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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
If you've been alive and breathing in the last decade, you've seen the many amazing (and sometimes terrible) things that the internet has to offer. But more than anything, what we're seeing is an inundating amount of how-to lists, buzzwordey articles with our top five tips and tricks, the "best" time management tactics and so on. And some of them are truly great reads, (and we've been guilty of sharing those types of articles before, too) but many of them simply don't have all of the facts. So here we present to you some absolutely surefire ways to improve your business and get ahead of your competitors with very little effort or investment.
Tone up that time management
This isn't your grandma's time management advice. Actual measurable time data can make a fundamental difference to your company if collected and used correctly. One of the ways in which time tracking can lead to success is by using it to plan for projects and then follow their progress along the way. Knowing a project is behind schedule or over budget towards the end of the project’s life span does no one any good. Knowing this information sooner, however, will help you act accordingly with your peers, employees and your personal projects as well and stop wasting time and money.
Not only should you track time within your company, but finding the appropriate time accounting platform to automate it for you will be all the difference in the world of human errors on an excel spreadsheet. According to a major research advisory firm, fully automating the timesheet process reduces errors and staff time by 75 percent or more. Automation technologies and practices reduce improper time tracking activities and associated costs by validating project/cost code lists and monitoring approval processes electronically. Additional savings are realized by eliminating paper costs, and policy and regulatory compliance is improved.
Keeping big brother quiet
Make absolutely sure your company is in compliance with SOX, DCAA and/or other necessary standards. When payroll executives implement time and attendance systems to automate payroll, they often miss the chance to facilitate greater profitability throughout the entire company. These payroll executives are, of course, payroll experts. They are usually not, however, experts at project accounting or billing automation.
However, the time data, if collected appropriately, can also be used to automate project management, project accounting, project tracking and project estimation improvement, as well as for internal, external and reverse billing automation -- and any of these can also become SOX concerns. Most payroll and HR executives know little about these subjects, but increasingly, they are being asked to rise to new challenges with federal regulation requirements being just one of them.
Step up your PTO management
Controlling and understanding PTO expense allows you to recruit better talent. You can promise people more vacation than your competitors if you know that it's controllable. This tips the balance in your favor, allowing you to build a better team.
The first issue businesses need to address when creating their PTO plan is what to do about employees who quit or are terminated. Many states require that the balance of vacation pay be paid when an employee leaves the firm unless the company has a policy that states otherwise. If you choose to disallow vacation time to resigning employees and you run a company of high turnover—a fact of life in certain industries, like retail or food service—this allows you to re-allocate the PTO that those who leave might have used in favor of those who stick around. In essence, you can offer more generous PTO packages when recruiting than your more lenient competitors can offer, at no additional cost.
A little positive affirmation never hurt
Choosing the appropriate time management SaaS solution will only benefit your company if you can get your employees to actually use it. Hourly workers are easiest to convince because they want to be paid, so they already have an incentive. And yet, everyone regardless of status should want the company to be a success, so once they understand that using time tracking to automate billing—thereby making it more accurate—leads to more revenue, they should become more open to it.
Project accounting is more abstract than payroll or billing, and you don’t want to wind up with unnecessary overtime, stressful blown schedules, bad estimates or canceled projects. Try relating specific examples where good time collection could have prevented problems in order to make that connection in the minds of your employees.
Happy Monday, all! Today we're turning our attention toward staffing agencies, and those looking for the perfect client-job combo. We love working with our staffing friends, and having an edge on the latest staffing resources, tips and tricks is a fountain of knowledge worth sharing.
Here are our top resources we’ve found that we deem helpful, useful and absolutely necessary whether you are over-capacity or under. Have more links and blogs to add? Let us know in the comment section below!
- CWS Summit 2014 of the Staffing Industry Analysts group will be in London this year, May 13-May 14
- 2014 ANA Staffing Conference hosted in New Orleans proves that staffing applies to everyone – including nurses. Save the date for November 4-November 5, 2014.
- 2014 Midwest Staffing Conference will be May 1, 2014. Hosted by the ISSA, this conference kicks off the biggest staffing event of the greater Midwest area, with this year being located in the bustling city of Chicago, IL.
- 2014 NCASP Training Conference in North Carolina brings with it a speaker list that’s almost too power-packed to contain in one weekend. Register quickly, this conference will be May 15 – May 17, 2014.
- Manpower Group is a massive conglomerate of people, resources and open job postings for all types of skill sets and needs.
Want to go a little more social? Here are some great Google+ and LinkedIn groups to check out:
- Staffing Industry Analysts – Industry Community
- The American Staffing Association
- Recruitment Consultants and Staffing Professionals
- HR, Staffing and Recruiting Professionals Forum
- Advocate Staffing
These are a few of our favorite things. Have any you think would be good for the list? Feel free to add it in below!
