with clients recently is the Navigational Analysis for Vantagepoint. A firm’s entire system is scanned, and current processes are evaluated to discover how well they are serving the firm. It’s like an annual physical exam by a physician that results in a complete work-up on the health of your system.  

It’s important to develop a plan for aftercare that includes regular data clean-up, optimizing processes, increasing efficiencies and overall continuous improvement. A consultant isn’t necessary to keep a firm’s ERP fresh; it’s like anything else. If experts are needed to bring their knowledge and best practices to the table, it can be outsourced, or a firm can do it itself.  

Exit Stage Right   

In review, it is certainly interesting to see how much Shakespeare’s characters in Hamlet seem to have reflected upon similar issues like with the tribulations of project-based firms regarding choosing an ERP. So perhaps they are comparable? However, the answer to Vantagepoint or Not to Vantagepoint appears to be evident. To Vantagepoint!  


Click the image below to learn how to add the powerful, feature-rich ERP to your toolbox and get your team working on the same page of the same book.

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5 Tips to Keep Passwords Secure at Professional Services Firms

Posted by Evan Creech-Pritchett on March 16, 2022

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In an age where technology is intertwined with every aspect of life, it is more important than ever to keep data protected. Since passwords are practically the keys to everyone’s livelihood both professionally and personally, if they fall into the wrong hands then there’s no telling how much trouble this could cause for everyone connected to them. By neglecting to follow proper password protection protocols, companies have unintentionally been responsible for their own data breaches and even those of their business partners. That’s why employees and leadership at professional services firms should use these five tips to help strengthen their passwords and keep security protected.

Tip #1 – Use a Unique Password 

Let’s say someone at the firm has been hacked and an unapproved person has gained access to a password. That’s already a concern, but the effect is multiplied tenfold if that same password has been used on other accounts at the firm. Once the password has been discovered, there will certainly be an attempt to use it wherever possible to get into even more of the unprotected accounts. To prevent this from happening, a completely different password should always be used on every separate firm account. 


Tip #2 – Resist Easy to Guess Passwords 

This one should be obvious, but one would be surprised by how many people use passwords like “12345” and “password” just because they are easy to remember. Personal information such as birthdays, pets’ names, and street addresses should also be avoided. To be safe one should use a password that is more random. A good password should have more than eight characters and contain numbers, special characters, uppercase letters and lowercase letters.  

Tip #3 – Be Very Cautious When Asked to Share Passwords 

Avoid scammers at all costs. Scams come in many forms - some may be emails, some may be phone calls, and some may even impersonate a friend, co-worker, client or relative online just to get access to a password. Some of these scams may try to create a sense of urgency, so always stop and remember to think it through carefully. Consider why that person would need this information, and if the person reaching out is unfamiliar, then do not continue with the contact. Here’s the golden rule to follow for not getting scammed: never give away a password.  

Tip #4 – Keep Software and Browsers Up to Date 

Keep the firm’s web browsers, applications, and operating systems up to date. If there’s an exploit to be found, it’s on an older version. It is not necessary to update to the newest version as soon as it is out, but it is generally a good idea to move to the newer versions as soon as possible. Some applications will come with a pre-set password. These should always be changed, even if they are randomly generated. If there is worry about exploits in newer versions of programs, then do research before the decision is made to update. Software companies will generally release patch notes for users to check before they update. 

Tip #5 – Use Two Factor Authentication or a Password Manager 

Two factor authentication requires a third-party app that will require approval for sign-ins. Once logged into an account, a notification on your authenticator app will be received where entry is approved or denied for whoever is logging in. Password managers are a bit more complex but will ensure safety just the same. Once logged in, the password manager will generate random passwords for the user. With these, only one password will need to be remembered to get into the manager, and it will take care of the rest. For extra safety, feel free to use both in tandem. 

Bonus Tip - Stolen Password.... Now What?

So, how can someone at a professional services firm tell if a password has been stolen? More importantly, what can be done about it? 

Well, the best way to identify if a password has been compromised is to watch for suspicious activity. The critical indicators can be anything from strange posts or questionable emails on firm accounts to even small subtle changes in personal information that seem off to the user. Some applications will inform the user when there is an unusual activity, which is especially helpful in these situations.  

Once there is evidence that an account has been breached, the first thing to do is immediately change the password. If this account is tied to others, those accounts should also have their passwords changed and be reviewed for any confirmation of hacking. One should also inform other firm staff and business partners of the breach to proactively prevent any other data breach complications. 

