Archive for category Business Process Management

Here are the Top 5 Reasons why Timesheet.com is a Solid Time Tracking Solution

Written by : Tanya Grant – Project Manager PMP, Upland Software

After some extensive research, we have identified the top five time & billing issues faced by companies today, and propose how Timesheet.com can help address them.

1.   Inaccurate billings/billing errors: Errors of any kind can be bothersome and frustrating. Errors in billing however cut into a firm’s profitability, ultimately hurting the company and its accounting department. Timesheet.com’s Billing & Invoicing module has been designed to automate your entire time and billing and revenue reporting process. With certified connections to your CRM and accounting system, an opportunity in CRM becomes a project in Timesheet.com where it is planned, budgeted, tracked and billed. Detailed or summary project cost and billing information is then posted to your financial system’s accounts receivable, accounts payable and general ledger modules, ultimately eliminating billing issues by streamlining the billing process, making it easier to track, plan, budget and bill.

2.   Timesheets not entered: Incorporating a systematic time tracking system can be a little overwhelming. Timesheet.com eliminates unnecessary time entry and/or errors with its simple and easy-to-configure interface. Users quickly adapt, improving collaboration and strengthening employee organization.

3.   Missed milestones: Missed milestones can occur when costs and budgets aren’t being properly monitored. Setting up dashboards and extensive reports is easy with Timesheet.com, improving analysis and financial visibility – so you never have to worry about financial mistakes again.

4.   Incompatibilities: Choosing a time and billing system and then discovering it does not integrate with your existing applications can be discouraging. Timesheet.com has built-in and certified connectors to all leading financial, ERP, HR, payroll and CRM applications. The connections are built-in. No custom programming is required for standard integration. Data can be exported to and exchanged with leading systems for accounting (Great Plains, Navision, Solomon, Sage MAS, Accpac, Peachtree, Pro (SBT), SAP Business One, Epicor, QuickBooks, Intacct), payroll (ADP, Ceridian, Paychex), ERP (SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft), project planning (Microsoft Project), CRM (Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM), HR (Taleo), and much more. In other words, there is no need to “rip-and-replace” your existing applications.

5.  Capturing timesheets in multiple disconnected systems:

- Some departments track time for payroll processing: IT and product development teams use their own project tracking system and may capture project time and expenses; the professional services team uses spreadsheets or a silo-ed time and billing application. It takes considerable spreadsheet gymnastics, manual adjustments and merging to compile data from these disparate systems into operational time, cost and revenue reports.

Using spreadsheets or multiple disparate tools to track time leads to inefficiencies, and poor project cost/revenue visibility. Your management team does not have access to real-time report on projects and operations to measure progress and make informed decisions.

- Out-dated or in-house developed time tracking software: Legacy-outdated time tracking systems have high maintenance costs, ongoing fix and enhancement tasks; divert precious internal resources and attention away from the organization’s core business.

- Lack of effective internal controls for time sheet management: Weak internal controls for time sheet and expense reporting lead to violations of company work policy, inaccurate cost accounting or violation of employment laws; your business may face severe penalties and lose investor confidence when such weaknesses are discovered.

Are you having any issues with your other time tracking processes that aren’t on our top 5 list? Please feel free to let us know.  We would love to hear your feedback, questions or concerns about the above

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5 Key Challenges for Project Managers in Services Organizations

This post is from guest contributor Brad Egeland, a leading project management consultant and author. His website, bradegeland.com, is regularly lauded as a top blog for project management, PMO and Agile related topics.

Project management in any environment can be a challenge – there is no doubt about that. But when you’re involved in a professional services organization and working with shared resources and delivering on projects with tight budgets and tight schedule commitments – not to mention likely juggling four, five or even six or more projects at a time – it can get become a very daunting task.

While the list of challenges for project managers is definitely never ending, I’ve created my own ‘Top 5’ list that I’ve encountered over the years of managing projects. They are listed in no particular order of importance, but all can be devastating to your project if not managed well and responded to proactively and appropriately.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Onboarding New Project Resources

This post is from guest contributor Brad Egeland, a leading project management consultant and author. His website, bradegeland.com, is regularly lauded as a top blog for project management, PMO and Agile related topics.

When it has to happen it can be a frustrating process to go through, but it happens to all of us at some point: the need to add or replace one or more key project resources on a highly visible or mission critical project in midstream.  And we all know that how we handle this process on our project and with the customer can mean the difference between success and failure on the engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Workflow driven project management – have you workflowed lately?

The term "workflow" is unfortunately used loosely in the market place. Do not be fooled! Most systems claiming to be "workflow based" or "workflow-driven" actually do not provide any workflows! They simply hard code a project-related business process to the way they think you should be automating it, make a few settings optional, and call it a workflow.

