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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

November 22, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Laura Faukner’s (of FalconDay Consulting) Webinar “How to Win and Successfully Execute on Defense Contracts.” In it, she discusses the best ways to present your business as a candidate for a government contract.

When vying for a defense contract, many businesses feel that it would be best to attempt to market themselves to numerous different agencies, throwing products or services against the wall until one of them sticks. This is a poor idea for several reasons, and can ultimately inhibit your chance of winning any contract.

Your lack of focus is noticeable

Defense knows that businesses want the contract. They also know that businesses will stop at nothing to win one, even if they do not necessarily have a strong background in the field of the contract. Because of this, they are extremely wary of contractors who are applying just to apply, and will disregard any contractor that doesn’t have an extremely solid grasp on what the contract entails.

Focus increases face time

Many people don’t realize the importance of human interaction when going for the government contract. They believe that the government is a faceless bureaucracy that cannot be interacted with. The truth is that you will need to endear yourself to the program manager of your chosen agency in order to win the contract, and that means building a relationship there. If you focus on just a few agencies, then the relationship with individuals within those agencies will be much more substantial

Flexibility

Defense is looking for a contractor that can remain flexible and adapt to their changing needs over the course of a project. Essentially, if you can offer a custom solution to their needs, you will be a very attractive candidate for the contract. Communicate your flexibility by focusing on the needs of a few agencies and offering solutions that will address those needs specifically.

These tips will help you build a strong foundation with your chosen defense agencies. Watch Dr. Faulkner’s webinar “How to Win and Successfully Execute on Defense Contracts” for more advice on how to succeed as a government contractor.

November 21, 2011

Sarah Glass is the President and CEO of AimSourcing, Inc.  AimSourcing specializes in outsourced accounting services, management information systems, and business consulting.  AimSourcing helps Journyx customers integrate with Quickbooks, which automates the flow of time data into customers’ billing, project management, and payroll processes.  This is an excerpt from Glass’s webinar “Top 10 Reasons to Outsource Your Accounting Operation” where Glass explains why outsourcing your accounting operations will ultimately save you money:

Lower Cost Operation

Purchasing, configuring, installing and maintaining an accounting system is very expensive.  Outsourced services usually include the accounting system as part of the overall structure.  More than a few companies have wasted thousands of dollars installing their own accounting systems.  They don’t live up to the vendor’s promises and require an army to maintain.  AimSourcing has converted several Journyx customers from larger ERP systems to QuickBooks Enterprise and saved them lots of money.

Avoid Hiring Full-time Staff for Part-time Tasks

Have a qualified company manage your bills and deal with vendors.  Better managing of the receivables can help you minimize late fees and also increase your overall cash flow.  You can better maximize the investment you’ve made in your staff by keeping them focused on your business and letting someone else handle the back-office functions.

Eliminate Lost Productivity Costs

Accounting problems are disruptive to the whole company and will consume not just your time but also your staff’s time.  You can provide the highest level technical service to your customer but lose their confidence with an inefficient and inaccurate invoicing process.

Minimize Tax and Other Regulatory Exposure

Outsourcing to a provider that understands tax and regulatory requirements can save you lots of money but will also keep you in compliance.  In addition to the IRS, companies that have federal government contracts are subject to federal acquisition regulations, government cost accounting standards and they are audited by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.  These rules require specialized knowledge that most companies don’t have.

Go more in-depth by viewing the recorded webinar.

Photo courtesy of Images Money.

November 18, 2011

It’s really cool that YouTube has been featuring business story videos lately.  This particular female entrepreneur showed up on the feature page recently:

Marie Forleo is a business consultant for women who are online entrepreneurs.  I love how she makes her videos incredibly informative for those who are starting their own business.  Forleo is committed to working with other female entrepreneurs. Likewise, the United States government specifically awards contracts to small businesses run by women.  Eligibility includes the firm being:

  • 51% owned and controlled by one or more women
  • Owned and managed by women who are U.S. citizens
  • “Small” in its primary industry in accordance with size standards for that industry

Are you a female entrepreneur who owns her own business? Tell us about your business – we’d love to hear more about it!

November 14, 2011

Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson

 

Our Director of Marketing, James Brawner, recently attended the American Express OPEN Government Contracts VIP Forum in Dallas last month.  Here are some of his take-aways from the conference:

  • Of all the government agencies, the DOD (Department of Defense) receives the largest amount of government contracts
  • There are so many websites with information about government contracting, DCAA compliance, etc. that it’s overwhelming
  • The best sites I found for learning more about this industry are…
  • American Express spared no expense for this conference and they brought in speakers from all over the country
  • My favorite speakers were…
    • Mark Oliver, Department of the Interior OSDBU:  “Doing Business with the Federal Government”
    • Joe Jordan, Small Business Administration:  “Small Business Contracting: A Year in Review & Future Outlook”
  • Central Contractors Registry (CCR) is an excellent resource to find partnership opportunities with companies who have registered as a government contractor

Sounds like a great conference for learning about government contracting!  Are there any other attendees out there?  If so, what were your impressions of the event?

