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Project Management

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Helping A/E Firms Get a Better Grip on Project Cost, Profit

by Lucas Hayden A/E, Project Management

Sep 17, 2020

Newly published article by Unanet’s Lucas Hayden details how firms are realizing new efficiencies by gaining a clearer picture of overhead and job costing. As timely and helpful as government aid has been for many architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms during the COVID-19 crisis, our firsthand work with these firms tells us that firm leaders are well aware they won’t be able to rely on stopgap government programs forever, and thus must find sustainable ways to manage their businesses and their resources more efficiently. With the right ERP and analytics capabilities, uncovering and capturing meaningful new operational efficiencies is well within reach for AEC firms, Unanet’s Lucas Hayden explains in an article published in August on the PSMJ website. In particular, the right ERP and analytic tools can help firms gain a better handle on key factors like overhead and job costing so they can more accurately track and predict the profitability/financial performance of specific projects. That, in turn, enables firms to more efficiently manage their resources and plan for the future. In the article, Hayden details three capabilities that are proving particularly valuable to AEC firms in today’s volatile business environment: Integrated ERP tools that give firms flexibility in how to capture job cost.The ability to quickly and accurately track overhead by project is more critical today than ever before. The job cost rate/burdened pay approach and the overhead allocation approach are the two main methodologies for doing so. In the article, Hayden explains how each approach works, and how to determine which is best for your firm.Analytics to glean deeper data insight. Advanced analytics capabilities can elevate the depth and timeliness of the insight a firm gains from its data. Instead of basing decisions on outdated information and only using analytics to look at the past, the latest breed of analytics tools give firms a clearer picture of the future for forecasting, planning and the like.Interactive dashboards to make analytics insight more digestible and actionable.  When a firm can package data from across the organization in interactive analytics dashboards, they gain the power to see key project costing information and other important data from various perspectives to uncover insights, anomalies and nuances they may not otherwise find. Hayden details some of the interactive dashboard features and functionalities that can maximize the insight gained from overhead data. To read the full PSMJ article, click here.

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In Pursuit of ZERO Training

by Lucas Hayden A/E, Project Management

Jan 13, 2020

In my previous posts, I have tried to unpack a bit of our ‘untold story’ related to how powerful the Unanet A/E powered by Clearview engine is. Now let’s shift a bit to the end-user experience. We have learned so much from the many transitions we have done for clients moving from Deltek and BST. With this knowledge, we have created some amazing tools to speed up the migration and adoption process. In our initial meetings with firms – what we call our ‘Strategic Planning Summit’ – it was increasingly clear that firms had struggled with user adoption with previous software amongst their teams.In particular, those outside of accounting (think business development, project managers, and executives) just never really embraced their past systems. No matter how many box lunch training sessions took place, the legacy systems just weren’t intuitive. The “just go down to the project area, then to the 9th tab, then to the 24th field, then enter…..” learning model was just not working. Add to that the fact that these team members may only perform that one task occasionally, and frustration came quick (both for the end-user and indeed, the folks tasked with training everyone). Listening to that story over and over really led us to develop what we call ‘Interactive Actions’. What does that mean? Let me give you a few examples that may bring that point home: In pursuit of zero training: Recently, an engineering firm told us they wanted “Turbo Tax for Engineers”. They had used Deltek Vision for more than a decade and wanted something that would allow their end-users to interact with the system without learning database terminology. They wanted all of the complex logic and business rules of their business hidden behind easy, English based questions and responses that could be understood by even the newest member of their team. We worked with them to develop a feature that we eventually named “Interactive Actions”. We always had what we called Actions in Unanet A/E – wizard-like tools for quickly adding projects, clients and the like. With Interactive Actions, we took that to a whole new level and the user response has been overwhelming. Ask end-users simple questions and, based upon their responses, lead them down a path of questions and/or actions that are specific to their responses. Reduce the noise: Keep your end users laser-focused on the task at hand and don’t make them wade through screens and fields that don’t apply – or that don’t apply right now for the task they are trying to accomplish. For instance, maybe you ask a project manager that is creating a project a few basic questions and, when they select a particular market sector like Higher Education, you then ask them specific questions related to Higher Education and not another market sector. Maybe users are required to enter the number of students served, square footage, and/or put in additional information if the project is over a dollar threshold. The options are endless. That said, since we primarily work with professional services firms – and particularly, architecture and engineering firms – we see commonalities and continue to add those Interactive Actions to our ‘Starter Kit’ that we can deploy when we first migrate a firm off of one of the legacy systems in the industry. You can always adjust or add to what we provide as well and the personalizing of your Interactive Actions seamlessly moves forward with updates/releases too. Better Software. Better Company. The world increasingly works from a mobile construct and having your end users wait until they get back to the office to kick start a task/process just slows things down. In a worst-case scenario, they may completely forget about the task/process they wanted to finish or kick-off. You can leverage Interactive Actions from a mobile phone and/or tablet while out on the go. Remove the hurdles and barriers getting in your way. Increase your velocity and responsiveness. Better Software. Better Company. So now that you have made your end-users life easier, what’s in it for the administrator and operations team? A whole lot! Interactive Actions has the potential of drastically reducing your security settings (ie lots of security roles, options, and ongoing maintenance). Add to that the fact that data quality increases dramatically so you don’t have to constantly check and re-check whether the data was entered properly. If you have the right Interactive Action, the end-user can’t make a mistake. They win. You win. Better Software. Better Company. Give me a call and I would be glad to show you how Interactive Actions can revolutionize your business. There is a real sea of change happening. We would be honored to earn your business and have you join our rapidly growing list of customers. Thanks for your time and consideration.

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On-site Project-Based ERP Training with Dunham

by Lucas Hayden A/E, Project Management

Jan 09, 2020

  I have had the great privilege of watching more than 2,000 Architectural/Engineering firms operate over the past 25 years. In that time, I have gained great respect for firms that have the culture, discipline, and indeed, passion, to ‘walk the last mile’ and put in detailed project budgets, schedules and manage resources. Dunham, out of Minneapolis, is one of those firms in constant pursuit of project management excellence. At the same time, they recognize the need to not distract everyone with busy work and keep the project delivery and client satisfaction in focus at all times. Recently, Dunham wanted to give their project managers access to our VP of Services, Jason Bivens. Jason not only manages our support and services team he works daily in the project management and resource scheduling tools as we manage our projects with our own system. Jason provided tips on best practices and how to use our task dependency features to easily move out entire project schedules with ease. When a task start date slides out six weeks, simply click the taskbar and drag it to extend. All schedule resources are automatically moved with it. For critical path you can set and view task dependencies. We love showing how our software can dramatically increase your end-user adoption with low or zero training interfaces that make daily life easier for everybody. We always look forward to working with A/E firms who have a passion for excellence in project management, accounting, and of course architecture and engineering. Clients like Dunham help us move the ball forward and are continuously helping us identify ways to innovate our software and business overall. We enjoy meeting with our clients and hearing about how they utilize our software to build amazing projects around the world.