A truly workflow-driven project management solution provides a graphical workflow engine at its core for all of the business processes it automates which allows you to draw your business process, similar to how you would design a chart in Visio. The difference is that as you draw the process, the workflow engine actually enforces and manages the business process and all of the business rules for you.

With a workflow-driven project management solution your data is audited, soft and hard validated, and approved based on best practices for whatever process you are controlling. All of the project management workflows that you need should be available out of the box; you should not have to build any to start; but you, as a business user, should be able to change them yourself at any time, create new ones, add new fields, set notifications, set role based assignments, set auditing etc all of this without IT’s help or programming/technical knowledge.

As your organization matures, so will its processes. With a flexible platform for business process design and control , you can simply reconfigure your existing processes or draw your new process without programming.

So next time you see someone claiming to be workflow-driven project management application, ask them what they really mean?

  • Does the application provide a graphical workflow engine?
  • If the answer is yes? Is the workflow engine based on any industry standards?
  • Can you create new workflows to automate other project management processes?
  • Can you graphically modify existing pre-defined business processes?
  • Does the system need programming, professional services, or IT’ involvement to configure or modify a workflow?

If the project management vendor you are considering says yes to all of the above questions except the last one (which should have a "no" answer), you’ve got yourself a workflow-driven solution!

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Simple Software: A Requirement for Project Workforce Management

I enjoyed this insightful article on SandHill.com, written by Anthony Deighton: "Simplicity: What’s Next in Business Software." Deighton explains that the simple and straightforward user interfaces that software users have come to expect on the web will, and must, influence enterprise software investments.

Deighton explains that enterprise software (such as traditional ERPs) became complex by promising managers the ability to "command and control" the work environment. But newer, smaller, "grassroots" applications are changing the end-users’ expectations and behavior. He writes:

The “consumerization” of enterprise software is rapidly underway. In today’s Web 2.0 and Internet-driven world, consumers download applications and use them on their own. Their expectations are that the software they use at work will be equally powerful, simple and engaging.

The world of Project Workforce Management is a collaborative one. To be effective in deploying and managing these solutions, we promote and depend upon on very high end-user adoption–from the project workers who report their time, expenses, issues and project status, to the executives who analyze that data on their dashboards.

Therefore, Deighton’s message is a critical one: "Simplify or Die," and I agree. The huge command-and-control enterprise systems with long, expensive implementations are already the dinosaurs of our industry. The software we use at work has to be fun, simple and should not require a user’s guide. 

However, as Deighton states, simple does not equal "lite." Vendors who can offer solutions that are simple and fun to use, yet powerful in their functionality–and the most effective at solving real business problems–will be rewarded in the software marketplace.

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Rise of the Project Workforce, Chapter 3: Project Governance

For more details about project governance, see Rise of the Project Workforce.

Project and workforce governance roadmaps should be designed to address the potential threats associated with:

  • Cost and Revenue Accounting
  • Portfolio and Project Processes
  • Corporate Governance

This chapter identifies enterprise-wide threats and uses a symptom – cause – solution format to highlight steps executives need to take to effectively manage risk and reduce the likelihood that any of these threats may damage their business.

Cost Accounting

Related to cost accounting, we identify project governance issues in the areas of budgeting, chargebacks, timesheet management, travel and entertainment expense management, revenue recognition, and capitalizing costs.

The symptoms of cost accounting governance issues include: projects that are over budget, late, or failing; inability of project managers to plan projects effectively, or track costs accurately so that internal departments can be charged or external departments can be billed; inability of managers and executives to get timely, actionable reports; the inability of finance to determine recognized revenue and costs that should be capitalized and not expensed.

The threats of not dealing with these issues include not only failed projects, but the general inability to execute on corporate strategy, because important financial data is not available to project managers and executives. Moreover, under these conditions the finance department will have difficulty performing in nearly every way; lack of accurate data can easily lead to erroneous forecasts, inefficient invoicing, late payrolls, tax problems, and incorrect—and illegal—financial reports.

The causes of these problems are generally the inability to collect and manage accurate data from the many areas of the company. In some cases, the corporate culture does not support basic data gathering functions such as the tracking of time and expenses, measurable project status, and billable project milestones. Usually, the company lacks the processes and tools to collect this data, or has various processes and tools in separate departments.

The solutions to the problems, in all cases, require company leadership to implement top-down processes that allow accurate data collection and management, and real-time reporting.

Portfolio and Project Processes

Here we describe the processes of managing a company’s portfolio of projects, under the categories of: templates, methodologies, and best practices; status, health, and milestones; initiation and approval; risk management; issue management; change control; and pipeline analysis.

The symptoms of problems include: frequent change in project status, and surprising delays and budget overruns; Competition between projects and departments for project resources; inability to manage project risks and changes; lack of responsiveness to issues that arise.

