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 Insight 2012 presentation

Deltek Insight was relatively successful this year.

Some promising functionality is being put out by Deltek, like the Navigator, and the mobile time app.  Although, I found the mobile time app interface to be quite clunky in the demo. I actually took the Navigator usability test/survey in the lab at Insight.  This was pretty interesting.  They have made some good improvements to the planning module by putting a different presentation on top, one that actually appears like it will be readable when you have a plan in place.

For anyone who attended my presentation, what follows is my slide deck, with some clarification.

Regarding work breakdown structure, the example converted work breakdown structure should look like this instead:

0001 GW and Lysimeter Sampling Report
01 Sampling
02 Reporting

0002 SPCC Plan
01 Draft
02 Revise
03 Review/Comments

0003 Drinking Water Sampling Report
01 Draft
02 Revise
03 Review/Comments

Looking at the first phase “0001”: When developing a proper WBS for a project, you may find that you want to divide up certain amounts of effort into either their physical parts (like building 1, building 2, building 3) or into their process steps (get samples, write report, review and submit to client). It all depends on how you want to present the proposals, costs and fees. Either way, you should be able to put a price on the WBS element.

In the case above, phase 0001 has been divided into type of effort to deliver the plan/report, keeping in mind that it is possible to put a price on each task. The labor codes that would be used under task 01 might be travel time, sampling, sample plan (meaning planning out the number and location of samples), sample prep, lab tests.  Then under 02 Reporting you might have report writing, report reviewing, administrative (collating, binding, copying) and delivery expenses. Again, it is possible to assign an estimate of cost and thus a price to both tasks, so even though they have “ing” at the end, they are ok as WBS elements.

If you have any other questions regarding my presentation, mission critical data path for Deltek Vision, the correct way to store certain types of data in Vision or any business automation questions in general, please get in touch.  Even better, post a question on this post in the form of a comment and I will answer it in a follow up post.

Thank you for your time and attention!

Loren

here is the presentation in pdf format. I suggest right clicking on the link below and choosing “save as”:
==> PS-80 Storing Data in the right Place <==

P.S. I noticed there was a healthy stack of evaluation forms filled out and submitted after the presentation. Thank you very much!

Credit Card Transaction Import Automation – Part 1

I have this great client (Champion Technologies out of Baton Rouge, LA) giving me some very interesting projects lately. They are in the business of automation, and have recently asked me to automate their credit card transaction import process.

This will be a multi-part blog entry describing the process we go through in automation process.

PART 1

Initial conversation:
We had an extended gotomeeting (90 minutes) to talk about what needed to be done for this project. Since the client had already built a partially automated solution for this using a combination of excel spreadsheets (we love those don’t we?), macros, and some concatenated sql statements in text files… he had a pretty good idea of the requirements for the process. He walked me through the basics of what is already being done.

The first thing I do when attacking a project like this is go back through the recorded gotomeeting and take notes. Here are some of the notes I’ve taken:

Big Picture Requirement:
1. accounting user downloads a csv file from the credit card company and puts it in a designated folder somewhere on the internal network

2. accounting user clicks some kind of button (custom info centers will come in handy for this one!)

3. the process sucks up the file and imports it into Vision employee expense reports, exposing those reports to employees as “in progress” so they can go in and fill in the details on each transaction

4. once completed (the details are filled in) a report will be run to make sure that all transactions in the csv file(s) have been imported and have details added to them. Once all transactions are ready, the expense reports can be submitted and posted.

5. when the credit card bill is paid by the company, the automated entries by Vision for the payment are removed, and replaced by a detailed set of transactions that go down to the individual project level, possibly transaction level. This will show cash outflows by project for those expenses.

Some of the implied and explicit “gotcha” requirements:
– if a user imports a csv file twice, make sure that those transactions are not duplicated
– if a user imports once single transaction twice, make sure it’s not duplicated
– if a user splits an expense entry into two so they can share it between two or more projects… make sure the reconcile still works
– what happens if the accounting department un-posts the individual expense transactions? do they unpost the payments as well?

