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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

February 27, 2012

It’s about 5:30 am. A man stands facing a hastily built wooden tower many miles away, grasping a handful of torn paper. As a mechanical sounding voice counts down to zero, the man begins to dribble the handmade confetti into the air. For a moment, all is deadly quiet. Then, a light many times brighter that the sun illuminates the nearby mountain ranges. The blinding white gradually transitions to deep purples and blues. The tranquility and beauty of this moment persist undisturbed for a few moments, and then a tremendous roar overtakes the man, and a wave of pure force pushes at him, dragging his clothes backward, away from the wooden tower that no longer exists. The confetti moves too, wavering from its initial descent trajectory. The man thinks for a moment. Then, satisfied, returns to the base.

That man was Enrico Fermi, preeminent atomic scientist. The event was the Trinity test, the first major test of a nuclear weapon. The strips of paper were the only measuring apparatus that Fermi wanted to use to calculate the force of the explosion. The most fascinating part of the story is that his calculation was close to accurate. Using no more sophisticated a gauge than some crudely ripped paper, Enrico Fermi figured out, within one order of magnitude, the approximate kiloton yield of an event never before seen by mankind.

So what does this mean in practical terms? Two things. One, a creative use of simple metrics can often give you insight that is less than obvious at first glance. Two, we know more than we think we know.

Fermi’s ability to gain valuable insights into events by making educated assumptions has given way to an intriguing way of thinking about things, namely, that by clearly identifying and making educated guesses about relevant variables, we can make fairly accurate observations. In the business world, that means that as long as we have a good idea about how things have behaved in the past, how much things cost, or how much time was spent on something, we can make good guesses about future behavior. That is why it is so important to build a backlog of important business data, and keep it up to date and accessible, so that these types of estimates can come naturally.

Theoretical physicists often use “Fermi Problems” to train themselves to think in this way. The classic problem asks, “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?” Of course, it is possible to look up this data, but that’s not the point of the exercise. Rather, one approach might look like this:

1.  There are approximately 5,000,000 people living in Chicago.

2.  On average, there are two persons in each household in Chicago.

3.  Roughly one household in twenty has a piano that is tuned regularly.

4.  Pianos that are tuned regularly are tuned on average about once per year.

5.  It takes a piano tuner about two hours to tune a piano, including travel time.

6. Each piano tuner works eight hours in a day, five days in a week, and 50 weeks in a year.

 

Therefore, by calculating:

(5,000,000 persons in Chicago) / (2 persons/household) × (1 piano/20 households) × (1 piano tuning per piano per year) = 125,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago.

And:

(50 weeks/year)×(5 days/week)×(8 hours/day)/(2 hours to tune a piano) = 1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner.

We can easily divide to find:

(125,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago) / (1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner) = 125 piano tuners in Chicago, an estimate that, if the assumptions are good, will be relatively accurate.

 

Here are some more problems of this type:

How many dog groomers are there in New York?

How many hairs do you have on the top of your head?

How many competitors does a tech company have?

How many baths does the population of the United States collectively take in a month?

How many successful projects does it take to become a billion-dollar company?

Remember, these questions are intentionally vague and there is no one “right” answer. Rather, there are many reasonable answers based on the assumptions you make going into the question. Give one a try and share how you reached your answer in the comments below. And remember, no cheating!

February 24, 2012

Many U.S.-based companies (including Journyx) didn’t have a company holiday for President’s day this past Monday.  Why is that?  It’s not a surprise that many Americans found themselves at work last Monday considering that we work more hours than almost any other industrialized country.  Watch what David Lazarus of The LA Times has to say about American work hours:

Maybe you are currently trying to implement a paid time off (PTO) policy in your company.  If so, read what our CEO has to say about starting a new PTO policy.  Even though the U.S. government doesn’t mandate it, vacation time is important to provide for your employees.  Not only does it boost morale and decrease stress, but some of our most creative ideas happen during times of rest.  Remember, you’ll need an easy way to approve and track time off in your company so that PTO will be a great benefit instead of a headache.

Do you like your company’s PTO policy?  Tell us with a comment.

