New Partnership for Deltek Vision and Deltek Professional Services consulting

I am excited to announce the official launch of Version X Solutions!

Version X Solutions is a new partnership that brings together a combined 30 years of Deltek Vision knowledge and experience under one umbrella.

We offer a wide and practical range of products and services including custom modules, custom reports, and even a cloud hosting service.

We’ve put together the beginnings of an inventory, and will continue to add to it as we come up with new ideas and do more interesting work for clients. If you have an extension we need, we’d love to hear about it!

Of course we still offer hourly consulting for nebulous or “figure it out as we go” projects.

You can read more about us and our current offering here.

What does this mean for existing customers?

Our new partnership will not adversely affect the existing relationships I have built with you over the years.

You will continue to get the same great friendly, responsive and most importantly, knowledgeable consulting services you have come to rely on from me.

Thank you for your continued business and I look forward to working with you in the near future.

From now on, please refer to the Version X Solutions site for information about products and services offered.

 

 

 

Deltek Vision: Understanding Backlog

Recently I’ve been involved with stabilizing a Deltek Vision implementation for a client in NYC. By “stabilization” I mean getting to the point where we can print out an income statement and balance sheet and they make sense, seem to represent a picture of what’s really going on in the firm. For a while there things were out of adjustment to put it mildly, and now things are back in alignment.

However, there was this one annoying thing that came up… it’s called backlog. It’s a number that appears on the Firm Metrics report under reporting/executive/Firm Metrics. The backlog number in our case was something like 967 Million Dollars… for a firm that does about 30M in revenue… seemed kinda high right?

So I went about understanding exactly what is “backlog” according to Deltek Vision, how is it calculated, and what to do if it just doesn’t seem like it’s right?

Here’s what I found out in two parts:

1. Backlog is defined as Compensation – JTD Revenue
a. This number ignores project status… so making projects dormant does not remove them from the backlog calculation.
b. This only applies to regular projects (not overhead or promo projects).
c. The number can be negative as well as positive.

2. To clean it up you need to align the JTD Revenue number with the Compensation number, but take into consideration what you’ve got going on in your billing terms.

In order to both clean up this number AND keep it in synch with something like reality, I wrote a stored procedure which adjusts a project’s compensation when either of two things happen:
1. billing terms get changed
2. status is changed from Active to Inactive or Dormant

For this particular client, most of their projects are fixed fee. This means the stored procedure needs to take into account the different types of fee billing possibilities, as well as take into account unit billing or cost plus (time and materials) projects. Since there are hundreds and hundreds of projects in this particular Vision database, it didn’t make sense for the client’s staff to go through every project and check the Fee amount, then enter that into compensation. It also doesn’t make sense for them to maintain that field manually on an ongoing basis.  Things happen fast in NYC. Automation is key.

What’s more, many of their projects have phases with their own fee amounts, as well as a fee table (at the top level) with the checkbox “enable posting by billing phase” checked. So here is what this nifty little stored procedure does:

1. For fee projects (or phases or tasks), it sets the compensation value at each phase (or task) to what is set in billing terms.
2. For any other kind of project, it sets compensation to JTD Revenue (unless the user wants to enter a different value, then the adjuster ignores it)
3. Unless the project has been made inactive or dormant, in which case it sets the compensation value equal to JTD Revenue… because it really shouldn’t be counted in backlog.

Sorry I don’t have any good pictures of the Deltek Vision interface for this one… there wasn’t really a good reason for it.  Instead, here’s a picture of my daughter and I on a recent trip to REI.

20150607_125602

Deltek Vision and Prevailing Wage Labor Tables – Entry 1: The problem

This is the first of a few or several blog entries giving some insight into:
– how I develop custom solutions for Deltek Vision, as well as
– high-lighting the extreme flexibility of Deltek Vision and custom infocenters, as well as
– letting you know that soon there will be a package solution available to any company using Deltek Vision, that automates the management of labor cost tables for prevailing wage projects.

Vali Cooper and Associates, Inc., headquartered in Emeryville, CA provides construction management and inspection services to public agencies in the State of California.

1. Most of their contracts fall under the “prevailing wage” laws in California.
The prevailing wage laws mandate that employees be paid a minimum amount hourly on certain types of projects depending upon their function and when they work.

