Five Clear Signs Quickbooks Isn’t Working for You Anymore
by Lucas HaydenAccounting, ERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Aug 11, 2021
Most government contractor start-ups begin with QuickBooks® because it’s very inexpensive and it’s easy to get started. It operates on a cash basis, very much like the way you run your own household. It does automate a few of the most common accounting tasks, but the scalability just isn’t there. As QuickBooks users grow, the effort associated with accounting and finance work grows directly with the company. It shouldn’t. You should begin to see economies of scale, but you don’t. And, QuickBooks has few internal controls at all, much less the ones GovCons really need. When you start to outgrow QuickBooks, there will be some obvious signs. If any of these seem familiar, it’s time to level up to a project-based ERP. FIRST SIGN – Simple Questions take Two Days and a Spreadsheet to Answer Whether you’re a project manager, a Division VP, or the CEO, the question asked most often seems to be “Where are we?” Most of the data to answer that question can be found in QuickBooks, but it will take a day or two to extract it, filter it, and put it in context – almost certainly in a spreadsheet – to turn it into information. And whoever on the finance team draws the short straw for that project won’t be doing their regular job while that’s going on. “Where are we?” is strictly rear-view mirror stuff and project actuals-to-date should give you that. If that’s hard, “where are we headed” and “where are we likely to end up” are probably near impossible. The answer to those questions involves combining actuals with the PM’s plan for the rest of the project. It shouldn’t take a special project to answer those questions about a single contract. And if you ask the same questions about a portfolio, such as all the contracts for a customer or all the T&M contracts, your ERP should put that at your fingertips as well. SECOND SIGN – Performance Metrics are a Special, Month End Project Do you live and die by your employee utilization? Can you track Days Sales Outstanding? What about the wrap rate you use for bidding versus your actual wrap rate? Are those available on demand, or only after the monthly close is complete? With QuickBooks, gathering the data and calculating performance metrics is a probably pretty significant project in its own right. It shouldn’t be. Metrics should be calculated continuously and displayed in reports or on a dashboard on demand. Performance metrics should be an outgrowth of transaction processing, not a separate process. THIRD SIGN – Critical Functions Occur Outside of QuickBooks® Do you have to manually calculate your revenue by project? QuickBooks’ only approach to revenue recognition is to make it equal to whatever you bill when you bill it. Is your Finance team having to adjust QuickBooks revenue using manual journal entries to get the amounts in the right period or correct the amounts when billing and revenue aren’t the same? What about Indirect Rates? QuickBooks doesn’t maintain cost pools or calculate indirect rates. Does your Finance team have to transcribe data from the trial balance into a spreadsheet at month end to do those calculations outside the system? Since QuickBooks doesn’t apply indirect rates to direct costs by project for project reporting, your Finance team probably has to do that in – you guessed it – spreadsheets. There’s nothing wrong with a spreadsheet. It’s a convenient and easy-to-use tool. But they’re difficult to document and easy to “break.” And trying to figure out someone else’s? It’s easier sometimes just to build a new one. That’s a big part of the problem. Finance teams in companies that use QuickBooks spend a lot of their time reinventing their tools over and over and over. When the spreadsheet work is done and the answer is clear, often it has to be entered back into QuickBooks – as a manual journal entry. Even the best network of spreadsheets, wrapped around QuickBooks, won’t be efficient. It may be effective, might even be mostly accurate, but it won’t be efficient. That’s why there are no economies of scale. FOURTH SIGN – Your Compliance Activities are all Manual Your ERP should include a timekeeping system that enforces all the government timekeeping rules without you having to do anything more than approve completed timesheets, post labor, and process payroll. Everything else from daily entry reminders to prohibiting