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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

April 9, 2014

 

accounting costsFinding 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). 

project managers5. 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:

  1. What is your support staff response time?
  2. What percentage of your customers renews their maintenance contracts each year?
  3. 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!

April 7, 2014

People working togetherHappy 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:

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!

Microsoft Dynamics

 

April 4, 2014

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?

All: Yes.

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?"

Continue reading...

April 2, 2014

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.

April 2, 2014

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.executive team

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!

 

March 31, 2014

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:

We're interested in learning all we can about the oil & gas industry - tell us what resources we missed in the comments!

March 28, 2014

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."

 

March 26, 2014

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.Time Tracking Problems

PTO Issues

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. 

March 19, 2014

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.

March 17, 2014

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!

 

March 12, 2014

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. 

March 5, 2014

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.

March 5, 2014

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

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. 

 

February 25, 2014

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.

February 19, 2014

You have the right to demand that any vendor prove their solution will solve your company’s specific business problem. Canned demos are designed to deceive.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

  • Can you prove to me that you will solve my business problem, using my employees, departments, projects, etc.?
  • Can you provide references of clients that have successfully integrated your product with my accounting system, my project management system and my payroll service provider?

Keep in mind that the speed with which a vendor can configure the software during a demo can usually accurately predict the functionality of the system after it is installed at your company.

SaaS Offers Flexibility

If the software is 100 percent Web-based (and it should be to avoid obsolete technology and installation problems), you can run it from any server on earth. Software companies can deliver technology via two different models: installed at your location or rented by you and running on the vendor’s site. The latter approach is called software-as-a-service (SaaS). There is no reason a provider can’t offer both options.

SaaS allows early rollouts, server protection and easier upgrades. In early rollout, the vendor lets you temporarily use the SaaS site while your IT shop deploys the machine purchased for your local installation. Server protection is the process of sending a backup to the vendor in case your local installation fails. SaaS allows easier upgrades because you’re provided a test site during the upgrade process that requires no hardware purchases on your part.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

  • What sort of backup generator do you have in case of a power outage at your SaaS site?
  • Where is it hosted? 
  • How many connections to the Internet does your SaaS site have?
  • How much does server protection cost? 
  • Can I roll-out on your SaaS servers and later transfer the data to my own servers?
  • Where are SaaS backup tapes stored?
  • What kinds of security and fire suppression capabilities exist at the hosting site?

Look Outside the HR Department

When payroll executives implement time and attendance systems to automate payroll, they often miss the chance to facilitate greater profitability throughout the entire company.

The time data they collect, if collected appropriately, can also be used to automate project management, project costing, project tracking, and project estimation improvement. Additionally, the data can be used for internal, external and reverse billing automation. 

Think back to that requirements gathering portion of the timesheet software selection process.  Bring in R&D managers, marketing folks, and A/P people. Have an entire selection team. Yes, it may be harder, but it will unleash profitability that you didn’t know you had available.

Don't let the generic stock demo pull you into a hackneyed deal; by following these tips, you can be a software-purchasing hero for your company.

February 11, 2014

Oftentimes we find our biggest source of inspiration for what to write about in our Journyx blog actually stems from some of our biggest FAQ's here. But even that isn't enough. When searching for your time tracking system, here's our list of top checklist items to consider before making your big purchase. 

Have a Buying Process

Timesheet software will touch everyone in your company. Nobody likes to track their time, so it must be simple to use, have a friendly interface and encourage accurate data collection. The system should serve as a real accounting system with double entry methodologies and approval processes, and have automatic reminders for the busy executive (you know who you are).

First, you need a requirements list. This will enable you to eliminate many of the vendors that pop up when you Google "timesheet." To assemble your requirements list, ask all the pertinent departments in the company for their input.

Here are a few potential requirements:

  • Do you need to verify invoices sent to you by contractors, and test the timesheet system on them first?
  • Do you need a system that prevents people from tracking time against projects they shouldn’t have access to?
  • Do you need to send payroll data to ADP or Paychex?
  • Do you need to send billing data or payroll data to QuickBooks (or Dynamics or SAP or Oracle)?
  • Do you need to get the system rolled out now with no time to wait for IT?
  • Do you need to split-bill project costs to other internal departments?
  • Do you need to fix your estimation process?
  • Do you need Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) compliance or very accurate IT capitalization data for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)?
  • Do you need to understand your R&D costs on a per-product basis?
  • Do you need a tightly controlled purchasing process where everyone gets a company credit card?
  • Do you need to reimburse for mileage?
  • Do you need a low monthly fee rather than a giant one-time fee?

There is No Magic Fix

Some vendors claim that they can “implement in 2-3 days”. However you can’t roll out your time tracking system in two days unless your problem is simple enough to only include one of the above requirements. If they really are that simple, don’t spend your money on software; stick with Microsoft Excel.