February 20, 2012

Sometimes, for some reason, the software that your company uses simply dies. It may be your fault, or it may not. Whether it becomes too bloated and slow, its arteries clogged with excessive, ill-managed data, or underutilized until support became much more trouble than it was worth, the fact remains: you can no longer use it to solve your problems.

Your options at this point may seem fairly limited. You can either buy new software to replace the old, regress to an earlier state of doing things, or maybe you will try your hand at building an in-house version of the software. All of these options are potentially viable, but consider this: there may be an alternative.

Often the problem that “killed” your software is very specific. Just like a living thing, if an essential process stops working, it will shut down the entire system. However, unlike a living thing, it is possible to revive your software, often by incorporating a third-party solution.

For example, if you are using a comprehensive software system such as Microsoft Dynamics you may be incredibly satisfied with the entire package, but one key issue -- possibly difficulty aggregating data or providing a tailored project management solution -- stops you from using it in the long-term. Software that specifically addresses these needs can patch over the problem, optimizing it for your company to an even greater extent than even a shiny new system. This can require some homework on your part, but the benefits can far outweigh the costs of buying and transitioning to a new system.

If you think your software is dead, why not spend a little time playing the modern day Frankenstein and seeing if there are some key pieces of third party software that will bring your system back to life?

February 17, 2012

President’s Day is this Monday, as you probably know. Maybe you have the day off of work to commemorate the holiday.  What has tech-savvy President Obama been up to lately besides hosting a very well received Google+ Hangout?  He’s also been using the popular Square device for his campaign, allowing for mobile payments for fundraising, representing yet another way he has used new technology in his campaigns.  Check out this video from the Mashable team:

Are you a small business that receives payment on-site?  If so, you may want to consider giving your mobile sales team Square card readers.  Square allows businesses to accept credit card payments via customers’ iPads, Androids or iPhones.  Also, Square is cost-effective -- it only charges 2.75% per swipe.  And even better, the app and the card reader are free.

Have you used Square or had your card swiped through a Square reader?

February 13, 2012

The term “hanging out” is often associated with friends, perhaps some cold beers, and just kicking back while talking about whatever. These conversations are informal, yet often have a profound impact on those who engage in them. In fact, the informality of it can actually contribute to the importance. The conversations are real, unscripted, and give direct insight into the mindset of the participants.

As a business, it can be incredibly valuable to both gain and offer this kind of insight for marketing and customer service purposes as well as to humanize your corporate brand.

Fortunately, Google has enabled just such an opportunity through their “Hangouts” service on the Google+ social media platform, and many high-profile individuals have already utilized it to their advantage. Foremost amongst them, Barack Obama recently held a hangout on January 30th to have a discussion with several Americans, and to answer questions submitted earlier in the week. It was a brilliant idea, and Obama, who has built a reputation as a savvy social media user, was wise to adapt this new platform to his political strategy.

Whether you are a CEO or some other executive in your company, if you would like to host a hangout to put a human face on your company, here are some quick tips that will help maximize the value of your hangout:

1.  Keep it secure. You don’t want the conversation to spiral out of control. Either set some ground rules for the hangout regarding who can talk when, who can block others from talking and who can respond to prepared questions, or only allow a few participants at a time to stimulate a more fluid conversation.

2.  Invite interesting participants. It is a good idea to have several interesting participants that can either host a round-table style Q&A or just banter with each other. If you do this, again, try to establish roles before going in so as not to step on anyone’s toes.

3.  Record. This one is pretty simple. It’s a good idea to record sessions so you and your customers/community can go back and revisit the information presented in the hangout whenever needed.

4.  Establish regularity. If you are just going to hold a one-off discussion on a popular topic, that’s fine, but consider the benefit of holding more regular sessions in the style of a “fireside chat.” If you hold a hangout once a week at the same time, you could potentially build a solid community that will grow and provide consistent, honest feedback.

These tips will get you started, but consider that this is a new method of communicating as a business. You can provide a forum where ideas are transmitted freely, honestly and directly in a way that has not been seen before.