November 11, 2011

Our CEO, Curt Finch, has been paying his respects to the recently deceased Steve Jobs on his CIO.com column.  Steve Jobs and his company, Apple, have had a huge effect on the consumerization of IT.  When I look back on Jobs, I realize that Jobs made technology exciting and electric for the masses, not stuffy or forced.  It’s apparent in this video that shows the introduction of the Macintosh:

What technology makes you excited?  When does technology actually make your life easier?

November 9, 2011

In case you haven’t heard the bad news, Intuit announced about a month ago that they are discontinuing Quickbooks Time Tracker & Time and Billing Manager effective December 1st.  This only gives customers 60 days to do the impossible: pull all of their company data from the product, and find and implement a brand new time tracking solution. 

While this is undoubtedly causing major panic among the many customers that relied on Time Tracker, Journyx has good news:

Journyx is ready to help and able to get you back up and running quickly.

In fact, we are offering former Intuit customers a special package: The Zero-Stress Time Tracking Package starting at only $8 per user, per month + one-time Quickbooks setup fee of $995.

Journyx offers the following features to keep your company running smoothly:

1)      Time and expense feature: easy-to-use time tracking, vacation requests, reimbursement tracking. Journyx is the first company to provide Web-based time-tracking and it shows in our robust time tracking offering.

2)      Resource scheduling: visually track resource usage across projects and non-project activities, making sure all resources are being used effectively and within budget.

3)      Billing and payroll: Journyx takes care of all of your billing and payroll needs. And we seamlessly integrate with Quickbooks, as well as Microsoft Dynamics GP, ADP, Paychex, SAP and Oracle.

4)      Reporting: Journyx will provide you the right data so you can make the right decisions. Our customers trust us to give them the data they need for their analysis and decision making.

5)      Integration with Outlook and other email platforms.

If you were abandoned by Intuit, you can rest easy. Journyx will help you make the transition without loss of data and without any additional headaches. Customers who trust Journyx include Crate&Barrel, Schlumberger, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Callaway Golf and Honeywell.

Contact the Journyx Sales team at (512) 637-8620 to find out how we can help you. Tell us if you were an Intuit customer!

October 31, 2011

Are you working on tasks as efficiently as possible?  How much is too much?

On Monday, I had been working away at several new projects that had come my way.  I had several meetings on my calendar. 

Tuesday was more of the same.  Existing projects needed to be updated.  Administrative work needed my attention.  Carol, my manager, invited me into her office and asked me to consider documenting a new process for posting our timesheets.

By Wednesday, I had already worked 2 nine and a half hour days, taking only 15 minute lunch breaks.  The day was interrupted by tasks outside my normal responsibilities that needed some attention: research of an issue for an impatient client, lending a listening ear to another project manager’s team issues, and catching up with a colleague who experienced a family loss.

By Thursday there was as much work on my plate as there was on Monday – just different tasks.  Another meeting with Carol required preparation beforehand and documentation afterwards.  I felt like I couldn’t catch up.  Then I had a project management meeting outside the office that evening.

Friday found me feeling not well, tired, and behind on the week’s tasks.  I began planning for the next week and working on timesheet documentation.  I worked until six that evening.

I needed to know the right time to say “No” to new projects.  I decided to do some math.  I took my current list of projects, reviewed my last 4 weekly timesheets, and determined that I was averaging one and half hours per project each week.  With over 40 projects, I found out why I wasn’t able to keep up.

In a fast-moving business environment, workload and responsibilities quickly and unexpectedly grow unwieldy.  We don’t usually plan to be overwhelmed -- it just happens.  Managing ourselves and our time become the bigger projects.   When we know our actual capacity, then we can realistically say no or yes when a new project comes our way. 

I found another tool for my Dan the Project Manager Man tool belt.  Either I effectively manage my capacity for work, or I can expect to be overwhelmed.

Are you able to determine your working capacity?  Are you able to say no when you want to say yes? 

 


 

About the Author: Dan Vickers, a project leader at CS STARS, has worked with a wide variety of clients in multiple industries: Banking, Insurance, Staffing, and Manufacturing.  He began in project management in 1996, was certified as a PMP in 2003, and has led hundreds of projects from start to finish.  He works in a fast-moving, multi-client, multi-team environment delivering risk management software solutions to clients across the country at CS STARS.  He currently performs program management for numerous projects in an effort to efficiently impact the organization’s bottom line.  In addition, he leads project management webinars to other project managers from around the world.  Managing multiple projects simultaneously and effectively is his way of life.

