How ERP Software Can Unlock Better Project Data, Insights, & Growth
by Kim Koster A/E, GovCon, Professional Services, Project Management
Jul 17, 2020
Do you have a complete picture of your project data? If your organization is stuck with multiple silos of project data, it’s difficult to access vital decision-making intelligence. Achieving project excellence takes strategic alignment of people, processes, and tools, which is no easy task. The most successful project-based organizations have learned to harness their project data by putting it into one place: the project-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool. Our new ebook, The Business of Projects, is a guide to how ERP software can enable project success. This eBook spells out in detail the nature of project-based work, the concept of enterprise resource management, and how organizations capture new business. Each chapter contains an overview of a key part of the business of projects and how, with the help of an ERP solution, you can open the door to more complete project data, insightful analytics, and greater decision-making. The basics of a project-based ERP Capturing and winning contracts Project management, planning, execution, and analytics Financials tracking Considerations for compliance for government contractors Download your copy of the ebook here and learn how ERP opens the door to better planning, execution, and financial management through more robust project data.
Tips for Effective Resource Management
by Lucas Hayden Professional 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.
Why Project Management Software Fails
by Kim Koster Professional Services
Dec 03, 2019
Conventional project management software is designed to meet your every need — unless you work in professional services. Traditional project management software doesn’t quite fit for these poor souls. The world’s a bowl of soup, and you’ve only got a fork. So you do what any of us do when given the wrong tools for the job. You improvise. You substitute. You build around the problem with spreadsheets. And soon, the whole system becomes so sprawling and convoluted, you spend most of the day just trying to hold the disparate pieces together and connect the dots. What did professional services firms ever do to deserve this fate, and is there any chance for salvation? What’s the Difference, Really? First, we need to understand what makes professional services projects so very different from the engineering, IT, and construction projects that most Project Management software systems (and traditional tools like Gantt charts, for that matter) are designed to accommodate. The short answer is that a professional services organization’s primary revenue driver is billable labor – a variable that’s inherently more intangible than physical assets, due to its fleeting nature, the inconstancy of billing rates by project and customer, and fluctuations in resource utilization and productivity, all of which impact profit margins. The result is that the information needs of professional services project managers and services department leaders (namely, detailed data on real-time performance variability for customers, projects, tasks, and people) are divorced from the information needs of the finance department (namely, cumulative data on fiscal periods and entire departments). Furthermore, finance’s view is often through the rear view mirror, while project managers and resource managers must be forward-looking, and react in a more timely manner to change. And without a software solution to accommodate both parties, fractures inevitably form in the ways that various stakeholders enter, track, and share project details – which breeds confusion, lack of transparency, and unnecessary administrative overhead. For project management software to be successful in a professional services environment requires two significant changes in approach: accommodating a host of new metrics, and ensuring those new metrics are synchronized with traditional measures, accessible to all, and transparent. The Missing Metrics While professional services firms (and their individual needs and operations) are characteristically diverse, certain aspects of the project management challenge are fairly consistent across organizations of this type. With those consistencies in mind, project management software catering to professional services environments should accommodate (and integrate) the following requirements and related metrics: Revenue by Contract Type (for example, time and materials, firm fixed price, cost plus with various fees, or a combination of all three): Can you calculate what revenues a project earns, when, and under what constraints? What are the fees? What are the caps? Can you calculate this by customer, department, project manager, project, project type/product etc.? Contracted Backlog: Do you know how much work remains on the project and whether you’re on track to meet the budget? This metric should be calculated not just for existing contracts, but also for projects you hope to win, taking into account win probability. Indirect Costs & Rates: Which show how fringe benefits, overhead, G&A and other service/support centers impact total (fully burdened) project costs, and a comparison between projected rates and actual rates. Additionally, future planned rates can be used for longer-term business forecasting. Project Margin: It’s common to calculate gross margin, i.e. revenue minus direct costs, but do you know net margin or actual project profit taking into account indirect costs that should be attributed to the project such as fringe benefits, overhead, general & administrative costs, or other support services? Revenue/head: This can be a key metric for professional services organizations, especially over time to see how process improvement efforts impact performance. People Utilization: Which shows if your staffing levels are aligned with your current and forecasted workload. You want to look at both direct (billable) and indirect