— end —

Cheers!

Do you have a client using ADP open invoice? – CSV Exporting available for Deltek Vision 6.x and beyond

I have a client firm who’s client recently switched from Oildex to ADP Open Invoice.

In order to submit invoices to ADP Open Invoice, you have to use 1 of the following methods:
1. log in to your client’s ADP interface and us the “one at a time” “create a new invoice” method. With this method you have to enter the header information (or a customer number) and each line item on your invoice one at a time. If you have lots of labor entries, this would be cumbersome at best.

2. log in to your client’s ADP Open Invoice and upload a properly formatted CSV file for each invoice. The csv file contains all the information in the invoice. This means all header information, line items (labor, fees, expenses, consultants, addons, taxes, units) are included in that csv file. Of course, to do this you would need some sort of application or Deltek Vision add on that generates the csv invoice files based on your invoices. This is what I just created for a client, so if you need it, please get in touch with me. NO, it’s not free.

3. implement the PIDX LIDO b2b server to server post methodology. This would be a web app written in .net, which uploads xml based files to your client’s server and saves them in ADP Open Invoice for review and attaching backup. I do not have a solution for this one yet.

4. implement the PIDX RINF RosettaNet application which does everything in #3 for you, but which requires the purchase, install, configuration and maintenance of n add-on application to Vision.

I just completed developing a sql application which exports the invoice data correctly into csv files for import into the ADP Open Invoice application.

This particular client had over 300 invoices for July for this one client. Keep in mind that each invoice requires a separate file for uploading to the Open Invoice site. It took my script 42 seconds to extract the data and create the files (one for each invoice).

The best part is… I can attach this script to a workflow button. Now, when Deltek Vision 7.x comes out, with custom infocenters, I can create an infocenter called “administration”, and put the workflow button there. My client will be able to put in a start date, end date, client number, and click the button… and voila! Magical invoice files! Hundreds of them!

As a reward for my excellent work… I get some chocolate pudding from Whole Foods for dessert!

Cheers!

Postering peacock

Vision 7.0 – an update – Some questions and answers from Deltek

Hello and happy 4th of July!

Recently, Brian Lamee (Director, Product Marketing for Deltek Vision) contacted me regarding my recent post on Vision 7.0 – Rumors (click here to read), asking if I had any specific questions and offering to answer them.

I asked if he could answer them, and if I could re-post his answers on my blog… so here you are.  In some cases I’ve added an editorial comment or two to clarify things a bit.

LOREN: I heard that on premise installs of Vision are only available for Series 250 or more, and that they are more expensive. Is this true? If so, what about all the companies that have less than series 250 and are on premise installed already? What is the upgrade path to Vision 7 for them?

BRIAN LAMEE: For firms purchasing Vision new (not current Vision Clients) that are fewer than 250 employees, we are recommending Vision Essentials (our Cloud offering) but we have not done away with our on-premise options and we have NOT increased pricing for our Vision on-premise offering. We have just introduced a new Cloud offering for Vision.

[editorial: What this means for you is… if you are a small firm and don’t want to incur the expense of buying and maintaining hardware, IT staff etc. to run Deltek Vision, then there is a cloud (read: hosted) offering from Deltek now to make this possible.  This is actually a good move by Deltek, making it possible for more firms to use the platform without the huge costs of ownership.]

LOREN: In a recent email you sent to me you said that cloud based installs will be able to have custom reports through Report Builder. This is significantly different than SSRS. Is SSRS supported on cloud systems?

BRIAN LAMEE: Just to make sure we are talking about the same thing when you say SSRS, I assume you mean SQL Server Reporting Services and that is still the reporting engine for Vision 6.x both Cloud and On-premise. Clients in the Cloud can still build custom reports in SSRS on Vision data. We have a way for Consultants and Clients to load those reports into the Clients installation. When I said Report Builder, I think I went back to the older name that Microsoft referred to the tools to build SSRS reports (I can’t keep up with the name changes.)