Stay Diligent and Safe

Professional services firms are not alone in the need to protect security, but with the expert knowledge that they are hired for, data breaches can have long term negative effects on both the firm and clients. These five tips should help strengthen firm security and protect its valuable data and clients. It’s a scary internet world out there, so it is important to keep both professional services firms and their staff safe so they can continue to work hard!  

 


Click the image below to learn how Full Sail Partners can help with Application Hosting. 

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Mergers and Acquisitions: Harness the (Data Integration) Beast

Posted by Charlene Kerr on March 09, 2022

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A recent merger and acquisition (M&A) update by Morrissey Goodale, shows that domestic M&A continues to soar 42 percent year-over-year. Mergers and acquisitions in the professional services industry are skyrocketing which means that many firms are learning how to successfully consolidate separate entities into one creating synergy. Much goes into the M&A process. Notably, a merger or acquisition requires significant effort in the areas of change management and rebranding, not to mention the continuation of efforts that drive the business in the first place.  

However, as these professional services firms come together, probably the most consequential matter pertains to integrating the data, and many firms find themselves in a data integration quagmire. Common sense would tell us that it should be easy to combine data from entities within the same industry, but disparate systems and diverse implementations often cause data headaches when not approached carefully. So, what are some best practices to help professional services firms harness this (data integration) beast? 

Pick Crucial Team Members

Choosing the team to make the relevant decisions about the data is the first, and most important, step. Ensure you have stakeholders from the acquiring firm to define current data and processes as well as from the acquired firm to understand the data coming in or stakeholders from both merging entities. At this point, the inclusion of a third party, such as Full Sail Partners, would be beneficial and would serve as a bridge between the uniting professional services firms to make the transition much smoother.


Include the Specialized Experts 

A specialized consultant in areas such as finance, CRM or human resources is an enormous help when needing to identify changes to the acquired firm’s processes or merging firms’ processes as well as any training in the new system that might be required. These experts can manage the project as a whole and ensure that all parties are heard and that the timeline and budget are kept on track. They will call in other specialized consultants as needed to make sure there is the best possible assistance. 

Incorporate a Data Migration Specialist 

A data migration specialist can help locate and identify the data that needs to be migrated, whether it is all held in a single location or coming from multiple systems. This consultant will create an inventory of the data, and then begin profiling the data quality for the firm. Specifically, this expert will evaluate: 

  • Is the data clean?  
  • Is it useful, or can it be retired?  
  • Are there redundancies that need to be eliminated?  

Once those issues have been identified, the work of cleansing and converting the data can begin. Data migration specialists do this all the time, and they know the best ways to handle the data as it flows through the extract, transform, load (ETL) process. Together with the data mapping, this ensures that the data moving into the new system is clean and compatible with the newly integrated professional services firm. 

Data Alignment Musts

Whether the firm relies on internal specialists or brings in an outside consultant, there are areas where there must be data alignment in the Deltek Vision or Vantagepoint system or any ERP for that matter. Specifically, firms that are merging data need to align the following.

Multi-Company

Will the resulting firm be tracking the new company within a multi-company database, or incorporating it completely into the existing company, possibly as its’ own profit center? If the former, make sure the existing system is configured to accept multiple companies and report on them correctly.

Multi-Currency

Will the resulting firm be using a different currency for the incoming company? Again, make sure the existing software can handle all the factors associated with a multiple currency environment. The storage of different currencies and methods of currency translation are just two factors that you must take into account. Be sure that your software can handle these issues, and that it is configured correctly.

Chart of Accounts

The chart of accounts for the incoming company must be mapped to accounts in the existing company, and any new accounts must be added into the software prior to moving over the new data. A data migration specialist can easily make these changes in your data for a smooth transition.

Record Alignment for all Key Tables (Unique Identifiers)

The new data will need to be reviewed for a number of factors, including:

  • Formatting of key fields, such as project, employee and firm numbers,
  • Duplicates in any of the key fields of the database and
  • Bad data in the new company that should NOT be brought over.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Firms will often use different work breakdown schemes when tracking projects. This is one area where significant adjustments might need to be made in the incoming data. A thorough review of the existing data, and a comparison to the merging company’s data is necessary to avoid headaches down the road. Data transformation specialists should be involved at this point, as they have experience massaging the data prior to the merge.

Maintain Control to Harness the Beast 

The secret to harnessing the data integration beast is to keep the process organized and controlled. Ensure leaders at the professional services firm use best practices and select the integration team wisely. With the right team in place, the changeover will be as seamless as possible. 

