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Latest ERP Updates for GovCons Deliver New Mobile Capabilities, Fixed Asset Tracking and SCA Support

by Kim KosterGovCon, News and Announcements, Product Releases

Apr 05, 2021

GovCons have told us they are on the go and working from remote locations more and more, so they need enhanced mobile capabilities that enable them to track information, submit timesheets and expenses from anywhere. They’ve also told us that enhancements to the finance and accounting modules will give them an even more refined and elegant way to conduct some of their day-to-day business. It’s with these customer requests in mind that we delivered the latest features and functionalities to Unanet’s project-based ERP. For GovCons, Unanet’s new release delivers three primary enhancements: Mobile Time & Expense capabilities, Fixed Assets tracking, and Service Contract support. A new Mobile application allows busy GovCon professionals to input time and expense on their own devices anywhere, anytime, making expense input easy. Supervisors will also be able to approve their employees’ timecards and expense reports from their own mobile devices. Unanet’s mobile applications are high-rated and user-friendly, giving customers best-in-class capabilities. Future improvements include data capture directly from scanned receipts, enabling users to create an expense item in under 30 seconds. A new native Fixed Asset tracking and depreciation solution that calculates and records depreciation expenses to the general ledger, tracks asset in-service dates and locations and records disposals to complete the asset lifecycle. Unanet’s reports and its unique dashboard make the tool more intuitive and user-friendly than any other on the market. The Service Contract Act (SCA) requires GovCons have the ability to comply with the wage determination in their contracts. Offering advanced SCA support, Unanet will now automatically calculate the correct costs for export to their payroll system, including pay in lieu of benefits. Additionally, complete wage determinations history for each contract is available to support Department of Labor audits. This is the second major release from Unanet for its GovCon platforms this year, further underscoring our commitment to innovating and enhancing our software to ensure GovCon customers have the latest technology to meet their ever-changing needs. Unanet is committed to being a trusted counselor and knowledgeable expert to help GovCons navigate increasing change and complexity in their industries, through insightful, simplified project and financials management, contract management, invoicing, timekeeping, security compliance and more.

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Leveraging Good Data for Growth

