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How To Avoid An Evil Datacenter

As with most companies, we store the bulk of our data internally on our network here at the corporate headquarters, but we also store a fair bit of it at our datacenter. We have software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications which we host for our customers, as well as for ourselves. We have our web site, of course, which must be up and running 24x7 or my CEO calls me up in a panic. We have an FTP server for support, as well as one for the public, etc. You get the picture. We’ve got resources that are needed by our remote employees as well as our customers. In essence, we need a reliable 24x7, redundant, fast way for our people and the world to access our data. If this sounds familiar to you, you might be in the same boat that we were in. We needed a datacenter. 

I’m oversimplifying our needs a bit, since we are a hosted service provider for literally hundreds of organizations around the world. You see, with the software that Journyx creates, you can either host it locally on one of your own servers, or you can ask us to do it for you, taking away that overhead. Since we host our customers

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How To Get Payroll To Max Profitability Throughout The Company

When payroll executives implement time and attendance systems to automate payroll, they often miss the chance to facilitate greater profitability throughout the entire company. These executives are, of course, payroll experts. They are usually not, however, experts at project management or billing automation.

The time data they collect, if collected appropriately, can also be used to automate project management, project costing, project tracking and project estimation improvement, as well as for internal, external and reverse billing automation. Most payroll and HR executives know little about these subjects, but increasingly, they are being asked to rise to new challenges.

These new challenges are being caused by the tectonic shift from capital businesses to people businesses. This is a shift of valuing time as much as money.  About 50 years ago, when most people twisted bolts in a factory, workers were not considered volunteers, they were not empowered, and managing the money of the company (i.e. the capital) was much more important than maximizing the time and knowledge of the worker. Such businesses are called capital businesses because power and wealth flowed from the capital.

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The Future of Project Management Software - Probably!

Over the last decade or so, the industry has shifted from customers installing software at their physical locations to renting Web-based software over the Internet on a monthly basis. It’s moving this way because customers want it to, and so do vendors.

Most software companies get their revenue from “shelfware” (software that is rarely used and ends up on the proverbial shelf). Popular programs like Quicken or SAP – for which customers pay the total cost up front – can be complicated, making them difficult to use and achieve maximum benefit from. However, once a customer has paid for these programs, there is no incentive for the company to follow up and ensure that it is working properly for the customer.

But hold on, things might be improving. Newer companies like Concur (expense reimbursement), Salesforce.com (sales automation), Hire.com (recruiting and hiring automation), and Taleo (also recruiting and hiring automation) are turning out to be quite successful in renting software over the Web to their customers.

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Seven Ways to Improve Your Consulting Company

In the consulting business, your hours are your inventory: lose track of them and they are wasted. If you hit your budget and reimbursable expenses, however, you will move more inventory.

Everyone wants a more profitable company with fewer headaches, happier customers and no surprises.  Often some of the most mundane areas of business execution lead to the highest levels of achievement when done right.  This is true for consultancies—automating your time and expense collection can help you achieve this higher level of profitability in several ways.  Here are the top seven:

Lower Costs and Increase Profits

1.   Understanding Your Costs

If you don't know your costs, you don't know where you’re profitable, so you can't steer your company towards success.  In today’s knowledge economy, project accounting is the best way to understand production costs, but few companies do it well. Consultancies already know the importance of tracking hours better than most companies do, so it should come as no surprise that a thorough, efficient method of time tracking is essential to running a profitable consultancy.

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Microsoft Dynamics in the Cloud: Are You Ready?

This year’s Microsoft Convergence Show had a record-breaking 10,000 attendees.  During the show, Microsoft showed off its hybrid cloud strategy for their Dynamics products.  Dynamics CRM can now deploy identical software both onsite and in the cloud.  Dynamics NAV and GP will follow suit in 2013, with AX coming soon thereafter.  How can you get your Dynamics product ready for functionality in the cloud? 