Our friends at Executive Street, the Vistage blog, boast a far-reaching network of executives, managers and entrepreneurs starting up their own businesses. They operate as a hub offering a daily dose of small business tips and project management advice. They've even been kind enough to publish articles from our very own CEO, Curt Finch.
Below is a great article about how a few weak links can ruin the whole chain. Visit their site for the full scoop.
I’m sure you’ve seen advice regarding employee bonus and incentive systems, including some that are quite complex. The idea is that, to achieve a high-performance workplace, you need to motivate employees and achieve maximum efficiency.
None of this is wrong, but I often suggest another strategy that surprises a lot of people: get rid of the bad employees. It may be harsh, but it’s also true: the best thing you can do for your good workers and your company is to separate under-performing and marginal workers.
Statistically, there are always employees who seem disengaged or apathetic and some who are even working against the organization. Then there are those who are impaired by drugs or drink. Some may have problems that may, in some circumstances, be a danger to themselves or other employees. They should be separated from the company.
Another group is even more difficult: those who are not bad enough to terminate, but aren’t good enough to be retained. These are the marginal producers.
Marginal employees produce errors, inaccuracies and affect the morale of the work group. These employees demand a larger percentage of managerial attention. Sometimes, they benefit from a wake-up call from their supervisor, but often they just lower the standards for the rest of the work group. Identifying and dealing with these employees may be among the most difficult challenges that managers face.
In many companies, the problem is simply ignored. But a marginal employee’s co-workers know who the trailing workers are and expect something appropriate to be done. When something is not done, they tend to turn on the manager for his or her dereliction.
As oil prices stabilize and production continues to grow, the oil and gas industry has the need to continuously focus on controlling costs. According to a recent Reuters article, the rapid growth of oil production activity worldwide has led to an increase in equipment and operating costs, as well as a shortage in specialized workers. What this means is that companies must reduce their per-unit costs in order to grow their profits.
Fortunately, improvements in rural cellular coverage and mobile technology offer a solution. Companies can now track their data electronically, offering visibility into and control over their lift costs. And with oil prices moderating, controlling costs may be one of the only ways to get a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded field.
The oil and gas industry has always generated a vast amount of data captured through oil wells, process equipment, financial operations, and pipeline and refining operations. But until recently, this data has not been adequately managed or leveraged by E&P companies of all sizes for business insights. In many cases, the data remained fragmented and underutilized on various paper spreadsheets.
While companies know how important cost data is to their business, they may not have had the means to accurately track their costs in real-time. As the oil and gas industry has become increasingly manufacturing oriented, dependence on timely data has increased as well. Companies must process the streaming data from remote drilling sites and make quick decisions about equipment, personnel, and safety. Additionally, with the current high cost of labor and demands on equipment, errors and delays are more and more costly. Accurate, timely information has never been more important.
Improved cellular and internet connectivity in rural areas offers a new way to gather, store and leverage information. Historically, cellular coverage was slow to deploy in remote areas because of lower density populations. This is great news for oil companies, as most now have access to wireless coverage in remote locations.
Because of improved availability of mobile access, companies can now track information via sophisticated software, rather than relying on paper spreadsheets. Advances in mobile technology make it much simpler for field workers to log pertinent data in real-time via smartphone or tablet.
Tracking Lift Costs
E&Ps know firsthand that monitoring and controlling lift costs is very important. According to the most recent data from the Energy Information Agency, the total upstream cost (finding and lifting) for producing oil averages $33.76 per BOE (operating costs + finding costs) in the U.S. Prices are expected to decline modestly due to non-OPEC supply growth and still tepid developed country demand.
Monitoring lift costs – including costs associated with transportation, labor, supplies, supervision, pump operation, electricity, and other expenses – is made much more efficient through the use of a Web-based time and expense tracking system with mobile capabilities. On-site workers can track time, expenses, and equipment usage on a per-project basis. The best systems will integrate with and feed this data into your accounting/ERP system.
This data allows companies to know their costs in real-time, tracked directly at the source. This makes it easier to spot potential problems and avert them before they slow production. But the real value lies in consolidating and leveraging this data over time.
Moving Business Forward
Better knowledge of costs gives companies a better understanding of where money is spent and which areas of production are most or least profitable. For example, real-time data tracking can uncover overlooked expenses, such as the cost of refurbishing transportation trucks between sites. These uncovered expenses can then be charged back to the appropriate parties, lowering overall costs.
Additionally, tracking employee time and equipment usage by project allows companies to reduce non-productive time and optimize employee allocations. According to the aforementioned Reuters article, oil, gas, and pipeline employees are some of the best-paid employees in the U.S. For example, Texas workers take home around $15,000 a month. At this expense, it is imperative that companies allocate employees properly to maximize productivity and profits.
And perhaps most importantly, by tracking site data over time, companies can establish reliable key performance indicators (KPIs) against which current and future projects can be accurately assessed. Companies can more precisely predict how a new lease will perform by analyzing historical data from similar operations, improving cost estimates and lease evaluations. Integrated historical data also helps companies assess health, safety, and environmental impact, which are all increasingly important factors in the face of new, stricter regulations.