October 18, 2011

The success of a company depends on providing the highest level of service to its clients.  Yet when times are tough, reduced budgets and smaller staffs make it harder to deliver.  Outsourcing key projects can help you to provide a higher level of customer service while lowering costs at the same time.  It is an important step on the road to business virtualization, which reduces IT costs, improves availability and optimizes service. 

Websites such as Scriptlance, Elance and Freelancer.com make finding a qualified professional to complete your outsourced project easier than ever.  These sites allow programmers from all over the world to bid on projects, stating their price and timeframe for completion. You can also view their ratings from past projects to judge the quality of the person's work before you commit.  My company recently began using Scriptlance for projects where we needed to keep costs low. We’ve used programmers to design an iPhone application for our software, redesign a portion of our website in Drupal, and expand our search engine optimization (SEO) capability.

The benefit of sites like Scriptlance is that you can obtain multiple bids quickly, creating a reverse auction, so to speak. Yet there are caveats that you need to watch out for as well. Here are some tips to get the most out of project outsourcing as you further your business virtualization strategy.

  1. Outsource the “Outsource-able” Projects

While we’ve had great success in outsourcing projects, we have also had to deal with failure.  Knowing which projects will succeed or fail is not always intuitive. For example, we were unable to find someone who could put together a prospective customer list  for us, though it seems simple enough. On the other hand, getting someone to create a very professional, complex flash video was not hard at all.

The lesson to be learned here is that the most successful projects are the ones that do not require a deep knowledge of your company, customers or markets. If you hire an outsider to perform projects  that require this knowledge, you are setting yourself up for failure. 

  1. Manage the Project Closely

Any project can go awry if not managed and executed properly. While it may be tempting to “outsource it and forget it,” you won’t receive quality results unless you keep tabs on the project every step of the way.

When outsourcing a project, you must first have a good idea of what your requirements are. Even though you are hiring an outsider for his/her expertise, providing proper direction at the outset of the project is critical. This includes deciding on deadlines, responsibilities, expectations, and so on. Though you must manage the project closely, make sure that you hire someone who has a high level of responsibility and work ethic, understands project management and will take the project seriously. As when hiring any employee, always ask for samples of work and references -- and follow up on them!

  1. Make Sure the Project is an Appropriate Size

When outsourcing a project, make sure that it’s not too big or complicated.  Rather, create an achievable set of tasks that the person you hire can actually accomplish. If you don't do this, chances are the project will fail. For example, our current website was originally built 10 years ago and has hundreds of pages. If we handed the entire website to someone and asked them to rebuild it, they would get bogged down. Instead, we outsourced the project of rebuilding portions of our website in Drupal. This worked well because we split it into multiple parts and managed each project individually.

  1. Have Workers Track Their Time

All projects are executed in order to bring in a positive return on investment, including those that are outsourced.  The ROI might be enhancing the organization's strategy, streamlining processes, complying with regulations, or otherwise improving the state of the organization in some way.

In order to manage your projects effectively, it’s best if your outsourced workers track their time by task and project. In doing so, you will be able to catch and address problems as soon as they surface and understand the true cost of each project. This will put an end to project failure, as well as eliminate the waste of resources on projects that are not profitable to the organization.

Going Virtual

You can save a significant amount of money, time and trouble by outsourcing projects to a capable workforce.  It is just one step on the road to completely virtualizing your business, which minimizes IT burden and overall costs.  Make sure that when you do decide to outsource, you do so intelligently.  Knowing the skills and reliability of the workers you hire, setting realistic goals and managing the project effectively will ensure a positive return on your investment.

October 10, 2011

We spotted this article from Federal Computer Week that discusses the Defense Department's stance that more auditors are needed to effectively conduct DCAA audits. If you do work in the government contract space, are you prepared for an audit?

Agency officials must invest in their workforce, even in these times of shriveling budgets, to ultimately save money down the road, said several federal procurement experts at a Congressional committee hearing.

An organic government employee base with adequate skills is the alternative to over-reliance on contractors, and could be the key to reducing fraud and waste in contingency operations, the members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Oct. 4. But it requires investment now, despite tight budgets.

“There has to be some spending to save money,” said Dov Zakheim, a commissioner and former Defense Department comptroller and chief financial officer.

In the same vein, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House committee, said the government could have saved the at least a portion of the money wasted because of poor contracting in the decade-old contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Government Accountability Office too blames DOD’s lack of planning for workforce shortfalls—including the number of employees at the Defense Contract Audit Agency—along with contractor accounting problems. The two problems are costing DOD money due to delayed audits of the contractors’ incurred costs.