Simply put, if Dynamics is in the cloud, you should have all of your add-ons in the cloud, as well.  I’ll use the example of adding timesheet software to Dynamics.  This is a common add-on seeing as how Microsoft Business Portal lacks an essential time-tracking functionality.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Portal lacks data validations and thus is prone to human error.  This is a huge time sink.  If your managers are busy manually checking timesheets, it negatively affects company operations.  Another downfall of Business Portal is the lack of

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5 Ways Your Employees Will Whine About Tracking Their Time

My company sells employee time tracking software that automates client billing, project accounting and payroll. We have implemented these systems for customers repeatedly where the employees previously were unaccustomed to accounting for their time. Occasionally this has generated some intense emotions. Some people really don't want to track their time even when their managers are very firm.

Why is this? Why do people find tracking time so unpleasant, or even maddening?

And how about you?  Do you like entering data into forms?  Why or why not?  Is tracking time any worse than filling out other forms? 

My experience has shown that it often is for several reasons.

Reason One: Reporting time can threaten status. For salaried people, especially if they’ve been employed earlier in their life in an hourly "time clock" environment, reporting time can make them feel demoted. Conventional wisdom (that I disagree with) is that "professional" people are more trustworthy and less in need of supervision than "blue collar" people.

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Multitasking: It's Assaulting Your Team's Productivity

It’s seemingly impossible to avoid multitasking in today’s busy world. The constant bombardment of emails, phone calls, and appointments quickly begin to pile up, so to combat this we attempt to juggle more activities at once. I instinctively answer the phone as I’m driving home from work or respond to an urgent email while I’m reading a report, but are these the best solutions to my problems?

Mounting evidence suggests that multitasking is the enemy of productivity. Though it may lead us to think that we’re being more productive, we’re in fact thwarting performance ability and significantly lowering quality of work along the way. While we can all recognize how multitasking affects the texting driver, the negative impact of multitasking in the workplace is not as immediately apparent.

A 2010 study in the journal Science tackled this issue by examining just how the human brain handles multiple simultaneous activities. Research suggests that when a person performs a single task, the goal-oriented areas of both frontal lobes work to engage the task together. When an additional task is added, the two lobes divide responsibility and each hemisphere focuses on its own objective. While our two lobes can work collaboratively to accomplish an independent task, they must divide to accomplish anything more fragmented.

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Insight Into the IT Project Manager's Work and How To Help Them

According to a Gartner analyst firm report, 15% of all IT projects failed that year because of high cost variance, while 18% were unsuccessful because they were substantially late. [i]  This means that in 2008, 1 in 3 technology projects failed.  Why such a dismal success rate?  Such projects primarily involve the management of human resources in order to accomplish the target schedule, cost, and quality, so it is safe to assume that poor resource management played a large role.  Unfortunately, without effective resource management processes, such organizations are left asking questions like:

  • “Who is working on what?” 
  • “How do I get this project back on schedule?”
  • “How much more work will it take to finish?” 

The Problem with IT Projects Today

Resource Management

            IT project teams are made up of knowledge workers who are categorized by skill types or job functions.  For example, a project team might require business analysts, developers, team leads, project managers, architects, or database analysts.

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What a CEO Needs To Know About the DCAA

The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), under the authority, direction, and control of the United States under the Secretary of Defense, performs all contract audits for the United States Department of Defense (DoD). DCAA also provides contract audit services to some other government agencies.

Today, the DCAA consists of approximately 4,000 people located at more than 300 field audit offices throughout the world.

The purpose of the agency, simply stated, is to avoid the purchase of $300 hammers and $1,000 toilet seats. Business services companies, such as software and management consultancies, that sell project management and other services to government agencies need to comply with a number of DCAA requirements if they want to avoid failing an audit. As taxpayers, we should all be thrilled that our government has put processes in place to avoid overpayment and being defrauded. 

As business owners selling to the federal government, however, these procedures complicate the process for winning and performing on government contracts tremendously, especially for smaller firms.

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Do You Know Where You're Unprofitable?

When times are tough, every company looks to cut costs where they can.  Yet how can this be accomplished without eliminating key projects and people?  It is actually quite simple if you have the right data in hand.  With the appropriate per-customer per-project profitability metrics, companies can easily shave off unprofitable work and learn how to focus their time, efforts and budget on the profitable work alone.