[editorial: OK my bad… I must have been tired when I wrote that question out… yes, Report Builder reports still run on top of SSRS. What I really meant was – ‘can we still develop custom reports using BIDS, and install them in Vision. The answer from Brian is ‘yes’.  This is good news.]

LOREN: What about integrating other apps into Vision on the cloud based install? Is only the API available, or do we still have access to the entire SQL database?

BRIAN LAMEE: As long as the application can see Vision’s APIs and they do not have to be installed on the Vision Server or in our Cloud Cluster, then yes, those still work. We currently do not support 3rd party applications that have to be installed and maintained on our Cloud servers. We are looking at this in the future.

[editorial: OK this is to be expected.  You can’t ask them to maintain a cloud server for you, then install your own (or someone else’s) apps on that server and expect the cloud provider to service those apps too… nor can you expect to have unfettered access to the server since most likely it’s going to be hosting more than just your Vision install. However, my guess is that there will eventually be a way for apps to connect to cloud installs of Vision through some API or other method by just connecting directly to the SQL database, which is all you really need, since everything in Vision depends on that database.]

LOREN: If we don’t have access to the entire SQL database, what about custom stored procedures fired by workflows?

BRIAN LAMEE: Stored Procedures are supported in our Cloud version. Similar to the custom reports, we have a way to allow Consultants and Clients to load stored procs into the database.

[editorial: OK this is good… especially since I’m a consultant and do lots and lots of stored procedures, functions, data stuff and custom reports!]

CONCLUSION:
If you hear about something that Deltek is going to do to Vision, and you think it’s going to obliterate thousands of Vision implementations (like not allowing custom reports from BIDS, or not allowing access to the database) then it is probably not going to happen.

On a side note… here in Austin, TX we have a park with some pretty fancy turkeys… here’s one for you.  I took this picture a week or two ago.

Postering peacock

Deltek Vision 7.0 – what are all the rumors?

Note: Deltek 7.0 is the same thing as Deltek First (the SAAS offering)

Please also read the follow up post here:
==> Deltek Vision 7.0, an updated post <==

As always, if you have a specific question you’d like me to answer in a blog entry… a problem to address or write about, please drop me a note, comment or email.

Regarding Deltek Vision 7.0

I’ve been hearing lots of rumors regarding Vision 7.0… things like:

– they’re changing to a software as a service model

– the custom reports are all going to be broken and have to be re-written (again!)

– it will be really hard to customize the application with grids, fields, forms etc.

Some of these rumors are NOT true.  I just browsed the release notes, the reporting guide, the technical guide and quick reference cards, and here is my take away:

1. It’s not going to be that big of a deal to own/create custom reports against Vision 7. It’s basically the same as before.

2. Anyone developing custom reports against Vision 7 will need to use BIDS 2008 instead of BIDS 2005.  This is a good thing… although STILL 2 years behind.  I know there is a BIDS 2010.

3. Report builder 2.0 can be used… still behind.  I know there’s at least a version 3.0

4. Any good developer should be able to troubleshoot and repair any broken report within a day or less, depending on the complexity of the report.  Some may only take a few minutes if all they need is to be opened in BIDS 2008 (which converts automatically) then saved again.

Regarding customizing the app
5. They have actually added a new feature which we’ve all been waiting anxiously for… custom infocenters.  This means you can create your own custom functionality within Vision, if you want to track an entirely new entity.  This is great news, and more evidence that they’re not going to take back control of the app in an overly vanilla and standardized SAAS model.  It remains to be seen how “standard” reports will work for these custom infocenters.

Despite the story that they’re changing to a SAAS model, the architecture of Vision has not changed.  It is still basically a website hosted on a webserver, served on the client through Silverlight, and still sits on top of SQL Server.  Thus, there won’t be any drastic changes necessary for existing clients just to upgrade.

