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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
It happened. You knew that it would eventually. Despite your best efforts, the project failed. It went over budget, or it didn’t appeal to stakeholders, or it just took too long to complete. In any case, it wound up on the cutting room floor and you are left to pick up the pieces.
Sometimes, our projects will just not work out. In the aftermath, one of the most common, seemingly unavoidable emotions is regret. Regret that you couldn’t have fixed the project. Regret that your team won’t get recognized for success. Regret that, rather than improving your standing with the company, this task that you were pouring long hours into might potentially damage your reputation.
However, there is an alternative to regret. Cliché as it may sound, the only true failures are those which do not educate you in any way. Failure is important, because ultimately it is through failing that we find the tools to succeed. When people talk about the value of jumping right in and getting your hands dirty, they mean it. You might feel filthy, worn-down, and beaten, but you will learn.
That does not mean that you will automatically learn from your mistakes. If that were the case, you would see significantly fewer companies in the news filing for bankruptcy. No, it takes a conscious effort. That is why we believe in the importance of accurately tracking all costs, hours, and activities at the per-project level. Being able to quickly draw upon a store of knowledge is immensely helpful. The more granulated the insight, the better you will be able to apply it to future projects. Learn from the past, and regret can quickly turn into wisdom.
Government contracting can be intimidating, particularly when it comes to determining financials. What if you could get the federal government to help you pay for your project? Fortunately, that option is available in the form of federal grants. However, you will need to do a little homework first.
I refer to the CCR, or Central Contractor Registration. This should be the first stop for anyone who would like to receive a federal grant. The CCR functions primarily as a database for government contractors, and it allows the government to view potential candidates. A CCR number is required for any grant. You need to update your CCR registration every year, since out of date registrants will be automatically rejected from CCR funding.
In the world of contracting, it is incredibly important to cross your t’s and dot your i’s. While contracting absolutely requires excellent people skills, the barriers to entry will weed out anyone who is not paying attention. Don’t miss out on the opportunity for funding by neglecting to register with the CCR. Contracting for the federal government is highly competitive. You will want every advantage you can get.
I wanted to share some photos we snapped at our recent company party. This was a very special get-together devoted to our team members for our Sweet Sixteen birthday party. That’s right, Journyx turned 16 last month! The party was Journyx’s way of showing appreciation to the hardworking and dedicated staff. Below are photos capturing the fun we had at Dave & Buster's:
Journyx fondant cupcakes!
Our CEO, Curt, reading one of the 16 balloons, each with an interesting fact about Journyx.
Whitney from the marketing department won enough tickets to get a Hamilton Beach grill! Congratulations!
Rob from development kicking some zombie butt.
We invited everyone's kids to join us in our celebration- they LOVED the Dave & Buster's games!
This is me with Barbara from HR. She has one of the Journyx Sweet Sixteen goblets Journyx had made for the event.
Cheers from Journyx and here's to 16 more great years helping our customers track time and better understand their financials!
For more photos of the event check out our Facebook page.
To read the press lease on our 16 year anniversary click here.
Evaluating ERP systems can be rather difficult, particularly for a first time purchaser. These large-scale software systems may be very different from anything you have purchased before, with the potential for a lengthy sales and installation process. It might be tempting to simply throw your hands up and just pick one, but this could be extremely dangerous, particularly considering the amount of time you and your employees will interact with the system. One of the most important factors to consider early on is the total cost of ownership of the system.
Remember, total cost of ownership goes beyond what the sales guy will tell you on the phone. At least, at first. Even the best solution may feature hidden costs that will only come up in the final stages of an agreement. For instance, you may not be told that there will be a cost for ongoing maintenance, without which you will be helpless should an unexpected software bug emerge (they will). Also, will you be charged for future upgrades? This may or may not be a factor for you, but the integrations your system will need to make with emerging software upgrades will almost always be a priority for some reason or other. Also, will they charge you an additional fee to implement the software? All of these things need to be known up front.