by Kim KosterBusiness Development & Growth, GovCon

Apr 05, 2021

In general, GovCon firms either grow or shrink – no one stands still. Looking for an exit in a few years? Growth is essential. Looking for a capital infusion? Growth is essential. Shopping for a better deal on a line of credit? – Growth is essential. Buyers, investors, and lenders are all becoming more sophisticated and they are always risk averse. They want to see that you can leverage the data from your systems to produce information and use that information to fuel growth. They also want to see that you have tools and processes that are capable and scalable. And that includes keeping the cost of those processes as low as practical so you can win the contracts you pursue and use all the information at your disposal to pick the right targets to pursue. Bottom line: Growth is essential, and good data will get you there. Growth Driver #1: Good Decisions Whether it’s a decision on where to make the next training or BD investment, which of three or four or five opportunities to pursue, or even whether to continue chasing a procurement when conditions have changed, fact-based decision making is the only path to success. Your ERP system should be able to give you data on cost of past performance for the same or similar efforts. It should be able to tell you which customers are profitable (and which are not). In fact, it should be able to give you a broad range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on everything from your current projects’ profitability to the trend of your indirect rates. These KPIs should be some of the factors you consider when deciding where to go next. Your win rate on previous proposal efforts should also be available – by customer, by line of business, or even by your internal business units. If not, why not? What you should know: Approximately 60% of firms use data analytics to boost process efficiency 57% of businesses leverage analytics to drive strategy Just over 50% of successful businesses use analytics to monitor and improve financial performance (Source: Business Analytics. Harvard Business School. 2019.) Data analytics can help GovCons target opportunities more accurately Analytics can also surface hidden costs and keep the indirect rates in the “win territory” How you can succeed: Make sure your systems can calculate your KPIs continuously and in real time so that information is available on demand when you need it and not “two weeks after the close” or “once a quarter.” Look for a tool that gives your users an experience with reports and dashboards that they can manage themselves Standardize your KPIs across teams and departments so everyone is looking at the same information Train your teams on reading and interpreting the KPIs to make the information actionable Whether it’s cost control, indirect rate trends, portfolio management or pipeline tracking, make sure the metrics you track actually matter. A few KPIs that deliver clear insights will be better than dozens that users have to dig through. Growth Driver #2: Better Proposals Proposal writing is always a challenge, always important, and increasingly difficult to manage. The RFP response is the difference between getting an award or not and many GovCon firms lack the processes required to consistently write a winning proposal. It’s not just the technical volume. Showcasing your subject matter expertise and experience is just the start. In today’s environment, you also have to price to win and that means knowing how your rates will be impacted by a win, what staff resources will be available to perform the work, and how a win might affect other ongoing work. Guessing at any of these factors, even if it is an informed guess, may not be a winning approach. Worse, even if your proposal is selected for award, a wrong guess could make your hard-won contract a losing proposition. It all comes back to what you know and whether you can leverage that information to help you win. What you should know: 77% of firms say individual awards make up a significant portion of their revenue Nearly 70% of companies win less than half the contracts they bid on 66% of GovCons still use Excel to estimate their costs, even though they realize a need for better technology Over 20% of contractors had a negative growth rate in 2020 Source: Unanet GAUGE Report 2020. How you can succeed: Understand the scope of the project and use that understanding to build a work breakdown structure (WBS) for it Estimate the resources required to perform