Where information means insight

Blog

logo

Why Project Management Software Fails

by Kim Koster Professional Services

Dec 03, 2019

Conventional project management software is designed to meet your every need — unless you work in professional services. Traditional project management software doesn’t quite fit for these poor souls. The world’s a bowl of soup, and you’ve only got a fork. So you do what any of us do when given the wrong tools for the job. You improvise. You substitute. You build around the problem with spreadsheets. And soon, the whole system becomes so sprawling and convoluted, you spend most of the day just trying to hold the disparate pieces together and connect the dots. What did professional services firms ever do to deserve this fate, and is there any chance for salvation? What’s the Difference, Really? First, we need to understand what makes professional services projects so very different from the engineering, IT, and construction projects that most Project Management software systems (and traditional tools like Gantt charts, for that matter) are designed to accommodate. The short answer is that a professional services organization’s primary revenue driver is billable labor – a variable that’s inherently more intangible than physical assets, due to its fleeting nature, the inconstancy of billing rates by project and customer, and fluctuations in resource utilization and productivity, all of which impact profit margins. The result is that the information needs of professional services project managers and services department leaders (namely, detailed data on real-time performance variability for customers, projects, tasks, and people) are divorced from the information needs of the finance department (namely, cumulative data on fiscal periods and entire departments). Furthermore, finance’s view is often through the rear view mirror, while project managers and resource managers must be forward-looking, and react in a more timely manner to change. And without a software solution to accommodate both parties, fractures inevitably form in the ways that various stakeholders enter, track, and share project details – which breeds confusion, lack of transparency, and unnecessary administrative overhead. For project management software to be successful in a professional services environment requires two significant changes in approach: accommodating a host of new metrics, and ensuring those new metrics are synchronized with traditional measures, accessible to all, and transparent. The Missing Metrics While professional services firms (and their individual needs and operations) are characteristically diverse, certain aspects of the project management challenge are fairly consistent across organizations of this type. With those consistencies in mind, project management software catering to professional services environments should accommodate (and integrate) the following requirements and related metrics: Revenue by Contract Type (for example, time and materials, firm fixed price, cost plus with various fees, or a combination of all three): Can you calculate what revenues a project earns, when, and under what constraints? What are the fees? What are the caps? Can you calculate this by customer, department, project manager, project, project type/product etc.? Contracted Backlog: Do you know how much work remains on the project and whether you’re on track to meet the budget? This metric should be calculated not just for existing contracts, but also for projects you hope to win, taking into account win probability. Indirect Costs & Rates: Which show how fringe benefits, overhead, G&A and other service/support centers impact total (fully burdened) project costs, and a comparison between projected rates and actual rates. Additionally, future planned rates can be used for longer-term business forecasting. Project Margin: It’s common to calculate gross margin, i.e. revenue minus direct costs, but do you know net margin or actual project profit taking into account indirect costs that should be attributed to the project such as fringe benefits, overhead, general & administrative costs, or other support services? Revenue/head: This can be a key metric for professional services organizations, especially over time to see how process improvement efforts impact performance. People Utilization: Which shows if your staffing levels are aligned with your current and forecasted workload. You want to look at both direct (billable) and indirect projects, and whether utilization metrics for individual employees, or departments, are meeting, exceeding, or falling short of their utilization goals. Another factor that may be highlighted is whether unnecessary use is being made of sub-contractors, thereby lowering staff utilization. Understanding the impact of future opportunities on resource utilization and availability, taking into account the probability of winning the work, is essential to see the true picture. Customer Accounts Receivable Balances and Days Sales Outstanding: Which identify the time taken to receive invoice payment and convert those receivable balances into cash. Providing this insight to project managers who are closest to the customer can be invaluable in accelerating payments and improving cash flow. Contract Win Rate: Which allows evaluation of your firm’s business development function and what types of projects are successfully bid. Project Issues and Risks: Which identify projects that may not meet contract terms, may fail to deliver on customer expectations, or incur losses for the business. Customer Relations: A non-quantitative view of recent customer activity such as notes, emails, comments from collaboration efforts, comments entered on timesheets, and other indications of the current state of customer interactions and relations can be valuable in addition to financial metrics or measures of project cost and schedule performance. When project management software fails to accommodate (or to facilitate the sharing of) these metrics, professional services stakeholders find or build auxiliary systems to fill the gaps, thereby creating a tangled mix of poorly integrated solutions, each housing critical silos of project data. And without a complete, coherent picture of the organization, it’s practically impossible to manage projects (or company finances) intelligently or strategically. Services Software Salvation Professional services firms shouldn’t have to settle for tools that don’t quite fit. No, it’s high time for Project Management software providers to meet the specific needs of professional services organizations head-on. Beyond simply adding metrics, this means uniting project and people management with financial management in a single, unified system – built to support the needs of executives, project managers, operations, and financial teams alike. And this sort of unification isn’t just valuable to professional services firms. Rather, project-centric organizations of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit from the integrated, comprehensive management of the entire project lifecycle. (After all, frustrations with manual system handoffs, process delays, and inaccurate data are hardly confined to the professional services industry.) The hope is that with the right software, managers can spend less time worrying about the effectiveness and accuracy of day-to-day transactions, and more time working on transforming and growing their business as a whole. That’s the power of unified projects, people, and financials — a perfect software fit. To learn more about Unanet’s capabilities and the importance of KPIs and accurate reporting, contact us.