future entry should be completely automated. Your expense report system should be the same way. Whether it’s enforcing lodging and per diem limits, posting excess costs to separate unallowable accounts or enforcing attachment of receipt images, it should all be automated. When you have employees subject to a Wage Determination under the Service Contract Act (SCA), the Wage Determination itself should be stored in the system, the wage floors automatically enforced based on the contract being charged and the locality where the work is done. And, the system should calculate any benefit shortfall and report it so that it can be paid as Cash-In Lieu. And none of that should require a spreadsheet, much less manual transcription of data from QuickBooks or an external timekeeping system. Compliance does not require automation. A company with an experienced, qualified, GovCon accounting and finance team could be compliant with any system. It’s been said if you are willing to work hard enough, you could be compliant with a shoebox and a pile of Post It notes. No one wants to work that hard. No company wants to pay what that would cost. And no matter how experienced or how qualified the staff, human error will eventually creep in and cause a problem. The only question is how much of a problem it will be and how much it will cost. FIFTH SIGN – You Don’t Really Have Any Internal Controls The lack of internal controls is QuickBooks’ primary fault. Internal controls come in two flavors: preventative and detective. A preventative control keeps you from doing something you shouldn’t – like changing the date on a check from last week to last year. Or changing a labor charge (timesheet entry) from project A to Project B after it was already billed – and then billing it again on the new project. QuickBooks is perfectly happy to let you do either one. A detective control is just what it sounds like. It detects that something has happened – proper or improper – and makes a record of who did it and when. One form of detective control is called an audit trail. QuickBooks just doesn’t have them. When things change that shouldn’t, you might eventually find out what happened, but good luck determining who did it or when. ALL SIGNS Point to Unanet Unanet GovCon was purpose-built for project-based businesses and has all the very special functionality required by government contractors. It’s completely GAAP compliant and is designed to operate on a full accrual, not cash, basis (a requirement for government contractors). Unanet GovCon offers managers at all levels real-time status reporting to answer that pesky “where am I” question on demand – as of right now, not the last time timesheets were posted. And it can roll up projects or contracts into portfolio reports in a matter of seconds, not days. With simple planning processes for labor and materials or travel, Unanet GovCon can also answer that “where am I going?” question on the very same reports. Unanet GovCon calculates metrics in real time as well and can display them on dashboards or in reports without pausing operations for a special project. And all those critical functions like indirect rate calculation and application, revenue calculation using any number of GAAP compliant methods, and invoice calculation, editing, approval, and posting all happen in the system, not outside. Unanet GovCon’s compliance functionality is built in, not added on. It doesn’t rely on manual inputs or calculations or transcription into spreadsheets for things like SCA compliance. Fully GovCon-compliant timekeeping and expense reporting systems, complete with enforcement mechanisms for all the government rules and regulations, are built into the system. And employee timesheet entries are visible as soon as they are entered and saved – no waiting for the end of the timesheet period for updates. Unanet GovCon’s internal controls are numerous and robust, from detective controls like audit trails to preventative controls that preclude changes to posted entries or unauthorized changes to timesheets or expense reports. Does QuickBooks have the automation, scalability and stability you need to manage your project-based business? If not, it’s time to level up to a project-based ERP. Eliminate spreadsheet chaos, reduce human errors, increase efficiencies, and achieve economies of scale with Unanet. Learn more about how Unanet levels up your project-based accounting here.
What is ERP and How Can It Improve Your Business?
