Category Archives

Cloud Computing

  • Jun 27,2017

At a recent American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) meeting, the talk at our table was about the value gap. Clients and municipalities are cost-conscious, and rightly so. They are mandated to get the best possible price for a project.

Engineering firms, on the other hand, must provide competitive pricing in order to compete in the marketplace. But the lowest price doesn’t accommodate the cost of value. That’s the value gap.

The Cost Value Gap

As described at the ACEC lunch, the cost of value is the work that a firm does to ensure that a project is successful. Work that is often invisible to the client and frequently unbilled.

For example, firms manage vast amounts of project data. They carry the cost of hosting the data, keeping it secure, and tagging it so it’s easily retrieved. Project data management is a valuable service. Yet firms rarely bill for it because clients don’t associate the cost of this service with the value it provides.

Another Example of the Cost Value Gap

Firms end up owning relationships with entities hired by the client. Think public utilities or construction companies.

The firm takes on the responsibility of collaborating with the entities they had no hand in hiring. To ensure that the project succeeds, the firm keeps the client informed about, well, everything: work order changes, potential cost overruns, delays and so on. This level of collaboration and communication consumes firm resources but clients don’t equate the cost of this service with the value they receive.

As the conversation died down, firm owners and project managers shrugged their shoulders, agreeing that they just couldn’t be competitive if they included the cost of value in a Request for Information (RFI). They’d be out of the running. And that’s bad for business.

Close the Cost Value Gap With Information

In his seminal book “Managing the Professional Service Firm,” David H. Maister devotes an entire chapter to How Clients Choose [a firm]. It’s entirely relevant to closing the cost-value gap.

Maister writes, “From the buyer’s perspective, the two stages [of selecting a firm] are experienced as qualification and selection.” Master goes on to say that qualification is a rational, logical process based on the evaluation of a firm’s competency.

Firm selection, on the other hand, is much more personal and intuitive. It is largely based on the firm’s ability to be helpful to the client. As Maister puts it, “Give me some new information.” Information that I [the client] will find useful, that will help solve my problems. And it has to be the kind of information that I can believe in, that’s documented and demonstrable.

How to Get the Data That Demonstrates Value

Consider running your firm in the cloud. If you’re trying to manage people, projects, and billing with spreadsheets and disconnected applications, it’s a time-consuming hassle to collect accurate data. This applies equally to your firm management and your ability to document costs and demonstrate value to your client.

In their paper, “The Industry Software Revolution,” authors Brian Feinstein and Trevor Oelschig write, “The value of running your firm in the cloud is its ability to connect people on a job site or anywhere in the world with shared data in a collaborative environment.”

Think about connecting your project delivery workflow with an online app. In order to sell your value to a client, you have to know what it costs you to deliver services. An online time and billing application can capture data at every point in your project workflow, as shown in this diagram.

Get Clients Table 2

Many service professionals, regardless of industry, are experts in their particular field but they don’t start out as experts in managing a firm. An online time and billing application is kind of like an MBA in a box. Except there’s no box because it’s in the cloud. Regardless, this type of application provides real-time visibility into what’s going on with a client’s project. Exactly the kind of data that you need to communicate your firm’s value.

7 Ways You Can Use Data to Communicate Value

Calling upon Maister one last time, here are 7 ways you can use your command of data to help you communicate your firm’s value.

  1. Tell the client something they don’t know.

Give your client context. Without disclosing proprietary information, draw parallels between similar kinds of projects. Let your client know how their project compares to another in terms of budget vs actual, staffing allocation usage, even project data file size. Tell the client something they don’t know.

2. Tell the client something they need to know.

Give your client a heads up. If a project budget is at risk for an overrun that’s something your client needs to know. But when you alert the client before there’s a budget overrun and you have ideas about how to prevent it, that’s more than something they need to know. That’s valuable.

