Archive for category workforce 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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An All Purpose Checklist for Project Closure

This post is from Kevin Sequeira, Product Manager for Tenrox, the leading workflow-driven  project
management and professional services automation solution.
 

You’ve reached that point in the project where you stand at deployment and you are ready to shake hands with the project customer and move on to your next assignment.  Do you just flip the switch, wave goodbye and ride off into the sunset?  Is your job complete?  How do you know…what is your yardstick for saying, “that’s it, we’re done here!”?

From my project experience there are some key steps and critical things to check on as the project is deploying so as to ensure that the engagement is over and the solution is ready for the project customer.  I’d like I present what I consider to be a reasonable ‘general’ checklist for use at project close out to ensure you’ve dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the ‘T’s before moving on to your next project.
 
Are all deliverables delivered?
Review the project schedule closely. Has your project team successfully delivered on all project deliverables?  And just as importantly, do you have something documenting customer acceptance of each project deliverable?  Is there a formal signoff in your project folder?
 
Are all invoices current?
Most projects either bill time and materials, by deliverable, or monthly. Look through all project invoices. Has everything that should be paid up till now actually paid?  If not, now is the time to check with the customer to see if there are any outstanding invoice issues and work to resolve them quickly.
 
Has a lessons learned session been conducted or at least scheduled?
I’m a fan of conducting one or more lessons learned sessions before the actual point of deployment because it’s hard to pull everyone together after the solution has been turned over to the customer and to support staff. But if you’ve not held a session yet, schedule that now with the client even if it’s just a one or two hour phone call.
 
Have all user acceptance testing (UAT) issues been resolved?
How did UAT go?  Were there any remaining issues to be fixed?  Ensure that those have been acceptably resolved prior to deployment. Make sure that you have a formal UAT signoff in hand as well – a project that does not have a formal testing acceptance from the project client should not be headed for deployment.
 
Are all training issues completed?
Most customer solutions require some level of training to be conducted for the customer’s end user community.  Naturally, this would have been well laid out in the project schedule with specific tasks designed to ensure that this is accomplished.  Review the schedule to ensure that all training tasks are complete – a customer who doesn’t know how to use their newly deployed system will likely not be a satisfied customer who gives good references to other potential project clients.
 
Is a formal project acceptance signoff ready for the customer?
Finally, do you have a formal signoff document ready for the customer to sign upon deployment of the final solution?  It’s important that you’ve been accumulating ‘official’ acceptance signoffs on all deliverables up to this point, but this one is probably the most important of all as it signifies overall acceptance of the deployed solution to the customer.  Any discussion of remaining outstanding invoices will likely begin and end with this signoff, so make sure that it is always part of your project closure
checklist.
 
Summary
This is my practical checklist for closing out a project engagement.  Readers – do you have other things that you would suggest adding to this list?  What other items do you consider critical to every project to cover before considering the engagement closed out?

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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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Sales to Service and Everything in Between

Written by: Marlon Arevian – Senior Solution Consultant, Tenrox

Ahhh…the life of a Solution Consultant! They sit warm and snug, in between the Sales and Service departments. Solution Consultants’ inherit a hybrid role of ambassadors for their company’s products during the pre-sales process while effectively assessing scope and mitigating risk for the Service Delivery Team. They also bridge the gap of the high flying energy and emotional rollercoaster of Sales to the pragmatism and well-drawn lines of Professional Services. Outside of showcasing product offerings to potential customers, a big part of their job is to communicate what exactly our new customers are looking to accomplish. The Services Team needs to know things like objectives, scope and risks which were collected during the pre-sale process. Solution Consultants own the post sales knowledge transfer process which saves our customers a ton of frustration from not having to repeat themselves and allows our professional services team to kick off a project on solid ground. It also ensures that the customer vendor relationship is fluid from their initial contact to being live on the system.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Why Generational Profiling Is Bad Management

Here is an interesting perspective on the Generation X, Y and Z at work talk we have all heard lately. Some excerpts:

Would you characterize your employees by gender, age, race, religion, or in any other way when it comes to managing them and enabling them to be successful at their jobs? Of course not. And I’m not talking about verbally or publicly. I’m talking about when you sit down to do their review, determine their raise, have a one-on-one, or interview them, would you take any of that stuff into account? Again, of course not.