by Kim KosterAEC, ERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Jul 02, 2021
In today’s environment, most project-based organizations use some sort of technology to help run their business, and ERP systems are becoming an increasingly popular choice for their ability to streamline processes and align businesses for growth. But first: what is ERP? In this blog, we will help answer this question and review some of the key features and benefits of a project-based ERP system. What is ERP? ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. An ERP system includes financials, pipeline, time, expense, resource management, purchasing, project management, reporting, dashboarding, and more. Something to note when understanding the definition of ERP systems: “system” is not interchangeable with “software.” An ERP system goes beyond just software and includes the people and processes of an organization. The ERP will touch every part of the organization and keep all the gears turning together. Project-Based ERP vs Generic ERP Businesses that execute projects as opposed to mass production of products require an ERP system that is tailored specifically to them, instead of trying to squeeze value out of a “one size fits all” solution. A single product like toothpaste, for example, is sold to hundreds or thousands of people, but projects tend to be more unique and customized. For projects, the “product” being sold is service, and each customer will have different nuances and requirements. Generic ERPs are costly and can be very difficult to maintain. They usually manage the general ledger account and the department/organization, while projects are tracked separately. In generic solutions, the project is an afterthought when it should be the center of the universe. ERPs that are project-based, on the other hand, are designed to manage every part of the project lifecycle, from pipeline management to planning to accounting. They provide real-time information and a single source of truth for executives to make informed, strategic decisions. Here are a few other reasons to use an ERP system purpose-built for projects: Transactions are associated with a project, department/organization, and a general ledger account and can be viewed or reported through a lens using any of those dimensions Time is collected directly to the project tasks that the individual works on and is visible in real time in all projects, plans and forecasts Costing architecture is tailorable for each project and task through a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that can be as simple or complex as required and can be unique for every project Visibility is available in real time into the financials of each project (profit, cost, billing and even forecasts) Resource management tools that provide project managers with information on what skills are available when and even where Complete financial reporting that keeps the project at the forefront Project based key performance indicators help drive the organizational and project goals and keep them aligned System controls send notifications when project restraint thresholds are met, configured, project by project, to the needs of the business To summarize: Project-based businesses need project-based ERP. It’s as simple as that. The Benefits of an ERP System Single Source of Truth with Real-Time Data Project-based organizations who haven’t yet adopted an ERP system might be using disparate solutions, spreadsheets, or some other homegrown combination of the two to manage their business. Each of these provides its own distinct information—its own version of the truth. These separate solutions do not integrate with each other and provide stakeholders with a clear picture of the entire business. Project managers and executives spend a lot of time simply trying to find the latest version of the data or trying to “sync” the separate datasets. The project-based ERP system is the center of the organization’s activity. The finances, purchasing, resource management, project management, and more are all together in a single solution. The data and information flowing through the system is real-time, so anyone can see exactly where a project stands at any given moment and have all the information they need to make informed, strategic decisions. Automated and Streamlined Processes ERP solutions automate several once-manual processes and operations. With an ERP system, project managers can set up automated reminders for time, expense, and invoicing, as well as establish reports that run automatically. This improves operational efficiency and allows managers and executives to get out of the business of completing tedious, repetitive administrative tasks that add little value and turn their attention back to running the business. Connected and Empowered Teams People are the most important resource in project-based businesses. They are the ones who ultimately execute the projects and grow the business. Projects are social and require constant communication and collaboration between employees to keep them running smoothly—or to quickly course-correct and avoid disaster when needed. An ERP system gets all employees engaged with one solution and reviewing and working with the same real-time data. Employees will be able to instantly access the information they need to check project status and make decisions. Businesses armed with a project-based ERP are poised to unleash productivity and innovation with the power of collaboration. Compliance Confidence Government compliance is always top of mind for government contractors, but especially now as the cost of compliance has doubled over the past three years1. DCAA, CAS, CMMC, and other guidelines require GovCons to keep detailed records for time, cost accounting, and more. Without automated support for these requirements, GovCons face increased cost and increased compliance risk if there just isn’t time to do it all. With an ERP system that is purpose-built for government contractors, teams can manage risk and ensure compliance with built-in compliance and controls. With the right system, DCAA compliance and audit confidence are foundational, not simply a goal to achieve. Integration With Other Business Tools Running a project-based business has a lot of moving parts, and often means tracking data, information, trends and metrics across multiple applications. Keeping them all up-to-date is time consuming and error-prone. The best modern ERP systems integrate with other best-in-class applications, allowing the business to automate workflows and keep information in sync. By flowing data to every part of the organization, ERP systems bring processes and teams together in a way that unlocks more collaboration, better insights, and the ability to move projects forward. How to Find the Right ERP System As discussed above, project-based organizations require ERP software that manages the entire project lifecycle and have robust functionality for pipeline, customer relationship management, resource management, budgeting and forecasting, revenue recognition, time and expense, billing, real-time reporting, and more. It must provide a complete picture of the health of the organization and empower stakeholders to make strategic decisions. The software should be backed by a provider that is dedicated to the organization’s success, providing strong customer support and training. 1: 2020 GAUGE REPORT Industry Roadmap of Benchmarks and Trends for Government Contractors. Unanet and CohnReznick. September 2020 Learn more about what to look for in an ERP and financials system in our eBook.