the work and make sure the timing of resource availability works. If all the people with the right skill sets aren’t available when and where you need them, develop a contingency plan for their acquisition Pay special attention to your estimates of personnel costs for staff not currently available. You can use To Be Determined (TBD) placeholders in your proposal (assuming it’s not for key personnel) but be sure the cost rate for those resources is realistic. There should be a lot of cost information available from your ERP system on similar past projects. Use it to benchmark your cost volume. It may tell you that the work can be done for less than you think. It may tell you that your proposal is consistent with prior projects, but make sure conditions haven’t changed. If that kind of information isn’t available, ask yourself why not. Growth Driver #3: Proposal Responsiveness Proposals often aren’t “one and done.” No one would dispute that the initial proposal submission should be absolutely the best you can do. Sometimes there’s no second chance, especially if the evaluation is Low Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA). But just as often, there will be amendments to the solicitation requiring a revised proposal. Sometimes it’s just a matter of clarifications or a change in the terms and conditions. Sometimes there is a substantive change in the government’s requirements. It’s not as common as it once was, but a round of Best and Final Offers (BAFOs) still occurs and the larger the procurement, the more likely that may be. It seems sometimes that a BAFO is nothing more than a mechanism to drive the price down – especially if there are multiple rounds of BAFOs on the same procurement. (Yes, that does happen.) The point is, refining the estimate, confirming availability of resources, or looking for alternative resources that might be more cost effective are all activities that should continue even after the proposal is in the hand of the Contracting Officer. You wouldn’t do that on a 90-day delivery order, especially if it’s a follow-on. But on a major procurement for a new customer or a must-win recompete? Definitely. And when it’s time to reprice, restaff or update the technical volume, the one thing you can count on is that the time allowed will be about half what it should be. Be prepared. And part of that is using tools that streamline that process. Manually updating proposals for changes, whether it’s a minor time shift or a major change in technical approach, can be time-consuming and error prone. What you should know: LPTA made up 28% of proposals for the respondents versus Best Value Over 50% of firms say their BD teams are under-resourced Companies with the highest win rates recognize the need for BD reporting tools Mid-Sized Businesses are using GWACs, MACs and similar vehicles for more than 32.5% of their annual revenue Source: Unanet GAUGE Report 2020. How you can succeed: Research matters: Know the customer before the solicitation is on the street – at least enough to know if your capabilities and qualifications are a fit for what they need. If it looks like your services are a stretch, don’t spin your wheels and waste resources chasing a low probability win. Standardize the criteria for your Probability of Win (Pwin) assessments and make those part of your “go/no go” decisions at every step. And, yes, reassess at every step. Don’t hesitate to cut your losses if conditions change. Research matters: Don’t rely on the solicitation to tell you everything you should know about the customers’ requirements. Every SOW has an unwritten subtext. The more you know about the customers’ real, day-to-day problems, the better equipped you will be to read between the lines of that solicitation. Research matters: Talk to the customers even after the proposal is in – just be careful not to violate the communication protocols of the procurement. When a solicitation amendment comes out that changes everything, well prepared offerors already know why it’s happening and how to react. Make sure your tools are up to the job. Managing three, four, or even five simultaneous active proposals is possible even with a manual process. What about 10 or 20? Whether it’s for estimating and pricing or technical volume management, put the infrastructure in place before the process becomes a problem. Want to learn more about GovCon strategies for success? Download the 2021 GovCon Success Guide for tips and best practices that will drive your firm to increased profitability.