February 10, 2012

Email—it’s a part of our everyday lives as business people.  Do you send emails that your co-workers take seriously?  Do you find some incoming emails off putting?  This humorous video by Entrepreneur Magazine highlights some common office email mistakes: 

Remember, email is tone deaf.  If you’re writing a sensitive email, ask a trusted colleague if your email sounds appropriate.  It also helps to read your email aloud and, of course, proofread.  Email can be an incredibly effective communication tool if used correctly.

Email is also a little bit of a dividing topic and I’d love to know your opinion on two areas:

  • Do you think attaining an inbox of zero messages is important?
  • How often should you check email to stay informed, but productive?

Let me know in the comments below!

February 6, 2012

There is a lot of hubbub about using third party solutions for successfully integrating software products into your business, and you can’t open a software provider’s page without hearing how well they will improve your current system, filling in the gaps and taking over the clumsy, clunky controls that you are stuck with. Whether you are using QuickBooks accounting systems or Microsoft Dynamics for projects, there will always be someone saying that they can take over and optimize or even replace the system entirely. In many cases this is true, because those businesses focus on very specific problems, whereas the software they attack is configurable to a wide range of needs. So, if your issues match with their specific skill sets they can count money in the bank. However, in many cases they are counting on one factor that is almost certainly the cause of the other issues: user error.

If you, or whomever you hire to consult, fails to optimize the installation of core business software, or fails to appropriately update it over time, then it can appear as though the problem lies with the software itself. In fact, most of the larger software packages are made to adapt to nearly any business problem, and those that can’t generally require only minor tweaks, not a major overhaul or replacement. Consider the claim that QuickBooks can’t be used for maintaining compliance with the Defense Contract Auditing Agency (DCAA). The reality is that you need only configure the appropriate settings and link it to a timekeeping system that meets the requirements of the federal government. Choosing an entirely new accounting system and implementing it across your company is time-consuming, expensive, and inefficient. However, there are companies just waiting for you to get frustrated with your products, throw your hands in the air and say, “I give up!” That, as they say, is when they’ve got you.

So, if you take away nothing else from this post, take away this: always look to see if your software has the answer built-in before abandoning it for something shiny with big promises to deliver. The odds are that it has flexibility that you were unaware of. If you had it installed by someone else, ask for assistance, or call the vendor. In many cases they will be happy to help. There is no reason to clutter your business with extraneous new systems that provide only a bandage to a broken arm. The most effective fixes come from an understanding of, and willingness to correct, the primary system itself.

February 3, 2012

For the first time, Journyx will be exhibiting at Microsoft Convergence 2012.  Convergence is the premier event for the Microsoft Dynamics Customer and Partner business community. This year, the conference is in Houston—not too far from the Journyx headquarters in Austin!  It’s hard to ignore the buzz that surrounds this show.  Check out this video created by the Microsoft Dynamics team:

This video so full of energy!  We’re really working hard to bring our A-game to this conference.  Now why is Journyx going to Convergence 2012?  Journyx wants to show off one of its more recent integrations with Microsoft Dynamics GP, specifically with Project Accounting.  We’re proud to know that we can provide easy project tracking for GP users, as well as give data validations, approval levels, and customization benefits.  Many GP users find that they need just that extra bit to make GP all encompassing for their business.  So we hope we can make a big splash for GP users looking for accurate, easy time keeping.

Will you be at Microsoft Convergence this year?  Is the George R. Brown Convention Center as amazing as Microsoft makes it out to be?  I personally hope it is.

January 30, 2012

Who is ultimately responsible for the data of your company? In every case, the answer is you. Sure, you might outsource your data storage to a third-party, but guess what? Anybody who needs access to that data is going to expect it from you, and any issues such as loss, theft, or corruption of that data will be your responsibility as well. It is not enough to select a data storage provider and then wash your hands. It requires a relationship of constant communication. It also requires quite a bit of homework, as the best data vendor is selected

The importance of keeping data secure is particularly important when dealing with the US government, as they require secure records that can be easily retrieved and reproduced with all the accuracy of traditional “paper” records. Proof that your company can secure their records in this way can help win the trust of government agencies or businesses looking to subcontract. Of course, it will also help you if you already have a contract. If the DCAA ever needs to look into your records, you will want to provide them with well-kept data that could not have been compromised.