projects, and whether utilization metrics for individual employees, or departments, are meeting, exceeding, or falling short of their utilization goals. Another factor that may be highlighted is whether unnecessary use is being made of sub-contractors, thereby lowering staff utilization. Understanding the impact of future opportunities on resource utilization and availability, taking into account the probability of winning the work, is essential to see the true picture. Customer Accounts Receivable Balances and Days Sales Outstanding: Which identify the time taken to receive invoice payment and convert those receivable balances into cash. Providing this insight to project managers who are closest to the customer can be invaluable in accelerating payments and improving cash flow. Contract Win Rate: Which allows evaluation of your firm’s business development function and what types of projects are successfully bid. Project Issues and Risks: Which identify projects that may not meet contract terms, may fail to deliver on customer expectations, or incur losses for the business. Customer Relations: A non-quantitative view of recent customer activity such as notes, emails, comments from collaboration efforts, comments entered on timesheets, and other indications of the current state of customer interactions and relations can be valuable in addition to financial metrics or measures of project cost and schedule performance. When project management software fails to accommodate (or to facilitate the sharing of) these metrics, professional services stakeholders find or build auxiliary systems to fill the gaps, thereby creating a tangled mix of poorly integrated solutions, each housing critical silos of project data. And without a complete, coherent picture of the organization, it’s practically impossible to manage projects (or company finances) intelligently or strategically. Services Software Salvation Professional services firms shouldn’t have to settle for tools that don’t quite fit. No, it’s high time for Project Management software providers to meet the specific needs of professional services organizations head-on. Beyond simply adding metrics, this means uniting project and people management with financial management in a single, unified system – built to support the needs of executives, project managers, operations, and financial teams alike. And this sort of unification isn’t just valuable to professional services firms. Rather, project-centric organizations of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit from the integrated, comprehensive management of the entire project lifecycle. (After all, frustrations with manual system handoffs, process delays, and inaccurate data are hardly confined to the professional services industry.) The hope is that with the right software, managers can spend less time worrying about the effectiveness and accuracy of day-to-day transactions, and more time working on transforming and growing their business as a whole. That’s the power of unified projects, people, and financials — a perfect software fit. To learn more about Unanet’s capabilities and the importance of KPIs and accurate reporting, contact us.
Clearview and Unanet Combine to Accelerate Development of InFocus
by Lucas Hayden A/E, GovCon, Professional Services, Unanet A/E News, Unanet News
Oct 17, 2019
Unanet, a leading SaaS project-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) provider, has acquired Clearview Software to continue and accelerate the development of InFocus as the leading project-ERP software for Architects & Engineers. Why Unanet? This is a strategic decision that included many factors. We have had no shortage of interested investors over the years, and while past opportunities presented to us meant potentially losing our culture and control of the direction of our product, with Unanet we are able to maintain our focus with additional resources. Additionally, what separated Unanet from the rest was our similarity in our culture and goals. Both we and Unanet have been bootstrapped, founder-owned and operated companies, and we are walking through this door together as we look to maximize our potential. Will InFocus continue to be supported and developed? Absolutely. We’re very excited about the opportunity to put more energy and effort into further developing InFocus. It was one of the major factors in choosing Unanet. We also just released a major InFocus update to all of our customers who received new features at no additional cost. We have more releases already scheduled for next year and are continuing our commitment to product development and support. Will Clearview be shifting its focus away from A/E? Absolutely not. We were looking for a partner that would help us serve more of the A/E market. By combining our resources with Unanet, we will be able to compete with legacy vendors in our market more effectively. There’s a lot of work to do here, and we’re very excited about that. What if I just bought InFocus? You made the right decision and your investment just appreciated in value. We strongly believe that our partnership with Unanet will drive InFocus forward in ways that would have been more difficult otherwise. Who do I contact for support now that Clearview is part of Unanet? Is my account manager changing? Nothing has changed on that front, and all Clearview staff members remain in place. Our current and future customers will continue to reach us at all of our previous contact methods and you will have all the same contact personnel as before. We are dedicated to continuing our excellence in customer service and have increased our support and sales staff in the recent weeks to support our planned growth. What does the future look like for Clearview? The future is bright! Clearview will now have access to more resources to develop and support our software than ever before. We plan to continue adding staff, features and support tools to help our customers run their firms on the best ERP software in the A/E industry.