Zakheim told the House committee that DCAA needs auditors, and without them, the government is bearing the cost of delayed audits and contracts that are not properly closed.

"If you don't have auditors, you don't have audits. It's as simple as that," he said.

Head on over to Federal Computer Week for the rest of this article.

October 3, 2011

I had just gotten a bad review. Some of my colleagues had just gotten promotions.  I worked as hard as they did and I had a strong knowledge of our products and processes.  According to management, I had made some mistakes in my focus.  I didn’t think that I was a poor project manager, but my manager did.  Others got recognized and promoted.  Why not me?

I was disappointed.  I was working long, hard hours for what I believed to be the best interests of my clients.  Apparently I needed to also focus on the best interests of management.  At the time I couldn’t figure out how these two meshed together.

I remembered that I can only control my own actions.  I made a decision to be the best project manager I could possibly be.  Others could then judge me how they wanted.  I needed to know that I was doing my absolute best.  I became accountable to myself.

Personal accountability started by performing a self-analysis of my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges.  I determined that my strengths included relationship building. My weaknesses included a tendency to cut corners. My opportunities included improving my project management skills. My challenges included proving to myself and my manager that I was a very good project manager.

I needed a breakthrough in my professional approach to managing projects.  The breakthrough began to take shape with the concept of determining my responsibilities as a leader as well as a project manager.  As a manager, I could follow many best practices.  But as a leader, I had to find a better way to put best practices to work for me.

Planning before acting, thinking before doing, information gathering before estimating and studying before speaking all helped me to take greater control of situations before they spiraled out of control.  I developed a list of personal best practices: being proactive, being thorough, paying attention to details, being honest, providing a positive and encouraging project culture, supplying complete documentation, and supporting my teams in all of their endeavors. 

Instead of asking my manager the question, I began asking myself, “Why not me?”

My response to this question began to be less about what I could do, and more about what I was doing.  I knew my potential, but I needed to improve my contributions to my projects, my teams and my processes.  It was time to put into practice my personal best practices.  As I began to make this shift in my thinking, my performance slowly improved, and now three years later, I assist in writing best practices for our company.

I found a crucial tool for my “Dan the Project Manager Man” tool belt that I return to often: we can all improve when we decide we want to.

Is your success (total well-being) dependent on others, or on yourself?

 


 

About the Author: Dan Vickers, a project leader at CS STARS, has worked with a wide variety of clients in multiple industries: Banking, Insurance, Staffing, and Manufacturing.  He began in project management in 1996, was certified as a PMP in 2003, and has led hundreds of projects from start to finish.  He works in a fast-moving, multi-client, multi-team environment delivering risk management software solutions to clients across the country at CS STARS.  He currently performs program management for numerous projects in an effort to efficiently impact the organization’s bottom line.  In addition, he leads project management webinars to other project managers from around the world.  Managing multiple projects simultaneously and effectively is his way of life.

September 28, 2011

Journyx today announces the addition of new topics, speakers and dates to the 2011 Journyx Webinar Series, a line-up of live and on-demand content from skilled presenters with real world experience. The educational webinars will help professionals further their project management careers, as well as provide Professional Development Units (PDUs). New session titles include: • Extending Microsoft Project and Project Server • Top 10 Reasons to Outsource Your Finance and Accounting Operations • Dynamic Project Planning: The Real Way to Execute Projects • How to Win and Successfully Execute on Defense Contracts • 5 Ways to Increase Profit with Time Management • 3 Critical Components of Project Success The full line-up of webinars along with registration information can be found at http://journyx.com/library/webinars. Journyx also offers a full archive of past webinars.

September 19, 2011

This Forbes article, written by Joe McKendrick, explores how cloud computing enables cost savings, fosters greater agility and more. Read on to find out the ways cloud computing is altering our business landscape.

Economists and pundits have long feared the emergence of what they called “hollow corporations,” or businesses that don’t actually produce actual goods or services themselves, but instead act as brokers or intermediaries relying on networks of suppliers and partners. But now, thanks to technology, successful businesses surprisingly are often brokers of services, delivered via technology, from providers and on to consumers.

Where are these services coming from? Look to the cloud.