The technology is powerful and it can help your company become more profitable in a number of ways. It can lower your payroll processing cost while increasing accuracy. It can also speed up your billing and convert more A/R to cash; automate travel expense reimbursement; and most importantly, it can tell you which projects are broken before you would ever have known it before.

Vendors that claim two-day rollout times are just plain lying. Don’t let them fool you. This process requires time and energy to accomplish it correctly. 

February 6, 2014

Congratulations to Fulcrum Vets on being chosen as Journyx Customer of the Month for February 2014!

We’re pleased to announce that Fulcrum Vets is the Journyx February Customer of the Month. Fulcrum Vets is both an outstanding customer as well as a great business partner.

"As a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, it is important to us that we build a foundation to grow our business and meet the demands of both commercial and government markets,” says Gene Walker, President of Fulcrum Vets, LLC., “Fulcrum Vets selected Journyx not only because of their mobile access to a user-friendly time-keeping product, but also for their ability to help ensure Fulcrum Vets is able to meet DCAA requirements as well as the scalability required for a growing company”.

A Journyx customer since 2012, Fulcrum Vets is a lead Systems Integration and Information Technology consulting business partner, and has been in full operation since 2009. Recently recognized by Lockheed Martin for outstanding support and winning contracts to provide IT Services to the Centers for Disease Control, Fulcrum Vets is making waves in federal and civil government agencies with superior IT and technology services. Learn more about Fulcrum Vets here.

February 4, 2014

It gives you visibility into the profitability of individual customers and projects; it's essential in helping you determine which projects to move forward on in the future. But the biggest impediment to successful time tracking is employee resistance. Why do people hate tracking their time so much?

Reason #1 Reporting time can threaten status.

For salaried people, especially if they have been employed earlier in their life in an hourly “time clock” environment, reporting time can make them feel demoted. Conventional wisdom (that this author disagrees with) is that salaried workers are more trustworthy and less in need of supervision than hourly workers.

Reason #2 “What if I find out that I don’t work as much as I like to think?”

Some people -- often the most productive people -- garner self-esteem from the large number of hours they work. But sometimes they’re not sure if they believe their own braggadocio and the thought of finding out the truth is scary.

Reason #3 Time is a bad metric for effort or productivity.

Knowledge workers know that managers often forget the aggregated metrics of real productivity in favor of some simple numbers that are tangible, like time records. Managers may take the easy path of rewarding based on time spent rather than develop more subtle and appropriate metrics of real productivity (hint: don’t do this). 

Reason #4  “I’m too busy”

The most responsible, busy employees - the productive ones whose time is in highest demand – will have have to stop doing the primary mission of the company to fill out a timesheet.  The star employees tend to procrastinate this task, subordinate it or even refuse to do it.  Or worse, they’ll create flawed records. On the other hand, the less productive workers will often create perfect time records and never submit them late. This fact of life creates an impression in the minds of both that the whole exercise is worthless.

So what can you do to combat employee resistance? Here at Journyx, we have several tested solutions:

1. Education and Buy-In

The most effective way to get people to do anything is to make sure they understand what’s in it for them. It’s easy for payroll workers because timesheets are what ensure they get paid. Time tracking for project accounting has less tangible benefits for employees. However, bad project accounting leads to unnecessary overtime, stressful blown schedules, bad estimates and canceled projects. Citing specific examples from your company’s history where accurate time collection could have made things easier for your employees will help to get them on board.

2. Adoption Dashboard

Journyx Timesheet software includes graphs that make it clear to managers which departments and people are entering their time consistently and completely and which are not. This helps managers understand early who they need to push on (to the degree a top-down approach works in the company’s culture).

3. Incentives

Tying bonuses or other benefits to complete data collection is often used in customer relationship management (CRM) tools to adjust sales commissions. The same can be done for other forms of data collection. Journyx has a patent  –  we call it the ‘frequent flyer patent’ – for rewarding employees (on your behalf) for reporting time in a timely manner.

4. Phased rollout

Adopting a multiphase rollout approach that leads to per-person per-project profitability allows you to affect the culture in more manageable steps.

5. Email Reminders

Getting an automated reminder when your time has not yet been recorded produces results -- usually.

Are you going to Microsoft Convergence? For more tips like these, make sure you stop by our booth 2812 at this years Convergence in Atlanta. We'll meet you there!

 

January 30, 2014

Estimation can be one of the most difficult parts of a project. How long will the project take? How many resources will it consume? What is the appropriate amount for your consultants to bid on this project? Overbidding on a consulting job means that you won't get the work in the first place, because the potential customer will give it to your competitor at a cheaper price. Underbidding, however, means you will win the deal and lose money. 

The good news is that there are fairly simple ways to estimate your project accurately, giving you the most profit possible.