Why is a Timely Month End Close Important For Your Project Based Business?
by Kim Koster Professional Services
Oct 11, 2019
Finance and accounting professionals are always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and they can’t find it until month end close. They are not the only folks in the organization looking for the gold—the CEO, CFO, and COO are, too! You may be thinking to yourself, “Why is it so dang important to close the books quickly?” Let’s explore a couple of reasons below: Vital decision-making information is derived from accurate financial information. Being able to concentrate on certain KPIs that drive business strategies is a huge advantage for the company. So, if the data is slow, there is no chance to get those metrics quickly, course correct and avert a crisis. A slow close also is an indicator that your process is cumbersome (chaos: manual and lots of spreadsheets) and therefore it is likely you are using more labor than necessary. Bottom line, a slow close will increase G&A expenditures. “We have always done it this way, why change?” We hear this over and over and it is just not a vibe of continuous improvement. This stance will hold the finance and accounting teams back and ultimately hold back the overall business. If the close is slow, your underlying functions may also be very slow, like billing, cashflow, accounts payable. Cash is the life blood of every business and you want to make sure all or your accounting functions are performing as well as possible. It is all about People, Processes, and Tools! Steps to a Faster Month End Close The organization must all agree that there is a problem. Once you admit you have one, it is time to make a case for change. Now that you have admitted there is an issue and you have made a case to fix it, it is time for the executives to make the decision to accelerate the accounting close. They say GO, so it is time to get started. Form a tiger team with the vital stakeholders and explore ideas for continuous improvement. If you are not familiar with a tiger team, it is a diversified group of experts brought together for a need. They are usually assigned to investigate, solve, build, or recommend possible solutions to unique situations or problems. Just like with any project, there needs to be an established plan. The project will need a detailed plan to help coordinate the moving parts and cross functional tasks. What are we going to do? Who is assigned to do it? and When will it be completed? I suggest having a meeting cadence with the team as well as the sponsors or execs. The scope of the overall project will dictate the meeting and coordination needs. Create policies and procedures that fit your business. If you are not sure of the difference of a policy and a procedure, here are the definitions. A procedure is the series of steps to be followed as a consistent and repetitive approach to accomplish a particular end-result. A policy is a guiding principle used to set direction in an organization or department. The documentation of the procedure is the policy. Selecting the right tool for your organization is critical. Selecting the wrong tool can be very costly to implement and—even worse—costly to maintain. A tool won’t necessarily solve your problems, but it is an enabler to maintain process adherence. You will have more success if you pick a tool that is truly integrated. Benchmark other “like” companies to see how long their accounting close is taking. Are you in line with them? Is there an opportunity to gain a competitive edge if we are more efficient? Just because you have policies and procedures does not mean they are applicable to your organization today or that people are using them. Now that you have new shiny policies/procedures and a tool that fits your needs, it is time to enable your people. A training plan must be a part of the ongoing activities to make your finance and accounting team a gold standard for your organization. Since this comes at the end, it is easy to want to skimp on this and save money but trust me, it will cost you down the road. Make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. If there are changes that need to be made, make them. You may have a very talented engineer doing accounting. Maybe he is not so great at debits and credits, but he is a wonderful designer. MOVE HIM! Assess where there are talent gaps and look to make those strategic hires. Source: the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey Establish standard KPIs for the accounting close and other financial functions. This will help everyone understand the contribution that the finance and accounting team is making to the overall business goals. Source: the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey Continuous improvement Knowledge – what to and why to Skills – how to Desire – want to The intersection of these three is the formulation of habits…in this case, the habit will be to follow the business rules to make the finance and accounting team valued by the entire business. Just say NO to spreadsheet chaos! Reduce Your Month End Close with Unanet! The finance and accounting team are considered back office but the work they do and the information they provide is the BACKBONE for the entire organization. Unanet can help. Unanet provides general ledger, accounts payable, cost pools, PO 2-way or 3-way match, and more accounting features in one single source of truth, allowing you to eliminate spreadsheet chaos once and for all. Many Unanet customers have greatly reduced their month end close cycle and allowed them to increase efficiency and focus on other aspects of their business. Read Phase One Consulting Group’s success story to learn how they reduced their invoicing process from 20 to 7 days. Want to dive deeper? Check out our white paper, “Project Accounting – The Basics!”