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3 Ways to Improve Accounts Receivable Collections

by Lucas HaydenA/E

Apr 05, 2021

Firms like yours need new ways to improve Accounts Receivable collections to ensure an optimized cash flow, especially if these challenges sound familiar: Disparate systems lead to billing oversights and errors Lack of collaboration, process automation, and easy visibility within your firm fosters a longer billing cycle and makes collection efforts more difficult Spreadsheet chaos makes it difficult for your stakeholders to trust your financial data, hindering strategic decision-making Inefficient processes cause cash flow bottlenecks Why does this matter? Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of improving the AR process.   The Benefits of Optimizing Accounts Receivable Collections Improving and optimizing your AR process opens your firm up to a world of possibility. Your finance team will have to correct fewer errors, resulting in a shortened, more accurate invoicing cycle, quicker payment approvals, and faster payments. All of these benefits work together to improve AR aging, AR Turnover (DSO), and of course, cash flow. The impact of optimized AR isn’t just financial. With automated and streamlined operations in place, your teams operate in tandem, fostering a positive impact on company culture as well as customer experience and engagement. So, how can your firm make all this happen? Let’s assess some strategies. At the core of these strategies is technology paving the way for collaboration, automation, and better decision-making.   1. Establish Bill Review Standard Procedures to Reduce WIP Without a clear, streamlined bill review process, your invoices take longer to get out the door, your WIP (or Unbilled) increases, and it takes longer for you to realize that revenue. It’s certainly worth spending time on creating standard procedures for time entry close and bill review- and specifically engaging your Project Managers in bill review. Establishing a smooth process can increase regular engagement from Project Management, ensuring they are regular participants in the process and able to make decisions at every step of the way. Your Project Managers are closest to the work and in the best position to ensure your invoices are accurate before going out the door. Once you’ve established standard processes, keeping stakeholder engagement up is key. Host regular refresher training for Accounting and Project Managers on process and procedures to retain adoption. Conduct mid-cycle Project Manager reviews to keep a consistent pulse and ensure that no WIP gets left behind. Finally, measure the success of your bill review procedures with key performance indicators (KPIs) using an integrated ERP and Analytics tool. Key metrics like unbilled per PM/Project and unbilled aging are what you want to keep an eye on. Your ERP solution can go beyond just measuring these metrics and provide a single system for accounting bill review and adjustments, enable seamless online bill review, and help align your Project and Accounting teams.   2. Adopt a System that Supports Invoicing Automation Adopting an ERP solution that supports automated invoicing is one of the crucial ways to improve invoicing and AR collections. Automated invoicing means that upon review, invoices can be queued up, processed, and delivered en masse with just a few button clicks. If your team is invoicing one at a time, this is a huge first step. An ERP will enable you to standardize invoice designs and templates, saving manual effort and time spent editing invoices in Microsoft Word while still meeting your clients’ individual needs. Automated invoicing also makes bill review a standard part of your invoicing process and encourages your PMs access invoice drafts themselves and stay in the loop. With an automated solution, you can email your invoices and get them into the hands of your customer faster, track their engagement, and set up automated invoice reminders to keep the process moving. An online payment solution allows your customer to easily pay your invoice via ACH and credit cards all in the same system, leading to a quicker AR resolution. Your ERP should also help facilitate accepting online payments. This allows your customer to easily pay your invoice via ACH and credit cards all in the same system—even automate the receipt posting back to the GL—all leading to quicker AR resolutions.   3. Gain a Full View of AR Collections to Reduce AR Aging Having a full view of AR collections is paramount to keeping tabs on AR and being strategic in your collection efforts. After all, more cash=more growth for your business. The key is using a solution that provides real-time insights into AR and financials. With an ERP solution, your Billers and Project Managers alike can view and track aging days, invoice amounts, project and client data, and PM or business units all in one solution. As discussed above, having access to all of this helps increase PM engagement and improves the AR collections process and strategy.   Improve Collaboration, Break Through Bottlenecks, and Increase Cash Flow Adopting an ERP solution to manage and streamline your accounting processes will help your A/E firm move away from spreadsheet chaos and outdated systems and toward a fully integrated system with powerful insights. Learn how Gilmore & Associates, a civil engineering and consulting firm, reduced their DSO by 5 days, received a 2x increase in electronic invoice payments, and has saved 100+ hours per year with Unanet Pay. Download the success story. To hear about how M S Benbow, a multi-discipline, integrated engineering consultancy, leveraged Unanet A/E Analytics and Innovations to solve problems, gain efficiencies and put their data to work, watch our on-demand webinar: Achieving Operational Excellence with Analytics & Innovations.

