Deltek Insight 2013-Discovering More

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Celebrating 30 years of delivering purpose built solutions for professional services organizations, this year’s Deltek user conference, Deltek Insight 2013, was recently held in Dallas, TX. The theme for the conference was “Discover More” and Deltek’s recent history and the conference have lived up to this promise. The more than 2,500 attendees at Insight 2013 were entertained, inspired, and educated by Deltek Insight 2013, which kept up the energy from start to finish.

Mark Jeffries, master of ceremonies, opened the general session by riding in on Blackjack, a Texas Longhorn steer weighing in at a mere 2,300 pounds. His message on the 3 “R”s of talent retention (Recognize, Recall, and Reward) was thought provoking and well received, but the true stars of the session were still to come: chief executive officer Mike Corkery and executive VP of product strategy and engineering Namita Dhallan, who presented the attendees with Deltek’s product vision and strategy.

Executive Vision and Strategy—The Depth and Breadth of Deltek Products

In his presentation, CEO Mike Corkery reiterated that Deltek will “continue to be the leading provider of solutions for project focused businesses.” In other words, the company isn’t looking to push into other lines of business just because they are hot or to try to pick up new revenue streams. Deltek plans to continue to deliver complete solutions from the front office to the back office and everything in between for its project-focused customers.

Deltek is solidly aligned with today’s major technology forces of social, mobile, cloud and information. To enable its customers to stay ahead with these forces Deltek has solid solutions for each arena—on the social front, Deltek has developed Kona, its own social collaboration tool; for mobile, it is continuing growth of its Deltek Touch platform; for cloud, Deltek has been delivering and will continue to deliver more of its products via the cloud; and with regards to information, Deltek has analytics products available across all of its product suites.

Corkery also ran through an extensive list of solution improvements, enhancements, and additions to existing Deltek product lines. The list was very impressive and spans all Deltek solutions including its government contracting portfolio (Costpoint , GCS Premier, Deltek First, and GovWin), professional services (Vision, Maconomy, and Deltek First), and its project and portfolio management (PPM) and integrated program management (IPM) solutions.

Namita Dhallan, executive VP of product strategy and engineering, was next up during the keynote presentations. She reiterated Deltek’s focus on powering the entire project lifecycle—Deltek focuses on helping companies succeed in four areas: win the business; manage the projects; deliver on the key processes inside the business (hiring and paying employees, invoicing customers, staying compliant, etc.); and just as importantly, assess and measure the project lifecycle and the business as a whole. Dhallan presented a deeper dive into how Deltek is approaching the four technical forces and using them to shape Deltek’s development roadmap. In a nutshell, here is an overview of Deltek’s “Four Forces” strategy:

  • Mobility—Users can access the right information inside Deltek’s apps from anywhere. While Deltek offers mobility across all of its apps, I was particularly intrigued with how mobile was enhancing time collection through Mobile Time and Deltek’s Mobile CRM capabilities.

  • Social—Kona is quickly gaining great traction as a standalone solution and as a connection to Deltek’s apps with the recent release of Kona Business for the enterprise. Kona is being embedded across the entire product line.

  • Cloud—Deltek has been in the cloud since 2010. Deltek First, initially developed in 2010, was launched in 2011 and now counts more than SMBs as customers. Deltek will continue to move and support product offerings in the cloud as customer needs arise.

  • Information—Deltek Analytics. All products now have embedded BPM and analytics.

In a one-on-one discussion with Dhallan, she revealed that Deltek will continue to develop individual product lines and is not looking to create a one-size-fits-all solution. Deltek will also continue to work with its key customer bases, as customer involvement has always been vital to the company’s strategy, and the company will keep looking for opportunities to further bolster its product offerings where needed through both development and acquisition.

The keynote ended with a motivational presentation by Eric Wahl, graffiti artist and bestselling author of UNthink. I won’t spoil the show by giving away whose face appears on Eric’s performance art painting at the end of U2’s “It’s A Beautiful Day”, but Eric did say something about the software marketplace that deserves mention. He said that he has found that Deltek attendees are not just customers, but true product enthusiasts. This speaks to Deltek’s ability to differentiate when put up against the large, generic ERP providers (he also works with SAP and Oracle). On that note, it is worth mentioning that Deltek has won the Achievement in Customer Excellence (ACE) award for the 6th year in a row and its support organization is TSIA certified.

Discovering and Doing More With Deltek Products

Deltek Insight gave attendees, including myself, a great opportunity to discover and learn more about Deltek’s products throughout the entire event. Unlike other large vendor conferences, Deltek’s Insight event doesn’t have the feeling of being a high pressure sales event for Deltek and the conference sponsors. The Deltek representatives are there to consult with attendees to build a session agenda, meet one-on-one with attendees, and help the customer get more out of Deltek’s product offerings. The Deltek management team was more than happy to take time to talk about their products. Here are some highlights of my discussions with the management team.