Yes, cloud computing enables cost savings — as companies can access technology and applications on-demand on an as-needed basis and pay for only what they use. And yes, this fosters greater agility, with less reliance on legacy IT assets. But the changes go even deeper that that. Consider the ways cloud computing is altering our business landscape:

“Loosely coupled” corporations: I don’t think anyone should fear that our corporations are becoming “hollow.” Rather, “loosely coupled corporations” may be a better way to describe what is happening. The term “loosely coupled” came into vogue with service-oriented architecture a few years ago, meaning an entity or system stands fine on its own, but when linked to other like systems, the magic happens. Cloud computing is paving the way for the loosely coupled company – which may be an entity that exists purely as an aggregation of third-party services, provided on an on-demand basis to meet customer demands. Most of these services will be passed through as cloud services, both from within the enterprise and from outside.

Blurring of IT consumers and providers: In the IT world, the divide has been very clear cut: there were the vendors who provided technology products and services, and there were customers that purchased and used them. Cloud computing is blurring these distinctions. There’s nothing stopping companies that are adept at building and supporting their own private clouds from offering these services to partners and customers beyond the firewall. In fact, many already do. Amazon was an online retailer that began to offer its excess capacity to outside companies. Even non-IT companies are becoming cloud providers. Cloud computing may finally mean a way for IT to finally become a profit center.

Startups on a dime: Let’s face it, there’s no point in investing $50,000 or more in servers and software when everything you need is right in the cloud. I like the story of GigaVox, a podcasting provider, that launched off of Amazon Web Services a few years back. Their startup IT costs? About $80 a month, for everything from storage to back-end processing. As Chris Sacca, a software startup investor and former Google executive, put it: “The biggest line item in [software startup] companies now is rent and food… A decade ago, I don’t think you could write a line of code for less than $1 million.” As we ponder unemployment and underemployment in our economy, the availability of cheap cloud computing may be laying the groundwork for a startup boom, the likes we have never seen before. This applies to departments of larger organizations as well, by the way. Designing new products, without the need to go through corporate finance and IT approvals definitely is a great way to instill entrepreneurial spirit.

Read the full article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joemckendrick/2011/09/19/cloud-computing-may...

September 14, 2011

Today's blog post comes from CIO.com's Consumerization of IT blog. Head over to CIO to read the full post!

I like to envision what the future of technology will be like and a completely wireless office has to be just around the corner. As much as I’m optimistic about a wireless office, I know security risks are an issue. But knowledge is power and by becoming informed of the risks in advance, hopefully we can prevent heartache down the road.

Why would a hacker want your business’s information? Most of the time there is something to be gained by hacking in the form of cold, hard cash. But also, hackers want your computing power, your connection bandwidth and/or your (or your computer's) identity. You must protect against a hacker interested in accessing important company information as well as the information of your employees. If you don’t have a secure Wi-Fi, a hacker can easily access your network from your parking lot.

For example, one school district’s insecure Wi-Fi network was exposed when a reporter sat in her car and not only accessed the network of the school’s central office, but was also able to download students' grades, phone numbers, home addresses, medical information, psychological evaluations and even full-color photos.

This particular school’s parent community included many people who worked for companies that supplied Wi-Fi equipment. As a result, these parents brought wireless networking into their children's schools at a very early stage. The security of the Wi-Fi network was weak and insecure – a free Wi-Fi network had been set up using the school’s LAN line. A secure network always needs to be a top concern -- when Wi-Fi access is limited in a business setting, employees will find a way to have full internet access, even if it means going an unsafe route to get it.

As more and more new technologies find their way into the workplace via the consumerization of IT without the direct knowledge of the IT director, a secure network is more important than ever. Osterman Research’s study titled the "2011 Consumerized IT Security Survey" states that “more than 80 percent of [companies] surveyed are letting their employees use consumerized IT products and services to conduct business communications.”

Head over to CIO to read the rest of the article!

September 12, 2011

Apologies for the hiatus but as you can see, we've been hard at work overhauling our blog! We hope you like the new look and feel, and please tell us in the comments what topics you'd like for us to cover.

How to Successfully Execute IT Projects Without Fail -- from the September 9th issue of CRN.

Today's IT solution providers are under many of the same constraints as their customers: Do more with less, deliver on-time, offer competitive pricing. Its easy to get lost in the details, but losing site of the big picture can cost VARs customers and money. Here, the CEO of Journyx, a project management software company, shares best practices of project management. — Jennifer Bosavage, editor

More than 30 percent of IT projects fail because they are either substantially late or exceeded their prescribed budgets, according to research from Gartner. That is an intimidating figure, especially as it coincided with our country slipping into its worst recession in decades. Now, as our economy struggles to improve, we should attempt to learn from our cash-strapped experiences and improve the ways in which we manage our project work.

In today's knowledge-worker economy, IT solution providers need to devote their energies to tracking resources against project performance. It's not enough to measure physical input vs. output to calculate ROI. Companies analyze the use of human resources against target schedule, cost, and quality. Only through careful analysis and reporting can an organization develop a comprehensive understanding of:

  • Who is working on which project?
  • How can we get a project back on schedule?
  • How much more work is required?
  • What is the real ROI for each project?