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Expert Advice: How to Make the Right Go/No Go Decision

by Sarah LorekAEC, Construction, Cosential, CRM, Uncategorized

Mar 07, 2021

Is your firm wasting time and money pursuing projects that… You have no chance of winning? Don’t make good business sense? Don’t fit your firm’s strategic goals? You’re not alone. Tons of firms go after every single opportunity that comes their way, thinking that gives them the best chance of winning as many new projects as possible. That’s simply not the case. Every second your firm spends on the wrong pursuits — every phone call made, every email sent, every piece of marketing collateral produced — is time you’re not focused on opportunities that actually make sense for your firm. And spending hours and hours chasing projects your firm ultimately loses will demoralize and burn out your marketing and business development staff. Not exactly a recipe for success. That’s why it’s crucial to develop an effective Go/No Go process. Consistently making the right Go/No Go decisions will empower your firm to focus on high-probability, high-profit projects. [Free tool]: Make Go/No Go Decisions in Seconds Below, industry experts share their advice for developing a Go/No Go decision-making process that supports firm-wide success.   5 Expert Tips to Improve Your Go/No Go Decisions Keep the Big Picture in Mind for Projects Understand Where Your Firm is Today and How You Plan to Grow Commit to the Process Only Pursue Opportunities that Inspire Passion Seek Outside Information   1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind for Projects One thing many firms lack when creating a Go/No Go decision-making process is a strategic firmwide plan. Without knowing your goals and how you define success, it’s impossible to know which projects are worth pursuing. “You have a ‘Go/No Go’ process, and sometimes your senior folks actually follow it. But you lack a major tool that would make your ‘Go/No Go’ process truly efficient: a PLAN! “The ‘Go/No Go’ process is designed to help you say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is the appropriate answer. The hard part is determining when ‘no’ is the appropriate answer. With a Strategic Plan, Marketing Plan and/or Business Plan, this determination is much easier.” — Bernie Siben, CPSM, AEC marketing consultant   2. Understand Where Your Firm is Today and How You Plan to Grow Go/No Go decision-making is about determining which projects you’re most likely to win and putting your firm’s effort into those opportunities. But that’s only half the story. It’s also important to develop a strategic plan for growth and view Go/No Go decisions based on where you see your firm several years down the line. “The framework of a go/no-go tool must blend strategy and historical evidence. For instance, the firm must use criteria that helps define its success, coupled with a blend of factors that enable the firm’s strategic plan. “For example, Brand X Construction’s ‘sweet spot’ is defined at $7 million in project revenue. This is an important characteristic to understand, as it helps create a picture of the ideal customer or project. Notice this does not say ‘average project size.’ It is important to conduct a thorough study of where a firm excels and where it does not. “The strategic growth niches also help define categories that are worthwhile targets. Without them, the firm might acquiesce and simply engage in identical work. While it may be currently profitable, it may also be myopic and fail to include a balance of long-term strategy.” — Gregg M. Schoppman, consultant at FMI [Get the Guide]: Top 5 Ways to Win More Work with an AEC-Focused CRM   3. Commit to the Process Your firm will never follow any process 100 percent of the time. And that’s okay. There are certain circumstances you can never plan for. You need to respond to each situation appropriately, regardless of the rigid rules you’ve put in place. But be careful. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking every opportunity deserves special consideration. That’s just not true. In the vast majority of cases, you should follow the strategic Go/No Go process you put in place to give your firm the greatest chance of success. “Be wary of end runs around the go/no go process. Sometimes there are bona fide emergencies or other reasons to stray from the committee review process, but the odds of getting stuck with a losing, or expensive, project increase if the go/no go process requirements are too easily sidestepped. “One example is that a business unit may delay asking for a ‘go’ decision, then claim it is too late for management to say ‘no go.’ The theory may be that commitments have been made to the subcontractors or JV partners, or that estimators have already done so much work and would be demoralized if the plug is pulled. Effective management should not allow this ‘end run’ tactic to be rewarded.” — Tom Porter, JD, DBIA, EVP at Barton Malow Company   4. Only Pursue Opportunities that Inspire Passion You can’t afford to think of every single Go/No Go decision solely in terms of numbers. While metrics and data are crucial to success, your firm and your clients consist of people, and that means emotions and mental states play a role in every task and initiative. Before making a final decision, find out how your staff feels about pursuing and working on the potential project. Their excitement — or lack thereof — just might sway your choice. “Are you ALL in it to win it? Mentally, we are wired to believe we can do anything and sometimes we can climb seemingly impossible mountains. The whole team must recognize the ‘fire in the belly’—the passion and inner drive to take action—when pursuing the win. If everyone from leadership to seller/doer, PM to marketing professional has the fire, then: GO. If even one person has reservations about getting to the top of the mountain, you will likely not get to the top: NO GO.” — Frank Lippert, FSMPS, CPSM, partner at Go Strategies   5. Seek Outside Information Even if you have the ability to access and analyze mountains of data about a potential opportunity, there’s likely certain information you can’t learn on your own. Take some time to research what those outside of your firm have to say about the client you’re evaluating. “Working with unappreciative clients, will sap your time and energy from working with great clients and designing top projects. You must research both the company and its leaders online and through speaking with colleagues, contractors, and furniture suppliers.” — Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA, managing principal at Pollack Consulting   Take an Objective Approach to Go/No Go Decisions By developing and implementing an effective Go/No Go decision-making process, you’ll empower your staff to focus on the opportunities that make sense for your firm. While your total pursuits will decrease, your hit rate will likely improve at a level that increases your total wins and/or profits.   Want actionable tactics that can drive results? Get the calculator below! Download this 17-point, weighted-scoring tool to quickly and objectively determine which projects are worth pursuing.   If you liked this article, you might also enjoy: [Blog post] How to Get Free Construction Leads [eBook] Top 5 Ways to Win More Work with an AEC-Focused CRM [Blog post] Quick Tips to Improve Your Go/No Go Assessment