The software sales guy cannot answer the other aspect of TCO for ERP systems. This is the cost of upkeep on your side. You may have IT people that need to work with the system regularly (especially if you opt out of scheduled maintenance). You also need to consider the cost of “downtime” during implementation. Will you lose any money while you wait for that software to be installed? If so, you will need to look for software that cuts implementation schedule to an absolute minimum.
Calculating TCO can be tedious, but it is necessary if you are to determine the relative value of an ERP system. It is far better to determine costs up front and be prepared to deal with them before you reach the final stages of a negotiation.
Project management requires more than managing a project team. You will also have to manage expectations and effectively communicate that information to executives, key stakeholders, clients, and a myriad of individuals all ultimately asking the same question:
Will the contract be completed on time and within (or under) budget?
While these individual conversations may be relatively short and simple, altogether they can add up and be a big hassle. Add in the ubiquitous “update meetings” that many of these groups require and you may be left wondering when anyone expects you to actually work on the project.
While it may be tempting to chastise these individuals and tell them to get off your back, the truth is that it is up to you to ensure effective communication. To serve that requirement, it is best to include regular updates to key stakeholders early on as part of the project plan. They will be happy that they receive scheduled, accurate updates, and you will be happy that you can give them on your own terms.
Note that this will only work if the stakeholders feel that they are getting real value out of the updates. If you are tracking time, resources, and activities to your projects, this will be simple, and everyone likes to see concrete data to back up claims. If these individuals do not find your updates compelling or useful, you will find that they will quickly jump all over you for the “real scoop”. That is a hassle that you (and your stakeholders) really don’t want to deal with.
Employees are a business’s greatest resource. They are also one of its biggest expenses. Therefore, it is imperative to calculate the ROI on your human investments, particularly when their main contribution to your business comes in the form of ideas, creativity, and intuitiveness. Long gone are the days when you could simply measure productivity by the amount of product produced. The value is obviously still there, but our methods of measuring it have changed.
We should note that value, particularly in an idea economy, is largely relative. For instance, with the current trend towards social communication, how specifically do you place a dollar amount on a conversation? There are various tools that can help approximate that value, but again, they do not factor in the human element. Failure to do that means that insight will be inherently limited.
Value must be determined in a more direct way. Managers should be able to view their employees' time directly, because they are aware of the work that goes into each task completed. Similarly, employees must strive to track their time to individual tasks, and to do so with regularity and accuracy. This is of benefit to both the company and the employee. If managers see that the ROI of an individual is less when completing a certain activity, it makes no sense to allocate time to that task.
Managers should also note those tasks that certain employees perform better than others. By allowing each employee to work on the business items they are best suited to, inefficiency will decrease and employee satisfaction will likely increase. With the availability of advanced, automated time-tracking systems, such insight should not be difficult to come by.
I'm excited to announce Journyx's search for interns to work in the marketing department for the Fall semester. Qualified candidates must be college-level undergraduates in the Austin area. We understand that college can be intense and we are willing to work with students on a flexible attendence structure that would best suit the needs of the intern as well as the department.
The intern will assist with:
- Market research
- Distribution and delivery of marketing materials
- Competitive analysis
- Updating and cleaning the sales and marketing databases (Salesforce.com and Pardot)
- Replenishment of marketing and office supplies
- And more!
Happy Friday, everyone!
Businesses are increasingly establishing a greater online footprint. But who, exactly, is doing the walking? Some businesses find value in establishing one company brand, and having all communication come from that brand (business pages on Facebook are a great example).
However, others prefer to let specific employees take the reins, allowing customers, both prospective and current, to put a face to a name and humanize the interaction.
The obvious solution for this is to place a high-ranking executive on social channels, as his or her voice will be synonymous with that of companies in many cases. That being said, sometimes it is valuable to let lower-level employees have a place in the spotlight.
This is not for everyone, but for all the talk about tracking the value of employee tasks, sometimes it is a good idea to let others hold the microphone. It can establish trust, and often (particularly in B2C companies) will allow for a more likely connection between customer and speaker.
Online interactions are trending towards organic conversation, so allowing a customer to speak with a real person rather than an abstract “brand” can increase their satisfaction. It can also establish goodwill and ultimately employee satisfaction. In a world with very few win-win outcomes, this is always a good thing.