logo

The Unanet A/E Engine: A Modern, Flexible ERP

by Lucas Hayden A/E

Dec 02, 2019

In a previous post, I reflected a bit on my first year and how thrilled I am to be here. I unpacked a bit around how well customers are supported and how fair our pricing and policies are as compared to other products in our space. I also hinted at how exciting it was to find a ‘Super Car’ engine under the hood when I got here. In my prior life at a large consulting practice, we prided ourselves on filling gaps and extending what was really a clunky engine in a legacy system that hailed from the late 1900’s. It could get the basics done – but it was just never built to run fast in a modern way. To be fair to the historical ERP vendors in the Architectural/Engineering/Professional Services space, part of the issue is having to migrate legacy firms forward that may have customized things around the edges and inside the product that wouldn’t port forward in an elegant way. It is hard to take a fresh approach with a clean canvas. Unanet A/E powered by Clearview was fortunate that they could really build their engine correctly from the ground up in an elegant fashion that allows us to run fast and play well in a modern world. Plus, customizations port forward the way our system was built. Engines matter. In fact, their quality will matter more and more in the coming years. You can add or change interfaces to look nicer and appear more modern. However, not having a solid engine that integrates well will eventually restrict your growth prospects. I know, I know, saying something like “built correctly” and “in an elegant fashion” sounds like marketing-speak. So, let me give just a few examples that may help you get a glimpse of the tangible aspects of that elegance: Unanet A/E supports an unlimited project work breakdown structure with an unlimited length alpha-numeric number/name. Granted, you don’t want to have a 12 level work breakdown structure (WBS) if you can avoid it – but it is nice to have if and when you need a 4th or 5th etc. level. We can also have multiple profit centers or companies share/split a node of a project without the need for you to add another level just to break out revenue/cost assignments. So, we can help you keep a simple/tight project structure while also having incredible flexibility where and when you need it. Better Software. Better Company.Adding to that first bullet, from day one, our opportunities and projects have been in the same table. Other vendors are just now catching up to the fact that you need to have them in one table so you can look at projected revenue across both under contract projects and potential projects. You need to be able to put time and expenses against an opportunity and plan/budget the project prior to it getting awarded. We have also always had client and vendor contacts in one table so you can look across the relationships you have. Better Software. Better Company.Our system is real-time. I am not talking about just labor here. Our analytic dashboards show what is happening right now, not pulled from a stored database or cube of data from last night or two hours ago. If your current system relies on stored data from the past it is a sign that it doesn’t have the structure or horsepower to perform. Better Software. Better Company.If you created a custom invoice or report in version 1 of our software back in 2008 it would still run fine in version 47 today, eleven years later! In fact, it is really more like ‘personalizing’ your system. This makes updates seamless. No re-implementations or having to stay on an old release to keep something working. We build enterprise, solid, stable software so you can worry and focus on other things in your business. Better Software. Better Company. Everybody claims that they have great technology. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ and eventually your engine will reveal its’ weakness. Give me a call and I would be glad to show you the difference. There is a real sea change happening in the industry. We would be honored to earn your business and have you join our rapidly growing list of customers. Thanks for your time and consideration. Steve McTavish 866-553-0330 ext 225