Customers Name Unanet a High Performer in G2’s Quarterly Reports…Again!
by Carrie MahonERP Software Best Practices, News and Announcements
Jun 22, 2021
Project-based ERP software users have spoken, and their verdict is clear: Unanet performs better than most solutions in its class. In ratings published by G2 in its Summer 2021 Reports — and based on extensive input from the actual firms and people using project-based ERP software — Unanet is recognized as a “high performer” in dozens of categories and has received several badges for its AE and GovCon ERP solutions, among them: Fastest implementation Highest user adoption Most implementable Easiest setup Best customer support Best relationship Easiest to use, and, Best usability What’s especially gratifying for us is that these G2 ratings come directly from users. Not only does it tell us we’re doing something right with the quality of the ERP solutions and support we offer to government contractors, AEC firms and professional services organizations, but it also increases our resolve to continue innovating, listening to our customers, and supporting them on their ERP journeys. Unanet was also previously recognized as a high performer in several categories in G2’s Spring 2021, Winter 2021, and Fall 2020 reports, and we are thrilled we are able to meet our customers’ needs time and time again. So to the firms whose input has kept Unanet at the top of the G2 ratings, and whose feedback enables us to continue to strengthen our purpose-built ERP solutions and service, a heartfelt thank you, plus a promise that we’ll have more good things in store for you this year. Hear directly from our customers about why they love Unanet. Visit our GovCon and AE testimonials pages.
Why We Chose Unanet: OptoKnowledge
by Kim KosterERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Sep 17, 2020
First in an ongoing blog series detailing the reasoning behind a firm’s selection of Unanet’s ERP solution over other options. The firm: OptoKnowledge Systems, Inc. (optoknowledge.com), a Torrance, CA, company that develops imaging systems (hyperspectral imaging, night vision, situational awareness, and spectroscopy) for defense, security and environmental/energy applications. The company is primarily an R&D contractor for the Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Energy. As accustomed as OptoKnowledge is to operating at technology’s leading edge as a developer of advanced imaging systems and sensors for night vision, drones, and other visibility-related applications, it needed an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that could provide it with better visibility into its own business. Soon after purchasing the 30-year-old company in February 2020, OptoKnowledge’s new ownership realized the company could benefit from a new ERP system that could better support its strategic priorities — preferably one that’s fully integrated, proven in the government contractor space, and well-supported from a service standpoint. The effort to find a replacement for its inefficient and outmoded ERP system got off to a rocky start. The initial plan to transition from an obsolete version of that system to a newer version was abandoned, chiefly due to issues with data migration. Seeking another option, company officials reached out to their contacts in the GovCon space for recommendations. While the reports they got about one big-name ERP system were consistently less than glowing (mostly complaints about subpar support), the reviews their peers provided on another ERP software option were highly positive. Those positive reviews pertained to Unanet. Additional due diligence cemented Unanet as the right choice for OptoKnowledge, primarily for its strong data drill-down capabilities and its service and support, which got uniformly high marks from the current users with whom company officials spoke. A contract was signed soon thereafter, and OptoKnowledge is poised to implement Unanet’s purpose-built ERP software in November 2020. “We are so excited about the financial reporting,” says Ilana Gat, Chief Financial Officer at OptoKnowledge. “It’s impossible to ask staff to keep spreadsheets up to date, but with Unanet, our program managers will get real-time insights into their programs on a daily basis.” Using Unanet, she expects program managers will be able to see key information about their programs and projects in real time. She’s also looking forward to gaining a new level of granular insight into profit and loss by project/program, as well as the ability to drill into the data around individual transactions. The only drawback: waiting until these and other capabilities built into Unanet go live company-wide.