You know why? Because there are at least a dozen more important and relevant factors, like job performance, experience, knowledge, team work, etc. The only profiling I’m aware of in the real business world has to do with multinational companies managing workforces in other countries where employment law, compensation, and culture are different. To me, that makes sense.

But profiling groups by generation is ridiculous, no matter what the management researchers and gurus say. Not to mention that it’s dehumanizing.

I somewhat agree with Steve Tobak’s observations in that some of this generation talk is overblown and its importance exaggerated. However, from our own experience at Tenrox younger generations have very different expectations. When it comes to recognition, rewards, raises and bonuses, of course you look at job performance, experience, knowledge and other such factors to determine what is appropriate. But everyone does not feel appreciated or get motivated the same way. For some, an equivalent valued gift, a few extra days off, a paid vacation works better than a cash bonus or a raise. We try to take such things into account when communicating with or rewarding our team members; and yes, the employee’s generation plays an important role in how we approach such discussions.

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The Importance of Taking Breaks

Here is an interesting article on the importance of taking breaks:

http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/break-through-by-taking-breaks-matthew-e-may

Some excerpts (although reading the entire article is definitely highly recommended):

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these ingeniously elegant solutions and brilliant flashes of insight you can see that they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away seems to have played a part.

Most “creatives”—artists, musicians, writers, etc.—instinctively know that idea incubation involves seemingly unproductive times, but that those downtimes and timeouts are important ingredients of immensely productive and creative periods. But until fairly recently the how, when, and why of being kissed by the muse was something of a myth and mystery, explained only by serendipity.

New studies show that creative revelations tend to come when the mind is engaged in an activity unrelated to the issue at hand; pressure is not conducive to recombining knowledge in new and different ways, the defining mark of creativity.

While no one yet knows the exact process, there’s an important implication for all of us: putting pressure on ourselves to try and make our brains work harder, more intensely, or more quickly, may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights. In other words, if you’re looking to engineer a breakthrough, it may only come through a break. Your brain needs the calm before its storm.

As one example, one of the best decisions we made at Tenrox was to shut the company down between Christmas and New Year’s. We do not schedule any internal or external project work, customer calls, visits or implementations during this time. Our professional services and support team is also asked to provide nothing more than essential services by a handful of people who are on call. We have done this for the last two years and it has been an incredible success. Our team returns to work well rested, creative, and fully reenergized. We very much encourage our team to take breaks and all their vacation time on a regular basis. Working hard without sufficient breaks and “off the grid” time leads to an unproductive uninspired team.

Would be great to hear your perspective and suggestions for taking breaks and how you apply this to your project teams.

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A Sincere Apology

In the fifteen years I have been with Tenrox I have seen two kinds of people managing businesses and running projects:

  • Type 1: A person who apologizes for his or her own mistakes and accepts the mistakes of others
  • Type 0: One who never says sorry, denies everything

Like most companies we have both types of people at Tenrox. Thankfully we have more type ones than zeros. Recently, there has been a huge surge in customer activity and we need everyone at Tenrox to be at the top of their game these days to try and serve every single one of our users.

A few days ago I had to talk to a type 0 project manager regarding some of the issues we have with his performance, the projects he manages, his overall approach to the challenges we have, and how important he is given the current resource crunch.

As usual, his automatic patterns kicked in. I got the “It is just your impression”, “but you don’t understand”, “no this is not true”, “you are wrong” … types of responses. This is a hard working person with good intentions and reasonable abilities. Unfortunately, his inability to take responsibility for any mistakes, wholeheartedly apologize for them, and his constant slippery denials virtually guarantee that he will always be nothing more than a second rate mediocre consultant or project manager, at best.

I sometimes call myself the Chief Mistake Officer at Tenrox followed by a list of my personal and professional mistakes just in the last twelve months to try and convey how important it is for everyone to take chances, innovate and get out of their comfort zone … but none of that is any good if we don’t have the capacity to sincerely apologize and to accept our mistakes.