Functions of a Project Management Office
by Kim Koster Professional Services
Oct 07, 2019
Is Your Project Management Office (PMO) a Vital Part of Your Organization? The Project Management Office’s (PMO) mission is to make projects successful by providing the structure needed for an excellent project management approach. There are two types of PMOs: centralized and decentralized. Centralized PMOs are enterprise-wide and decentralized PMOs focus on a program or project. Regardless of PMO type, the major function is to provide decision support information for projects. The Project Management Institute (PMI) Program Management Office Community of Practice describes the PMO as a strategic driver for organizational excellence, which seeks to enhance the practices of execution management, organizational governance, and strategic change leadership. According to recent studies, organizations that have a PMO function are more likely to have project success, which has led to a rise in PMOs. Primary Functions of a PMO: The major function of the PMO is to help project teams manage and execute their projects successfully! Whether starting a new PMO or reviving an old one, the first step is to create a mission statement and a vision. Example PMO Mission Statement: “The Unanet Project Management Office (PMO) supports an effective project management methodology, empowering our enterprise to deliver projects on-time, on-budget, and with the highest possible quality meeting and exceeding our customers expectations.” Example PMO Vision: “To make Unanet a recognized leader in delivering projects that exceed customer expectations and improve our profitability and efficiency.” To fulfill that mission and vision, the PMO will need to perform the following functions: Create and maintain policies and procedures Policies should establish best practices for your organization Assure that the policies and procedures help the teams be successful Provide standardization across the enterprise (Level 3 Maturity) Have a repository giving all stakeholders access to current documents Create a feedback loop to check for adherence Have a self-audit plan and corrective actions Embrace project management maturity – Since project management depends on the strategic alignment of people, processes, and tools, it only makes sense to concentrate on the level of competency of each of these attributes throughout your capability evolution. Engineering and professional services organizations are all on different journeys as it pertains to capability evolution. Increase in maturity equals increase in successful and predictable outcomes. Resource Management – People are a company’s biggest investment and in turn it is the largest revenue generator for service-based companies. Resources should be managed during the entire project lifecycle: starting a proposal, project initiation, execution, and closeout. Enabling projects and programs to measure the utilization and demand of resources is critical. Below are a couple of questions you should be able to answer during the resource management process. A PMO that supports a strong resource management discipline will be a major differentiator for winning new business and executing existing projects. What utilization do you need to be profitable? What utilization should you aim for to avoid burnout? Understanding billable and non-billable utilization? Project probability in people forecasting to more accurately understand both billable revenue and utilization KPIs and reporting for the projects and the enterprise at large – KPIs measure activity that reveals how a business is performing against its goals. KPIs measured against a specific target or benchmark is an indicator of good or bad performance. If a measurement of activity does not directly influence the goals of the business, then it is not a KPI, it is a metric. The business may want to measure many metrics but not all metrics are Key. A KPI is only as valuable as the action it inspires. The PMO should assist the business in defining KPIs that drive the success of projects, programs, and portfolios. The PMO can also be a major player in the communication of the KPIs through standard dashboards and reports. Communication is extremely important as succinct, clear, and relevant (current) information is much more likely to be absorbed and acted upon. One way to evaluate the relevance of a KPI is to use the SMART criteria. The letters stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound. A proactive PMO will help establish SMART KPIs for the teams and executives. Role-based training on policies, procedures, and tools is a critical activity for the entire project team. Understanding the basics of the policies and procedures as well as the impact on other teams helps stakeholders understand their role as well as what other groups are doing. Project management discipline and competency training is necessary and PMOs/Organizations that recognize this will reap great rewards. Project management is a mix of learned skills, experience, and basic leadership capabilities. Project managers that are exposed to skills and role-based training are more likely to have successful project outcomes. Organizations will attract great project managers if they recognize the importance of the project management discipline and have a training program, provide a career path, and have established project management processes and procedures. Align with Corporate Goals – The PMO, must embrace the overall culture and corporate strategy to gain traction in the organization. Effective PMOs break down silos and help organizations execute with a common purpose enabling project teams, functional organizations, and executives to be in complete alignment. The goals and mission of the PMO should be aligned with corporate goals. The more successful the PMO, the more influence it will have. As the PMO takes on the role of “trusted advisor” and “project execution specialist” the more support they will gain from the C Suite. The more support they get, the more likely your PMO will help shape strategy and become “best in class.” To learn more, download our white paper, “Benefits of Maturing Your Project Management Discipline.”