So what are the best ways to ascertain if a data storage provider, or a SaaS provider that stores data on their servers is legitimate? For starters, you should make sure that you will have access to your data at all times, and whether or not they have backup systems in place should there be some sort of power outage at their facility. This could mean that they have data stored at more than one geographic location, or that they have reserve power or some other contingency in place. If they don’t you might be without data at a crucial time. You will also want to inquire about the speed of data uploads and restoration, particularly if it is important that your company have fast access to its data. Finally, it’s not a bad idea to inquire about their other paying customers, and how many there are, to get an idea of whether or not they currently provide necessary support for businesses such as yours.

Data storage need not be a stressful factor of your business, but it does require some forethought. Grant it that, and you will have a secure solution that works well for your business. Fail to do so, and you might find that you are without key information during those crucial times when you really, really need it.

January 23, 2012

Guess what? Gaining a contract with the defense industry is indeed a lucrative process. At least, it is when the business who wins the contract understands all of its terms. One of the most important terms to determine, especially at the outset, is what it means to have a fixed price contract. Sometimes, a business will overestimate its ability to deliver on a project, possibly because they are used to acting as “yes men” for their standard customers, promising they will deliver just about anything the customer wants and opting to iron out the details later. However, the federal government is not a standard customer, and if you say yes to them, you should be able to deliver.

The truth is, the contracting agency will adhere rigidly to the terms of the contract. If they allocate a certain amount of money for the completion of a project on a fixed price contract, that is all the money that the agency will spend. If a business takes on a project that’s out of its league, it’s quite possible to lose money. Therefore, an understanding of all your businesses processes, particularly related to available resources and time to completion, is absolutely necessary before attempting to win the contract.

Of course, even if you don’t have the ability to tackle a project due to resource requirements that are a bit out of reach, the story doesn’t end there. It is still possible to team with other aspiring contractors, or even to act as a subcontractor. The point is, without a firm grasp on the logistics and assets of your business, you might either undersell or oversell yourself, and thus miss out on the optimum profit potential of your government contract.

January 20, 2012

We have a new face on our Account Management team, Neil Penberthy!  To let people get to know Neil better, our Marketing Specialist thought it would be a great idea to create a video of Neil.  Below is the finished product:

This way, our current customers can feel more comfortable with Neil on their accounts.  I love that Neil incorporates the company dart board in his video.  The dart board has been a big hit with the Journyx Sales and Development team.  Around 4pm, you can find them taking their daily dart break and competing with each other.  It’s healthy and fun competition between co-workers.

I’m also excited that there is a new video on the Journyx YouTube channel.  If your small business has not considered incorporating YouTube videos into your marketing or advertising plan, maybe you should!  YouTube videos have a high SEO rate, which means more eyeballs for your company’s site.  Videos in general are much easier for new prospects to digest compared to text.  It’s why we’ve been incorporating more videos on the Journyx blog to create a multi-media experience.

What do you think of Neil’s new video?  Leave us a comment!

January 18, 2012

Some Journyx customers have come across issues trying to run Cube Reports in Timesheet. Outlined below is the standard solution for Cube Report issues. If you've been upgraded to MS Office 2007 or 2010, you will have to request that your IT person go out on the web and find Microsoft Office 2003 Web Components Service Pak 1 (SP1) for the 2007 Microsoft Office System. This can be found on the Microsoft web page under downloads.

Note that Cube Reports can only be viewed in Internet Explorer.

The first thing you need to check is to make sure your Office Web Components version matches your version of MS Office. Here are the corresponding versions:

Office 97, 2000 = OWC 9

Office XP/2002 = OWC 10

Office 2003 = OWC 11

 

1. Make sure OWC11 is installed (if using Office 2003). If not, or if you are not sure, go here and download the file then install it: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=7287252C-402E-4F72-97A5-E0FD290D4B76&displaylang=en

2. Go to Tools > Internet Options > Security > Click on Internet > Click Custom Level > Tick the radial button to enable "Access data levels across domains".