The threats of these problems are: management lacks an enterprise-wide view of all of the company’s current and proposed projects, and therefore has no ability to allocate and manage resources or prioritize the company’s activities strategically.

The cause of these problems is typically that project management is not recognized as a necessary and critical business function. Therefore, no formal processes or tools are in place to approve new projects, manage resources and work-in-progress, or control risks, issues, and changes.

The solutions begin with establishing a central project management office (PMO) to define and enforce project management standards and best practices, and provide the right tools to promote enterprise-wide project management. These standards include project initiation methodologies, processes for tracking project status and milestones, policies for proposing and approving projects, workflows for risk management, and policies for managing issues and proposed changes.

Corporate Governance

This section addresses Sarbanes-Oxley sections 404 and 409 (internal controls and rapid reporting), and 802 (destruction and falsification of records), in addition to labor laws, accounting regulations, and risk management standards for financial institutions.

The symptoms of problems largely center around audits: the company has difficulty providing all the information demanded by an audit; too much time is spent preparing for audits and avoiding legal liability instead of running the business.

The overall threat of lack of compliance is to fail an audit or face legal charges.

A frequent cause of governance issues is manual record-keeping, based on separate spreadsheets, documents, emails, memos, reports, invoices, and so forth. Important information is easily lost or destroyed.

The solution requires companies to centralize and automate its record-keeping, and implement workflows that establish approvals and accountability.

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Rise of the Project Workforce, Chapter 2: Managing the Project/Service Delivery Life Cycle

For more details about the project/service delivery life cycle, see Rise of the Project Workforce.

Agile organizations maximize internal efficiency by investing only in high-performing and strategic initiatives. However, silo thinking often prevents organizations from having the visibility, across departments, to implement imperative initiatives such as project selection, ROI analysis, risk mitigation, and continuous business process improvements.

Understanding the project/service delivery life cycle helps organizations to break down these silos and build a shared long-term vision for managing people and projects across the organization in today’s dynamic world. The project/service delivery life cycle consists of these five steps:

  1. Initiate. First, managers define the objectives and scope of the work to be performed.
  2. Plan. Plan the work, the resources to deliver it, and the milestones to track progress.
  3. Track. Review time, expenses, and budgets for each milestone; account for costs and revenue by group, project and task; proactively handle requests, risks, and issues.
  4. Charge. Create accurate and timely chargebacks or invoices; integrate data with billing, finance, accounting, HR, CRM and other core information systems.
  5. Analyze. Through executive dashboards and reports, present high-level metrics that assist with project tracking, compliance, process improvement, and decision making.

Project Workforce Management allows organizations to automate this life cycle, and break down departmental barriers throughout the cycle. It offers direct benefits to the various communities both inside and outside the enterprise, by addressing their specific needs and challenges.

Account Executives: Enables them to check the status of their customers’ projects at every phase, and look for new business opportunities that they can turn into new projects.

Customers: By tracking both external customers and internal ones (as interdepartmental chargebacks), the company gains considerable insight into enterprise-wide execution and utilization metrics.

  • External Customers: Provide them with online billing and invoicing, and issue reporting and resolution.
  • Internal Customers: Provide them with business intelligence and reports on chargebacks, progress, and project status.

General Administrative Staff: Relieve them from repetitive manual labor with automated workflows for time and expense entry, purchasing, and support for project and resource management.

Project/Service Delivery Teams: For the resources assigned to projects, automate time and expense and project status reporting, with support for input via web browsers and PDAs. Automation is especially beneficial when resources are assigned to multiple projects and tasks at one time.

Finance Team:

  • Accounts Receivable (Billing): Automate billing to external customers according to approved project milestones and billable work completed.
  • Accounts Payable: Automate the workflows of matching invoices to purchase orders and charging billable expenses.
  • Payroll: Automate the workflows associated with employee timesheets and applying pay rules such as exempt/non-exempt status and overtime.

Project Managers: Provide a platform for creation of work breakdown structures and overall management of project delivery teams; track time, expenses, issues, change requests, and purchases. Gain visibility into the project pipeline.

Resource Managers: Provide a platform for fine-tuning the organization’s capacity in response to demand, with project calendars and plans, skills repository, resource request workflows, and skill matching.

IT Department: As a large and highly visible cost center, IT benefits by managing and controlling project costs and justifying spending.

Product Development Teams: By treating product development as a project, the organization can track effort and expenses for informed cost-benefit analysis.

C-Level Executives: From the various data collected across the organization, generate accurate reports and dashboards showing trends, financial indicators, customer satisfaction, project pipeline, billing, revenue, cash flow, overhead, and margins. Reports and real-time information executives can rely on.