The Formula

For estimating projects, use formula [(E-A)/E], where:

E = estimated hours to complete the project

A = actual hours spent to complete the project

The more accurate your bidding is, the smaller this value will be; the ultimate goal is for the figure to be as close as zero as possible.  Just tracking this number is a great first step towards better bidding, and you can get the necessary data to calculate it from any timesheet system, including a paper one.  Automated timesheet systems, however, are generally even more effective in this area because they often have reports to calculate this figure for you. 

The Requirements/Specification Phase

The requirement/specification phase is the first phase in any project. In his book Practical Software Metrics for Project Management and Process Improvement, Robert B. Grady says that 6-8% of every software project is usually eaten up in this initial phase. You can use this fact to estimate total project size.  In other words, if it took 60 hours to do the specification, that's probably 6% of the job and the job will be 1000 hours.

Since the specification always comes first in any project, you can get some pretty reliable estimates from this method alone. In fact, in my experience as both a programmer and the CEO of a software company, I have found it to be incredibly accurate and useful.

Your company’s magic number may not be 6-8% like Grady’s, but once you determine your own ratio for specification to total project length, you can use it again and again. An example of this is illustrated in the following diagram.

The Metrics

Another way to estimate project cost is to select an appropriate metric for estimation.  For example, one could use line of code counts or function points in estimating the length and scope of software projects.  For architecture projects, you might use number of pages in the drawings or square feet planned as similar analogies.  Every project has some gross measure of its size that is available at the outset and can be used to plan the overall project.

It may take some time to figure out the best way to estimate your company’s projects. But as long as you track your data and adapt your methods according to insights from past projects, you will start producing laser sharp estimates before you know it!

January 21, 2014

What is far and away the the fastest means to fail at a major project and spend more money than you would have if you had a little help by your side? Try installing and deploying and ERP solution on your own.

The cost of ERP solutions has gone from a six-figure average to as low as five-thousand dollars for the core accounting, distribution, human resources and payroll modules for three concurrent users. The standard formula that you should be spending a one-to-one ratio multiplied by the cost of software on your ERP deployment no longer holds true. The fact is that ERP systems have continued to deliver more and more features and thusly have become more technically complicated crossing over many previously separate deliverables. These facts push implementation hours beyond what they used to be. 

Where single ERP specialists could deliver in the past, now multiple experts are required in the areas of financials, IT, e-Commerce, distribution, supply chain, computer languages such as VBA, and integrators who can connect all the parts. There are also specialists for reporting and dashboards as well as integrated mobile applications. Software publishers have helped customers by lowering their sales price and making install and deployment simpler for the solution providers. This allows the solution providers to deliver more content and value for your implementation dollar.

The bottom line is that whatever your core business is, that is where your core expertise is. Solution providers only do one thing – and they do that far better for far less than you can.

Why 'Checking Out a Book' Is Not an Option

The install is generally simple, but even here there are key decisions - such as account length and number of segments - that if done incorrectly will effect performance and can cost a good deal of money. Your solution provider knows these key decisions and has them in mind well before the first piece of code is loaded. SQL server settings can be key, also. If you have a SQL expert on staff, ask yourself how many installs of the ERP software you've purchased have they done in previous months? If the solution provider’s technical resources can address all these tasks in an one hour, and your team does the research in four to six hours then decides on what selections to make, how is that saving you money?

Industry Experience

One of the key values a solution provider delivers is their experiences. They're experts with far more companies on ERP projects and they can share these experiences - without sharing any proprietary secrets - to help you make informed choices on things like inventory valuation, General Ledger format and how this will help deliver the reporting results you need. In the ERP world, so many things are inter-connected that it is critical the setup of the company defaults and individual module processing is well-considered. No one who has not done this many times can anticipate the pitfalls that your solution provider is already well aware of.

Accountability

If you hire a firm as your professional expert to document your needs on something you both signed off on and it's not delivered, you then have recourse. You can withhold payment, ask for the report to be corrected, or in worst-case situation hire a new expert. You have more choices than you think and your risk is moved from you to them.

Risk is what implementations are all about. Your goal is to eliminate as much risk as you can within a reasonable budget. The more risk you push to the solution provider, generally the higher the cost.

Risk Aversion

The real challenge to any implementation is the hidden factors that only an ERP solution provider is aware of and experienced at dealing with. Change is a huge part of any ERP deployment and the ability to ensure that team members are shown how to deal with change and embrace it rather than push back rests squarely on the shoulders of the ERP solution provider. There are many ways to fail at an implementation and ERP solution providers have dealt with them soundly time and time again. Most firms simply are not equipped to deal with these issues effectively. By attempting to "Do It Yourself", you will not be saving any time or money in dealing with the inundating issues.

The Clear Choice

It should be fairly easy to understand why DIY is not a choice for ERP. That does not mean you should not be as involved as possible; the more you share with your solution provider the better. Always bear in mind that the initial implementation is simply the beginning. Once your ERP system is live you can and should continually review and expand the system to provide greater and deeper benefits to your firm, your team members and your customers. Until then, leave the implementation to the experts.

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