Full Sail Partners’ consultants have years of experience in all aspects of mergers and acquisitions for professional services firms and have access to the best minds in the industry. Whether you are just beginning to consider M&A for your firm or you already have one in progress, we can provide support and help guide you through the process to a successful merger. 


Click the image below to see how Full Sail Partners can help with your merger and acquisition data migration. 

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Seeking Perfection in an Imperfect World - Optimizing the Accounting Calendar

Posted by Rick Childs on March 02, 2022

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In a perfect world for project-based firms, as soon as a task is performed for a client, money would appear in the firm’s bank account. After all, the firm is contracted to provide services for a fee, and services were performed. End of story, right?  

Well, my bad! In the real world, that performance of services requires a good bit of help along the way, in order to get that payment in the bank. So, the story needs to expand a little to reach this ideal end game. That’s when having and implementing a good accounting calendar becomes a necessity. This routine cadence of work and accounting functions helps firms be able to rely on a regular schedule of deposits for work performed. 

A Good Accounting Calendar is a Necessity

Over the past 30 years, I have worn many hats and filled many roles involved in every step of the revenue process, including being a manager and being managed. I have learned that one of the greatest necessities is a good “Accounting Calendar” because it is essential to control the process and to have a schedule for the activities involved. Furthermore, for this to work, there must be planning, knowledge and “buy-in” by every level and department in the company from executive to “boots on the ground.” There also must be an individual overseeing the activities. That responsibility generally falls within the duties of the controller. 

Venturing back to my “perfect world,” or a reasonable facsimile thereof, if professional services firms setup and work within a good accounting calendar, they can achieve success, lower overhead, reduce billing time and collect payment for services quickly. Moreover, getting the team to follow a schedule is not a “dream.” It can, has been and is being done every day.  


Overview of the Evolution of Revenue

Below is what I call the “Evolution of Revenue.” It walks through from when the work has been performed through money in the bank. The evolution steps include:  

  • Performed Services = Unrecorded Time 
  • Recorded Time = Unapproved Time 
  • Approved Time = Unrecognized Revenue 
  • Recognized Revenue = Unbilled Revenue 
  • Billed Revenue = Uncollected Revenue 
  • Collected Revenue = Money in the Bank 
  • Money in the Bank = Gives the firm options for expansion and compensation… and that’s a whole other story! 

As the “Evolution of Revenue” shows above, it all starts with work being performed and work being recorded. The first tool to be used is a weekly timesheet. Why weekly, you may ask? Weeks don’t coincide with months or years, and firms publish monthly, quarterly, and annually! Granted, but firms are talking about scheduling, efficiency and supervision, therefore, weekly timesheets work the best. Believe me, I have tried them all, and firms can still publish monthly financials. So, let’s look at a sample schedule based on the weekly timesheet: 

  • Work Week is Monday through Sunday. 
  • All time is to be recorded daily. This provides the project manager the opportunity to review, approve and report on work as it is performed – up to the minute budget vs. actual. 
  • Monday - All time for the previous week must be inputted and submitted for approval by noon on Monday. 
  • Noon on Tuesday - The project manager and managerial review of time must be completed by noon on Tuesday. 
  • Close of Business Tuesday - The accounting and human resources review for overhead, benefits, OT, etc. must be completed by close of business on Tuesday. 
  • Wednesday Morning - Time is posted Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. 

So now the firm has time in and posted each week. What then? Well, for one thing, if the firm is using Revenue Recognition – which it should be – it can publish Revenue figures for the previous week on Wednesday morning, along with Employee Utilization figures and Project Management Reports. 

Next Steps in the Evolution

So far, we have covered the first four steps in the Evolution and moved from Performed Services to Unbilled Revenue. Given that, let’s fast forward to Month-End where the Revenue evolves from Unbilled to Billed. Let’s review a couple of thoughts surrounding managing receivables. 

Let’s make the following assumptions:  

  • The billing month-end is the last Friday of the month. 
  • The accounting month end is the last day of the month. 
  • Preferred payroll is bi-weekly. 

Below is a sample of how this schedule lays out on a calendar in Q1 of 2022, spanning 2 weeks and 10 business days. This model has been used successfully with the buy in of project management, billing and accounting and provides principals with revenue by week and for the month on the Wednesday following the last Friday of the month. 

