Archive for category IT 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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Ten Major Trends for 2011 and How They Impact Professional Services and Project Delivery

As the year end approaches we all become prognosticator of all prognosticators. I ran into Jim Carroll, a bonafide futurist, in one of my trips and he inspired me to write this article for PS Village. He got me thinking about what are the trends for 2011 and how they will affect enterprise software, project and service delivery and cloud-based technologies, all of the stuff we work and live with everyday.  I started with Jim Carroll’s 2011 trends and wondered how these trends will impact our world.

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What would the world look like if more managers made decisions like children?

It was my son’s tenth birthday. We finally caved in and got him an iPod, in this case the latest iPod Touch. It is an amazingly well designed device; so much you can do with it! It works and looks great. The new version is quite an improvement over its predecessor. My son got hooked on it pretty quickly and literally a few minutes later he was able to navigate and use the device on his own.

This sparked a conversation during the birthday party with a few of the parents who are also in the IT and software industry. We remarked how children follow the crowd and are loyal to a brand but only if the product truly lives up to the hype. If the iPod Touch was hard to use, too slow or ugly looking he would drop it in a minute. If something comes along from vendor XYZ that does more, is faster, looks nicer and easier to use than the iPod Touch they would embrace it pretty quickly, Apple be damned.

Generally, IT and software executives adopt new products with a completely different decision making process. What do you think?  What would change if more managers and executives made decisions like children do?

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Top Professional Services Management Challenges – Part 1

We discussed this topic in a meeting I had with a few senior people from various high tech companies. It was good to exchanges notes and see that many mid-sized high tech/software companies have experienced similar challenges with their service teams.

Please share your experiences with the management of your professional services teams. I will collect your feedback and report back to everyone with some comments and recomemndations in a part 2 of this post.

You can read the entire article at this PSVillage link.

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Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2010 and Beyond

Here are Gartner’s predictions for the coming years in IT:

http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1278413

The most interesting one is “By 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets”. The argument they make is that essentially more and more organizations will use cloud computing and refrain from buying their own equipment. Also, more and more users will access corporate data using personal mobile communications and their own laptops. In other words the company will own and control less hardware; the equipment will all be owned and managed by third parties.

This is a surprising and rather aggressive prediction. I agree with the trend and I can see a future in which IT departments focus a lot more on strategic initiatives rather than managing now commoditized IT equipment and infrastructure. Cloud computing is radically transforming the IT function and will have a major unquestionable impact on IT budgets and how IT is perceived within the organization. But 2012 is awfully close. I do not think the transformation will occur so quickly.

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Microsoft Vista: Innovation for Innovation’s Sake?

In BizJournals, Brad Patten warns that Microsoft will stop selling Windows XP on June 30. He states that Microsoft is about to put many businesses between a rock and hard place, and I agree. "…There is no compelling reason to upgrade. Vista isn’t more stable, faster or easier to use."

Here is another article on CNN about how users are resisting the forced upgrade: http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/14/microsoft.xp.ap/index.html?iref=newssearch

XP has been stable and reliable. Vista looks cute/fancy, but it does not provide enough new features to make a change from XP worthwhile.  In my opinion, Vista is an "innovation" that is driven only by the desire to appear innovative–not out of any solution to a compelling business need. As a business person, it is difficult for me to justify the expense and effort involved in upgrading–except that Microsoft is forcing our hand.

As I discussed in this post about innovation among CIOs throughout the world, the "next new thing" is not always a good business decision. The reluctance of businesses to embrace Vista further validates this observation.

While US companies resist the change from XP to Vista, companies in rapidly developing areas, such as China, will buy new PCs that are only available with the Vista operating system. If you follow the same logic as Accenture did in its recent study, this indicates that Chinese are more innovative than we are. But that logic is faulty. When we meet the needs of our customer in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible and we offer something worth investing in right now, that is true innovation.

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Top Performing IT Groups Practice Project Workforce Management

A study by The Hackett Group, covered here on the CIO Magazine blogs, describes four qualities of a top performing IT department. As is often the case, such studies validate the case for a Project Workforce Management approach in IT.

The four qualities are (as excerpted from the CIO Magazine post by C.G. Lynch):

1) Investment allocation. The IT department invests less in existing infrastructure and utilities, and instead focuses on innovation and improvement.

