Could Your Small Business Benefit Big from Runway Rules for Government Contracts?
by Kim KosterBusiness Development & Growth, GovCon
Jan 15, 2020
Recent initiatives adopted by the U.S. Small Business Administration to act on 2018 legislation are expected to open the door for more small businesses to vie for federal government contracts. Enacted by SBA in January 2020, the long-awaited rules implement provisions of the Small Business Runway Extension Act of 2018. As detailed in a 2019 Unanet-sponsored webinar on recent legislative and regulatory developments impacting small businesses, the law extends the look-back period for calculating the size of a business (based on annual revenue using receipts-based size standards) from three fiscal years to five fiscal years. Here at Unanet, we expect this “runway” extension will be a positive for small businesses by essentially enabling more companies to stay within the small business size standard for the purposes of competing for federal contracts. In particular, it may enable companies that have experienced a recent surge in annual revenue to retain their small business status and thus their eligibility for small business set-asides. For more on the law and the new rules that implement it, check out this article in Government Executive. Want to tap into Unanet’s expertise in small business government contracting for a deeper understanding of the new rules and how your company may benefit from them? Get in touch! We’re here to help!
In Pursuit of ZERO Training
by Lucas HaydenA/E, Project Management
Jan 13, 2020
In my previous posts, I have tried to unpack a bit of our ‘untold story’ related to how powerful the Unanet A/E powered by Clearview engine is. Now let’s shift a bit to the end-user experience. We have learned so much from the many transitions we have done for clients moving from Deltek and BST. With this knowledge, we have created some amazing tools to speed up the migration and adoption process. In our initial meetings with firms – what we call our ‘Strategic Planning Summit’ – it was increasingly clear that firms had struggled with user adoption with previous software amongst their teams.In particular, those outside of accounting (think business development, project managers, and executives) just never really embraced their past systems. No matter how many box lunch training sessions took place, the legacy systems just weren’t intuitive. The “just go down to the project area, then to the 9th tab, then to the 24th field, then enter…..” learning model was just not working. Add to that the fact that these team members may only perform that one task occasionally, and frustration came quick (both for the end-user and indeed, the folks tasked with training everyone). Listening to that story over and over really led us to develop what we call ‘Interactive Actions’. What does that mean? Let me give you a few examples that may bring that point home: In pursuit of zero training: Recently, an engineering firm told us they wanted “Turbo Tax for Engineers”. They had used Deltek Vision for more than a decade and wanted something that would allow their end-users to interact with the system without learning database terminology. They wanted all of the complex logic and business rules of their business hidden behind easy, English based questions and responses that could be understood by even the newest member of their team. We worked with them to develop a feature that we eventually named “Interactive Actions”. We always had what we called Actions in Unanet A/E – wizard-like tools for quickly adding projects, clients and the like. With Interactive Actions, we took that to a whole new level and the user response has been overwhelming. Ask end-users simple questions and, based upon their responses, lead them down a path of questions and/or actions that are specific to their responses. Reduce the noise: Keep your end users laser-focused on the task at hand and don’t make them wade through screens and fields that don’t apply – or that don’t apply right now for the task they are trying to accomplish. For instance, maybe you ask a project manager that is creating a project a few basic questions and, when they select a particular market sector like Higher Education, you then ask them specific questions related to Higher Education and not another market sector. Maybe users are required to enter the number of students served, square footage, and/or put in additional information if the project is over a dollar threshold. The options are endless. That said, since we primarily work with professional services firms – and particularly, architecture and engineering firms – we see commonalities and continue to add those Interactive Actions to our ‘Starter Kit’ that we can deploy when we first migrate a firm off of one of the legacy systems in the industry. You can always adjust or add to what we provide as well and the personalizing of your Interactive Actions seamlessly moves forward with updates/releases too. Better Software. Better Company. The world increasingly works from a mobile construct and having your end users wait until they get back to the office to kick start a task/process just slows things down. In a worst-case scenario, they may completely forget about the task/process they wanted to finish or kick-off. You can leverage Interactive Actions from a mobile phone and/or tablet while out on the go. Remove the hurdles and barriers getting in your way. Increase your velocity and responsiveness. Better Software. Better Company. So now that you have made your end-users life easier, what’s in it for the administrator and operations team? A whole lot! Interactive Actions has the potential of drastically reducing your security settings (ie lots of security roles, options, and ongoing maintenance). Add to that the fact that data quality increases dramatically so you don’t have to constantly check and re-check whether the data was entered properly. If you have the right Interactive Action, the end-user can’t make a mistake. They win. You win. Better Software. Better Company. Give me a call and I would be glad to show you how Interactive Actions can revolutionize your business. There is a real sea of change happening. We would be honored to earn your business and have you join our rapidly growing list of customers. Thanks for your time and consideration.
Tips for Effective Resource Management
by Lucas HaydenProfessional Services
Jan 13, 2020
The Importance of Resource Management “People are our most important asset!” If people really are the most important asset a company has, you would think they would work very hard to manage and invest in their people, yet so many companies struggle to truly manage this resource. Many times, resource planning is done too late in the process to make a difference and the result is behind schedule and over cost projects. Even if proposal and project managers want to plan their resources, the reality is that most resource planning is done ad-hoc with Excel files at the project level. There is no consideration of skills or what other projects need and there is no clue what new work will require from a resource perspective. It does not have to be that way. Here are 7 simple tips to help increase the efficiency of managing resources across the enterprise. Have a centralized repository for all resource plans that is accessible to all stakeholders Create a skills catalog so that the right resources will be available when (and where) you need them Forecast resources throughout the project lifecycle, don’t just start at contract award Use a single pool of resources across your company not just on one project or portfolio Plan at the project level and roll-up to the enterprise – do not forecast by department only Provide stakeholders real-time resource demand and KPI reports as well as role based dashboards Don’t plan your most important resources on disparate excel spreadsheets How are you answering these questions today and how much time does it take to get an answer? Is that answer one you can trust? With ERP tools like Unanet you will have the information you need to get the right resources on the projects at the right time. Download our white paper “How to Produce an Accurate Forecast” for more information on resource management.
On-site Project-Based ERP Training with Dunham
by Lucas HaydenA/E, Project Management
Jan 09, 2020
I have had the great privilege of watching more than 2,000 Architectural/Engineering firms operate over the past 25 years. In that time, I have gained great respect for firms that have the culture, discipline, and indeed, passion, to ‘walk the last mile’ and put in detailed project budgets, schedules and manage resources. Dunham, out of Minneapolis, is one of those firms in constant pursuit of project management excellence. At the same time, they recognize the need to not distract everyone with busy work and keep the project delivery and client satisfaction in focus at all times. Recently, Dunham wanted to give their project managers access to our VP of Services, Jason Bivens. Jason not only manages our support and services team he works daily in the project management and resource scheduling tools as we manage our projects with our own system. Jason provided tips on best practices and how to use our task dependency features to easily move out entire project schedules with ease. When a task start date slides out six weeks, simply click the taskbar and drag it to extend. All schedule resources are automatically moved with it. For critical path you can set and view task dependencies. We love showing how our software can dramatically increase your end-user adoption with low or zero training interfaces that make daily life easier for everybody. We always look forward to working with A/E firms who have a passion for excellence in project management, accounting, and of course architecture and engineering. Clients like Dunham help us move the ball forward and are continuously helping us identify ways to innovate our software and business overall. We enjoy meeting with our clients and hearing about how they utilize our software to build amazing projects around the world.
Why Project Management Software Fails
by Kim KosterProfessional 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.
The Unanet A/E Engine: A Modern, Flexible ERP
by Lucas HaydenA/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