The oil and gas industry is facing a huge opportunity with improved mobile connectivity in the field. This improvement allows for the subsequent benefit of more accurate data collection at the source. If E&P companies pursue these new opportunities to automate the capture of real-time cost data at the source, they will be better positioned to compete effectively going forward.
About the Author: Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to reach the highest levels of profitability: Journyx – project, time and expense tracking software – and Journyx PX – resource management software that provides work and financial forecasting for a complete picture of project and budget status, employee time and availability. Journyx has thousands of customers worldwide, including Chaparral, Schlumberger, BP, Crate&Barrel, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Callaway Golf, Honeywell and many others. For more information, visit www.journyx.com/oil.
It’s that time again for our Monday Link-Ups! For today, we're turning our focus toward our Project Manager friends. Here at Journyx, we have a place in our hearts for those stressing about balancing the scales of big projects.
So, want to live like (un)common people? Here are a few resources we've found that we think might be helpful, whether you have a bird’s eye view or you’re down in the dregs of it all. Have resources to add? Let us know in the comment section below!
- PMI Global Congress 2014 will be congregating on October 26-28, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona!
- The 2014 Spring CPE Conference is almost here to bring you all-you-can-learn seminars and project manager A-listers on June 6, 2014 in Chester, Philadelphia.
- SmallBusinessTrends.com is the hub for all things newsworthy with well, small business trends and project management tips alike.
- The International Community for Project Managers brings together the important tips and tricks and gives it to you straight. It’s a great tool for those just wanting the greatest hits for project managers and CEO’s.
- The Project Box is a group of consultants who also happen to dole out some great (free) advice on their blog.
Here's some other great Google+ and LinkedIn groups we've found where the Project Management Community is thriving:
- PMI Community Group
- Project Management for the Masses
- Project Management Masters
- Project Manager Group - #1 Group for Project Managers
These are a few of our favorite things. Did we miss any resources that would be great additions to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Our friends at SmallBusinessTrends.com are leading authorities of articles ranging from a wide array of topics such as managerial advice to marketing ideas to people wanting a little humor. In fact, they are renown for bringing incredibly informative and articulated ideas to an engaging audience of avid readers. They've even been kind enough to publish works from our very own CEO, Curt Finch. IBM heralded a survey studying 1,600 CIO's around the world.
Below are the results of the study. Head on over to their site to read the full article.
Who Exactly Did IBM Survey?
- 1,656 Chief Information Officers (CIOs)
- 884 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)
- 576 Chief Finance Officers (CFOs)
- 342 Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs)
- 524 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs)
- 201 Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs)
That’s a lot of chiefs – sharing vital insights for building better businesses.
According to the study, it appears leaders’ priorities are shifting from intra-enterprise efficiency and productivity to a new agenda led by the front office – focused on extra enterprise engagement, transparency, collaboration and dialogue with clients.
It seems today’s digitally enfranchised and empowered customers are leading CIOs on a new path, one that demands collaborative technologies designed for today’s 24/7 mobile workforce.
Highlights of the IBM Study Include:
- More than 80 percent of CIOs aim to digitize their front offices within the next few years to sync with customers more efficiently – signaling a great trend toward collaborative technologies.
- More than 80 percent of CIOs intend to focus on two key initiatives: Using analytics to create deep insights from structures and unstructured data and implementing leading-edge technologies, processes and tools in the front office to better understand and sync with customers.
- CIOs recognize that extracting meaningful, actionable insights from collected information will require a vastly robust information architecture to fully leverage big data.
- Over the next few years, 84 percent of CIOs plan to invest in mobility solutions, another 84 percent on business analytics and optimization, 64 percent on cloud computing and another 64 percent on internal collaboration and social networking.
Finding a timesheet solution is a difficult task for any company. There is a huge learning curve in the buying process; a large amount of time taken to train employees; and communication that must happen with your provider’s support team when a problem arises. But what if your timesheet software provider called it quits, as has happened to many businesses when Quickbooks discontinued its Time Tracker & Time and Billing Manager, or when Microsoft Dynamics announced the discontinuation of Business Portal - leaving customers with the only option of an overly-simplified web-only time management tool?
Following are our top 6 tips that will help you navigate this difficult situation.
1. Protect Your Data
Create copies of your data and save it in multiple, secure locations. Save it in the cloud, save it on desktops, save it on the network, etc. Even go so far as to make backups for your backups, in case one source is corrupted or gets hacked. Many people even encrypt their data in case it gets stolen or hacked, so the info can remain safe and intact.