2. Prevailing wage labor schedules are issued by the state, sometimes several per year. They have multiple labor categories with pay rates in groups. When a project is won, the prevailing wage rules to abide by depend upon the area of the state the project resides in, and the date the project starts. Thus each project could potentially have it’s own set of rules, but invariably, some projects share the same set.

3. A particular employee can work on any number of these types of contracts and thus have varying pay rates throughout any pay period depending upon which contract they work on.

4. The calculation of the actual pay rates that get paid to each individual employee is a complex process driven by the employee’s actual base pay + benefit elections, as well as what they actually are doing on the project. In Valicooper’s case there are currently only 4 classifications: Sr. Inspector, Inspector, Tester, and Apprentice. (example pictured below)

PW determination issued

5. Because of the nature of prevailing wage, and the nature of the work on prevailing wage contracts we need to capture several things about each time entry. Those things are:
Shift (day or night)
Category (activity code or labor code)
Reg, Ovt, or Double time

The crux of the issue is being able to assign the appropriate labor cost amount to each hour depending upon all the attributes named above as well as the formulas which are based upon the employees’ individual pay rates.

In each case, the payment rates are determined by a formula which includes something called a “fringe” and a “differential”.  The fringe is a sum of benefits calculation, and the differential is there if the employee is paid less than what the determination dictates.. you can imagine it could get complex to manage the cost tables in Vision.

To calculate the formula for an employee’s pay rate on a particular project at a certain time… you use the following elements:
The Prevailing Wage determination or set of rules the project falls under: (or that part of the project)
Employee’s benefit selections or “fringe” rate
Employee’s base pay rate
What the employee is doing on the project (Inspection, Testing etc.)
Which shift (day/night)
Reg, Ovt, Double time multipliers against the base

One thing to keep in mind is when all cost/pay rates for any employee need to be calculated, adjusted, corrected… here are a few cases:

1. employee changes benefit settings, like 401K contribution, health plan, or base pay

2. the prevailing wage determination has a scheduled increase that takes place

3. an employee is hired or fired

4. a new project is won, with a new prevailing wage schedule, thus requiring the creation of a new labor cost table for that project.

So you can imagine a company like Valicooper with about 150 regular project employees and just as many projects… the amount of administrative work needed just to keep the cost tables up to date.

There are however a few great things about this particular challenge:
1. The prevailing wage rules are concrete, documented rules that change slowly if at all over time.

2. Valicooper uses UltiPro for their Human Resources functions, where employee pay settings and benefit elections are stored, and can be imported into Vision daily.

3. Vision is super flexible when it comes to labor cost tables on projects. There are many options.

Thus, this project is a ripe candidate for two things, automating the management of employee cost rates on prevailing wage projects, and developing a solution that other companies with the same problem can use.
Lastly, the fourth great thing about this problem is that I am the one building a solution for it. Thus, the end result will be robust and require little maintenance even when you upgrade Vision. (see my recommendations section for some other customer’s opinions: click here for LinkedIn profile )

As of this date, I’ve made considerable progress, and have built a solution which imports the employee pay settings from UltiPro, calculates the employee base, fringe, reg, ovt and ovt2 rates, and populates per employee rates for each prevailing wage determination.  Up to this point, I’ve used three custom infocenters which store the following data:  UltiPro configuration settings, Employee Pay Settings, and Prevailing Wage rates.

The data is imported into the Employee Pay Settings infocenter, using mappings from the configuration infocenter, and finally populates per employee labor rates for any prevailing wage rules that are relevant. Relevance means that the employee has some relationship to the project that falls under that prevailing wage rule.

The automation also takes into account the complex set of rules that govern dates and employee rates.  There are effective dates for different rates in the prevailing wage determination, as well as the employees’ own effective dates for increases, changes in benefits etc. The automation I built takes all this into account.

The next piece to work on is the set of activity code (called labor codes in Vision) tables and workflows to auto-generate and update them so that projects using prevailing wage will have correct labor cost tables that are maintenance free.

Here are a couple screen shots of what’s been built, tested and implemented so far:

Employee Pay Settings

pay categories

Prevailing Wage Determination

PW Determination

Stay tuned for the next part, automating the labor code labor rate tables that store per employee per project pay rates based upon the prevailing wage rules. This will also include the use of multiple levels of labor codes for employee time sheet entry that make the process easy to understand for employees.

This solution is compatible with Deltek Vision 7.0 and above.