Everyone who has been in school has faced the "professor mentality". It doesn’t matter if you had five assignments due in each of your other classes, you have one professor who believes his class is the only one that matters. Part of this is arrogance, as obviously each teacher would like to believe their subject is more worthy of time and dedication than the others. The other part is an inability to structure assignments based on individual student schedules.
As a manager, it can be all too easy to fall into the professor mentality. However, unless you are willing to admit to blatant arrogance, you really don’t have much excuse. People within an organization, though possibly allocated to numerous different tasks, are all working toward the same goal: increasing profitability for the company. While loading them up with numerous grand assignments might seem like a good idea, the truth is it can result in delays for all of them. The worst part is that the people who become overburdened are all too often the best employees. Let’s face it, you’re not going to give the important, time-consuming tasks to an intern. While in a pinch it might be acceptable to allocate an inordinate amount of responsibility to one individual, this should always be the exception rather than the rule.
Fortunately, determining if an employee is overburdened can be as simple as checking their timesheet to see where they are spending their energy. If it appears that they are in the middle of several important tasks, it might be better to hold off presenting them with your grand idea, particularly if there isn’t much of a time constraint. Even if there is, and you have no one else in the organization capable of taking on the task, redistribute some of your star employee’s more menial tasks until he or she can complete the larger one. In the end, this will result in happier employees and less issues with burnout or delayed projects.
I think for many of us, our first projects involved small plastic bricks that could snap together to make grand visual representations of our wildest dreams come to life. Of those, I distinctly remember two ways that I progressed. In the first, I simply dumped out all of the bricks, then put them together in basic shapes until I ended up with a crude approximation of what I was going for. Those were great, but they were never particularly precise. The other way was when I sat down and really thought about what I was going to build. Sure, sometimes I would use those instructions that came with the more complex sets as a rough guide, but I would always diverge a little bit. I would envision exactly what parts I needed, sometimes writing them down, always with the idea that I had everything and that I knew where it was.
However, when the time came to actually build my project, I would always run into a specific problem. It didn’t occur at the beginning. That would be too easy. No, it always seemed to happen that, just as I got halfway through my awesome new creation, I would be missing that one piece that would let me progress. In my head, I knew that I put it somewhere, that at some point in time I had bought seemingly limitless numbers of the small square bricks that would act as the cornerstone or cudgel for this model, but yet it wasn’t there. I would be forced to disassemble and start anew, and by that time it would be time to go to bed, having nothing to show for all my planning and work.
I have found the lessons of childhood translate well into adulthood. When we assume that we have all the pieces in place without checking, or that they will be where we put them last, we are often startled to find that we cannot find them at all. Particularly when dealing with that most important and elusive block of all, the employee, we realize that it is not enough to know where they were, but where they are, and where they are going to be. Failure to do so means that we will not, cannot build the big models that showcase our talent and put us in the spotlight. It limits our business intelligence and places a strain on every other resource we have.
When we were kids, we could build again the next day if our project went awry. As adults, we don’t always have that luxury.
More customers mean more money. At least, this is what common sense would seem to imply. Obviously, making more sales to more customers does have a direct impact on the bottom line. However, there is also an unfortunately common class of customer that causes problems disproportionate to the value they provide. Of course, with any business it is important to put 100% into any effort involving customer satisfaction. However, when it becomes clear that a customer is a resource-consuming black hole, it is time to make a tough decision: Do you continue to feed the beast, or do you let it go?
The answer to this question is difficult to determine offhand, particularly when you consider the value of SaaS and thus the fact that customers who continue to pay you will have (hopefully) a neverending need for your product. If they don’t, they likely don’t need you, and that’s a bad thing. So, how do you make the decision?