2. Create a List of Essentials
Next, write down all the features that were absolutely essential for your business that were in the expiring product, and then list out the features that were just plain handy to have. Once you’ve written down what made the old solution a good fit, write down what was lacking in the product. One of those requirements will probably be quick implementation, so a word of warning…
3. There is No Quick, Magic Fix
Vendors who claim two-day rollout times are just flat-out lying to you. They’re preying on your sense of panic of being deserted by your old provider. And trust me; they know what’s happening in the timesheet industry. You want to work with a vendor that will create a perfect fit for your company in a timely manner.
4. SaaS Flexibility Allows Early Rollouts
To accomplish your requirement for a fast roll-out, consider SaaS solutions. SaaS is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over the Internet.
In an early rollout, the vendor lets you temporarily use the SaaS site while your IT shop deploys the machine purchased for your local installation. With SaaS, you also get the benefits of server protection (sending back-up information to the vendor) and easier upgrades (you get a test site during the upgrade process that requires no hardware purchases on your part).
5. Don’t Rely on Canned Demos
You have the power to demand that any vendor prove that their solution will solve your company’s specific business problem. You deserve a detailed demonstration that uses your employee list, customer list, project list, your company’s logo and color scheme, and that provides reports on your data that will prove to you that your business problem is solved. If a vendor can’t make you 100 percent certain that the solution will work for your specific business needs, then walk away.
6. How’s the Support Team?
You don’t need another bad experience, especially when it comes to the software’s support team. Be wary of static, outdated FAQ lists and support staff that is part of the sales team. When support is part of the sales force, you only get help as a prospect. Once they’ve got your money, getting help is difficult. Questions to ask to pinpoint the effectiveness of the support team include:
- What is your support staff response time?
- What percentage of your customers renews their maintenance contracts each year?
- Can I talk to three recent customers that are in my industry and are about my size?
Your new vendor should be capable of early rollouts, server protection and simple upgrades. You have the right to demand responsive support and a tailored demo with your company’s information. Just because you were left high and dry by your old provider doesn’t mean you can’t find an even better solution for your company moving forward.
Had any timesheet problems like these? Let us know in the comment section below!
Happy Monday, everyone! For today, we're giving a little bit of attention to the Microsoft Dynamics community and its resources. Here at Journyx, we have a special focus in the Microsoft Dynamics space whether your attention is in GP, NAV, AX or SL.
Here are a few resources we've found that we think might be helpful - whether you're a VAR or an ISV. Have resources to add? Speak up in the comment section below!
- GPUG Summit 2014 will be coming up later this year October 14-17 in St. Louis!
- AX Technical Conference may have already passed, but you can check out highlights here.
- Microsoft Dynamics World is the most popular source for all things newsworthy in the Microsoft Dynamics community.
- The Partner Channel is the premier hub for everything related to Dynamics Partners whether it's sales, marketing, or other resources - connecting people to ISV's and more around the globe.
- Forbes has an entire subset of it's publication devoted to its friends in the Microsoft Dynamics community, shedding light and breaking news to the Dynamics industry.
Here's some other great LinkedIn groups we've found where the Dynamics community is alive in social interaction and online conversation:
- Dynamics GP Users Group
- ERP Community
- ERP/CRM Software Blog Group
- MS Dynamics (3000+)
- Microsoft Dynamics Community
We're interested in learning all we can about the Microsoft Dynamics community. Did we miss any resources that would be great additions to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
We love our friends over at Microsoft Dynamics World. They are THE authoritative source on all things Dynamics and they've even been kind enough to publish quite a few articles written by our own CEO, Curt Finch. At the Convergence show in March of this year, MSDW editor Jason Gumpert sat down with Dynamics GP MVPs, including Belinda Allen, Frank Hamelly, Mark Polino, and Mariano Gomez.
Below is an excerpt of his Q&A with them. Head on over to his site to read the full article.
MSDW: How has the event gone for you this week?
Belinda: This is like Belinda's BI Week. Everything I've done is BI related and it's amazing.
I've been hearing that partners are finding it helpful to lead with BI when talking to prospects. Do you see that?
Belinda: I think people are becoming more and more aware of the accessibility of data.
Mark: I think there are cases where VARs get burned by a CEO that picked the [ERP solution] with the shiny dashboard even though it doesn't have the functionality they need.
Frank: Well, at the end of the day, what is an ERP system for? It's for disseminating business intelligence. Period.
Mariano: Customers are understanding more that the purpose of collecting all this information is to provide the right metrics and analysis for their business. Ultimately, a GL transaction or a sales order entry transaction doesn't tell you much about your business. It's how you choose to visualize that information and analyze it to drive profitability or even reduce your expenses. That's ultimately what it comes down to.
Mark: And I think some of this is maturity in GP. We have more and more customers who have been on GP for [at least] a couple of years and they're coming to Convergence year after year and they're past "I don't know how to enter a transaction" or "I don't know how to pull my financial statements and they now say "How do I get real value now that I know how to use this thing?"
Congratulations to WaterGroup Pty, LTD on being chosen as Journyx Customer of the Month for April!