How ERP Software Drives Business Forward in the Era of Remote Work
by Kim KosterA/E, ERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Sep 17, 2020
As executives fight to maintain efficiency in the remote-working environment driven by the COVID-19 crisis, one thing is becoming clearer: silos of information are a significant hindrance to business, particularly in this environment. Business leaders are increasingly worried about maintaining collaboration and visibility in their organization. ERP tools help enable that collaboration and visibility that businesses need, so there is one primary repository of up-to-date, meaningful information. Stacy Critzer, Unanet’s Chief Human Resources Officer, and Kim Koster, GovCon Expert and Unanet’s Vice President of Product Marketing, wrote an insightful article for Strategic HR Review about how ERP software fits into the context of the current remote work climate and how to banish silos, maximize resources, and improve outcomes. In the article, Kim and Stacy also review a case study of a healthcare operation in New York City that has been able to eliminate silos and enable collaboration even in the wake of COVID-19, a shining example of what other organizations can achieve. If you subscribe to Strategic HR Review, you can read the article here. Or, click here.
Analytics Capabilities for Government Contractors Highlight Latest Unanet Release
by Kim KosterERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Jul 23, 2020
How to improve what is already the standard-bearer for project-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for government contractors? By adding several features that enable GovCons to unlock new efficiencies and insight within their data. Announced in late July, the latest enhancements to Unanet’s purpose-built ERP software are analytics-focused — and designed to be simple to use and immediately impactful. They include: Analytics+, a capability we expect to quickly emerge as best in its class for its dashboard and reporting functionality. The new analysis and reporting capabilities build upon the software’s real-time data visualization features that enable GovCons to aggregate data from multiple sources across finance, accounting, and project management for automatically generated reports, including statements of cash flow. It’s included in customers’ cloud subscription. Analytics Studio, which is tailored to GovCons whose businesses demand advanced analytics and custom reporting to further mine their data for real-time insight. It provides a deeper level of interactive analysis and drill-down capabilities, with embedded, eminently customizable and feature-rich dashboards, including dashboards designed specifically for the C-Suite. Automated Invoice Attachments is a feature that gives finance teams a tool to shorten time to cash, with its ability to automatically generate required or supporting documents for invoices. Unanet’s new release is designed to equip government contractors with more tools to meet mounting business and compliance challenges, explained CEO Craig Halliday. “From the C-suite to the project management level, finance to operations, our new analytics capabilities allow for better decision-making across virtually every function.” The July software release is the first in a series of enhancements that Unanet expects to unveil over the course of 2020. You’ll be the first to know what our development team has in store to simplify life for our valued GovCon clients. In the meantime, to learn more about the latest software enhancements, click here.
The Benefits of ERP Software Training
by Kim KosterERP 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!
DCAA Compliant Software
by Kim KosterERP Software Best Practices, GovCon, Government Compliance
Jun 13, 2019
Just to be clear, there is no such thing as DCAA Compliant Software! It is your organization and procedures that will be assessed for compliance. That said, software such as Unanet, that is purpose-built for government contractors can significantly help you with achieving compliance. DCAA compliance requires that your accounting and related business processes which collectively including policies, manual procedures and tools be compliant. Software alone is not audited for DCAA compliance or certified, nor approved as DCAA compliant. However, Unanet software has been reviewed by DCAA auditors at more than one thousand customer sites and, along with the customer policies and procedures, approved as supporting DCAA requirements. Unanet software makes implementation of the DCAA regulations easy and efficient. Here is a small sampling of the DCAA regulations that a compliant accounting system must include and that are directly supported by Unanet accounting software: Proper segregation of direct and indirect costs Identification and accumulation of direct costs by contract Method for allocation of indirect costs A Timekeeping System that enforces specific requirements related to charging hours Labor distribution – how costs are allocated to charged time Segregation of unallowable costs Accumulation of costs under General Ledger Control To learn more, download A GovCon’s Essential Guide to DCAA Compliance.