Cutting with Precision

Do all of the top managers at your company know which of your past projects were successful and which were failures? Do they know how many employees worked on these projects or how much time was invested in them? How about which of your clients were a drain and which ones were profitable? Without this information, you certainly cannot cut costs without risking the loss of projects and people that bring in the most revenue. 

Implementing profitability metrics might sound complicated, but it is often easier than you might think.

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How a Dose of Time and Attendance Systems Do the Down Economy Good

In the event of a down economy, many companies start looking for ways to cut costs. This can include anything from reducing spending on various programs to cutting employees, yet such drastic measures are often unnecessary and harmful to the company's future. And yet, if you could simply figure out where your company is profitable and where it's not, you could simply choose to do more of the profitable work.

Planning for Profit

Companies need data to help them make future decisions. For example, how many executives really know which projects were successful? Which clients were a drain and which ones were profitable? How many employees worked on each project, and for how long?

If executives have this information in hand while planning future projects and budgets, they can make much more informed, cost-saving decisions. Here is a five-step process that can help you do so, especially in a down economy where every penny counts.

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Three Major Ways SaaS Can Benefit Your Payroll

It’s not easy being a payroll professional today.  You are responsible for making sure that your company’s financial processes run smoothly, which includes gathering all of the time data throughout the organization, ensuring that everyone is paid correctly and on time, and preventing errors from finding their way into your records.  In fact, many payroll professionals struggle with these areas needlessly because they do not realize that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions can be leveraged to create seamless, efficient payroll processes.

The Benefits of SaaS Technology

  • Less Work

Automated systems for processes such as time, expense and project tracking save payroll professionals an enormous amount of time and effort.  They often replace inefficient, obsolete manual or paper systems, and can also prevent double data entry by integrating with other solutions.  Not only that, but if the system is offered as SaaS, your IT department does not have to lift a finger.

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Using Time Data for Business Improvement

Time and attendance tracking is necessary for obvious reasons, yet many business owners do not realize that this data can deliver enormous benefits to the organization, aside from payroll.  In fact, having employees track their time against tasks and projects allows managers to develop key performance indicators to measure progress against strategic goals such as increased billability, adherence to project estimates and project profitability optimization.

Key Performance Indicators

A 'key performance indicator' or KPI measures an organization's progress towards a strategic goal.  When leveraged correctly, KPIs can make a huge impact.

First, you must determine what the most important business goals are. It might be increased profitability, reduced number of defective parts per thousand, maintaining a certain percentage of customer satisfaction, or perhaps revenue per store location. Once this is established, you can create a KPI to help you measure your progress. 

Next, you must ensure that your KPI is measurable. "Make customers more successful" is not an effective KPI without some way to measure the success of your customers. "Be the most convenient drugstore" won't work either if there is no way to measure convenience.

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Making Management More Manageable

Secure management strategies are nearly always summed up in terms reflecting a creative mindset. Thinking “outside the box” and coming up with “new, innovative techniques” is often the expectation and praise lauded on elite executives. Of course, there is great value to these attributes. The human element of management – that being the skill acquired from personal talent and the knowledge that comes with experience – separates the great managers from the mediocre. However, the development of these methods is only one aspect of a powerful managerial style. The other is a strong command of logistics.

Often shuffled into the background or carelessly delegated away, consistent logistical analysis has the ability to refine a project (or project coordinator), combining the positive results of innovation and forward-thought with the predictive ability of a hard science. Again, the key to effective long-term management strategy is consistency. That can only be achieved by keeping a close eye on all aspects of a project, team or industry.

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Cutting Costs With a Scalpel, Not a Chainsaw

From 1945 to 1965, the financial market in the U.S. moved upward. It then moved sideways until 1982, and up again until 2000. Right now, we are engaged in another great sideways movement. It could continue for another decade or so, and as businesses fail and members of congress pound their fists, it is natural to fear for the future.

These types of fears can be especially dangerous for businesses, as management often makes unwise decisions out of panic. For example, they might cut employees or reduce spending on various programs that are good for the economy. Consequently, many companies that slash costs in response to an economic recession find themselves unable to achieve top-line growth when the recession ends.