Custom ASJC Process completed – Link to “how to” documentation

Today I completed the first implementation of my custom ASJC process, which uses Labor Adjustments to re-align labor costs with actual payroll costs in Vision. This custom process is very robust, and can be un-done and re-processed at any time, even for periods way back in time in previous years.

If you would like to read the documentation I drafted today which explains how it works you can find that here:

Custom ASJC documentation

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1h_iFD6fX_Z_6LpH2U_1xaqw9FeiVnK4_asYDJJdwpBk/edit?usp=sharing

If you would like this implemented on your Vision implementation for your organization please contact me.

Loren… what are you doing? Why haven’t you been writing more blog entries lately?

Happy Holidays!

I have been a bit remiss with this blog. I apologize. My excuse is being busy with the following projects:

CALIFORNIA:
1. Automating labor rates in Deltek Vision with an outside platform being the system of record. This includes automation of prevailing wage rate schedules, dealing with differentials and changing benefits elections. I will be using lots of workflows and webservices to pull in employee pay rates, benefits selections and related data to reside in Vision.  Then more workflows to automate maintenance of labor cost tables based upon employee selections of day/night shift, labor category (staff type) and reg, ovt, or double time.   I will be making extensive use of Vision’s new custom infocenter features.

This project should be completed some time in the spring.  If you’re suffering from prevailing wage rates and schedules maintenance in your own organization let me know and maybe I can help.
NEW YORK:
2. A client has been using Deltek Vision for a few years but they do not feel they are getting everything out of it that they can.  Thus, this is kind of a re-implementation project.  They previously converted from Advantage and need help making the conceptual and practical transition from a pure accounting system to a project accounting system.  They have yet to implement timesheets, expense reports and workable methods for project Work Breakdown Structure.

Both of these projects require a lot of work just scoping and defining what needs to be done. It’s very challenging!

It’s much more challenging than just building a custom report or a small workflow process with a relatively narrow set of requirements and small set of users. This is essentially taking a set of ad-hoc defined business process, and designing a proper automated solution to manage the operational data of that process (or those processes). This normally requires the integration of existing applications or solutions, importing or incorporating historical data, transforming historical data when data architecture corrections are made, and designing new processes, policies and procedures for using the new tools we put in place.

Lastly, training and documentation will be required to make sure that the processes and tools put in place actually get used!

Luckily most of the work can be done off site, thus keeping down travel costs and allowing me to work in relative isolation so I can concentrate!

If you’re ever in down town Austin, TX give me a call and I can show you my office and some cool stuff!

 

 

A basic rule of thumb to consider when looking at business automation

I’ve just kicked off a rather large project with a well established engineering firm based out of Ohio.

In reviewing their business processes and the day to day operations of some of their accounting and project management functions, I have come up with a good rule of thumb for looking for inefficiencies in any business using Deltek Vision.

Here it is:

Anything you’re using excel for right now, should probably be looked at as a process that needs to be properly automated.

I’ve seen lots of companies taking data out of Vision, putting it in excel so they can sort and manipulate it, perform calculations and generate reports.

The problem with doing this is… just off the top of my head:

1. how do you know you did it right? Who is vetting your work?

2. how do you know you just did it exactly the same way you did it last time?

3. did it take you longer than 1 minute? If it did, that was too long.

4. are you trying to do calculations that your ERP platform is supposed to be able to do? examples: overhead allocation, revenue generation, WIP, AR aging, Payroll or other journal entry “adjustments”, “truing up the accounts” etc. etc. If so, then you’ve wasted money and time on a platform that is not living up to expectations, and time being wasted on work arounds.

5. Version control

etc.

Can you think of more reasons to not use excel? Go ahead and leave comments… or drop me a line.

 

imgres

Quick one: SSRS – upgrading Vision from version 6 to 7

Today a customer called me and said:

“We converted to Vision 7 and now the custom invoice you created for us is not showing”.

Solution: If the report files are missing for your custom reports, you will need to re-load them.  But first you must:

1. make sure you have BIDS 2008 installed

2. open every single .rdl file in BIDS 2008 and close it again (meaning the .rdl files you are interested in loading, meaning your custom reports or invoices)

3. when you close each file, BIDS should prompt you to save them

4. re-load your reports in 7 as you would normally.

This is assuming you have your own back ups of these files in case something goes wrong.

What it does:

It converts all your .rdl files into a more recent version of SSRS reports, most notably doing away with the <table> object and introducing the <tablix> object.

Cheers!