“We’ve been using Journyx for over 8 years, running it on our own server, and absolutely love it. Best time recording system there is out there. Seeing how much easier it is to run it in the cloud and how painless the transition was, I wish we would have moved over earlier. It would have been cheaper for us,” says Guenter Hauber-Davidson, Managing Director of WaterGroup. “We’re all about (water) efficiency, including our own smart monitoring system. What our system does for our customers’ water use is what Journyx does for our time: measure it so we can understand where it goes, and therefore save water, time and money! You guys are absolutely awesome. We have never had an upgrade go without any hiccups, and literally happen overnight. You guys have absolutely excelled.”
A leading Australian-based water-solutions company and Journyx customer since 2007, WaterGroup secures “water and saves money through cost effective and sustainable solutions”. In operation since 2006, WaterGroup has gone on to develop major environmentally and economically sustainable tools to harvest cleaner water resources. Learn more about WaterGroup here.
Typically, the implementation of a time and attendance system falls to a company’s human resources department. However, it is absolutely critical that top executives become involved. If not, they are missing the chance to facilitate greater profitability throughout the entire company.
There is a shift happening in our world today from capital businesses to people businesses. This is a shift of valuing time as much as money. About 50 years ago, when most people labored in a factory, workers were not considered volunteers, they were not empowered, and managing the money of the company (i.e. the capital) was much more important than maximizing the time and knowledge of the worker. Such businesses are called capital businesses because power and wealth flowed directly from the capital.
Today, capital businesses are on the wane and developed world’s economy is moving towards people businesses. Simple manufacturing has moved overseas, primarily to China and India. Software, entertainment, consulting, design and architecture exemplify people businesses, but increasingly, even traditional manufacturing businesses, like Toyota and Ford, win through design and intellect rather than through excellence in manual labor on the shop floor.
People businesses - like software companies and architecture firms - don’t track employee time to properly manage their employees. If they do it all (and they should), it is to understand costs and automate billing, and to a lesser extent, to track salary, paid time off, or to pay hourly knowledge workers correctly. The time data that is collected, if collected appropriately, can also be used to automate project management (project accounting, project tracking and project estimation improvement), as well as for internal, external and reverse billing automation.
If an executive team running a company really acts like a team – an integrated, diverse, synergistic group of people with shared vision and goals - then the system that he or she implements must serve the whole company, not just to automate payroll or benefits management. In order for time tracking to work, top executives need to be as invested in the system as anyone else in the company.
Have more tips like these? Let us know in the comment section below!
Happy Monday! Today, we're looking at oil & gas industry resources. Journyx has a special focus in the oil & gas industry and many customers that use Journyx to understand their costs better at the source – on a per-well basis.
Here are a few resources we've found but we'd love to hear from you in the comments which resources help you the most:
- The Offshore Technology Conference is coming up in Houston in May
- The Society of Petroleum Engineers is the largest individual-member organization serving managers, engineers, scientists and other professionals worldwide in the upstream segment of the oil and gas industry.
- We've heard Oil & Gas Journal referred to as the Wall Street Journal of the oil industry. This publication definitely keeps us in the know.
- These are some great LinkedIn groups we've found:
We're interested in learning all we can about the oil & gas industry - tell us what resources we missed in the comments!
As a small business ourselves, we're always on the lookout for articles that offer sage business advice we can use. This great article, originally published at BusinessNewsDaily here, and sourced from Mashable here, extols the benefits of collaboration. Deep down, we all already know this but a reminder never hurt anyone.
Small business owners can sometimes feel like it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. If you fall behind, even for a moment, a more tech-savvy business with greater resources could swoop in and take your customers. But competition among businesses doesn't always have to mean war. Instead of viewing other companies only as competitors, entrepreneur Jay Bernstein thinks business owners should look at them as potential collaborators.
"Collaboration is vital to every business," said Bernstein, founder and CEO of B2B social networking platform WinWin. "There are so many opportunities out there for businesses to work together to exchange ideas and increase purchasing power."
Bernstein based WinWin on what he calls the "neighbor principle" — you go to your neighbor to borrow some milk because you're out. The next day, when it snows, you bring your snow blower down the hill to help him. When this idea is applied to small business, companies can leverage each other's strengths at little or no cost to grow both of their businesses.
There are plenty of ways that small business owners can use the neighbor principle and collaborate to bring about mutual growth. An independent Web development company can offer their website design services to other local businesses in exchange for a link back on the homepage. Small businesses with similar inventory needs can combine their orders to receive discounted wholesale prices. An entertainment company can host an event at a restaurant in town to bring in business while marketing its own services. These real-life examples from WinWin users prove that working for and with other small businesses can be more powerful than working against them.
"Collaboration saves time, saves money, and levels the playing field for American companies," Bernstein told Business News Daily. "[Instead of outsourcing], businesses who collaborate can keep money in the country and their local economies."