3.  Bring useful information to meetings.

Use your command of data to inform and advise during meetings, even those that come up at the last minute. You can open up a dashboard to confirm a project budget Not-to-Exceed (NTE) amount. Or show your client that the hours actually worked on a project task are getting close to the hours allocated. Then deliver even more value and help your client arrive at a solution.

4.  Show what you’re doing and why it matters to the client.

Set up a regular cadence of communication with your client. It doesn’t matter how easily you can access project information if you don’t form the habit of communicating it to your client. It’s important to share project status updates and discuss options to avert potential problems like a cost overrun. It’s just as important to listen to your client. Be there. Fully present. And listen. That’s invaluable.

5.  Involve the client in major project milestones.

Give your client something to celebrate. Create a shared sense of accomplishment. Review the project information with your client—things like project stages, due dates, staffer assignments, budgets, and percent complete. Nothing communicates value like success.

6. Inform the client about consequences of a change in scope.

Be constant, steady, and reliable in your client’s changing landscape. Use the data you’ve captured across many client projects to accurately forecast the cost of a change in scope. You’ll be of value to your client and you’ll be confident that your firm can afford to take on the work if offered.

  1. Be helpful beyond the specifics of the project scope.

This excerpt from“Manage Your Manager,” a training by Dr. Todd Dewett says everything that needs to be said on the subject. “Being a helpful person is not only the right thing to do in a professional context, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that long term, the people you’re helping will be willing to help you.”

Learn more about using data to communicate your value. We’re here to help. Because if you succeed, we do too.

Let's Talk Value

 

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BigTime Software delivers real-time, metrics-driven time tracking, billing and project management for more than 2,000 professional firms, tracking over $2 billion (USD) worth of billable time each year.

 

  • Mar 20,2017
android_mobile_time

When mobile expense tracking apps are so widely available, why do so many professional service firms stick with manual processes?

According to Robert Neveu in CPA Practice Advisor, many smaller organizations can manage a manual process just fine due to lower reporting volume and reimbursement requirements.

The Problems with Manual Expense Tracking

But there are problems with manual processes even then. Neveu’s firm, Certify,  conducted a recent survey of more than 600 CFOs and accounting professionals. They found that the top pain point for 52 percent of study participants is that employees lose paper receipts.  The runner-up pain point, experienced by 51% of respondents, is their employee’s failure to submit expense reports on time.

The Bigger Issue About Mobile Expense Tracking

Mobile apps capture images of paper receipts, which can then be attached to digital expense reports. This process does away with paper receipts altogether. It also makes it easy for employees to submit expenses on time.  Online expense tracking is also scalable. It can grow with your business without disrupting the way you do business.

There’s one thing more.  We work with professional service firms all over the world. Some of them make a lot of money. Others not so much.

What makes the successful ones successful? Leverage. They’re good at leveraging data. Successful firms use the data they track (expenses and timesheets, for example) to get better at estimating. They use online timesheet data to flag customers and engagements that need attention. They use expense data to do a better job building project budgets. If a project does fail, they use that data as an audit log to help them look back and see what went wrong.

No matter why a company decides to embrace mobile expense tracking, those who do are pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Read the article.

BigTime Software delivers real-time, metrics-driven time tracking, billing and project management for more than 2,000 professional firms, tracking over $2 billion (USD) worth of billable time each year.

  • Feb 08,2017

Puxatony Phil might have predicted six more weeks of winter, but we’re pretty much okay with that. (We are in Chicago after all.) Besides, with a new year in full swing, we are eager to share what we’ve been up to so far in 2017: improvements to BigTime’s synchronization tools with Quickbooks and Lacerte, a faster way for project leads to add themselves to teams, and reporting made even easier.

A Better Sync Agent

Last winter we announced Sync Agent, our tool for syncing QuickBooks data with BigTime IQ. Since then we have been working to make it even better. Here are some of the enhancements you’ll notice.