As with many ERP vendors, Deltek has seen the need to incorporate social networking and collaboration capabilities across its product suite. Jeff Eckerle, senior product director, Kona (along with Scott Defusco, VP of product strategy and management for Kona) saw this need for Deltek and its customers and convinced company management to allow them to go ahead with the development of a social collaboration tool in 2011. Kona has been developed entirely in-house as a tool that will not only help Deltek customers solve project-based business needs, but will also help the users manage their personal lives. Kona business was only released this year and there are already 100 companies signed up. Deltek is right on target with its Kona solution and direction. Keep an eye on the TEC blog where we’ll be detailing social capabilities for ERP systems, including a detailed look at Kona in future articles.

Tom Polen, director, solutions architecture, came to Deltek with the recent acquisition of Acumen. He is truly ecstatic about the product and has a right to be. The word revolutionary is too often bandied about when talking about software products, but the Acumen suite of tools (which includes Fuse, Risk, and 360) is one that deserves being placed into this category. If you’re a company that all too often finds out too late that your project plans were unrealistic, then you need to take a look at these products. The Acumen solution can sit on top of Deltek products or stand alone to analyze complex project plans generated from Primavera, Miscrosoft Project, and other scheduling tools. In just a few minutes, the tools will generate a complete project maturity breakdown on plans from a thousand to 100,000 lines. This is a tool that every company running complex projects should have.

Deltek A Mature Player in Government Contracting Solutions

Warren Linscott, junior VP GovCon product strategy and management, shared a number of key points about Deltek’s government contracting solutions with me. Costpoint version 7 is the third evolution of Deltek’s project-based ERP system for large government contracting and manufacturing companies. In a project-based ERP system (unlike a product-based system), each transaction has org, acct, and project tied to it. So, the general ledger is also a project ledger. For service-based organizations and even project-based manufacturers, this architecture provides the “magic stew” to support the business.

Another area where the Deltek solutions shine for government contractors is incurred cost submissions to government agencies—a functionality available out of the box. Many other solution providers must build hard-to-upgrade-and-sustain add-ons to properly support these submissions. Additionally, the system supports cost pools for direct and indirect charges. Large organizations have the ability to set up tens or hundreds of cost pools to be allocated across projects, a requirement for government contractors and something no generic ERP provider can match out of the box.

As Deltek grows, it is being seen as a more mature player that can support the largest global enterprises for the long haul. Deltek currently also has some 160 manufacturing companies who use Costpoint. The Costpoint project manufacturing capabilities can help an organization be more lean and more efficient. Warren also holds that less than 5% of the Deltek customer base does customizations on the Deltek government contracting solutions. Not having to do customizations can help significantly reduce the total cost of ownership of an ERP solution, and it helps explain why numerous billion dollar-plus organizations have implemented Deltek in under a year.

A few other notable Deltek government contracting solutions that go deep in functionality include:

  • Cobra—the market leader in earned value and cost management. Extensive earned value management and reporting is not only a requirement for government contractors but is also used heavily by European companies who see the value in managing large projects.

  • PM Compass—Provides a composite view of projects, programs, and portfolios from multiple tools along with the ability to make changes inside those tools through PM Compass. It shows the cost view and planning view and brings the two together—something that used to take weeks for companies to pull together prior to using PM Compass. These can be rolled up and then pushed back down to different organizations.

Developments in Professional Services Solutions

Brian LaMee, senior director of product marketing, professional services solutions (Vision, Maconomy, and Deltek First) told me that there have also been major developments in Deltek’s Professional Services solutions recently. Deltek’s Vision solution, used primarily by architecture and engineering firms, was always a tool that finance departments made project managers use, but Vision’s new Navigator tool was created specifically for project managers on the go and has been better received. The first prototype was launched in October of last year and has been extremely well received, so much so that there have been six revisions rolled out over the last year. Some 600 firms out of 4,200 customers have already deployed Navigator since the latest version went GA just a month ago. Deltek doesn’t charge existing customers for using the tool.

A new release of analytics was officially rolled out at Deltek Insight 2013 with Vision 7.1. The previous BI solution required dedicated IT resources, while the initial Vision 7.1 release has some 40 out-of-the-box reports. The new tool significantly reduces the time needed to develop reports.

Maconomy Version 2.0 was just released last year and includes the new streamlined workspaces interface. The recently released version 2.1 adds a significant number of new features to the product, and there has been a lot of work put into the approvals engine in this version. Previously, customers needed to have an external workflow tool to handle complex approvals.

Professional services solutions in the cloud are also proliferating across the Deltek universe. Both Vision and Maconomy have been available in the cloud for close to two years now, branded under the Deltek First moniker.

Deltek 3.0

Deltek now has well over 2 million users, in over 80 countries. Mike Corkery stated that the past year was an inflection point for Deltek. He broke the company’s history down into three periods. Deltek 1.0 was focused on the backoffice. Deltek 2.0, the last seven years, has been focused on providing solutions that manage the complete project lifecycle, including an extensive push into the mid office (with a full suite of PPM capabilities) and the front office (with CRM and opportunity intelligence information). The foundation for Deltek 3.0 was laid out at Deltek Insight 2013—Deltek 3.0 is the vision of being the global industry standard for project-based organizations, serving project focused verticals for companies large and small, in the cloud and on-premise, all across the globe, and even in the palm of your hand. Deltek plans to build on its very differentiated project-based capabilities, and its track record of partnering with customers to realize this vision, as well as continuing aggressive product innovation, and looking for acquisitions where they fit the company’s vision and strategy.
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