The truth is, it is impossible to know the strain customers put on your resources unless you know the real value of those resources, as well as the potential for future value. What do I mean by this? Put simply, is an employee’s time worth more money if they spend a week coming up with solutions that never meet a problem customer’s criteria, or if they spend a week addressing the needs of three customers, all of whom are happy with the provided solutions? By building a backlog of data it is possible to approximate the profitability of those tasks with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
There is another factor to consider here which relates to customer satisfaction. Sometimes, the fact of the matter is that you are just not positioned well to meet the needs of a certain customer. Even if you are able to put a bandage on a particular wound and keep a customer, the victory will be soured when that customer continues to complain to you and to others. Sometimes the best thing you can do to keep a client happy is to notify him that you probably aren’t the best fit and recommend someone else. While you might lose his business, the transparency and value will at least inspire him to speak positively about your business to his connections.
Hi everyone! To wrap this week up I’d like to showcase a really cool feature that our customers love, but some may not know about. It’s a Timesheet component that allows admins to set up and submit multiple timesheets with ease using just one page as opposed to opening a new page for each submission. The process facilitates any number of employees to fill the Timesheet efficiently and with accuracy. We call it the Master Timekeeper.
I’ve pulled the feature list from the press release if you’re interested:
Create and view entries for more than just one employee at once
View and manipulate time, expense and mileage entries simultaneously on separate screens
Submit timesheets for approval directly from the Master Timekeeper screen
Receive automatic blank row support. When customers being a blank time entry row, a new one is automatically created in the background
Obtain enhanced support for quick keyboard-based entry
Feel free to email me about your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for my updates so I hope everyone enjoys their weekend!
The following is a post contributed by Bill Balcezak, President and General Manager of Journyx. With a Master of Science degree from MIT and over four decades experience in the software industry, Bill is our resident genius here at Journyx, and has all kinds of innovative ideas relating to time and resource management.
Mathematics, being an abstract system, can often be applied outside the realm of raw numbers and theory. In business, the data can be difficult to visualize on its own, requiring some sort of graphical element to make intelligent decisions. A directed graph, or a graph in which each element (or node) has a directional element, is not commonly used in the business environment. However, it can be very beneficial for project accounting teams.
Project process flow may be thought of in terms of a directed graph where resources may be utilized or consumed at nodes of the directed graph while the arcs represent the allowable flow paths a project may take as it progresses from start to finish. Resource consumption in the context of a project process flow consists of people, process, parts and information. From a project costing perspective, the directed graph may be used to direct the flow of a project to points where resource functions, such as 1) time spent, 2) skills used, 3) equipment employed, 4) material utilized and 4) data transacted, are deployed and tracked.
Informally, a directed graph consists of a set of nodes together with a set of directed arcs joining the nodes. There may be more than one arc with the same originating and terminating nodes, and the originating and terminating nodes of an arc may coincide.
A common example of a directed graph is a state diagrams of a system where the nodes represent states of a system and an arc directed from node A to node B means that it is possible for a system to go directly from state A to sate B.
In terms of cost accounting, the directed graph concept becomes a powerful framework for integrating the total project cost into a tracking and reporting system. Any software product must have this as a fundamental element of its architecture.
Simplicity often yields the best, and most accurate, results. Indeed, when applied to resources, basic actions can yield exponential results. Origami, the popular Japanese art of paper-folding, serves as a strong analog to this principle. While some complex forms of origami exist, the most basic involves one sheet of paper, transformed only by the skill of the artist. This is accomplished through precise, intricate folds of the paper that create a three-dimensional object from practically nothing. The first folds serve as the precursor to the others, and often do not contribute to the final form. Rather, they serve as a guideline for future folds, making them simpler and cleaner.
The concept between lean project management is essentially the same as origami. Using a small team with basic resources, it is possible to create something greater than its constituent parts. Elegance, rather than the unnecessary expenditure of additional resources or time, dictates overall success. While it would be possible to create a crane with enough construction paper and tape, it will pale in comparison to one expertly folded with the casual grace of a master. In the same way, throwing money and resources at a project may get the job done, but it is wasteful and ultimately less effective than maximizing efficiency from the start.
The two most effective determinants of project success can be loosely defined as experience and skill. A backlog of project data can bolster the first of those. A system that provides insight into ongoing projects aids substantially with the second. Existing resources, used wisely, always prove more valuable than tacked-on additions meant to keep a failing project afloat.