What Makes a Project Based ERP System Special?
by Kim KosterERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Mar 20, 2019
Every project based business requires projects to keep it running smoothly and growing, so why not choose an ERP system that is built to manage them? A project based ERP system can help a business streamline and automate its project management process to avoid delayed projects, a lack of skilled employees, and unbilled hours. In short, project based ERPs are designed to promote project success and company growth. But what about generic ERP systems? While they have a few benefits, there are a few key differences between generic and project based ERPs. Generic vs Project Based ERP Systems Generic ERPs are still prevalent in the marketplace today, but they are costly and very difficult to maintain if your business is projects. These ERPs typically do not have the project as the center of the universe. Generic ERPs focus on the account and the department/organization, and the project is accounted for with a separate tool. In a generic world, the project is an afterthought. Why Project Based ERP Systems? In a recent blog, we discussed what to look for when choosing project-based ERP software. But why are project based ERP systems the clear choice for project based organizations? We explore 8 main reasons below: Transactions are attached to a project, department/organization, and a general ledger account. This ensures that transactions do not get lost in the midst of a project and prevents team members from tracking them down while running expense reports. A time collection system attaches charges directly to the tasks that the individual works on. This makes tracking billable hours much easier and more intuitive. Costing architecture is tailorable for each project and task. No two projects are alike, so why should there be a single costing architecture? Costs are often outlined in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which project managers and standard employees alike use to monitor the progression of the project. Visibility is provided into the financials of each project (i.e. profit, cost, billing). This visibility and transparency is crucial for all team members be aware of what the project is costing and make adjustments if needed. A resourcing tool provides project managers with information on what skills are available at what time. This prevents surprises and winding up with a lack of skilled employees to handle a project. Complete financial reporting with the project in mind. Financial reporting of a project plays a large role in the project being an efficient success or dragging on for months. Project based key performance indicators to help drive the organizational and project goals. System controls that send notifications when project restraints are met, configured to the needs of your business To Best Manage Your Organization’s Projects, Trust Unanet’s Project Based ERP System Project based companies require project based ERP systems. It’s as simple as that. Unanet’s project management software allows you to align projects to corporate strategy, lower project management costs, gain key real-time project insights, and much more. Learn how you can unlock greater productivity, operational efficiency, and profitability with project clarity and control, download our ebook, The Business of Projects for dummies.
What to Look for When Choosing Project Based ERP Software
by Kim KosterERP Software Best Practices, GovCon
Mar 11, 2019
If you are considering using ERP software for your business or are not satisfied with your current one and are looking elsewhere, understand that not all ERP systems are created equally. As we think about what makes great ERP software, we should consider the project lifecycle and the process of project management. The ERP should have all the elements of the project lifecycle as a basic part of the system. Below are only a few of the elements your ERP system must have in order to be a good fit for your business: Customer Relationship Management Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a discipline that manages your company’s interaction with current and potential customers. CRM has become a priority to improve overall relationships with customers, specifically to focus on customer retention (stickiness) and to drive sales growth. Opportunity Management An opportunity pipeline for a project-based business is the visualization and/or measurement of contracts or projects that you will attempt to win over time. Visibility into the pipeline gives vital information on needed resources, enterprise growth, profitability, and revenue trajectory. Resource Management Project stakeholders can visually see the availability, skills, utilization, and time phasing of the resources. Resource management’s level of visibility and control will help maximize overall performance and profitability. Budgeting A budget represents what the business believes is achievable and what it intends to accomplish. The project establishes a budget that becomes the baseline for performance management. Visibility into budget vs. actuals is important project manager information. Forecasting Throughout the execution of the project plans may change, the resources may change too, and it is the responsibility of the project manager to revise the work to best accomplish the end goal. How much is it going to cost and when will the project finish? The forecast will answer that