I can’t say what’s going to happen with their pricing model… if I was CEO of Deltek, or heading up the Vision division (no pun intended) then I could say something about it… but I’m not.

Cheers!

Case Study – Vision Implementation Restructure

Ronald Lu & Partners, HK had implemented Deltek Vision 5.1 in 2008 and had been live for 2 years.

I received an email from the founder’s son, Bryant Lu saying that although they had been live for 2 years, their accounting department was still doing a lot of accounting and reporting on spread sheets. After I spent a week in their offices I found the following major issues that needed correcting:

0. They needed to convert from Vision 5 to 6, which we accomplished in 2 weeks.

1. Their work break down structure for every project was the same, displaying the 8 standardized phases of a project that they took each project through, but not reflecting the actual milestones and deliverables of the project.  Thus, they were unable to produce meaningful reports from Vision that could show budget vs. actuals, expected revenues or EAC reports tied to project milestones.  Instead, they were maintaining a completely separate set of financials outside of Vision on an organized but extensive set of Excel spreadsheets so they could track consultant expenses, milestones, invoices, and receivables.

2. Their entire set of P+L statements and Project Earnings reports were being produced from spreadsheets in order to show P+L across companies or divisions. The reason for this was because after going live they had adopted a new organizational structure which consisted of studios (which is common in architectural firms).  Because the studios were not represented in the data in Vision, it was not possible to produce any reports based upon studio from the application.  This affected all of their performance reporting and financial reporting.

Just tackling these two issues implied that I would have to do the following:

1. Restructure the work break down structure (WBS) for every project in the database to reflect true milestones and deliverables (or start over from scratch with a new database and a new go live date, which would mean re-importing historical data… essentially doing their implementation completely over).

2. Either convert their current organization scheme to one that considered the studios, or find some way to generate their entire financial report set using a custom field in the project infocenter which would reflect the studio a project was assigned to.
While the problems and solutions described above are only numbered 1 and 2, there are many implied requirements that would come into play as I executed this project over the next 4 months.  Some of the issues I encountered and resolved were:

– In Deltek Vision, when you key convert a WBS item like a phase or task to move it to another project, phase or task (not merely changing the number), it completely ignores the invoice history data during the key conversion process.  Since we decided we would key convert every project into a new, meaningful work breakdown structure, this meant that I had to write sql scripts to convert the invoice history as well.

– The projects that RLP undertakes can last many years, and often have over 100 phases and tasks. The interface for Deltek Vision does not yet allow a user to update fee or budget amounts in a grid like format that shows the entire project structure.  During the execution of this project I built a Microsoft Access based application they could use for both data entry for the conversion (to enter the WBS for projects into Vision) and to use after the conversion for adjusting fees and budgets for projects, as well as enter fees and budgets for new projects.

– Since it was decided not to restructure their organizational scheme in Vision (this was a management decision) it was necessary to develop custom reports to satisfy their entire financial reporting set.  This included P+L reports, balance sheet reports and forecasting reports.

– Because of the language barriers (Vision is not yet localized in Cantonese, the Hong Kong version of Chinese), it was decided we would not implement Resource Planning.  Also, some projects could actually commence and continue in execution for months before actually becoming a signed project.  Thus, it was necessary to in a sense “bill time to opportunities”.  So instead we came up with a solution for revenue and opportunity forecasting using the project info center only.

There were of course many more issues that we worked through and solved throughout the course of the project.  Bottom line is that we completed and went live with the new project structure and report set by December of that year.  Working on site, together with their executive and accounting departments we were able to complete 6 to 8 months of work in 5 months.  

Here are some example images and reports from after their implementation:

Click for full size.

This shows the mission critical business path, order of priority for phased restructure, area of effort and timeline for the phased restructuring of their Vision implementation.
(I will be adding to this case study with more images and samples… later this week)