Unlocking Growth Strategies
by Kim Koster Business Development & Growth, Professional Services
Aug 07, 2019
Using your financials to make sound business decisions and craft growth strategies. Growing is the goal of most businesses. What is difficult is formulating a plan to make the growth a reality. Where do you start? The answer is in the financials, both past and current. Best in class companies know that using financial information and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) is the key to unlocking growth strategies. This blog will help you understand how to use financial information to find possibilities for growth. Data Quality Data quality deserves its own discussion because without it, there are no reliable KPIs. Here are some tips that will help ensure that you can gather reliable financial data that can be used confidently for making critical business decisions: Treat data like any other asset Use an integrated system (system = people, processes, and tools) Establish processes and procedures Train team members on tools and processes Have the discipline to enforce process adherence Have both historical and current data accessible to decision makers Good quality data can be put to work to help unlock growth strategies with the six steps below. Define the KPIs that help drive your strategy Use internal and external benchmarks Look for trends in the data Account for Anomalies Take the time to probe deeper Utilize an Integrated Tool Set STEP 1 – Define the KPIs that help drive your growth strategy What is your overall strategy? Is it to grow a by a certain % over time? Or to grow a specific region or product line? Once a basic strategy is defined then associated KPIs can be identified. For instance: If the desire is to grow 30% in 3 years the Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is a KPI that can be utilized. If the goal is to grow one product line then looking at profitability and CAGR for each of the business portfolios would be an indicator of which product line to invest in. STEP 2 – Use internal and external benchmarks Benchmarking is a great methodology to look internally and externally to see what others are doing to be successful. Internal benchmarking across divisions, departments, portfolios can be very helpful. Unfortunately, many companies are still siloed with varying processes and procedure and disparate systems making the exchange of information difficult. External benchmarking can be very powerful and there is no prep or manipulation of the data internally ultimately saving money and time. Why is benchmarking externally so important? Gives a perspective of the overall industry Provides an understanding of what others are doing to be successful Produces ideas for improvement Makes the company more competitive Helps win more business and grow the organization STEP 3 – Look for trends in the data Data analysis is the process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making. It requires that you look for patterns and relationships within the data. For instance, when looking at labor forecasts or utilization there will likely be more vacation taken in June, July, and December. Looking at trends will help you have a better understanding of the data and what it is telling you. Step 4 – Account for anomalies Look for special occurrences in the data. Occurrences like a huge snow storm that shuts the office down for a week resulting in no billable work performed should be analyzed and understood. It may not snow that much for another 20 years so make sure that does not skew the data you are making decisions from. Step 5 – Take the time to dig deeper KPIs are great but is can be worthwhile to understand what the underlying data looks like. An example is that the overall company profit rate was 10% and that is great! It would be important to drill down further to see what each portfolios and project contribution is to that number. You may have one portfolio that is excelling and other that is dragging down the average. Growth will likely happen in the successful portfolios and projects. Step 6 – Use an integrated tool set A fully integrated system will assure that the data is linked together properly increasing the probability of the data being correct. There will be no manual efforts to mash the data together from disparate systems. The “mashing” takes labor to join the data into one source costing money and introducing human error. Integrated systems like Unanet give you an all-inclusive look at financial data and there are easy to use reports and dashboards that provide all of the information you need to develop a growth strategy backed by great quality data.