Areas of Failure in IT Projects

Resource Management

Finding the right person to put on each job can be challenging for many organizations, yet it is essential for successfully completing projects and maximizing human resource effectiveness. IT work should not merely be categorized by skill type or job functions, but also by the availability and capability of your team members in specific work scenarios. Understanding who you have to call upon and when they are available is crucial for getting the project done on time and within budget. An inability to see and quickly understand resource allocation – especially during moments of crisis – dramatically increases the risk of failure.

Executive Decision-Making

Projects rarely succeed without executive support, yet it's uncommon for executives to have easy access to the right real-time project information. Most often, executives make do with simple percentage-complete or other high-level “health check” statistics, but those do not add sufficient value in the decision-making process if the lower-level details are not correct and timely. An executive dashboard is only as good as the information that generates it. All too often, the data feeding these dashboards is inaccurate.

Project Management

Project managers are responsible for keeping projects on track, but how can they do this without an adequate system in place to help monitor progress and schedules? Without effective processes, project managers will tread on the toes of their team members in order to get status reports and project information. Good leadership requires easy access to information and simple communication, but too rarely are these present in project scenarios.

Read the rest of this article at CRN!

September 2, 2011

Clients are looking for project managers who are creative and intelligent. Unfortunately, these traits are abundant in the project manager talent pool. So how do you stand out from the rest and convince clients that you’re the right project manager for the job? Consider the following tips to distance yourself from the rest of the job-seekers:

Create the right brand for yourself
Potential clients believe their projects are distinctive, and will often want a specialist to handle them. This means that you need to market yourself as the right manager for the job. Promote yourself as a “jack-of-all-trades,” and you will send the message that you might not be able to excel at specific projects. Market yourself as a specialist in a certain niche and clients will get the impression that you’re only a good fit for that one area. The trick is to build a brand that portrays your credibility for various jobs while maintaining your attraction for clients who are seeking a specialist.

Use social media
Once you’ve defined your brand, apply it to your social media profiles to emphasize your expertise. On LinkedIn, you have several options for building your brand and your credibility. Start with the Answers section of the search bar to reach out to other professionals. Answering a question that has been posted is a good way to build your credibility as an expert, and might make the poster consider hiring you in the future. Search for and join groups related to project management, and become active in discussions in the group. Not only is this an excellent way to expand your network, but you will learn about opportunities that otherwise might not have come to your attention.

Twitter is also a useful social media tool for those who are looking for work. Search for terms that coincide with your skills and abilities. Chances are you’ll turn up people looking for someone with your talents to help them with a problem, and you can then start a discussion or offer your services. Posting helpful articles for your followers can build your credibility and create the association in their minds that you are a trusted resource.

Tailor your resume to fit the job
Your resume is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have because it allows you to highlight qualifications the client is looking for. Look unflinchingly at yourself through the eyes of a potential client and ask if the package you are presenting to them meets their needs. Simply listing every job you’ve ever done is not a good way to do this. Including a lot of information that has nothing to do with the position you are applying for forces the client to read and decipher whether or not you have the skills to handle the job. It is up to you to prove that you have the skill set they need.

Find connections to your experience
Just as you want to make it easy for a potential client to see the relationship between your experience and their position, you have to make it easy for them to connect in-person. Explain and provide tangible examples of past experience that relate to the job being discussed. Have references readily available to provide to potential clients. References can be found not only through paid employment, but also from projects you assisted on or community/volunteer work you’ve done.

Use your resume and social media presence to enhance the brand you’ve created. By creating and honing your brand, project management positions should begin to reveal themselves to you in no time!

 

About the Author: University Alliance submitted this article on behalf of Villanova University’s online programs. Villanova offers online PMP certification courses in addition to articles such as project cost management strategies to help professionals advance their career opportunities.
September 1, 2011

We could all use some expert advice when choosing the best technology for our business, right? Inc Magazine has compiled a very helpful list of "The Best Back Office Software for Running Your Business". Check out the article and let us know your favorite!

Never have there been more software choices for the small business. Considering all the information you need to manage, which ones do the best job? Should you use separate solutions for different functions, or should you buy an integrated suite that can manage many aspects of your business? It depends, say the experts we talked to about back office software on the market today for SMBs. In this guide we present what we hope is a good start for SMBs investigating the best back office software.

What is the difference between front-office and back-office software?

First, though, a bit of clarification. The definition of what constitutes back-office versus front-office software is open for debate.