  • LPL-3518: More than one Quickbooks Desktop file? Now there’s an easy way to identify when those files were created.
#1

 

  • LPL-3477: Have more than one administrator using Sync Agent? No problem. A secondary admin should have no problem logging in.
  • LPL-3370: We’re always here to troubleshoot and provide solutions. If you run into problems with Sync Agent, now there’s more detailed logging behind the scenes that will help us help you even more swiftly

We launched TaxLink for Lacerte 2016 at the start of the year, just in time for tax season. We promised that we would keep you posted on improvements, so here are a few you can expect to find in February.

  • LPL-3459: Duplicates are troublesome; now you won’t have to worry about any duplicate status codes for your returns lingering on your Engagement Manager in BigTime.
  • LPL-3456: We solved problems with incorrect contact information on individual returns.
  • LPL-3460: For spousal information on individual returns filed jointly, spousal information will appear as a secondary contact.

Also, a quick tip on promise date and due date: The promise date in Lacerte 2016 defaults to the federal due date. We don’t currently have a way to overwrite this, but we have a quick fix (for now).

#2

We recommend creating a Due Date custom field for your returns on your Engagement Manager in BigTime. Once you have this set up, you are free to edit due dates for returns as you see fit. Read up on creating custom fields on our Knowledgebase.

Check Here to Add Yourself to the Team

LPL-2581: We’re big fans of making things more efficient. That’s what we brought to the client/project creation process. Instead of team leads or project managers having to make sure they’re added to project teams, there’s a checkbox for that.

#3

Simply place a checkmark next to this box to kill two birds with one stone: create a new client and make sure you’re on the team.
Need a refresher on how user access rights and security groups function when it comes to project and client creation? Head on over to BigTime’s Knowledgebase and read about customizing user access rights and how to create custom security groups.

Reports That Don’t Leave You Guessing

LPL-3005: We pride ourselves on all the options available from the BigTime Report Center. Of course, another thing we always strive to do is enhance your user experience. That’s what inspired this enhancement.
If you have a date filter applied to a report, you won’t have to wonder if that’s active or the details of the date range. We’ll have this displayed for you next to Edit Report Settings.

#4

Let Us Know What you Think

That’s just a small glimpse of what we’ve been working on. We’ll keep working to bring you more improvements. If you have questions, don’t forget about the BigTime Knowledgebase. And if you have comments on what’s covered there (or not), send us feedback—click “Helpful” or “Unhelpful”— and submit a support ticket directly from an article if you need more help.

  • Nov 01,2016
3 Ways To Get More Out of Business Books Using the Kindle for PC App

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Thank you, Francis Bacon, late 16th century English philosopher, statesman and promoter of the scientific method. Bacon, with an apparent skill for one-liners, also received attribution for the phrase, “Knowledge is power.”

The challenge for busy 21st-century professionals is finding the time to consume and digest the knowledge resident in books. According to Bloomberg News, publishers put out as many as 11,000 new business titles each year. This number doesn’t include the untold number of self-published business ebooks.

Getting More Out of Business Books in Less Time

John Howell, Chairman at BigTime Software, Co-founder at Acumatica and Co-founder and former CEO of Solomon Software knows a thing or two about managing time. In the video that follows, he introduces you to the Kindle PC app and how he uses it to get the most out of the business books he reads.

Share Your Knowledge

The copy/paste feature makes it easy to excerpt a paragraph, insert it into a document and share your knowledge. Though Francis Bacon probably didn’t say it, the real power of knowledge is sharing it. That’s exactly what John Howell does.

  • Apr 07,2015
iPhone Timesheet App

You know that tracking time and capacity of your staffers is crucial, but is a desktop or cloud option the right answer for you? Although desktop time tracking and practice management software can be great tools for monitoring employee capacity and productivity, they can be cumbersome. Desktop solutions are typically only helpful if you use one application that you need “bolted to the floor” in one location. In this increasingly mobile society, however, few of us are tethered anywhere and are itinerant multi-taskers, whether owing to travel, busy schedule or both.