question. Earned Value Earned Value Management (EVM) is a project management best practice that flows directly with your established PM policies. The basics of EVM are plan, execute, assess performance, and monitor the project. Project managers can assess completion of the work at the task level and by doing this will get a host of metrics on current and future performance. Revenue Recognition Revenue is the amount of income the organization is making. It is one of the most important metrics/KPIs that a business/project monitors. Project Managers are responsible for achieving revenue goals, so having the ability to track revenue real-time is a huge benefit. Time and Expense Time collection systems are used by every employee in the organization. They collect hours for tracking project effort, and are supporting systems for payroll, invoicing, project accounting, chargeback, and job cost accounting. Expense systems track employee expenses to a project. Integration of time and expense directly to the project keeps project managers up-to-date on resources and current costs. Billing As engineering companies, it is critical to be able to automate and shorten the bid-to-bill lifecycle. Engineering organizations need revenue recognition and billing to be completely in lock step. The concept of billing and invoicing does not need much explanation as we deal with bills continually in our daily lives. Billings/Invoices typically are a form that contains information like name, address, payment terms, a unique id, elements of cost, direct costs, and indirect costs applied. Real Time KPIs and Reporting Real-time information is key to managing the day-to-day operations. Project team members need information throughout the life of the project. For instance, project status reports, EVM, time and expense, financial, and resource reports are a must. Dashboards are eye candy for all levels within the organization. They are a real-time visual representation of the role-based business information needed to manage the business. PMs should be able to quickly see with colors and graphs where they are against plan. Key Performance Indices (KPIs) provide actionable insights to help execute projects. Your Search is Over! Choose Unanet’s Projct Based ERP Software When it comes to an ERP system, your business needs a streamlined, efficient solution that helps you manage resources, staff, projects, and more to keep you organized, on schedule, and under budget. Unanet is here to help. To learn more about the moving parts of ERP software, download our ebook, Selecting an ERP for Professional Services, or our white paper, “Have You Outgrown Your Existing ERP?“
What Architects Should Look for In CRM Software
by Sarah LorekAEC, Cosential, CRM, ERP Software Best Practices, Uncategorized
Feb 13, 2019
Clients buy into ongoing relationships when they are sold on the experience your firm provides. How can you deliver at the highest levels on every project and gain an edge over your competition? Consider investing in an architecture CRM system to manage your business processes end-to-end. What is CRM? CRM is shorthand for customer relationship management. It’s more than just another software package or cloud-based service. Customer relationship management is a business strategy that helps architecture firms to increase revenues, reduce operating costs, build and nurture client loyalty, and improve bottom-line profitability. Think of CRM as an information hub. It gathers data from various sources including project budgets, conversation logs, project proposals, and invoices to give you a holistic real-time view of your clients and projects. Why architecture firms need CRM CRM helps you improve responsiveness and communication. Not only does it help improve direct communication with your client, but it also allows your employees to be more responsive to team members and be more proactive in completing tasks that make your projects run smoothly, completing them on time and within the budget. CRM allows you to measure the value of each client and each project. You’ll gain insight into how well you provide value to your clients. Together, this information helps you identify growth opportunities and develop strategies to expand relationships with your key clients. CRM in architecture not only helps you manage client relationships, but it also supports every component of business development from bidding and proposal delivery through project lifecycle management. 5 Features Every Architecture Firm CRM Must Include There are many CRM systems on the market. Some are specific to the architecture, engineering and construction industries while others are designed to work across a much wider variety of product and service industries. Here are the must-have features for an effective architecture CRM system. Project-based sales Configurability Go/No Go functionality Central database Relationship intelligence 1. Project-based sales You sell finished projects instead of physical products. Winning the next bid hinges on using information from the last project you completed. You may already use robust project management, PM, system and overlook this essential feature when selecting a CRM for architecture firms. When choosing a CRM, you can select a system that links to and integrates data from your existing PM tool, or use a CRM with project management features incorporated. Keep in mind the differences between the two. Project management focuses on short-term items including start and end dates, milestones and deliverables, workflow management, and task tracking. Customer relationship management focuses on long-term goals that support relationship building that leads to more business. Both PM and CRM support communication tools for contact management and emailing, scheduling and time tracking, and planning and analysis tools. An efficient project-based CRM gathers information from the systems and processes you already use to complete projects. It supports your proposal and bidding process with analytical tools to help you estimate budgets, completion timeframes, and logistics schedules to deliver more accurate project bids and proposals. 