“There's a lot of bleed between what used to be distinct categories, and that trend is being driven by organizations having [fewer] people doing more functions, and not wanting to purchase four apps when one or two can cover all bases,” says Andrew Baker, director of service operations for SWN Communications and expert on the Focus network.

To be clear, when we say “back office” software, we’re referring to the platforms and applications that don’t interface with customers but help you manage core functions such as accounting, human resources, or manufacturing. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a term that includes many back-office functions.

“Front office” software, which we covered in July as part of our focus on the best software for SMBs, is often related to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and is useful for managing sales, marketing, and other customer-facing data. We also include things like innovative social media tools, customer service solutions, and more as part of the "front office."

So, without further ado, we present what we hope is a good start for SMBs investigating their best back office software options.

Accounting/Finance

It almost goes without saying that Intuit’s QuickBooks and Sage Peachtree should be on this list. In fact, according to the Massachusetts-based research group IDC Industry Insights, more than half of all small businesses use Intuit software. While Peachtree captures a smaller share of the SMB accounting market, it offers similar features and pricing—both range from around $200 at the entry level to $3,000 for an enterprise solution. QuickBooks also has an online version from $13 to $63 a month that stores all your financial data safely on the cloud.

They’re not the only players in the numbers game, however. For estimating taxes, try Outright. Mint is free and as such, very popular with businesses on a tight budget. Expensify is great at—you guessed it—expense tracking, as is Coupa.

FinancialForce is an immensely-popular SaaS tool because of its integration with Salesforce, a CRM tool we discussed in our front-office software story. It starts at $175 per user per month and like many of these apps, it’s available on the iPhone and iPad.

Head on over to Inc for the rest of this article!

August 31, 2011

Joe McKendrick, editor of eBizQ, interviews Journyx CEO Curt Finch on things companies need to know about cloud deployments.

Q: Is cloud-based ECM something that organizations are already doing?
Curt Finch: Yes, but mostly this is true with startups or VC backed firms. Some B2C operations, like restaurants, have their web page on Facebook now instead of having their own site.

Q: Will some ECM services be leveraged through public clouds, or is this mainly a private cloud play?
Finch: It's possible but the only advantage I can see is if you expect massive peak load spikes, like with the Superbowl or something like a natural disaster.

Q: Are there security implications to public or private ECM adoption -- or regulatory barriers?
Finch: If you trust the cloud vendor -- such as Amazon -- then there aren't really any security implications. But do you know for sure you can trust the cloud vendor?

Q: Will content remain on local systems, or will that also be moved to the cloud?
Finch: It would seem sensible to either move all of it or none at all.

Q: Does cloud offer the possibility for more widespread ECM adoption?
Finch: Perhaps. Complex systems are better managed by their writers, like Vignette.

Q: Will it truly put the "E" in ECM?
Finch: It's doubtful. The cultural and organizational impediments won't change, will they?

Head over to eBizQ for the rest of this interview!

August 26, 2011

Among the essential project management skills, scheduling can affect, either positively or adversely, the most areas within a project. Ineffective project schedules can create downtime for people and production equipment, wasting time and money, and leading to project failures.

Here are four techniques that can help you improve time management and keep your entire project on schedule.

1. Determine the Critical Path

Focusing on the critical path can help you deliver a project on time – or even cut its duration and complete it ahead of schedule. Maintaining the critical path will ensure a timely delivery, while extending it means the project will be delayed.

Here’s how to determine the critical path:

  • List All Necessary Tasks: Make a list of every individual task required by the project. Don’t be tempted to enter them directly into a Gantt chart. Include estimates of the work needed to accomplish each task to help you get a sense of the overall time needed to complete the total project.
  • Prioritize the Tasks: Each task will fall into line according to what needs to happen first. Decide which tasks have the highest priorities and continue through the entire list.
  • Make a Gantt Chart: One essential project management skill is learning how to prepare an accurate Gantt chart. Be sure to use the time estimates you listed previously and adjust tasks based on priority.
  • Determine the Critical Path: The longest path of tasks on the Gantt chart is your critical path. Keep in mind you may have more than one critical path in your schedule. Don’t overlook additional assignments that are not part of the critical path(s).

2. Build Slack Time Into the Schedule

Deliberately adding slack time into your project timeline is a smart way to stay on schedule. Project management professionals know that the unexpected is the one thing you can always count on; therefore, flexibility is a valuable project management tool.

Slack time allows a project manager to delay a task when necessary, without affecting the rest of the project schedule. In other words, slack time means that holding off on Task A will not prevent the on-time launch of Task B. Slack time is normal; as a project manager, you can identify and minimize it, but you won’t likely be able to avoid slack time completely. Your role is to determine the best path to improved productivity through slack time, such as moving idle team members to tasks that need more attention.