Here is a very nice article on the power of apology: http://ccr.byu.edu/content/power-apology.
I hope more of our team members adopt this mindset.

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The No Collar Workplace

Here is an interesting article that examines the types of personalities that can excel at working remotely or from a home office. These are the main takeaways:

Duff assumed it would be the quants, introverts, and reclusive types who would thrive in a virtual work situation. After all, they’re the ones who keep their heads burrowed in their cubicles. But it turns out it’s the extroverts — the office gabbers, the life of the break-room party — who thrive in the land of virtual work. Left on their own, these types of employees are the ones who work closely with clients, chum around with colleagues, and talk it up with bosses. They stay connected no matter where they are.

Shy, disorganized types are better kept in-house. The office environment is more forgiving of the scatterbrained; its structures help provide external reinforcement — as in your comrade popping his head into your office to remind you that you are late for the meeting (again). There’s also something to be said for the social interactions of an office environment. It doesn’t require much to keep up basic relationships when you are physically at work.

Duff also thought that mobile workers would tend to be seat-of-the-pants types. Again, the opposite turned out to be true. “Mobile workers are far more organized, personally, than their office-bound counterparts,” he says. “They have to be on top of their game the whole time.”

Based on our experiences with remote offices and employees I mostly agree with these findings. Here are a few of our own best practices for remote workers:

  • The best remote workers are people you have worked with in a physical office. The longer you have worked with them the more likely it is for the remote relationship to be a successful one. Of course, the above criteria still applies. If this person is a disorganized introvert then going remote will only make matters worse.
  • Do not hire someone who has always worked from the office as a first time remote worker. This is too much of an adjustment for anyone. A more gradual approach to going full remote (let’s say two days a week to start) is much more likely to succeed.
  • Invest a lot of time in nurturing the remote relationship. We assume too much when we work with others, especially those we do not see. Taking the time to talk to them frequently, asking them how it’s going, and finding opportunities to connect with them virtually and in person goes a long way in making the relationship successful.
  • It takes a village to go remote. You have to make sure that remote workers have the collaboration from everyone in the main office and access to the information they need to feel connected and get their work done. For example, if you are having Internet issues in the main office or any major pending announcements, your IT and HR personnel should immediately notify all remote workers of such events. After the fact is too late. Every event is an opportunity to build trust and enhance communication. Lack of such updates actually alienates people and hurts their trust in you and the organization they work for.

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Faster is the New Fast: The Demand Grows for Project Workforce Management

Our friend, futurist Jim Carroll, has published a new book: Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast. This book is chock-full of insights and observations, and skillfully organized into four sections: Velocity, Agility, Innovation, and Activity.

The section on Agility is particularly of interest to me, because it discusses skills: both the skills companies need to deploy to make work happen, and the skills people need to cultivate so that they can get their job done effectively.

A fascinating fact that Jim shared in his talk at our User Conference: 65% of today’s pre-school children will work in jobs and careers that do not yet exist. That means that the types of work we do in the next 20 years (which isn’t that long!) will change dramatically, and rapidly. Consider, already that for myself and my colleagues (all software guys) in my age bracket (early forties), the word "software" was unknown to us, up to early days of high school.

For individuals, they have to be open both to amazing specialization (I recommend the book’s chapter about "Manure Management" for an example), and constant change.

For companies, the pressure to be agile will be felt in the greater competition and faster times to market for each new innovation. And, the skills needed to develop more sophisticated products and services, and deliver them faster, will become more specialized. As we have discussed here before, companies have to be ready to outsource, attract the right skills, and practice project workforce management: the management of skilled project teams.

In the not-so-distant future that Jim Carroll describes, project workforce management is imperative. He writes:

In an era such as this, firms are faced with a future that requires a new form of human capital agility: the ability to deploy the right skills at the right time for the right purpose, regardless of where the skill might be required, or where the skill is sourced. At the same time, organizations are faced with an increasingly global talent base, a reality that demands new forms of collaboration, insightful project management, and deep insight into the effective utilization of those skills. The way to the future is clear: it’s no longer about managing time: it’s about successful skills deployment.

This book will inspire you to transform your company–and yourself–to be ready for the ever-accelerating rate of change in the flat world.

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