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Transform your address book with Unanet CRM by Cosential CallerID

by Kellye KingAEC, Cosential, CRM

Mar 01, 2021

Regardless of our role, business size, or even geolocation, so many of us – even in this moment – share one thing in common: we all likely have our smartphones in our pocket or securely nested by our computer monitor for quick access. According to Inc.com, on average, we tap, swipe, and click our smartphone 2,617 times a day. The moment your screen lights up from an unknown caller? Forget it. Numerous research studies shared with the FCC show 76% of phone calls go unanswered when the call comes from an unidentified or unfamiliar number.   Business Development in AEC is all about building relationships, educating prospects on why your company is the best choice for them. It’s safe to say your smart phone is your lifeline because you’re on-the-go constantly.   You are the expert on the state of your business, so you should never be caught off guard with an unknown call from a business contact due to pursuit data that’s not readily available on-hand. Momentum to capture the market is lost when you’re stockpiling contacts in disjointed systems. What happens when that business pursuit call goes unanswered?  You need a solution made for how you spend your time – we know the fastest way to bring teams and their data together is to enable the way you execute project pursuits today.    It just became more seamless with Unanet CRM by Cosential.  Never miss a critical conversation, or be caught off-guard while on-the-go: Unanet CRM for Mobile’s latest feature, Unanet Caller ID, surfaces key Contact and Company information instantaneously to your phone while receiving a call tied to your pursuits. While you’re receiving an incoming call, Unanet CRM simultaneously searches and links the number from your Unanet CRM Contact List- surfacing back the Contact and Company name to you.   “We’re continuing to deliver on our promise: Unanet CRM by Cosential delivers the right information to you at the right time. This new Cosential for Mobile feature is all about driving user experience which grows user adoption. Cosential truly becomes your single address book that is used by everyone in your firm.“ Akshay Mahajan, VP of Product at Unanet   Accomplish even more while you’re on-the-go with Unanet CRM Caller ID:  Seamlessly infuse your mobile address book with key contacts from Unanet CRM  Automatically recognize name and company with each inbound call received  No need to sync or download additional data 

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Why We Chose Unanet: Melwood, Inc. 

by Kim KosterBusiness Development & Growth, GovCon, News and Announcements

Feb 24, 2021

Part of an ongoing blog series highlighting the decision to select Unanet’s ERP solution over other options.  The firm: A D.C.-area nonprofit that supports children, youth and adults with differing abilities to work and play where and how they choose. Melwood, Inc. provides employment, job training, life skill improvement, supportive and recreational services to more than 2,000 people with differing abilities each year.  To continue its mission and impact of helping train, employ and empower people with differing abilities, Melwood needed a solution to efficiently manage their projects and other operations.  When searching for the right software, Melwood looked for an all-in-one solution that would allow them to streamline their processes, and provide a people-centered support team that truly understood their unique needs and operations.  According to Greg Arteen, Melwood’s Vice President of the Information Systems Group, “With so many of our team members working on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, it was important to us that we streamline our processes without disrupting the normal course of business in order to help our employees stay focused on what matters – keeping our federal workforce safe by providing them clean and sanitized workspaces so they continue doing the work of the nation.”  Melwood will leverage Unanet’s ERP for a variety of important compliance functions including DCAA Compliance and SCA/CBA labor costing, and will also leverage Unanet’s contract management, finance and inventory functions, among others.   Melwood will also use Unanet Connect, the industry’s first and only open ERP integration platform, to incorporate Melwood’s existing timekeeping software with Unanet. Melwood employees frequently rely on punch clocks for timekeeping, rather than complex web or mobile applications, and by integrating Unanet with Melwood’s existing timekeeping functions, Melwood can easily maintain its existing procedures while more efficiently managing the outcomes.