Last week we examined some important trends that time tracking can help business owners identify in their companies. Two more potentially damaging trends that time tracking can help you identify and correct before they devastate your company.
When executives schedule projects for a new quarter or assign human resources to a task, they will typically check an employee’s schedule for availability. However, the odds are that top executives aren’t privy to the nuances of individual employees’ personal schedules. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect them to be. However, it can complicate things in a major way when a key employee has planned a trip right when they are scheduled for a project. For that reason businesses need to be able to see when an employee is going, going, gone - at least for vacation.
Good time tracking software allows for this through advanced notification and scheduling of time off, as well as integrated permissions systems to make sure that a vacationing employee doesn’t disrupt the flow of business too much. While this can at first seem oppressive to employees, it actually serves to protect them as much as the company. If they find out that their involvement on a project is absolutely critical, they may have to cancel plans and possibly lose money on booking fees and flights. It is much better for all parties to know the actual availability of employees.
The Real Price of Internal Costs
Internal costs are often overlooked simply because many of them are deemed “necessary expenses” and then forgotten. But for many businesses, especially those just starting out, internal costs can actually eat up a significant portion of revenues.
For instance: a B2B services firm that sees few sales towards the end of the year may want to actually encourage employees to take time off then, or even increase the number of company holidays around that time; this can actually decrease the amount spent on wasted electricity. You can even reduce the number of company holidays during more profitable times of the year while maintaining employee satisfaction.
Let’s assume that you hire someone to work in your building, yet find that the majority of their time is spent on tasks they can do at home. Allowing them to telecommute can save on utilities while allowing them more autonomy. Identifying where and when you can cut internal costs can save buckets of money long term.
The Situation Room
Like any tool, a time tracking method can be used or misused within an organization, yet without it some tasks would be significantly more difficult or even downright impossible. Advanced time tracking solutions can provide immediate, tangible benefits to a company, as well as long term results. The implementation of such a system can drastically improve efficiency, employee satisfaction and corporate profitability.
Tracking time is often viewed negatively. At best, it is a necessary though disliked factor of determining wages and billing. At worst, it is seen as inefficient and totalitarian. However we've seen that time tracking, when instituted properly, can have massive benefits for a company and for its individual employees.
Here's how it can expose which potentially harmful trends in your company.
1. Employee Inefficiency
Employee inefficiency is one of those factors that can seem relatively minor, yet over time can prove a serious drain of money on the company. Without tracking work an employee does, it is difficult to know just how much they contribute to the success of your company. Often, the employee has no knowledge of the fact that they are inefficient as they simply perform their tasks without evaluation or modification. Keeping track of each individual task that employees spend time on will reveal potential issues before they become a drain.
2. Employee Overwork
Similar to employee inefficiency, this is one of those problems that often reveals itself only when it is too late to do anything about it. Every company employs individuals who are talented at many things. The temptation is to give them more and more responsibilities. While the employee may initially view the added responsibility as a positive, eventually it may prove too great a strain. Over time, the employee can lose job satisfaction, and may even leave the company.
The loss of an employee who is responsible for numerous key tasks within a company can bring operations to a standstill. And so, it is necessary to allocate responsibilities fairly. With time tracking software in place, you determine which employees have both the talent and the time for specific tasks. This way you can allocate tasks more fairly and avoid overworking your star employees.
3. Projects Over Time and Budget
Let's take a look at our history for an example of this. When the governing body of New York tried to build a subway system, it eventually took so long and had so many issues that they had to resort to buying the system from a private company entirely. And here's the point of this: failing to track time on important projects can prove disastrous. If a project gets off track early on, then the problems typically compound over time. The key is being able to identify problems as they happen, which really cannot be done unless progress is tracked. Further, keeping a backlog of tracked projects allows for better estimates in the future. Corrections will become less and less necessary as more experience is gained and allocated into a cataloged knowledge base.
What are harmful trends you've seen foster in your own business? Check in next week for part two, and how these problems can really be solved.
Twelve-thousand attendees at a customer conference all of which are using one form of Dynamics or another is certainly a success in anyone’s book.
The sheer number of break-out sessions and shareable content available to the user base of Dynamics was huge and inspiring. The sense that Dynamics is a community and not simply a product was tangible at this event. First timers had to be impressed--if not overwhelmed. The collective knowledge and openness of information not only makes Convergence a great conference, but makes Microsoft Dynamics a great product to be a part of.
I understand from my contacts that almost half of the attendees were Value Added Resellers. So why would resellers, who have their own conferences to attend show up to a user conference in such massive droves? Such has been the case for many years, and it is very typical to see resellers accompany their top clients to this conference. However, there is also the sense that clients have to be protected from ISVs that sell direct and the large VAR organizations that out-right ask customers to change their VAR completely.