logo

The Benefits of ERP Software Training

by Kim Koster ERP Software Best Practices

Nov 13, 2019

Software training is a valuable endeavor, and ERP software training is no different. Many people struggle with maximizing their use of the software they have access to. My parents, who are in their 70s, have two shiny, brand new iPads. They have enough processing power to have sent an astronaut to the moon in the 60s. They have the latest in optical display. And you know what they use it for? You got it: Farmville. The same can be said for so many Office products. Did you know that you can embed an Excel graph in a PowerPoint slide? Well, maybe you’ve heard of that…and maybe you don’t even know how to graph in Excel. At Unanet we want you to maximize your software! We want you to use the tool as it was designed to help your business grow. We want your employees to be empowered to review metrics in the reports to help make valuable decisions. What’s the best way to maximize your use of Unanet? Training! Why Should You Attend ERP Software Training? Aside from becoming an expert, you may be wondering why you should consider attending ERP software training. There’s nearly an endless number of reasons! Training comes in handy to get a jump on new functionality and become comfortable with it. In addition, training will allow you to become more confident in your use of the product so you can exceed your goals. Another benefit of training is that you are forced to take the time out of your busy schedule of multi-tasking and focus on one objective: learning how to optimize your software. We don’t often get the opportunity to focus intently on one project or task at a time, and training allows you to do so in an environment where you aren’t simply searching for the quickest way you know how to do something. You slow down and find the correct way to do it and can perhaps find an even faster way to do it that you hadn’t known before. Here are even more benefits of utilizing ERP software training through Unanet University: Staying current with updates and best practices Cutting time in the learning process Seeing examples play out in front of you Spending dedicated time focused on experimenting in the Unanet environment without impacting your own system Boosting your resume by working towards or earning certificates Learning real-world situations from similar businesses Networking with other students and Unanet employees Why Would My Company Send Me to ERP Software Training? As we have detailed above, there are many benefits to training that will improve your work and use of the product, but you of course need to get your boss on board as well! In your discussion with your supervisor, remind them that ERP software training will help your company do the following: Learn and use best practices of the product Develop efficiencies in the system Ensure the most current functionalities of the product are being utilized to their best advantage Allow employees to maximize their efforts in the system without use of trial and error methods. Make the Most of Unanet with Unanet University Our instructor-led classes are structured to allow for small-group interaction with an experienced instructor. The Unanet University instructors have a combined 20 years of experience using Unanet! We are dedicated to helping you maximize your use of Unanet. Register today for an upcoming class!

logo

2/3 of Unanet A/E Users Migrated from Deltek

by Lucas Hayden A/E

Nov 07, 2019

Practice makes perfect and we have LOTS of practice migrating firms from Deltek to Unanet A/E powered by Clearview. Our implementation team is composed of experts from the Architecture/Engineering industry who have themselves traveled down the path of transitioning from Deltek to Unanet A/E at their previous firms or in their consulting career. They know their stuff – both the system you are coming from and the possibilities to ‘move the ball forward’ with Unanet A/E. Our team of project based accounting specialists can hold your hand throughout the process and work with you to get up and running quickly so that you can begin utilizing Unanet A/E’s tools like real time dashboards, project planning, CRM, time and expense entries and others to manage your business in a new and exciting way. We have had so many users migrate from Deltek to Unanet A/E over the years – and indeed, an increasing number recently that have chosen Unanet A/E over updating to Deltek Vantagepoint – that we have developed data migration utilities that automate a large part of the data transfer. In fact, our utilities can typically bring transactional level, detailed history over from Deltek Vision with greater than 90% accuracy on the first rough cut pass. The last 10% gap closes quickly once we meet with you and your team and gain an appreciation for the user defined fields and the like that you want to bring over as well. We are hearing more and more often that Deltek customers are being pushed to Vantage Point when the features they need to run their firms aren’t ready for prime time. Due to the increased demand for a more modern and flexible project based ERP, Unanet A/E has added multiple support specialists, developers and implementation staff and partners in the recent months. Once you are up and running, we aren’t going anywhere. Unanet A/E offers unlimited, U.S. based support to help you get the most out of our technology. Our project based ERP with forecasting, planning, time and expense and other business administration modules are designed to keep architecture and engineering firms running quickly and efficiently so that you can focus your time and energy on the work that you love while keeping a close eye on the day to day projects, costs, sales and operations of your Architecture and Engineering business. We would love to talk with you about our cost saving software that allows you to do more. Reach out to us through the form at the bottom of the page, or read a little more about a 250 person firm that joined us after leaving Deltek HERE.