2) Project pipeline. Top performers don’t invest in just any project. They are incredibly discerning, which allows them to keep the project list short and deliver projects on time.

3) Delivery performance. When a project gets started, it gets finished in the proposed time period.

4) Application portfolio management. You manage all of your existing systems well and efficiently (so well that they’re just “there,” rather than ever really being a problem or hindrance to the business). This allows you to focus on new, innovative apps that come down the pipeline.

Delivering on #2 and #3 depends on IT’s ability to intelligently prioritize and select their IT projects, and then manage those projects to success, two popular topics on this blog and in Rise of the Project Workforce.

The mentions of “innovation” and “innovative apps” in #1 and #4 make an interesting contrast to Accenture’s recent conclusion that many IT departments tend to lag in innovation–but the top performers will discern which innovations are appropriate and provide real benefits to their organizations.  Again, intelligent project prioritization and selection supports this effort.

Despite the many studies like this one, it is alarming how many IT departments and other project-based teams still manage their people and projects using the MESS (meetings, email, and spreadsheets), or use in-house developed or non-integrated point solutions.  Even for smaller teams, the emergence of on-demand Project Workforce Management solutions makes this technology accessible to IT departments who seek to be top performers.

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The Customization Money Pit

Recently I posted my commentary about Accenture’s recent assumption that the US is falling behind in its technology leadership.  Their assumption is based on a study in which CIOs did not state a strong preference to adopt new technologies, relative to their counterparts in other countries.  The news of that study happened to coincide with my own contemplation about how companies try too hard to “innovate” their business processes by adopting or creating new technology.

I frequently see companies get caught up in a compelling, but sometimes incorrect assumption that “new,” “high quality,” and “appropriate to my business” are equal.  IT projects such as implementing enterprise software systems, like Project Workforce Management, are usually major investments of time and money.  For many companies and situations, it is wise to mitigate the risk of these investments by selecting proven technologies and products, and ensuring that they will solve the company’s real business needs.

I often see a similar phenomenon when companies develop home grown applications or customize an existing enterprise system.  Some companies try too hard to create their “dream” solution, especially if they are automating for the first time.  Like kids in a candy store, they get excited about each new possibility that some custom application development might offer.  They request customizations that are so detailed and complex that the last 5% of functionality costs them more than the entire implementation budget.  Their ideas are innovative, but they are very specific to a specific resource group or the company’s ideal business processes–which are not necessarily best practices. 

These customization projects become almost living organisms. The allocated budget creates employment for consultants or internal resources who work on the new new thing. These same groups eventually become special interest groups that resist any innovation, always choosing their own self-interest and job security over improving the company’s competitive standing.

In too many cases, these customization projects fail.  I have seen companies who spent a lot of time dreaming, evaluating, and tire-kicking, sometimes for years—and finally accomplishing very little in terms of value creation.  If they had just saved their money and rolled out a product with its out-of-the-box functionality and very limited, highly selective customizations, instead of paying for a consultant to take them through a long specification process, they would have accomplished so much more and become more efficient than they were ever before, for far less of an investment.

Innovation and dreaming big are critical to our growth–as people, companies, and nations–but they have their place.  Dreams must be followed by action.  And to be actionable, a dream must be backed up with proven experience.  Otherwise, dreams can cause us to over-complicate our plans.  As project managers, we know that a complicated plan, which relies on unproven tactics or technology, is not as likely to succeed.

My advice to companies who seek positive change: stick to the basics.  Start with the proven experiences and offerings, and then innovate as you grow.  Adopt technology out-of-the-box as much as possible, customize but very very selectively, and adapt your business processes accordingly.

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US Tech Leadership Slipping? I Doubt It.

New research from Accenture, covered in this article on CIO Insight (by Eric Chabrow, "US Tech Leadership Seen Slipping"), leads Accenture’s Chief Technology Strategist Bob Suh to the conclusion that the US is falling behind as a leader in technology innovation.  I believe this conclusion is wrong and misleading. 

The CIO Insight article states:

Suh reached that conclusion after reviewing results of a survey of more than 500 global CIOs that the business advisory firm conducted late last year. Only 6 percent of American CIOs surveyed responded that they wanted to be leaders in adopting new technologies vs. 15 percent among European and 19 percent among Chinese IT leaders. But 54 percent of American CIOs said they would rather be followers in adopting technology, compared with 44 percent in Europe and 27 percent in China.