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Once the invoices have gone out, the responsibilities for follow-up vary by client and role. For clients that are being billed for the first time, the billing department follows up three days after bills are emailed to ensure that the proper individual received the invoice and to see if there are any changes that need to be made to the delivery instructions. For existing clients, billing is responsible for follow-up on accounts receivable (AR) up to 60 days past due, project management is responsible for AR up to 120 days and departmental management gets involved after that. All responsible parties receive auto-generated AR emails weekly so that all are on the same page as to who is on task.

Optimize the Accounting Calendar to Realize the Dream

As John Lennon once said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Having a solid billing and accounting calendar is not a dream, it is a necessary and doable reality. Every firm has a plan and the thing that generally separates the dream from the reality is taking on the responsibility of enforcing the schedule and the deadlines. No one should be exempted from completing their assigned tasks at the time.  

Click the image below to find more accounting and finance resources. 

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Resource Planning Enhancements in Deltek Vantagepoint

Posted by Rana Blair on February 23, 2022

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Projects are the lifeline for professional services firms. Deltek Vantagepoint provides applications to support the project planning and resource management activities—Project Planning, Resource Management and Plan Reporting. For those firms who are familiar with Deltek Vision planning, you’re in for a real treat with the enhancements added to Vantagepoint.

The enhancements include the ability to Change Planned Hours, select the ETC / JTD basis in system settings, save Resource View searches for roles, and use Spread Variance to push unused plan hours forward. Let’s dig deeper into these improvements.

Set Plan Inclusion System-Wide

Deltek administrators now have the ability from a system-level to set the inclusion of “in pursuit” project plans on some sort of objective basis. The screenshot below shows how these are automatically set based on the pursuit stages. Keep in mind when the project is awarded, it’s included in those calculations. The beautiful part about Vantagepoint is firms have complete visibility into all the plans, even if the project was not included in those utilization calculations and reports.

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The administrator can set different options based on the firm’s preferences. Those include:

  • Never – This means that users can plan but the plan won't be included in the calculations.
  • Always – Selecting this option will always include the plans, regardless of the degree of seriousness or clarity that you have.
  • Set by Project – This is not recommended because it relies on the plan creator to remember to mark the plan for inclusion.
  • Automatically Set Based on Selected in Pursuit Stages – This is the recommended option because it leverages the intelligence of the software to determine the stage of the project and then to automatically determine inclusion into those calculations.
  • Automatically Set Based on Probability – This uses the probabilities set up in the system. Preferences can be set to say anything greater than 50% probability, for example, will be included. Vantagepoint provides a lot of flexibility with this, but this flexibility is from the system standpoint and not each individual plan.

Set Estimate to Complete (ETC) and Job to Date (JTD) Basis System-Wide

While the ability to set and/or change the ETC and JTD was available in Deltek Vision Planning, it was often changed for one purpose or another and could be forgotten to be put back. In Vantagepoint, this is a system setting so that every plan is using the same ETC and JTD basis as shown in the screenshot below.

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Firms can select the system settings and the basis that works best for them. For example, a firm has a JTD basis through Last Week’s End Date, and that is last Saturday. All the JTD is shown through that date and the ETC date starts the next business day. That allows the firm to have certainty about the JTD figures. If the firm customarily has weekly timesheets that are always completed by the end of the week, this may be a great system setting.

Alternatively, firms can use the Last Timesheet Period’s End Date. If the firm lags a little bit on timesheet entries, utilizing this option so that the JTD information being shown in the plan is that of the last timesheet period will most likely work better. Firms can use this option so that the JTD information shown in the plan is as of that last timesheet week. So, for the first few days of the timesheet period, it's not as accurate, but it's more accurate once that timesheet period is posted and closed.

Rescheduling Plans

Vantagepoint Planning is further enhanced with the ability to reschedule plans. The reschedule ability allows users to either shift or change the duration for the labor tab. This is only for the labor tab in Vantagepoint Planning. Users can pick up the entire date range and move the start date or move it to the finish date.

Like Vision Planning, if the duration is the same, the hours can use the same proportions from the time period. When the duration length is increased, it keeps the same pattern. Conversely, when the duration length is decreased, the system can respread it evenly. But, if the duration shrinks, the system will not like it if unplanned hours fall outside the new duration. In Vantagepoint, this becomes very clear with well-written error messages that pop up for the user.

Change Planned Hours

Changing planned hours is a new function in Deltek Vantagepoint. Project managers can use this functionality to update the planned hours in any timeframe. They can choose to spread the hours proportionally or evenly. For example, a user can take all the hours at the project level or work breakdown structure (WBS) level two and change the planned hours from A to B. This can be done in any timeframe. It can also be done backward and forward using the ETC day. There are a lot of options to change planned hours in Vantagepoint Planning.