Happy Friday everyone! I wanted to announce that we are currently looking for top-of-the-line presenters to join our team of stellar professionals on our webinar series. This month's sequence offers tips and techniques that companies can use to address common business issues. Current topics range from partnerships, to finance to social media and GSA contracts. They are quite informative and prove to be a wonderful way to ask questions and connect with knowledgeable people in the industry.
I’m currently scheduling presenters for next month so please let me know if you are interested or know someone who’d be a great fit by August 17 th . Please contact me at email@example.com or on Twitter using @ChristaFreeland.
Thanks everyone and hope you spend your time wisely this weekend!
Recently we have been discussing emerging trends in Microsoft Dynamics. Of these, one of the more popular ones is for businesses to join with a “Master VAR” (value added reseller) to help sell Dynamics and affiliate software. However, there are some downsides. While businesses that choose to integrate in this way maintain control of the company, they often lose their name in the process. Obviously, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. Established businesses will be hesitant to give up their unique identity to sell under a different title entirely. So, in what situations does it make sense to give up a name?
When The Field Is Convoluted
What do I mean by convoluted? Turning back to the Dynamics example, it might seem as though there are only so many varieties, so a business might choose the one that works best and move on. Companies are usually pretty aware of their business needs but rarely know their software needs. Therefore, if a small business owner calls a consultancy that specializes in Dynamics AX implementations, he is likely to be overwhelmed by the extraneous complexity of the product relative to his needs. Within a Master VAR ecosystem, however, that same customer could contact the Master VAR, who would supply them with the appropriate sub-VAR to meet their business needs. This breaks down the confusion and matches customers with businesses that are tailored to their niche, resulting in greater satisfaction and more money for everyone.
When The Home Environment Is Dry
Sometimes a well-equipped business is confounded by a lack of need in its immediate area, even if there is a great need for its services nationwide. This could be because of localized economic strain or simply a lack of sustainable customers in an area. However, this issue can be largely alleviated by joining a Master VAR. Essentially, these large business groups can spread over a massive area, exposing a business to a much larger customer base than previously possible. Because many implementations are done remotely, this can breathe life into a struggling business regardless of its immediate environment.
Obviously there are too many considerations regarding the value of a name to cover in one blog post. Both personal and business reasons may impact the eventual decision. However, if the choice is to join a Master VAR or struggle, businesses should realize that there is a very real advantage to joining a large group, particularly in the current Microsoft Dynamics environment. In many cases, it is better for both the company and the customer.
Software applications are somewhat notorious for either being too complicated or too expensive relative to the value they provide, particularly in the context of business functionality. Software companies, retailers, and partners often catch the majority of the flack for this, and may face criticism in the form of bad reviews or negative word of mouth. However, the problem does not always lie with the provider itself but with the customer, and more specifically, with the customer’s understanding of his needs.
To be fair, it is not necessarily the customer’s fault. Often, they will be influenced by current trends in technology that they think provides them with a clear choice of product. If a business is pouring money and advertising dollars into a program and promoting it heavily, it is easy to believe that it serves as the flagship for that particular toolset, and will address any and all company needs. Even those savvy executives who feel that they have the ability to cut through the sales pitch can be influenced by consultants and resellers who are aware of a certain product’s push to the front of the pack.
It can be difficult to understand where to turn. Assuming a business is hiring a consultant, or discussing the purchase of software with a vendor, they are most likely doing so because they do not know which software will best suit their needs. For what it’s worth, most sellers want the customer to be happy, and do not intentionally try to sell software products that will be useless. Remember, today’s communication channels mean that poor experiences can very easily lead to massively reduced sales. So, if resellers and consultants want to help, why the proliferation of shelfware?
Let’s turn back to the issue. A customer needs software but they don’t know how it works. However, that is almost never the real problem. The real problem arises when a customer does not know exactly what his needs are. In order to get a software solution that is not extraneous in implementation, use, or cost, vendors need to know exactly which processes a customer needs help with. The more specific, the more helpful they can be. If a customer simply states that they want a solution to their problem, but cannot describe the processes that are causing that problem, a vendor really has no choice but to recommend an expansive (and usually, expensive) solution with functionality that the business does not necessarily need.