2. Configurability Configurability, including scalability, will ensure that your CRM will serve your business needs through crucial growth periods and beyond. When searching for the right CRM, remember that customizable and configurable are not the same thing. In software, customizing involves coding. In other words, you’ll need your IT person to custom code the fields, features, and functions you need. Configurable CRM systems allow non-IT users to change features and functionality through the built-in native tools in the system. Configurability does have limitations. You’ll need to consider whether the CRM system is designed for wholesale or retail product distribution, home or business service providers, or project-based service delivery. While a product-driven CRM may be fully configurable, it lacks the project-driven components that are essential for architecture firms. Additionally, ensure that your CRM is scalable and adaptable as your business processes change. One example of a scalable and configurable CRM feature is telephone dialing, call logging and recording, or message transcribing for mobile and desktop users. An effective CRM supports your staff through internal process changes without the need to migrate to and learn new systems each time you make small changes to your business model. 3. Go/No Go functionality Automating opportunity analysis supports intelligent business decisions. Early in the business development process, your CRM should be able to qualify or disqualify, leads and projects together and separately. To analyze new potential deals, you can configure the CRM to score a lead according to user inputs and reach a go/no-go decision. When bidding additional projects for existing clients, your CRM can pull details from previous projects, timelines, budgets, and customer experience data along with user input to yield a go/no-go on specific projects. 4. Central database Being able to find the data, documents, and information you need all in one place ensures a faster, more seamless workflow. The ability to search and sort, upload and download, retrieve and duplicate information, files, and data from a variety of locations is an essential feature of a robust customer relationship management system. CRM should bring together back-office documentation and client-facing information making them accessible in a few clicks. Also, your CRM should be able to extract data from one source and copy data into other functions to streamline workflows, task completion, and milestone delivery. A highly functional central database supports you in administrative processes such as onboarding new clients and finalizing completed projects. 5. Relationship intelligence Data without context doesn’t supply you with useful information. You need details that help you understand your clients and metrics that let you evaluate the impact on your bottom line. Relationship intelligence helps you achieve your most important business development and client-specific objectives. The most important function of the relationship intelligence feature in a CRM system is its ability to provide users with predictive information. It tells you if your firm’s relationship with a client is on track and profitable or if it’s at risk in any way. Automated relationship intelligence tracks interactions across multiple projects, can flag potential issues, and create a corrective action plan. With relationship intelligence, your team members know what needs to happen at every stage of a project and throughout the client life-cycle. Architecture CRM Meets Needs of Forward-Thinking Firms In summary, choosing a customer relationship management system is a critical decision for your company. Architecture firms sell experience and expertise. Being able to quickly and easily access past and on-going project information is crucial for writing winning architectural project proposals. Static, one size fits all solutions won’t get the job done. You need a robust CRM solution that allows you to configure your specific workflows, reporting, and analytical tools. Interested in winning more work with a CRM built specifically for architecture? Check out this free eBook. Architecture firms need go/no-go tools that help them quickly determine whether opportunities are worth pursuing, which projects get automatic approvals, and which ones require management input. A centralized hub for data facilitates better deal analysis and faster proposal creation. Architecture is a highly relationship-based industry. Therefore, make sure that the CRM architecture and design you choose supports your ability to determine how clients, internal project teams, and external partners impact your firm’s bottom line. If you like this article you may also like: What’s a CRM & Why It’s Important For Your Business