May 21, 2007
New Vision 5 Software for Project-Focused Firms
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

New Vision 5 Software for Project-Focused Firms

by Susan Smith


Without an enterprise software solution, many firms face budget over runs and poor utilization of staff across their projects. Project managers need a way to develop project plans where they can make changes across projects and resource assignments and put the right staff on the right projects.


Deltek Insight 2007 was held at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas this past week. Dave Marvin, VP, Product Marketing for Deltek, took time out from the conference to talk about their Deltek Vision release 5 for project focused firms, announced at the show.


Deltek promotes the Deltek Vision as follows: “Vision brings together all the critical business processes for the successful operation of the project focused firm.” The majority of the company’s clients are in the architectural and engineering field. A growing subset of customers is in the IT services and consulting market, which are also project focused firms. They have time and experiences they need to track against a variety of contractual arrangements and project activities.


Vision 5 addresses:


-Time expense management

-Billing

-Management of projects and resources and documents

-CRM

-Proposal and marketing automation


These capabilities are all integrated into one, totally web based solution.


What’s new in Vision 5:


The Resource Planning module. Vision is a modular product, which allows users to add on to a core of accounting, billing and time. Resource Planning helps organizations develop project plans where they show variables to depict their project activities and then assign resources to those activities.


With the help of beta uses and usability consultants, Deltek came up with a number of ways to improve the product. High on the list was the need for a way to view resources, their commitment across the entire organization and manage those commitments so we achieve a very high level of staff and utilization.


“We’ve added a number of new capabilities to help project managers understand the utilization of resources and make sure that utilization is as high as possible,” explained Marvin. “In a project driven firm, they develop their income stream, both top line and bottom line, through the way they bill their resources.”


According to Marvin, Vision enabled the increase of utilization of staff in a 60-employee firm with 60 billable resources each billed at $85/hour, to increasing the bottom line by nearly $200,000. In an Aberdeen Group study some years ago, it was determined that firms that used products such as Deltek Vision can increase their utilization an average of 8%.


“We can help them see the impact of their decisions on staff utilization throughout all their project portfolio, and we can give them real time insight and billing rates, labor charges, and also help them understand that project opportunities that they’re pursuing will affect the utilization of resources out in the future along with the utilization impact of currently booked projects,” Marvin said.


The Vision team wanted to be able to see across the entire organization to see all projects and how resources were being utilized. They had the idea of a desktop or workbench within which they could reassign resources to different activities and make sure the utilization targets were being met. “We came up with this new screen which uses some new technology and an entirely new interface which allows you to see the assignment of resources and the utilization percentages. It allows you to assign a utilization goal,” said Marvin. “We use colors to depict areas of concern or areas where everything is just fine. So red indicates that we have someone not utilized up to the
utilization goal or we use another color to depict someone is way over utilization goal. Then we have to either hire additional resources or move resources around to get that person back to a reasonable target.”


The colors are new to this release and the assemblage of information across all projects is also new, which gives users a view across their entire project portfolio.


Also enhanced in release 5 is the ability to do a skill search in the organization to find the right people who match the requirements for each project contract. The Vision database contains all the employees and subcontractors with all their relevant information and particular skill. With Vision 5, the search is enhanced so users can identify those resources that will meet a particular need. “We may have someone who specializes in a particular type of suspension bridge, for example, and we want to know someone with that kind of experience and then populate this view with personnel that meet those requirements.”


Significant strides have been made in the Visualization add on module, a technology used initially in the financial arena to analyze investment portfolios using colors and shapes to depict areas of over or underperforming investments. For the manager, it condenses reams of information into a one-page online view so they have streamlined focus on issues of great importance, and it saves them a lot of time.


The shapes can depict the size of the project, and depict whether or not those projects are profitable or not profitable. Red means unprofitable. A manager can drill down and learn more about the unprofitable projects.


Visualization has a number of different views such as accounts receivable, estimated complete compared to budgeted complete, project size and project type.


Vision 5 is designed so that the manager can get to the information much easier when they want to view it differently. “We have slides on the screen as onscreen controls so you can look at only your unprofitable projects, for example,” noted Marvin. “You can slide the color bar to the red, and then they will be shown. If managers want to identify trends, they may want to dissect data by project manager, or they might dissect it by industry type, or by division in the company.”


Other features of the new release include


- inventory management capability which serves clients who sell product as well as services. These might be interior designers or IT services companies that sell hardware and software.


- expanded Earned Value Reporting capability for the privately focused project driven firm.


- New international capabilities for UK clients, enhanced usability, and the product has been updated to be Windows Vista compliant and also compliant with Office 2007.


- SmartClient technology is in this release, which enables the usability changes made in resource planning and visualization.


In 2007, Vision had 1500 project focused firms as customers. “We achieved nearly 50% growth rate in our client base,” Marvin added.


There is also a special Vision Small Business targeted at the firm of under 50 employees. By adding modules or features, the Vision product scales well to accommodate large or small customers.


Vision has built into it a time tracking system, which will accept information from accounting and billing systems. As you are entering project information into Vision, you can prepare an accurate financial statement, as the information becomes immediately available in your accounting system. When you have an accounts payable invoice come in from the vendor, you can get it assigned to the project activity, so time and expense information is entered by project over a variety of activities. That information is captured by the accounting system that gets your billing out, and those billings reflect time and expense by project activity.


Deltek products are positioned for any business that is primarily English speaking. The company has clients in Canada, UK, S Africa, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico.


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