If you are in the market for a software solution, before looking for outward support from vendors or consultants, spend some time looking inward to identify which inefficient processes are causing your problem. That may mean spending a few weeks, or even a few months, analyzing internal activities. The money saved from purchasing software with high costs, needless complexity, and useless features will be more than worth it.
I’ve been working on developing our Pinterest page as a way to communicate the Journyx company culture and values. We have a great office lifestyle so of course I was more than happy to communicate this when I was invited to expand Journyx’s presence on this exciting platform.
The best thing about Pinterest is its ability to inspire. We can share ideas and success stories through the creative use of images. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
One of my favorite boards is our “All The Time In The World” board. At Journyx, we help people and companies thrive on recognizing the value of time as their most important resource. This board demonstrates the incredible possibilities derived from innovative time management strategies. If you had this type of freedom, what would you do? I want to invite you to share your ideas with us through Pinterest or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org -- we might even add your image to our board!
Our “Let’s Get Together" board showcases fun events we’ve held for our team in the past. I’m a huge advocate for improving company culture and strengthening bonds with people you work with everyday. Our “TED Talk and Torchy’s Tacos Tuesdays” was a hit with the team! That’s just one idea we want to share in making the office more happy and efficient!
We’re thinking about showcasing the fun side of our employees to add a more personal appeal and to help our fans get to know us better.
What would you like to see on our Pinterest page?
John Pell, Senior Account Executive at Journyx authored the following post. He has been providing creative solutions using Journyx products since 2000. He has helped thousands of clients worldwide solve problems unique to their businesses.
When discussing functional requirements with prospective clients, I always ask them to envision the perfect product for managing all of the items their employees need to track and that management needs to report on. Predictably, this leads to some interesting and unique responses, and most of the time our product can be configured to solve issues they never thought a timesheet solution could possibly address. One example is equipment or material management for costing and billing purposes.
Journyx has saved one major automobile manufacturer vast amounts of money by automating the chargeback process for defective parts sent to them by their suppliers. Previously, defective parts were literally stacked in empty spots on the factory floor and were rarely charged back to the vendor. Now, when employees complete their timesheets they also log the part number and quantity of defective parts as well as the storage area where they are located, where they stay until picked up by the supplier. The supplier is then billed back for both the value of the parts as well as a storage fee for the time the defective parts remained on the property.
We can use the same functionality of our product to capture production metrics. For example, one client uses Journyx to track quantities of units produced and tasks accomplished for payroll bonuses (as well as reporting purposes) in order to gain a better understanding of which workgroups, shifts, and employee types are best suited to certain types of work. This allows them to assign the correct people to future work of a similar nature.
Several other clients use Journyx for equipment tracking for billing purposes. For example, they might bill a truck at $2.50/mile, a bulldozer at $200/hour, a crane at $1500/day, and an explosive charge at $300/use. When an employee or their manager completes a timesheet, they also log the equipment used as well as the quantity and measurement associated with the equipment. Behind the scenes in the Journyx system, there is a conversion table that applies the appropriate monetary value to the equipment so the finance department can bill the client accurately. Feedback from these clients indicates that they are capturing a much larger volume of billable fees than they were using their previous methodologies.
Just in time for my Friday blog post updates, here are some highlights from the weekend in San Antonio, TX at the AACE International Conference for cost engineers:
- First and foremost, I want to thank the attendees for stopping by and the vendors for being great booth neighbors. Great show!
- We had 14 very patient winners of our “Time Is Money Challenge”! Attendees were given six minutes to open a puzzle maze for a $20 prize enclosed inside. See photos below.
- Congratulations to our Enterprise Account Manager, Brian Maxin for helping his team win 1st place in the charity golf tournament.
AACEvolunteers and everyone else who made a difference at the show- we’ll see you all next year!
If you’d like to find out more about why cost engineers like our software services, you can check out this demo we’ve got lined up for next week.
Now for some photos captured at the event:
Booth visitors taking our money maze challenge.
Conference room with keynote speaker.
The conference was within walking distance to the Alamo.