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Judyth Piazza chats with Rudolf Melik, Author of The Rise of the Project Workforce

I was recently interviewed by Judyth Piazza, CEO and Editor of The Student Operated Press. The interview is available in audio format on this page at thesop.org.

Here is an excerpt:

Many companies operate their departments as tribes.  For example, there is a Sales team, IT, HR, Support, the list goes on…Each tribe has a team, and each tribe has a budget. They tend to operate in silos, but they don’t work really well together–they tend to be very protective of their resources, of their budgets, of their tools. The book tries to break the tribe psychology, which obviously makes companies very inefficient and slow to react to change.

There is a project behind what you sell, and you have to pay people and bill people for that project, so it is a project-based environment. A lot of business processes cross the boundaries of the tribes. If you create a visual model of a business process, and define the rules of all the different people involved in the business process…when you visually define a business process, and people follow that process and agree to it, then all of the sudden, people involved in that process start to work much better together.

Essentially, the book talks a lot about how to push down authority in the organization to the ranks; try to create a flat organization where more decisions are made at the lower levels in the organization; how you can pull that information to them in real time so they can make decisions–and good decisions, on their own, without waiting for a hierarchy, or a chief somewhere, to make a decision for them; and how companies can reduce the tribe psychology, and work better together, and react much more quickly to the changes and the competition as they arise.

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What is the difference between BPM and a powerful ERP?

One of our readers commented on the post: What is the difference between workflow and Business Process Management (BPM)? asking the question, "What is the difference between BPM and a powerful ERP?" I will try to answer this question here and certainly look forward to getting your feedback on the topic.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), powerful or not, is basically a suite of software applications from a single vendor that offers a complete solution for running a certain type of business. For example there are a number of ERPs for manufacturing companies, contractors, distributors, retailers, and many other vertical industries.

With ERP’s breadth of scope, it is logical to think that a particularly powerful one would be built upon a Business Process Management platform, and therefore actually help model and execute the business processes inherent in the industry it serves. I think that is the assumption underlying this reader’s question.

However, in practice, none of the ERP solutions available in the market today have taken a BPM-centric design approach. Instead, ERPs are generally a collection of disparate applications (for example: accounting, inventory control, order management, job costing and CRM) that have been put together by the ERP vendor, in many cases through acquisitions of smaller software companies or applications that were developed independant of each other.

A new generation of ERP applications can be built from the ground up with a BPM engine at its core. Such a solution would allow business users to visually design and manage workflows–the building blocks of the ERP’s business processes.  It would also include business process templates out-of-the-box, engineered to promote best practices for a particular process and industry.

Someday, when an ERP is rebuilt and not cobbled together from smaller suites of applications, this vision may become a reality.

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Too Much “Process” in BPI: A Lesson for Project Workforce Managers in a Flat World

Gantthead has published a series of new articles related to Business Process Improvement (BPI). In particular, these articles are about aligning IT with business objectives.

Although these articles contain some useful information on a high level, they do not address one important aspect of BPI that I believe has the greatest impact on its effectiveness: complexity. One article in particular, "Alignment: The Next Evolution of BPI" by Michael R. Wood, lays out a complex model for BPI that looks like it evolved from a large organization.

Wood states:

Business Process Alignment begins in the boardroom with the basic premise that sustained success can only be achieved through an aligned organization. Next, this premise must become the mantra of management and be driven down into the culture so that everyone, everywhere is living and breathing the alignment philosophy. Of course this implies that the goals of the organization are stated in simple and operational terms, and communicated frequently and often to the workforce. It requires that processes be put in place to continuously collect, review and discuss alignment-related information.

This sounds empowering to the workforce, but Wood stops short of that. He then recommends a series of business planning and reporting mechanisms that can actually add weight to the organization, slow down decision making, and obscure the real objectives.

I can’t argue that GAP analysis, Business Process Oversight Groups, scorecards, and end-to-end processes work–Wood has a great deal of experience, and many businesses work this way. But I don’t believe that this is the way organizations will thrive in a flat world. It sounds empowering to the workforce, but when I read Wood’s list of business planning process components, I see a lot of documents, meetings and overhead. I see a lot of decisions moving up and down–not across–the organization, and I see a lot of potential for resistance to change. This is somewhat leaning towards project management by paperwork and bureaucracy.

Instead, I advocate a project-based, workflow-driven, "Hollywood"-based model IT organization. This is a much better approach to aligning IT with the business, simply because small, empowered teams can make decisions and get things done. I agree that the leadership of an organization needs to set objectives. Then, reward the workforce for meeting those objectives, give them the tools and the authority they need, and let them figure out the process. (We do this at Tenrox: here’s how.)

The more "official heavy process, review sessions, meetings and paperwork" an organization puts into Business Process Improvement, the less chance it has to really improve anything.

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