3. Crash When Necessary

Sometimes, stakeholders request a quicker turnaround time, and project managers are expected to deliver a completed project in a shorter time frame, with no reduction in scope. Crashing is a powerful project management tool in which you reduce the time to completion for tasks in the critical path. It’s helpful to know that reducing time to complete non-critical tasks – those outside the critical path – will not reduce the project delivery time. So focus on crashing tasks in the critical path.

Crashing happens when you double the team members assigned to a task, so it’s completed in half the time, or when your team is flexible enough that you can reassign more productive people to the most critical tasks, so they are completed in less time. Be creative when considering crashing methods. Determine the risks and rewards of each option, and choose the one with the best chance for success.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fast-Track Tasks

Fast-tracking is another method to cut the project schedule when necessary. In fast-tracking, the project manager rearranges the project schedule so that tasks that were planned for completion in sequence are reassigned to be worked on simultaneously. This doubling-up of tasks can reduce completion time by half, but only works when Task B’s start is not dependent on Task A’s completion.

Stay on Schedule to Be a More Effective Project Manager

Effective project management tools can help you manage time more efficiently. However, a project manager must retain a firm grasp on the basic fundamentals of project management to help keep every project on a concise and manageable schedule. Follow these four tips and you should see immediate improvements in your project scheduling.

 


 

About the Author: University Alliance submitted this article on behalf of Villanova University’s online programs. Villanova offers project management certificate courses along with many articles on their site like these project management tips.

August 24, 2011

Vincent McGevna, Principal at Vincent McGevna Consulting, wrote a great article over at ProjectsAtWork that we think you should take a look at!

While a project plan contains more than just a schedule, the schedule is arguably the most important aspect of that plan. For the project team, the schedule defines what they need to do and when they need to do it. Outside of the project team, it is the most visible element of the plan, and many consider it to be the plan.

The project team is tasked with creating the end product of the project. The schedule, developed with their input, lays out how they, as a team, are to go about creating it. It should reflect project priorities, the best sequence, and the integration of all of the work of the individual contributors. As we will see, a good schedule will have a lot to do with the delivery date, and not just by predicting that date. It will also impact the final quality of the end product. And, the project is really not over until the customer is satisfied with the quality of the product.

Management needs to know the key milestones, especially the completion date of the project. Then they set customer expectations — when can each customer expect to receive promised deliverables. Customers, in turn, may need to know this as it drives their schedules. (How many times have you had your schedule disrupted when a promised delivery from an outside vendor is late?) With realistic schedules, customer expectations on timing, quality and scope can be met; with optimistic schedules, unrealistic expectations result in disappointed customers.

Many organizations create a roadmap of future projects and use this to set long term goals, which are also shared with customers so they can do their long term planning. In fact, the roadmap frequently reflects the needs of key customers; meeting those needs can be very important in a competitive environment. Still, the roadmap is driven by the availability of the necessary resources. So it’s important to know when those resources will be available; that is, when will they complete their current assignments. Again, this requires realistic schedules. Thus your current schedule not only sets your customers’ near term expectations, it also drives the roadmap which sets their long term expectations.

Head over to ProjectsAtWork to read the rest of the article!

August 22, 2011

Over at CIO.com, they've asked five 2011 CIO 100 winners to share management techniques that helped them execute their innovations. Here are the first two tips and head on over to CIO to read the rest!

Behind every winning CIO 100 project, there’s a successful management strategy. This year’s winners offer a few techniques that should be in every IT executive’s bag of tricks. Here are five worth noting:

1. Hold leaders doubly accountable. GoDaddy forced team leaders to manage the contradictions of pushing an innovation agenda while engineering a solution. While building its winning one-click application- and server-provisioning project, Go Daddy assigned what it called an “innovation engineer” to lead each subteam.

Each innovation engineer coordinated both the ideas generated by the subteam and the engineering blueprints that resulted to ensure the project came together smoothly. “This made them take ownership of a very complex process, which showed bottom-line results,” says Neil Warner, Go Daddy’s CIO.

2. Give suppliers more attention. CIOs who manage multi-supplier environments face the vexing task of ensuring everyone plays nice. Hess (HES) outsourced its global infrastructure and an SAP application to IBM (IBM), and an accounting business process to Accenture. To support these initiatives, Hess created its winning supplier-governance model, aligning internal project managers with peer IT supplier managers.

The governance model enabled effective collaboration among Hess managers, ensuring joint ownership of a plan that addressed project scope, design, resources, issue management and schedules. Building relationships among middle managers as Hess did should become a standard industry practice, not just for getting better results but also to reduce finger-pointing if a project goes awry.

Read the rest here.

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