This practice of VARs courting clients-- although not entirely unseen before --certainly has reached a new level seen this year at Convergence. Having been kept somewhat under wraps in years prior is now out in the open and in your face. Many VARs are disappointed in Microsoft for not policing the channel with regard to this practice, yet it is a fact of life that business in the free market is competitive by nature. VARs need to focus on delivering – delivering being the operative word- so that as much value as possible is given to their clients.
Another huge trend is the practice of ISVs selling direct. In the past if you wanted to ensure that your product gained traction in the Dynamics channel you had to protect the VAR at all costs. Most ISV’s sold only through VARs and when approached by end users either called the customers’ VAR of record, or in cases where the VAR relationship was not current, placed them in touch with a VAR who had experience with the ISV product.
That worked well for many years. However, the marketplace has changed. With over 300 ISVs represented in the channel, and even more add-on products, it is simply not possible for a VAR to represent or even be aware of all the products that may benefit their customs.
Thanks in large part to Convergence, the Partner Channel and the various user groups such as GPUG, customers are more and more aware of the available add-on modules. Therefore we see more and more end users calling ISVs directly for demos, purchases and implementations.
One overwhelming positive at Convergence was Microsoft’s commitment to Dynamics GP. The rumor mill has for many months suggested the product could be going away. Many people suggested that Microsoft was attempting to move customers away from GP toward AX. Microsoft management stepped up and clarified not only that GP is here to stay, but also that Microsoft is increasing its update releases to deliver more and more enhanced features within the product beginning later this year.
We found out key points such as the fact that GP remains the number one choice in the Dynamics Line in the United States and added over 3,000 new customers last year.
The sharing of experiences between customers that we saw, often thought to be potentially risky, has strengthened the Dynamics community. So many customers now share their stories with each other and the increased awareness of what is possible and what resources are available benefits everyone.
Our team met with many end users and many VAR’s alike. Some were aware of our solutions and other learned for the first time how we could help them. The Expo was well attended and people had a very positive outlook about business in general, the economy and the Dynamics community specifically.
I believe that every customer should attend this conference at least once. And ALL ISVs should be represented in the Dynamics space as well.
We learned a lot at Convergence this year, how about you? Tell us about your favorite parts in the comments section below!
The era of manufacturing and agriculture is giving way to one of knowledge-powered work. This is old news in the U.S. but these changes are rapidly affecting the rest of the world. In the near future, it's likely that nearly everyone will become a necessary piece to new business of the Information Age.
The term “knowledge worker” was coined in 1959 by Peter Drucker. It refers to one who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace.
Companies like Wal-Mart and Dell demonstrate that the intricacies of materials management are already well understood. Knowledge, process and project management, however, are still relatively nascent fields.
Out of our sprawling 30-millennia history, only in the last 50 years have we seen a significant rise in the cost of knowledge workers. In Texas in 2003, 48% of the workforce fell into the "knowledge worker" category. These numbers are growing and will, in our lifetime, encompass the majority of workers globally. Think about what your parents and grandparents did for a living. Chances are they were farmers or factory workers for at least a portion of their careers, not knowledge workers.
According to "All Your Money Won't Another Minute Buy" by Curt Finch, demand for project and portfolio management solutions, which often incorporate some project accounting abilities, is growing at 11% annually. Why all this interest in project and portfolio management, time tracking and project accounting solutions? Our hunter/gatherer ancestors implicitly knew the costs of doing business. Materials-oriented businesses, like manufacturing and farming, have had adequate accounting systems for thousands of years.
The knowledge worker-dependent businesses of today, though, are relatively new and for the first time since accounting was invented by Babylonian farmers thousands of years ago, nobody knows their costs. If you don’t know your costs, you don’t know where you’re profitable. And if you don’t know where you’re profitable, you can’t steer your company to success.
So as we move away from a man-powered economy and into a more brain-powered one, the importance of project accounting and time tracking will only continue to foster and grow.
Congratulations to Chaparral on being chosen as Journyx Customer of the Month for March!
“Prior to Journyx, the field hands would fill out a Time and Equipment sheet, record hours worked, equipment used and expenses incurred,” said Mike Pearman, Business Systems Analyst at Chaparral Energy, “What Journyx offers is a means of organizing field operations data in a manner that allows us to feed data to other systems. Having the information organized in a database also makes it much easier to report on usage versus just dollars which is what is usually available out of an accounting system. Better information means better decisions by management on how to best deploy our field assets, resulting in cost savings and a better return on our investments.”
A Journyx customer since 2014, Chaparral Energy is a leading mid-continent Oil and Gas organization focused primarily in exploration and production operations. Family-owned and in operation since 1988, Chaparral is growing rapidly with an estimated enterprise value of $3.5 billion. Chaparral’s long-term vision is to empower its customers with “energy”. Learn more about Chaparral Energy here.
In today's competitive environment, every dollar counts and organizations cannot afford to remain ignorant about true project costs. Fortunately, there are a few formulas that help you track and analyze project costs and to estimate projects with increasing accuracy in the future.