The screenshot below shows the new Redistribute Hours menu in Vantagepoint where users can change the planned hours.

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Replace Planned Hours with Actual Hours

The next enhancement is the ability to replace planned hours with actual hours. This functionality allows users to choose the replacement of hours for a specific date range or across all dates as well as choose to calculate on a weekly, monthly, or total basis. An example is shown below.

VPPlanning-ReplacePlanwithActualHours

Spread Variance

The ability to spread the variance between planned and actual hours can be done in several ways over the time periods selected. It allows the user to control how they spread the differences between actual and planned as well as choose different date ranges. The date range can be a specific date range, an entire date range, or just a short amount of time. The project manager can choose to spread the hours including the negatives or just limit to the positive differences. The variance can be spread evenly or proportionately.

The biggest enhancement is that now this setting is directly available in the plans in Vantagepoint as opposed to another menu or area of the system, providing better visibility, as shown below.

VPPlanning-SpreadVariance

Vantagepoint Planning is Reimagined for Project-Based Firms

With these enhancements to Vantagepoint Planning, project-based firms can not only quickly create project plans but adjust them to the unpredictable nature of the projects. It’s the right project management tool to control project delivery. Do you want to see these Deltek Vantagepoint Planning enhancements in action? Use the button below to see Rana Blair demonstrate each of them.

 

Link to learn the differences between Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint planning

Outgrowing QuickBooks – 5 Reasons Professional Services Firms Need More

Posted by Joel Slater on January 26, 2022

QuickBooks serves as a logical starting point for SMB professional services firms. For good reason - it’s affordable, popular, and easy to use accounting software. Though, on the downside, it provides very little flexibility and accommodation for how a business actually needs to run 

Having difficulty looking at accounting report

Simply put, QuickBooks isn’t designed for project-based companies. It’s an entry-level accounting system, with purposefully generic functionality, intended to serve a diverse client base that spans various industry types. Consequently, the basic and straightforward nature of the product, which perhaps is viewed as a positive, can quickly become the opposite. Many professional services firms will eventually reach a point where the limitations of QuickBooks can hinder future growth. 

When might a firm reach that point? Below are 5 top reasons clients are choosing to trade in QuickBooks for an industry specific ERP that is purpose-built to meet the needs of a growing project-based business.     

Cumbersome Invoice Creation 

For a project-focused professional services firm, getting client invoices created and out the door can be considered one of the most critical functions. This process may have once been easy, but as the business has grown, projects have likely become more complex. With that means more complicated, multi-part, client invoice requirements.  

What used to take a couple of hours is now taking over a week, and accounting staff is burdened with cobbling together invoice-supporting data from various disconnected, error-prone sources. Not to mention the challenges of even getting the project management team to complete their timesheets in the first place. Once those bills have finally been painstakingly created and issued to clients, they still may not be correct.   

Incorrect invoices going out the door can slowly erode the trust of clients and lead to unnecessary, time-consuming, back-and-forth. On the other hand, accurate invoices, which are processed and paid quickly by clients, can provide various benefits to include reduction in DSO (days sales outstanding) and increased cash flow.  

Limited Visibility into Project Reporting

Do Project Managers and professional services firm leaders have a consistent and reliable source of truth to monitor the overall health and status of projects? For many who rely on QuickBooks, the answer is no. Just like on the invoice creation side, the necessary data to support project reporting is scattered among various spreadsheets. Answering what should be a simple question related to project status could take days to assemble a response. By the time of that response – odds are, the data is already out-of-date, and often irrelevant. The thought of any ‘real time’ project status, to include capturing data such as committed costs, may likely seem impossible when operating within these sorts of system-related confines.  

Not having a proper visibility into project timeline, budget, and other KPIs has consequences. It can quickly eat into profit margin and limit a professional services firm’s ability to make informed decisions in support of its projects and business.   

QuickBooks Lacks Support for the Entire Project Lifecycle 

Everyone needs an accounting system. However, even a relatively small, basic operation may quickly find that it needs more tools at its disposal. There are obvious functions like time keeping & employee expense reports, providing the ability to seamlessly allocate those costs to projects in support of invoice creation and project reporting. Additionally, perhaps there is a need to link the front and back-office operations to better manage the complete ‘project lifecycle’ (from initial lead pursuit through to project close-out). This includes a CRM (customer relationship management) module, or the ability to do more detailed project planning and resource scheduling.  