So what is cloud computing?

Cloud applications are by nature accessible from anywhere, at any time. Cloud computing means that your software exists in a virtual space online instead of taking up space on a desktop computer or server so it is available to your staff 24 hours per day from any location with an internet connection. iPhone timesheet apps also allow staffers to track time offline from the palm of their hands, with no need to get to get your computer connected to WiFi. (Android, too.)

Payroll will never again be held up because someone was absent and didn’t submit a timesheet, and jobs will remain on track regardless of where employees are working (or resting).

Is an iPhone timesheet app reliable?

The best thing about tracking time online is that cloud apps integrate well with many other programs that are both in the cloud and on your computer. For example, our time tracking product, BigTime IQ, is used as a stand-alone app by many of our customers, but it also seamlessly connects to Intuit’s Lacerte, as well as QuickBooks Online Plus and QuickBooks desktop.

The key to making cloud computing work for you is to use a mobile app so that your employees can record their time and track project status from anywhere. You could carry around a computer and navigate through websites in order to log time for a client visit, or you can pull out your iPhone timesheet app, for example, and log/submit time with only a couple taps.

Introducing cloud computing to your company does not require a radical overhaul of your business processes, as it fits neatly into them and enhances existing functionality. BigTime IQ Pro and Express can also be synced with other apps via the API.

Is cloud computing safe/secure?

It can be intimidating to store confidential data in the cloud, but it is a secure process that may take better care of your data than a desktop alternative, in the long run. What will happen to your data if your computer or server crashes or experiences another hardware issue? BigTime Software uses triple encryption technology to remotely store your information in a heavily-fortified digital environment. iPhone timesheet apps also don’t store data locally on the smartphone and entries there are subject to the same security as logging in through a browser.

Is 2015 the year that your company explores cloud computing software and enters the 21st century, to optimize efficiency and cut costs associated with productivity loss or inaccurate time/expense tracking?

Questions about tracking time and/or expenses in the cloud?

Call us at 312-346-4646 or email us at [email protected]



  • Mar 10,2015

Top 3 SaaS Software Apps for Business
Professional services firms in the SMB and startup spaces are increasingly revamping old workflows to keep pace with the ever-growing number of apps required to do business in the 21st Century. Redesigning obsolete business processes, even secondary ones, is required to make companies competitive in the digital age.

Technological upgrades and implementation in the workplace is met with resistance by some as too time- and cash-intensive, but those are common misconceptions. The reality of today’s market is that in order to remain competitive (let alone to grow), companies must take the first steps toward digital integration now.

The biggest push is for connecting with SaaS (software-as-a-service) apps, like BigTime IQ, and bringing companies onto the cloud. SaaS is a software licensing model where access is based on subscription level. Instead of using up your desktop computer or server space, the software is hosted entirely online and you access it via any internet browser, on any device (provided it is mobile-ready).

One of the biggest benefits of using SaaS software apps for your business is that they are typically designed to be scalable solutions that meet the changing needs of a growing firm. You don’t have to purchase costly full-featured software out of the box – and obsolescence is not an issue. SaaS apps do regular updates and offer upgrades available to customers who are ready to take the next step.

Besides freeing up storage space, SaaS software also allows you and and your staffers to access it anywhere, anytime so your business can minimize productivity losses. Some apps will automate internal, recurring processes in your business so you can reevaluate employee job descriptions and refocus their time. Below are three great SaaS apps for professional services startups and SMB’s that will help you optimize your workflow and maximize those margins.

PeopleFluent
Human resources and talent management is a crucial part of running a thriving business because the quality of your product is only as high as the quality of your staff – and job satisfaction in large part determines the quality of their work. HR professionals can come with a big price tag while their services are often not needed on a daily basis by small firms.