Time Tracking Software
by Kim Koster Professional Services
Jul 18, 2019
Time tracking software is a critical first step to adopt in improving the performance of project-based services organizations, as it enables managers to understand: What is everyone working on? How much does each initiative, or project, cost? What work is billable (and non-billable)? How much margin/benefit is being produced for every hour charged? How much time are we actually spending on the key business priorities versus what we anticipated? What portion of labor cost is eligible for R&D tax credits? Beyond these questions, you will also want to consider how time tracking software can support these common requirements: Making it easy for staff to record time daily through a secure, user-friendly application accessible via a web browser, anywhere and anytime. Ensuring that people only charge to projects they are authorized to work on, for appropriate time periods, and using the correct labor categories for the work being performed. Tracking work by location for audit, or other, purposes. Recording ‘estimate to complete’ data from end users as input to project management and forecasting. Ensuring compliance with DCAA TimeKeeping Requirements, if you are government contractor. Supporting enforcement of other business rules, such as overtime rules, capturing comments on billable work performed, or change reasons. Offering timely approvals without undue overhead, taking into account your organization structure which may include project manager approvals, matrix management, alternate approvers, or customer involvement in the timesheet approval cycle. Facilitating online leave requesting and management capabilities for employees and line managers, ensuring visibility of staff ‘coverage’ in upcoming weeks and months. Providing detailed, itemized supporting information for customer invoices. Enforcing PTO accruals and leave balances Having consultants and subcontractors charge their labor hours in your time tracking system, delivering earlier knowledge on non-employee project costs, and optionally to avoid the need to receive and process a vendor invoice for those hours Delivering robust standard reporting, and simple ad-hoc report writing tools, for the project management team so that they can understand status in real-time, and address issues related to delays or overruns before they impact performance. Integrating with financial and contract management systems to leverage existing investments and current ways of working To understand how Unanet supports these time tracking software requirements and many more, visit the Unanet timesheet software overview.
Alternatives to Deltek – What to Look For
by Kim Koster GovCon, Professional Services
May 13, 2019
Two words. Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware). You’re in the market for a system that will support your entire business lifecycle. You need a robust system that can handle your financials, accounting, budgeting & planning, timesheets, expenses, project management, resource management, real-time reporting and more— all in one place. So, it’s time to research the market and find the best business software at the best value. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. Proceed with caution, ask the right questions, and you can figure out which system is the best fit for your business. Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate the myriad options for business software: 1. Are all of the products on one database? Unfortunately, many of the business software systems on the market are essentially a conglomerate of smaller products that have been acquired over the years, patched up to look similar, but running on different databases (this is the case with Deltek). This means that you are really dealing with multiple products, each with a different schema, different technology stack, and different security model. These disparate products interface through a system of importing and exporting, each time introducing an opportunity for error. What you want here is one unified application – one user interface, one database, one security model. Anything else is just a mess of leftovers served up in a single bucket. 2. Are project and resource dashboards, KPIs, and analytics reported in “Real-Time”? Another consequence of using business software that is a conglomeration of smaller products is that users will need to learn multiple products and go to multiple places to get the information they need. Because data is stored in numerous places and requires transfer and synchronization, their information is not truly “real-time”. With Deltek’s disparate systems, data needs to be combined to produce reports, and reports will show different output in different systems. Unanet, however, provides managers and project managers with real-time, “live” reports – instead of having to wait for weeks or even months to receive a report from an accounting system. 3. How can I ensure that only authorized employees have access to sensitive information? You will need to make sure your business software includes roles-based access for all members of the company. Unanet ensures security of information by providing real-time access to management without having to give them access to the backend financial system. 4. Is the software made in U.S.A.? Many companies save money by outsourcing the design and development of their software to offshore developers. Unanet is 100% designed and developed in the United States. 5. Will I have the customer support I need and want? Ah, the controversial question of where to base customer support. Again, it is cheaper to outsource customer support overseas, but this frequently results in customers complaining about high turnover, that they never talk to the same person twice, the rep can never answer questions, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done well, but that’s rarely the case. Unanet believes that customer satisfaction and responsiveness are the highest priorities, and we have the customer feedback to prove it. We have an experienced, US-based team of dedicated, knowledgeable, responsive, and just plain nice people who will make sure you get an answer to your question and will support you through every step of implementation. As a self-funded company, we don’t answer to private equity or venture capital firms, so we are not forced to outsource our customer service. After all, a system that meets your desired outcomes is more than just technology. You need expert assistance in order to accomplish true business transformation. 6. What is the total cost of ownership? Yep, the million dollar question (well, let’s hope not – that’s a lot to pay for business software!). Ultimately, many decisions about purchasing new software for your business will come down to price. What do you get for your money? Be sure to compare not only the functionality of the software systems, but also the implementation costs, consulting costs, subscription/license fees, and, of course, the human resources you need to operate the software. Unanet’s intuitive, easy to use, easy to operate interface enables our customers’ finance teams to focus on transforming the business rather than running monotonous transactions. We feel confident that you will discover that Unanet offers the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to selecting high-value, low total cost of ownership software to manage your projects, people, and financials. Still struggling over your ERP software decision? One-Third of Unanet’s Customers Made the Switch From a Competitor. Here’s Why.