These are all areas and functions that a professional services firm is undoubtedly already actively performing, but just manually and “offline,” using spreadsheets and email to manage. The purpose of an ERP is to combine multiple functions within a single fully integrated solution that spans the entire business. More specifically, a project-based ERP is designed to do the same, but with functionality specifically geared towards a project-oriented company. 

Sure, QuickBooks capabilities can be expanded using external and 3rd party add-on tools that make initial claims around 'integration'. Yet, the result for many who go down that path can be a clunky, frustrating software experience – leaving many wishing they instead invested their time and resources into the lower-risk approach of just implementing a Deltek product.   

QuickBooks Can Limit the Ability to Pursue Projects

For many of the reasons already stated, professional services firms shy away from pursuing new projects they fear may be too taxing and burdensome on their existing accounting system. Simply stated, they don’t have the tools in place to responsibly graduate to the next level. Passing up new business opportunities can be painful, but unfortunately necessary, for those firms who are not equipped with the internal systems to support growth. 

Take WBS (work breakdown structure) requirements, for example. This means breaking down a more complex project into smaller components and deliverables. Many times projects require an invoice to reflect the way the project was bid. Providing a WBS ensures the estimate is managed and billed the way it was proposed. Unfortunately, QuickBooks limits the ability to pursue projects with more advanced requirements because it cannot easily track efforts in this manner. For many professional services firms, this is essential functionality needed to initially price/propose, manage, deliver, and invoice these projects.   

QuickBooks Hinders Growth 

The idea of a more ‘open ended’ system experience that can truly conform and adapt to evolving business requirements becomes more appealing. Those cascading menu options, check boxes, and configuration screens that may have once been viewed as intimidating and inaccessible may quickly start to make more sense. Deltek can easily accommodate growing firms. This is why 80% of AEC firms use Deltek. It has all the utilities, under the hood to handle the needs of future growth. As a professional services firm grows, its bookkeeping system should be able to scale and enable that progress, versus introducing hurdles and limitations.  

Grow Quicker with Deltek 

To reiterate, there is nothing inherently wrong with QuickBooks. If there were, it probably wouldn’t be the widest-deployed entry-level accounting system in the market. But the unique requirements of a professional services firm can still quickly create situations where to bring a firm to the next level, it needs to be re-tooled with industry specific solutions.  

ERP is not just for the ‘big guys’ anymore. The introduction of cloud-based applications (relieving clients of internal IT requirements), and also packaging and implementations catering to small firms, has opened many doors over the last several years. In fact, a majority of current day Deltek clients could be considered SMBs, who previously came from QuickBooks.  

Have additional questions? Full Sail Partners and Deltek got it covered. Deltek Vantagepoint is an industry-leading project-based ERP designed to support the entire project lifecycle. Having extensive experience with new system implementations (to include data migration, system configuration, and product training), Full Sail Partners has helped hundreds of clients graduate from QuickBooks. Please contact us to start a discussion.  

Image button link to the Project Lifecycle of Deltek Vantagepoint webinar

Creating the Right Content to Attract Ideal A/E/C Clients

Posted by Lindsay Diven on January 19, 2022

Creating content that attracts the ideal client is a crucial part of a digital marketing program. This content educates the potential client through the process and highlights the firm as the best choice for the project.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing 3

Through the “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing” series, we’ve learned about creating personas (ideal client), setting goals, and outlining a content strategy. Now it’s time to create new content to fill in the gaps from the previously completed Content Audit.

Brainstorming with an Inbound Focus

Marketers may already have a sense of what type of topics to cover in their new content development. These ideas might have been thought of in proposal or presentation preparation, interactions with business developers or project managers, or observing industry trends.

However, take these ideas a few steps further by brainstorming with an inbound focus. Identifying what would attract an ideal client to the content draws them into the digital platforms like the firm’s website or social media channels. During the brainstorming sessions, ask the following questions when evaluating topic ideas:

  • Who will be reading the content? For how many audiences will you be creating content? This goes back to the persona development and creating content that appeals to the persona(s).
  • What problem will you be solving for the ideal client(s)? Ideally, your firm provides services to solve the clients’ challenges. The marketing content should educate this same audience as they begin to pinpoint and address their issues. Refer to the decision-making funnel to identify the questions for each step in the funnel.
  • What makes your firm or point of view unique? How is your firm different from the other A/E/C firms in town? Do you have a unique offering, specialist, technology, or brand voice? Maybe it’s how or why your firm approaches a design challenge a certain way? If it’s difficult to decide what makes your firm unique, try taking a piece of industry news or trend then applying your firm’s point of view or opinion about it. This combines trending content, while allowing the firm to stand out.
  • What content formats will be the focus? It’s not about what content format your firm WANTS to create but meeting the audience (ideal clients) where they are. That’s why the persona development work is so important. For example, marketers may be tempted to create a firm podcast, but learn that the targeted persona prefers to read. Knowing this before launching the podcast may save the firm time and resources.
  • What channels will be used to share the content? Just like the content formats mentioned above, determining the social media channels should be based on where the ideal clients are, not where your firm wants to be.

This focused brainstorming technique will result in the content development plan.

Writing a Content Development Plan

Once the list of topics for new content is developed, now it’s time to get to work. Writing a content development plan and treating it just like any project or proposal plan is the best way to ensure it gets done.

Items to outline in a content development plan include:

  • Who’s creating what piece?
  • Who’s contributing to the piece (the subject matter expert)?
  • What additional resources or skillsets are needed?
  • What type of graphics or media is needed?
  • Where is it going to be published?
  • When it’s going live?

In smaller firms, this may all be completed by one or two people. In larger firms, this might be managed by an entire department. Either way, it eventually gets put into a plan and publishing schedule.

Keeping SEO in Mind

There is so much information about search-engine optimization (SEO). In fact, a future article in this series is going to be dedicated to SEO. But it’s worth thinking about SEO while brainstorming and creating new content.

One method for brainstorming new content ideas is to do keyword research. Ideal clients are most likely searching for answers on search engines, like Google. And those search engines along with tools like Moz and Semrush can provide marketers with keywords to help with new content ideas.

As the new content is being developed, make sure that those keywords and phrases are used in the content titles, body, images, etc. when it’s published.

Getting Started

Hopefully, you now have some ideas on how to create the right content to attract ideal A/E/C clients. You know how to brainstorm new content ideas, write a content development plan, and keep SEO in mind as new content is created. It can feel overwhelming, but firms don’t need to create a lot of content, just high-quality content that helps the ideal client move through the decision-making funnel. Focus on creating the amount of content your firm has the resources for. In the next installment of the “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing” series, you’ll learn ways to repurpose that content to extend its life. It’s about working smarter, not harder.

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Level Up Your AE Firm’s Business

Posted by Ryan Felkel on January 12, 2022

For all businesses, earning a nice profit is the expected goal. Yet for some AE firms, stagnant earnings, increasing costs and expenses, low new client acquisition, and deteriorating workplace culture may have become the new normal. What was once a business bursting at the seams and barely able to take on more work, has now become complacent and satisfied with mediocrity. However, there is something that can be done to change the current course. Take a quick read through the following tips to help create ideas for ways to get started.

man walking up steps

Create and Stick to a Plan

Get SMART and create a strategic business plan that provides clear direction and expected results. For some AE firms, this may be as simple as reviewing the existing plan and making updates to meet current business needs. In other cases, it may be best to scrap the existing plan and start over from scratch. Either way, a solid business plan needs to be reinforced with SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based. To create SMART goals, begin by thinking about the entire firm and decide how to designate areas of responsibility and determine expected results. It is likely easiest to start at the department level and then work down from there. Additionally, goals need to focus on the desired result and need to be high level while remaining specific. If there seems to be an excessive number of goals, it is likely that they are too granular and focused on task level items and not the desired result. Lastly, goals need to be measurable and incorporated with time-based milestones.

Get Friendly with the Firm Numbers

It’s time to stop avoiding that uncomfortable relationship people seem to have with numbers. We are not all accountants. However, numbers can tell the ugly truth even when someone doesn’t want to hear it. Like that one friend we all keep around that inevitably reminds us of what we are trying to avoid in an effort to minimize the realities of a situation. So, what numbers are important? All of them.

A good place to start is with cash flow. There’s no way around it, businesses with limited cash reserves and low cash flow will inevitably shut down. Also, get friendly with the firm’s overall net profit and the profit performance of the firm’s projects. Keep in mind that great profits don’t always equate to positive cash flow which is required to bill overhead expenses and salaries. Lastly, check the firm’s credit score to make sure the firm can get a loan with favorable terms if cash flow becomes a temporary issue or new assets need to be purchased. Many firms are finding that a solid business intelligence solution provides the best insights into numbers. Learn more in this past webinar.