Creating An Effective KPI
Key performance indicators (KPIs) measure progress toward a strategic goal. It is important to narrow your focus, so unless your company has 100 strategic goals, you should not have 100 KPIs. Ten KPIs can be effective, five KPIs are even better, and one KPI is optimal. The KPI you choose must also be measurable. "Make clients more successful" is useless as a KPI without some way to measure their success. KPIs are often tied to strategy through techniques such as the ‘Balanced Scorecard,’ but they don’t have to be as complicated as that to be useful and effective. As with most things, simplicity increases efficacy.
A KPI is a ‘SMART’ goal, which means it must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. Let's say that you set the following goal for your team: "Increase average revenue per sale to $10,000 by December." It’s a SMART goal because it references a specific, time-sensitive goal that directly affects the health of the company. In this case, 'average revenue per sale’ is the KPI that you would measure in order to determine success or failure.
Here are some popular and effectively KPIs that your company may want to consider:
Billability or utilization rate refers to the percentage of time in a given period during which an employee or set of employees are working in a revenue-producing capacity. Utilization rate can be found by the formula B/T, where B = billable hours for the employee or group in the period and T = all hours worked by the employee or group in the period. Most organizations try to keep utilization rates above 70 percent or so. The higher the rate, the better the results.
Knowing not only how many hours are being spent on a particular project but also what percentage of that time is billable to the client is one key way to understand complete project cost. The more work that employees spend time on that is not billable, the more the project will cost. If you use this KPI consistently, you will be able to identify unproductive work and find ways to minimize it successfully.
Adherence to Estimate
Accurate project estimation is another component that is crucial in keeping costs down and stakeholders happy. The KPI here is defined by the formula [(E-A)/E], where E = estimated hours to complete project and A = actual hours used to complete project. If you can keep this number as close to zero as possible, you know that you are doing a good job in estimating projects. If not, it is important that you realize it now and take steps to address it.
Improving this number can be difficult for some companies until they understand that similar projects often have a strikingly accurate ratio of early phase cost to overall project cost. In other words, the early phases of a project, commonly referred to as ‘requirements,’ ‘design,’ or ‘specification’ phase, can often give you a clue as to the length of the entire project. Let’s say that after carefully tracking time on a batch of similar projects you find that the first two phases take approximately 10% of the project time. You can then use that data to predict the length of future projects.
Percentage of projects profitable
Why do we track project costs in the first place? The answer is simple—to guarantee that every project undertaken and executed is bringing in a profitable ROI for the organization. This KPI, “percentage of projects profitable,” can really jumpstart your business and ensure that you are taking on the right projects. Unfortunately, most companies have projects going on at any given time that actually lose money for the company. Due to an inadequate understanding of costs, many of these go unnoticed. Yet all you need is direct and indirect per-project cost data along with revenue data to gauge per-project profitability, allowing you to make every effort to maximize this particular KPI. The formula is:
# of profitable projects / # of projects
Understanding true project cost should be an integral part of every organization's project management methodology, but many companies do not even know where to begin. With the right data and a few powerful KPI formulas in hand, cost engineers can enlighten the organization and empower them to be selective in the projects they choose.
A shift is happening in the software industry. Instead of having customers install software at their physical locations, software companies are increasingly renting web-based software over the internet on a monthly basis. But while this popular trend is token amongst most young startups and entrepreneurs, is it safe and reputable enough for all vendors to hop on board and use?
Most software companies get their revenue from “shelfware” (software that is rarely used and ends up on the proverbial shelf). Popular programs - from Quicken to SAP - for which customers pay the total cost up front - can be complicated, making them difficult to use and achieve maximum benefit from. However, once a customer has paid for these programs, there is little incentive for the company to follow up and ensure that it is fully updated to latest standards and working properly for the customer.
But things may be looking up in the realm of new software - in the stores and online. Companies like Journyx, KaleidaCare (foster care automation) and Affiniscape (association management) are quite successful in renting software over the web to their customers.
How will rented and cloud-based software help the customer? If customers sign up for a monthly service from one of these companies and the solution doesn’t work, customers will likely stop using the software after a month. This gives the software provider an incentive to pay attention to customer usage, understand whether or not the technology is providing business value, and strive to increase its value. Not only that, but the customers opinion will become the first priority, and help keep the product as up to date as possible for years to come.
When interests are aligned on both parties, everyone wins. Not only this, but going cloud makes it that much easier to have the latest and most up-to-date software available on the market. Your product will be continually improving as your company continues growing- making both the vendor and the client a match made in heaven.
And for small businesses, there are some additional benefits to renting software. The lower upfront costs of renting make it an easier investment for businesses tight on money. Paying for the rental over a period of time can make it easier for small businesses to charge their clients for software access by including it in the project estimate.
The future of the software industry is renting. And that's good news for everyone.