8 Tips to Budgeting for Project Based Organizations
by Kim Koster Budgeting & Forecasting, Professional Services
Apr 21, 2019
Budgeting for Project Based Organizations One of the most challenging activities performed by a company is budgeting. Every year there is a large investment made to create annual budgets. So, what is the role of a budget? It should represent what the business believes is achievable and what it intends to accomplish. The organization establishes a budget that becomes the baseline for performance management. A large investment is made by many within the organization, so there are a lot of moving parts. Follow the 8 tips below to create a budget that is a useful tool for your business: Kick-off the budgeting cycle, providing a timeline, parameters, and overall goals. Include all stakeholders. Establish clear guidelines for the budget process. Below are just a few examples: What is the horizon of the forecast? What are the due dates? How to handle proposals in the forecast? What is the growth rate expected? Make sure your organization has a tool that provides all stakeholders with the visibility and control they need over the budget. The budget should be time-phased and align to the timing of the work. Scenario modeling is critical to understanding the best case, most likely, and worst case scenarios. A tool that allows for what-iffing or modeling is a necessity. Account for rate differences whether they be OH, G&A, COM, or Labor Rates. Make sure your tool is flexible enough to account for project specific rates, ceilings, and budget as well as forecasting rates. Throughout the year hold monthly reviews where the budget is reviewed, and course corrections are made via a forecast. Understand that the budget is a living and breathing document…not a static metric that is put on the shelf. Update it for changes in your business environment. Budget Revenue Budgeting revenue is crucial as it drives many other metrics (profit, growth rates, etc). The revenue plans are the barometer of your company health. The revenue plan will contain awarded contracts and opportunities that are still in the pipeline so make sure both are included. Tips for revenue budgeting are below: Look closely at your pipeline for new opportunities. Understand how your profit is trending. Labor vs Subcontractor – examine closely. Examine backlog, breaking it out between opportunities and awarded work. Benchmark your expenditures with prior years. Look Closely at Your Resources People are by far the biggest investment and in turn it is the largest revenue generator for services-based companies. Resources should be managed during the entire project lifecycle including proposal, project initiation, execution, and closeout. Measuring the utilization of resources is critical and below are a couple of questions you should be able to answer. What utilization do you need to be profitable? What utilization should you aim for to avoid burnout? Understanding billable and non-billable utilization? Project probability in people forecasting to more accurately understand both billable revenue and utilization? Indirect Rates are Pivotal The management of indirect rates can be the difference between winning a bid, losing a bid, making profit, and the ability to grow. It is critical to have the ability to look both at the actual rates being charged as well as bid rates to determine profit by resource. Often proposed rates will be different than actual rates, budget rates different than forecast rates, forecast rates are different year over year, and having the ability to apply multiple rate scenarios to your direct cost is very valuable in helping you create your forecast. Rates play a big role in revenue baseline assumptions. For instance, if your overhead rates are less than you predicted on Cost Plus projects, the actual revenue recognized will be less. On Fixed Price projects, higher than anticipated rates will eat into planned profit. Having revenue forecasts for the 1-5 year horizon will help the finance team more accurately predict corporate or forward pricing rates. Managing rate forecasts is important for all contract types and communication of rate changes to project and proposal teams will help eliminate a rate impact surprise. Below are a couple of pointers for indirect budgeting: Don’t forget to budget your indirect costs. Look at labor utilization to better understand the indirect component. Do you have a system that will handle cost pools and allocations? Understand your sales forecast and demand for resources. Hope these tips helped spark new ideas for your budgeting process and gave you some new things to think about! Learn more about how Unanet can improve your budgeting and forecasting practices.