Embrace the Multi-Generation Workforce

Move over generation MTV, the kids are entering the workforce. Seriously, there are now four generations in the modern workforce. To put this into perspective, there are employees that remember sharing work computers, and there are employees that got their first personal computer at eight years old. To say the least, there are some differences in expectations when it comes to the way work gets done.

Sure, it’s easiest to just say conform to our ways or else. But the reality is that the members of the younger generations are the leaders of the future. Therefore, it’s important for firms to start adjusting to accommodate these differences. For help, check out this white paper.

Engage and Interact with Clients in More Ways

Welcome to the 21st century, where that must-have fancy technology is out of date before most of the world even knows that it exists. We are now in the digital era which has transformed the way we communicate and consume information. Now, we have personal computers in the form of mobile phones that mostly fit in our pockets. As a result, people have become accustomed to receiving notifications and obtaining information using these digital formats.

A lot, if not all AE firms, have websites, but some of these websites were created and last updated over a decade ago. Furthermore, even those firms that have a modern website still likely only have a small digital footprint. Therefore, AE firms need to evaluate their current digital marketing efforts to decide which areas need improvement. To help AE firms, Full Sail Partners is publishing a blog series titled “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing” that is specifically geared towards AEC companies. Find a listing for all the articles and signup for notifications about new articles and other content here.  

Take Your AE Firm to the Next Level

Ready to improve your AE firm? Putting SMART Goals in place, confronting the inevitable numbers, accommodating workplace differences, and engaging in the digital era will move firms from stagnant to reinvigorated. These efforts will result in a visible positive impact. Additionally, Full Sail Partners can aid in identifying areas of opportunity for improvement via a Navigational Analysis. Use the link button below to contact us to learn more.

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Common CRM Adoption Challenges for Professional Services Firms

Posted by Ryan Felkel on January 06, 2022

For professional services firms to be successful, they need a client relationship management (CRM) system to help them focus their business development strategies to identify prospective projects and to nurture client relationships to ensure they win new projects. Furthermore, an effective CRM system requires firm employees to use the system and this is not just directed to the business development team. This requires the entire firm to be updating client records to ensure the most up-to-date information is available for business development. However, firms that have invested in a CRM system seem to have a common hurdle which is employee adoption. Here are a few things that can negatively impact user adoption at your firm.

Adopt CRM

The Lack of Defined Processes

Time and time again, firms roll out a new CRM system with the assumption that it’s just requires switching it on, and it’ll take care of itself. However, this is not the case. Firms need to first start off by identifying what goals they want to achieve so they can actually see results. Once they have their goals identified, a formal process needs to be outlined to ensure the CRM system is utilized in a way the benefits firm and aligns with current marketing and business development procedures. Here are some things to consider when defining a process:

  • What is a lead and when does a lead become an opportunity?
  • Who has the information at your firm that needs to be entered about a contact?
  • Who can update contacts and what can they update?
  • What role is responsible for cleaning up the CRM database?
  • What reports are required for different roles?

Misguided Goals

Goal setting for business development teams are far too often focused on dollar amounts and win rates. However, this thought process ignores setting goals that align with the firm’s strategy for achieving their targeted dollar amounts and win rates. For example, the sales cycle to win a project for many professional services firms can be months to years depending on the industry. Therefore, having a goal that helps the business development team keep up with touchpoints helps ensure client relationships are being properly managed. So when considering goals, it’s important to develop goals that align with your firm’s strategic client management process.

Picking the Wrong CRM Solution for Your Firm

There are several things to consider when selecting a CRM solution for your firm. Firstly, not all CRM systems are the same and have different capabilities to support different industries. For instance, having a CRM system that integrates with your firm’s accounting and project management platforms is essential for professional services firms. Especially if you want all your firm’s data in one central location and your desire is for people to utilize the CRM system. An example of this is a firm that uses Deltek Vantagepoint or Vision for their accounting and project management, the obvious CRM system selection is Deltek CRM.

Additionally, system integration is great, but having a CRM system that has a friendly user interface is important as well to increase user adoption. By selecting a system that is intuitive and well designed, implementing a CRM adoption directive will most likely succeed across your firm.

Increase CRM Adoption

Many firms struggle with getting employees to adopt a new system. However, this does not have to be the case. By setting goals and processes for different teams within your organization to encourage use, your employees will be able to see the value of the CRM system. Lastly, make sure to point out the fact that a CRM system will help your firm continue to grow and be successful in the future.   

Grow Revenue with a CRM

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