3. Do the same steps listed in step 2 after clicking on "Trusted Sites" as well.

4. Make sure the Timesheet site URL is listed as a trusted domain by clicking on "Trusted sites" and then "Sites".

5. If that still doesn't work, you will need to uninstall OWC (through Add/Remove Programs), then reboot, and then reinstall OWC.  

 

If you're still experience issues, you may have to contact Microsoft to see if they have any suggestions.

January 18, 2012

It’s all over the internet. Major sites, such as Craigslist, Google, Wikipedia, and many others have put up personal appeals to stop the passage of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). Meanwhile, those supporting the bill are equally voracious, stating that it is not the internet apocalypse that its critics are making it out to be. In fact they propose it as the logical next step to halt abuse of internet commerce, much in the same way security cameras and other anti-shoplifting devices secure physical retailers.

As far as I can tell, the vast majority of complaints on both sides do not actually believe that SOPA itself is the real issue. Rather, they focus on what the passage, or failure to pass, SOPA represents. For critics, it is the first real attempt by the United States to formally monitor and control internet activity. Thus, even though they might believe that SOPA in and of itself poses little risk to legitimate websites they feel that it is an “open door” that will lead to further restrictions of a far less agreeable nature. Once a major bill of this type is made into law, they believe, it is relatively simple to institute further restrictions piece by piece until it is no longer possible to browse the internet with total freedom, but rather with whatever the current political climate deems “appropriate.” In this current age of heavily divided bipartisan shenanigans, such fears are understandable.

On the other side of the issue, individuals believe that this represents the greatest chance to protect intellectual property yet. Although they know of the various bypasses, sites that redirect to “blocked” materials, and other workarounds, they also believe that they will have the groundwork in place to launch a more aggressive attack on pirates and those who would bootleg their software rather than pay for it fairly. They believe that if this bill fails, it will be nearly impossible to meaningfully curtail the rampant piracy that infects nearly every software developer today. And this is also a valid point. Even though it is easy to joke about fat-cat companies losing out on a few extra dollars, the truth is piracy really hurts many online retailers, particularly smaller businesses and start-ups, and can lead to major financial issues. And to them, the idea that this is an attack on the freedom of the internet is somewhat laughable, as they are simply trying to protect their freedoms to sell without fear of theft.

The truth is both sides have valid points, and the possibility for abuse exists on both ends of the spectrum. On one, the internet becomes a government regulated shell of its former self. On the other, piracy kills software development, resulting in the death of innovative start-ups and curtailing profits to the point that freeware is the only viable option, heavily reducing the quality of available software. This is really a tricky one, with far reaching implications should either side fail.

Where do you stand on the SOPA issue? Can you provide some alternative viewpoints, or perhaps a compromise that will satisfy both sides of this important debate?

January 16, 2012

While it’s not a cakewalk for small businesses to win a government contract, there is good news: it is getting easier. The U. S Government, as of November 2, 2011, has modified its FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) rules and now requires contracting agencies to consider setting aside a portion of their task and delivery order specifically for small and disadvantaged businesses. Now, now, I know what you’re thinking: “It requires them to consider placing a portion of their orders aside? What kind of weak ruling is that?” Well, fortunately, trends in contracting show that more and more contracts actually are being awarded to small businesses.

For example, in 2009 the U.S. Government awarded 21.9% of contracts to small businesses, whereas in 2010 that number rose to 22.7%. The difference resulted in a 1.1 billion dollar increase in the funds given to small business contractors. Further, the government exceeded its goal of allocating 5% of its contracting dollars, settling around an actual allocation of approximately 8%. In short, the trend toward awarding contracts to small businesses is steadily rising.

So what does this mean for your business? Well, if you have been on the fence about going for a contract, or if you think you have a product or service that the government regularly needs, then there has never been a better time than now. Not that you need to rush into this, but if you can determine that your company has the capability to pursue one of these opportunities, it could result in massive profits.

If you are intrigued by the possibility of acting as a government contractor and want to learn more, check out our webinar, “How to Win and Successfully Execute on Defense Contracts”, for in-depth information on entering the field of government contracting. Good luck!