PeopleFluent provides flexible HR solutions for the changing needs of growing companies. This SaaS talent management solution assists companies in discovering qualified candidates, hiring, and then managing that person through their tenure at your professional services firm. The software also offers aggregated data so you have accurate predictive information for each type of employee. This talent management tool comes in handy for organizational purposes, but most importantly, it can help keep your business compliant with all the rapidly changing employment laws without having to invest in a full-time HR professional, or a lawyer.

Central Desktop
Central Desktop is a great way for your staffers to manage shared files and scattered communication in one place. This SaaS software solution focuses on providing an alternative to email, IT-heavy document sharing, file-sharing sites that leave a lot to be desired, and especially the confines of desktop computing. It’s also accessible remotely so that absenteeism will not be an issue anymore.

Instead, it connects your employees with the content that they need – anywhere, at any time. This will speed up business processes, as Central Desktop is also accessible to vendors/contract workers as well as permanent staff. Instead of chasing down individual files and people, Central Desktop centralizes all of your project files and internal documents, and the communications associated with them.

Dashlane
The other SaaS apps in this piece help small business improve their workflow, but Dashlane is here to help you manage these changes. By integrating web and cloud apps with your current business processes, you will be creating many new online accounts that require unique passwords. Dashlane is a free password protection software that automatically corrects and autofills passwords. The secure password vault works across different internet browsers and operating systems (Windows, Mac, etc.). The secret is outstanding security: encrypted with AES-256, a security dashboard that shows which passwords have been compromised, and notification if any of your accounts have been breached.

In addition to automatic logins and one-click password changes and updates, Dashlane also offers a digital wallet that is universally accepted and stores all payment types (even payPal and bank info). The Dashlane online wallet autofills payment information in the browser and automatically saves receipts and screenshots of the purchase.

Questions about SaaS software applications or upgrading your business processes to the cloud?

Call us at 312-346-4646 or email us at [email protected]

  • Feb 18,2015

Cloud Time Tracking SoftwareYou know that tracking time and capacity of your staffers is crucial, but is a desktop or cloud time tracking software the right answer for you? Although desktop time tracking and practice management software can be great tools for monitoring employee capacity and productivity, they can be cumbersome. Desktop solutions are typically only helpful if you use one application that you need “bolted to the floor” in one location. In this increasingly mobile society, however, few of us are tethered anywhere and are itinerant multi-taskers, whether owing to travel, busy schedule or both.

So what is cloud computing?

Cloud applications are by nature accessible from anywhere, at any time. Cloud computing means that your software exists in a virtual space online instead of taking up space on a desktop computer or server so it is available to your staff 24 hours per day from any location with an internet connection. Payroll will never again be held up because someone was absent and didn’t submit a timesheet, and jobs will remain on track regardless of where employees are working (or resting).

What are the benefits of cloud time tracking?

The best thing about cloud time tracking apps is that they integrate well with many other programs that are both in the cloud and on your computer. For example, BigTime IQ is used as a stand-alone app by many of our customers, but it also seamlessly connects to Intuit’s Lacerte, as well as QuickBooks Online Plus and QuickBooks desktop. Introducing cloud computing to your company does not require a radical overhaul of your business processes, as it fits neatly into them and enhances existing functionality. BigTime IQ Pro and Express can also be synced with other apps via the API.

Is cloud computing safe/secure?

It can be intimidating to store confidential data in the cloud, but it is a secure process that may take better care of your data than a desktop alternative, in the long run. What will happen to your data if your computer or server crashes or experiences another hardware issue? BigTime Software uses triple encryption technology to remotely store your information in a heavily-fortified digital environment.

Is 2015 the year that your company explores cloud computing software and enters the 21st century to optimize efficiency and cut costs associated with productivity loss or inaccurate time/expense tracking? We’d suggest you strongly consider it, whatever solution you end up implementing.

Questions about tracking time and/or expenses in the cloud?

Call us on 312-346-4646 or email us at [email protected]