logo

Cash is King for Government Contractors: How to Accelerate Cash Flow

by Kim Koster Business Development & Growth, GovCon

Nov 05, 2019

The ability to generate positive cash flow is important for a government contractor to create value and for so many small businesses, lack of cash can result in failure. Profitability is a good sign, but it’s not sustainable if the profits are stuck in accounts receivable (AR). There are two important metrics you can use to evaluate cash flow: Days sales outstanding (DSO): the number of days between making a sale and collecting payment – calculated for the year by dividing AR by Annual Sales and multiplying by 365. Invoice cycle in days: the number of days between the beginning of the billing process and customer acceptance. Keeping these numbers as low as possible ensures that your company can put cash to use more quickly. Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) In the 2019 GAUGE Report, 70% of respondents reported DSO below 45. Contractors are focused on reducing DSO, which has improved from last year in the Breaking it down by revenue scale, companies with higher revenues tend to have higher DSO. Among those with revenue up to $25M, 80% have DSO below 45, compared to just 37% of companies with revenue above $101M. Compare your DSO to others in your revenue band. Are you better or worse than the respondents? Invoice Cycles Since last year, invoice cycles are 12% better in the Breaking it down again by revenue scale, we see trends similar to DSO. The speed of invoice cycles for companies with up to $25M of annual revenue surpassed the other revenue scales in the survey. Compare your invoice cycle to others in your revenue band. Are you better or worse than the respondents? Characteristics of an ERP with Cash Acceleration in Mind Cash is king for government contractors! As a GovCon, it is critical to be able to automate and shorten the bid-to-bill lifecycle and to keep revenue recognition and billing completely in lock step. When looking for a tool, it is important to have: A time application that is part of the project based ERP system so that billing can be done quickly Traceability of all transactions Multiple, standard invoice formats to be used across projects, showing summary or detailed level information Ability to hide or show cost element detail on Cost Plus invoices Ability to include Fixed Price, Time & Materials, Pre-Bill Labor, and Additional Items on the same invoice Ability to defer items from the current invoice for future invoicing Ability to add one-time items such as additional fees or discounts After switching to Unanet, Phase One Consulting Group completes all month-close procedures in 5 to 7 days, reduced their invoicing process from 20 to 7 days, and improved DSO from 60 to 50. To learn more about cash acceleration for your government contracting organization, read Unanet and CohnReznick’s 2019 GAUGE Report. The GAUGE Report is a valuable benchmarking tool for GovCons who seek deep insights into industry practices and metrics. Download your copy today!

logo

Unanet Expands Solutions for Architecture & Engineering Firms with Acquisition of Clearview Software

by Lucas Hayden A/E, Press Releases, Unanet A/E News, Unanet News

Oct 24, 2019

Unanet Expands Solutions for Architecture & Engineering Firms with Acquisition of Clearview Software DULLES and LYNCHBURG, Va., Oct. 24, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Addresses Demand from Professional Services Firms Seeking Alternatives to Legacy ERP Vendors   Unanet, the leading SaaS project-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) provider, announced today that it has acquired Clearview Software–a leader in project-based ERP software for Architects & Engineers. The combined organization will serve nearly 2,000 Professional Services firms, particularly those in the Government Services, and Architecture and Engineering (AE) sectors. “Unanet has always been focused on meeting the unique needs of customers in the professional services market, and we are excited to welcome Clearview to the team,” said Craig Halliday, CEO of Unanet. “Clearview’s leadership in the AE market combined with Unanet’s resources accelerate our ability to deliver on the next phase of growth. There is tremendous appetite in the market for an alternative to legacy ERP vendors. And, Unanet and Clearview’s proven software coupled with our exceptional customer service, provide the ideal choice for organizations seeking a better option.” “This is a fantastic opportunity for two leaders in Project-Based ERP to join forces and help professional services firms achieve better project outcomes for their customers,” said Matt Pantana, President and CEO of Clearview. “Our team of talented employees bring many years of experience in the AE sector and we look forward to joining Unanet.” Clearview will operate as a division of Unanet based in its present location in Lynchburg, VA. Clearview’s Matt Pantana will remain in his current position joining the Unanet management team. All employees will continue in their existing roles. About Unanet: Over 1,200 professional services organizations trust Unanet’s ERP platform to scale their businesses while drastically reducing G&A in a “Single Source of Truth”. Unanet delivers resource scheduling, budgeting & planning, time & expense reporting, billing & revenue recognition, real-time project management analytics and dashboards, GL, AP, AR,purchasing, cost pool calculations, and indirect allocations, in one integrated system. https://exportunanet.wpengine.com About Clearview: Clearview Software is the developer of InFocus, a comprehensive ERP system built for AE firms. InFocus offers time and expense entry, billing, project management, business analytics, and full project-based accounting. InFocus delivers unmatched ROI by automating key business workflows and aggregating timely information necessary for critical business decisions. To learn more, visit https://www.clearviewsoftware.com. Media contact: Richard Hayden Senior Vice President of Marketing, Unanet 703-689-9581 rhayden@exportunanet.wpengine.com SOURCE Unanet