January 13, 2012

In my last post, I described the necessity of a D-U-N-S number in government contracting.  After you acquire a D-U-N-S number, you’re ready to register in the Central Contractor’s Registry (CCR).  Registering your business in the CCR not only makes your company visible to the government, but it’s also a requirement according to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).  So what do you need besides a D-U-N-S number to register?  You need:

  • CAGE Code
  • Company and Corporate information
  • Federal Tax Identification Number
  • SBA-defined socioeconomic characteristics
  • NAICS code
  • Product Service code
  • Federal Supply Classification code
  • Financial information
  • Point of Contact (POC) information
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) information

Registering in the CCR is an essential first step into government contracting.  Below is a video from SBA, which will encourage your decision into seeking business with the government and help you brainstorm how to make yourself attractive to the government after you register.

Have you already registered for the CCR?  We’d love to hear your experience!

January 12, 2012

Did you know that there's an easier way to share reports within your organization? You can create a report for yourself and copy that report to other employees so it shows up in their report menus. Simply select the report, determine who you'd like to share it with and click the "Copy To" button.

Select the report you'd like to share, who you'd like to share the report with and click the "Copy To" button:

Timesheet Report Sharing


January 6, 2012

When starting out in government contracting, you can’t get too far into the process without a D-U-N-S number, which stands for Data Universal Numbering System.  It’s a unique nine-digit number for each location of your business and is completely free.  A D-U-N-S number is required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants.  You can’t join the CCR (Central Contractor Registration) without it!  Below is a basic overview of the D-U-N-S number from InsideUp:

The D-U-N-S number was created in 1962 and copyrighted by Dun & Bradstreet.  A D-U-N-S number has been assigned to over 100 million businesses worldwide.  The D-U-N-S number was adopted as a standard business identifier for federal electronic commerce in October of 1994.  It was also incorporated in the Federal Acquisition Regulation in April of 1998 as the official identification code for all procurement-related activities.  Start your process of acquiring a free D-U-N-S number today!

January 3, 2012

The following post is taken from the Journyx Webinar “How Journyx Helps our DCAA Clients Manage Employee Time & Projects.”

Government contracting can be tough on the executives responsible for making sure employees and projects are tracked accurately. Of course, it is possible to get by on a number of systems, but there are certain tools that can make the process much easier, allowing supervisors to work on more pertinent tasks that will improve the overall profitability of a company far more than logistics measurement. The trick here is accountability. The best tools will provide a solid backbone on which the supervisor can bolster his or her approach to this important problem.

Project Coordination Capabilities

A supervisor will need to make sure that the right people are on the right jobs. Though this isn’t limited to government contracting, making sure that the people who can perform a task most efficiently are the ones assigned to it will increase the odds that you will stay within budget and schedule. Therefore, the supervisor needs a tool that will allow him to track individual employee efficiency and view it in the context of other employees’ effectiveness on a given task. This information should be easily readable through reports, charts or graphs. Preferably, the supervisor would have access to all three.

Project Budgets and Schedules

Speaking of going over budget or schedule, the supervisor needs to have access to these two key pieces of data throughout the lifecycle of the project. Of course, this seems obvious until a deadline is breathing down the neck of a project team and no time or money is left to meet it. When dealing with the government, specifically of fixed-cost contracts, this discrepancy can result in major financial turmoil, since the business itself will be responsible for any funds spent on a project above the contracted budget. Therefore, metrics that show how a project is coming along do not only need to be present, they need to be crystal clear.

Who is Available?

Again, resource availability may seem like an obvious piece of information in theory, but can actually be very tricky. Let’s say there is an individual in the company who could save quite a bit of time with his expertise on a project. The supervisor schedules him through the clunky system currently being used. This is usually not too big of a deal; the supervisor will let him know when it is time for him to work on the project. However, when that time comes she discovers that he is out of town -- for the next three weeks. And he is unreachable by phone or email because he is backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Insight into not only when an individual is available, but when he or she is not available (whether due to sick leave, planned vacation or religious holiday), will prove invaluable when it comes to structuring a contracted project.

Check out even more tips on tools that supervisors can use to make interaction with the U.S. Government simple, as well as how Journyx can provide a cost-effective system that meets your DCAA needs through the Webinar, “How Journyx Helps our DCAA Clients Manage Employee Time & Projects.”