Extreme cutting of people and projects can be avoided, or at the very least, they can be performed with more intelligent precision. All that are required to handle such problems the right way are per-customer per-project profitability metrics.

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From 1996 to Today: My Experience as a Software CEO

When we started out 15 years ago, we had a simple product, no real competitors and product installation was so easy that project management for customer rollouts didn’t seem very useful to us.  Over time, as the flexibility of our products increased, we added a professional services capability to our company that was, in its earliest stages, somewhat haphazard and delivered inconsistent results to our customers.  This led to customer satisfaction issues that were a real impediment to our success as an organization.  Since delivering demonstrable customer value is the only moral way to achieve business success in our industry, we knew we had to fix this problem quickly.

Once we inculcated some repeatable processes based on project management disciplines into our delivery, we were able to go so far as to productize our initial customer rollout service.  This has been so successful that we’ve been able to strategically virtualize that service in certain instances. For example, we use a vendor to assist with every rollout that includes

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60 Days to Accomplish the Impossible

Finding a timesheet solution is a difficult task for a company that’s never used timesheet software.  There is a huge learning curve that takes place in the buying process; a large amount of time taken to train employees; and communication that must happen with your provider’s support team when a problem arises.  It’s a totally new business relationship that must be developed and cultivated. 

But what if your timesheet software provider called it quits? 

This is exactly what happened to many small businesses that put their faith in Intuit Quickbooks Time Tracker.  Near the beginning of October 2011, Intuit announced that they are discontinuing Quickbooks Time Tracker & Time and Billing Manager effective December 1st.  That only gives customers 60 days to do the impossible: pull all of their company data from the product, and find and implement a brand new time tracking solution.  Small business owners must have felt considerable panic when they heard the news.

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How to Recession-Proof Your Company

On the back of rising volatility in the global financial marketplace and fears of a U.S. recession spilling over into the European economies, stock indices have recently shown considerable weakness. When economic storms loom, smart executives typically start looking for a way to cut costs in advance of softening demand for their companies' products and services.  But what if you could know with some degree of certainty where your company is profitable and where it's not, and figure out a way to do more of the profitable work?  What if you fired unprofitable customers instead of firing the employees who have helped you build the company to its present stature? 

Many companies that successfully slash costs to survive a recession find top-line growth elusive when the recession ends.  Their best people are gone, their long term projects were cancelled and a short term focus is all they have left, resulting in the lack of a platform designed for growth.

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Are You Staffing for the Success of your Company?

Today's article is written by my colleague, Bill Balcezak, and Deborah Kerr, partner at affintus. Learn more about them in their bios at the end of the article.

Successful hiring is one of the key factors to operational success for large and small businesses alike. Executives should approach the hiring process as a means to both improve their existing workforce and to secure a candidate who will add long-term value to the organization. If approached merely as a step toward replacing a lost asset, the hiring process will squander considerable resources and forfeit significant opportunity value from a potential personnel improvement. The mission is obvious, yet, according tobusiness owners, finding the right employees can be an elusive aspiration in a drawn-out process.

The results of the hiring search can be crucial for the future of small businesses and a poor decision can easily cost any organization well into the six figures. Every new hiring opportunity has the potential to advance a business's interests or set them back significantly, and should be approached using the same level of data, knowledge, and preparation required for any critical business decision.

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I'm an Executive. Time Tracking Does Not Concern Me.

Typically, the implementation of a time and attendance system falls to a company’s human resources department. However, it is absolutely critical that top executives become involved, too, lest they miss the chance to facilitate greater profitability throughout the entire company. 

The time data that is collected, if collected appropriately, can also be used to automate project management, project accounting, project tracking and project estimation improvement, as well as for internal, external and reverse billing automation.  

There is a shift happening in our world today from capital businesses to people businesses. This is a shift of valuing time as much as money.  About 50 years ago, when most people labored in a factory, workers were not considered volunteers, they were not empowered, and managing the money of the company (i.e. the capital) was much more important than maximizing the time and knowledge of the worker. Such businesses are called capital businesses because power and wealth flowed from the capital.

Read More

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