These numbers could suggest a lag in innovation, if you choose to read them that way—and Accenture can certainly drive its consulting business by encouraging CIOs to “innovate” (i.e., implement new enterprise systems). But innovating just to innovate is misguided and costly. There are several ways to interpret Accenture’s findings—and none of them equate to any loss of overall leadership or lack of productivity by US IT leaders.

  • First of all, “the basics” are the basics for a reason—they work. Project Workforce Management is a perfect example. There is no rocket science here, and what we do may rarely be seen as “innovative technology.” But I see companies over and over again who fail to implement fundamental systems and best practices, especially in Europe and China. If improving Project Workforce Management can increase a company’s top and bottom lines, then it is a good investment, even if it means that the companies who implement it are called "followers." I suspect that “54 percent of American CIOs would rather be followers in adopting technology” because they are charged with helping their business units get “the basics” right.
  • Innovation doesn’t always equate to leadership—it can also indicate a need to catch up. One commenter to the CIO Insight article, Ben Breeland, states it well: “Just because some a developing country, with no existing infrastructure chooses to deploy fiber optic; it certainly does not mean that existing (operating) companies should scrap copper and replace it with fiber.” In other words, China’s drive to innovate has more to do with keeping pace than with leading.
  • In one of CIO Magazine’s blogs, Laurie M. Orlov states: “ The driver seat in technology is increasingly going to be in the business units, not in IT. Which means that technologies will be discovered and eventually thrown over to IT to support, with CIOs becoming involved at the implementation stage.” This is simply good business sense. Companies innovate when they truly need a new solution to solve a business problem, and that innovation may not necessarily be driven by IT.
  • I also have to wonder: how does SaaS (Software as a Service) fit into Suh’s conclusions? For example, a company that subscribes to an online project management or CRM system has effectively “outsourced” innovation to the provider of the SaaS, and relies on that vendor to provide innovative upgrades to its technology. If I subscribe to a leading SaaS provider’s product, am I a leader or a follower in Suh’s survey?

In a future post, I will bring this topic more close to home with my own observations about innovation for its own sake, especially as it relates to implementing enterprise solutions such as Project Workforce Management.

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Outsourcing and Innovation in Project Management: Can You Do Both?

Outsourcing’s Innovation Crisis is the title of a very interesting article by Stephanie Overby in CIO Magazine’s Advice & Opinion section this month. The thread of comments that follows the article is just as interesting.

The article is about IT outsourcing, but I see implications for many types of outsourcing, from large to micro levels, and for the "Hollywood Model" that we discuss here.

From Overby’s article:

Many IT leaders enter into outsourcing arrangements with an expectation that the outsourcing provider will not only live up to the letter of the contract, but by virtue of being a Big Outsourcer, will bring something more to the table.

Is that so wrong?

Some say, yes. It’s an unreasonable expectation. … Others say, if you can’t get IT innovation from billion-dollar service providers, who can you get it from?

In the comments, readers weigh in on both sides. One says that innovation isn’t really part of the business model: outsourcing is about fulfilling a contract that, in essence, states: "please do this for me." Another says that innovation is what will truly differentiate one vendor from another. The debate continues as commenters evaluate how realistic it is to expect a vendor to offer innovative projects and services–when they are really in business to deliver only what is expected, and earn the highest possible margins.

Inherent in Workforce 2.0–the rise of project-based workforces who offer highly specialized skills–is the assumption that a client is asking for a scope of work, and a provider is delivering that scope. It’s a simple model that applies whether I ask my Marketing team to build a sales presentation, or a multi-billion dollar company outsources its software development division to a company in Indonesia.

The request is: "please do this for me," and we must both be clear about what "this" is. But if the provider delivers "this" and only "this," then there is no innovation.

From our own experiences, outsourcing poses a great danger to innovation. Outsourcing partners will do "this" and nothing more. They cannot innovate; it is almost in the contract for them not to (afterall we ask them not to deviate from the agreement). So far, we have had little success with expecting any innovation from our outsourcing partners. But they do what they are asked to do quite well, in most cases.

So is the Workforce 2.0 innovation-challenged, by its very nature? Will delivering "this," as quickly and cheaply as possible, actually prevent us from pushing the best ideas out to the market? The hopeful answer is that the market will value innovation: that clients and managers will reward those who innovate. But will economic realities bear this out?

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