 

December 30, 2011

Gamification has been a hot topic this past year with the popularization of Foursquare.  But the theory of gamification is just starting to be explored more in-depth.  What does gamification look like beyond badges and points?  It’s an important question for small businesses to think about going into 2012.  One example for gamification without points or badges is in an upcoming smartphone app called Zombies, Run:

This demo video is used for the Zombies, Run Kickstarter page.  The video and accompanying description must have been effective because they surpassed their original goal of $12,500 by over $60,000!

So what does this successful app teach us about gamification?  First, Zombies, Run is not based on badges and points.  Rather it functions more as a role-playing game since the runner is given a character that exists inside the game.  The recognition of different game mechanics is incredibly helpful when deciding if/which gaming systems would work best for your business. 

The next draw towards Zombies, Run is that the game gives an incentive for an activity that many of us put off: exercising.  Zombies, Run promotes exercise by offering an ongoing story that is directly influenced by how much you run.  This is a very powerful idea, especially for companies that sell products for activities that most of us don’t want to do even though we should.  Journyx has done much research into why tracking time is important.  But even with all that research, we still find ourselves with the same conundrum that entering your time can be very boring for most employees.

Zombies, Run also has an effective way of bringing customers back to their product. There’s a “hook” at the end of every 20 minute section.  Bringing customers back to your website is a challenge most companies face.  Keith Smith of Big Door, a company that sells gamification mechanics for companies, was led to gamification practices after extensive research into web visitor metrics.  He found that many customers come to websites less than 2 times per month, which is a pretty scary statistic.  To have a hook or reason for customers to come back is great to keep in mind.  Apple does this by using mystery; they don’t release information about their products until they are absolutely ready.  This keeps customers guessing on what Apple will think of next.

Do you see gamification coming into your business in 2012?

December 27, 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 “How to Modify QuickBooks for DCAA Compliance” where Glass explains how to configure your business software for a DCAA audit.

The DCAA, or Defense Contract Audit Agency, supports government agencies that request their services. Essentially, they serve to make sure that contractors are working within the set guidelines of the government when it comes to the financial interactions between their company and that of their contracting agency. Many individuals view the DCAA as a mysterious and unapproachable government agency, but the truth is their operations are relatively transparent if you know where to look. The following are a few things you should know about the DCAA if you are planning to work as a government contractor.

1. They Are Paid by the Government Agency

DCAA services are paid for by the government agency sponsoring the contractor. If a business is audited or otherwise examined by the DCAA, they are not responsible for the costs associated therein. This means that, although a DCAA audit may be inconvenient for your company, it will not be financially burdensome. This can potentially be a double-edged sword, however. Surprising as it may sound, there are instances where you would like the help or review of the DCAA. Unfortunately, it is impossible for a contractor to request assistance from them. They can only be requisitioned by government contracting officers.

2. They Only Have a Few Major Areas of Emphasis

The DCAA focuses primarily on a few areas of emphasis. These include internal control systems, management policies, accuracy and reasonableness of cost representation, adequacy and reliability of records and accounting systems, financial capacity and the contractor’s compliance with contractual provisions having accounting or financial significance. This knowledge can be useful if the DCAA wants to look over your records. You can prepare for an audit by arming yourself with a compliant, automated time-tracking system that will make a potential audit simple and painless.

3. Extent of DCAA Involvement Depends on the Type of Contract

The three primary types of government contracts are fixed price, time and materials, and cost reimbursable. In general, DCAA involvement on fixed price contracts occurs during the proposal stage rather than the incurred cost stage of the contract. Conversely, the more flexibly priced contracts are audited by the DCAA to determine the final cost of the contract after primary costs are incurred. This means that the DCAA will have a very different interaction with your company, should they get involved at all, depending on whether you will determine your pricing up-front or after you have completed your work.

These facts should help you begin to understand a bit more about the DCAA, and clear away the fog that seems to shroud the agency. For more in-depth look at the DCAA, as well as tips to prepare you for an audit, check out Sarah Glass’ webinar, “How to Modify Quickbooks for DCAA Compliance.

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