Some Belated Insights from, well, Deltek Insight 2010 - Part 1

The month of May is usually the high season of software vendors’ conferences, but mid-May 2010 was a bit extreme: I was invited to four major user conferences that took place on or about the same dates all over the United States (US). Given that cloning and teleporting technologies are decades away from us, I had to minimize the “damage” by at least picking two events that were relatively physically close to each other.

One event that I had to regretfully decline due to the scheduling conflict was Deltek Insight 2010. I certainly kept my eye on the event via the Twitter chatter and blogosphere (e.g., see a conference report from SPI Research’s principal Dave Hofferberth). More recently, I had an in-depth post-event recap briefing with Deltek’s in-the-know staff members and what follows now are the major developments that transpired at Deltek Insight 2010 (I attempted to put them in logical groups of announcements).

Product Announcements (Solutions that are Already Released)

Budgeting & Planning for Deltek Costpoint and Deltek GCS Premier: The vendor released a new budgeting and planning solution that works directly with both the Deltek GCS Premier and Costpoint enterprise resource planning (ERP) products. These solutions enable government contractors to perform faster and more accurate budgeting and planning, allowing them to eliminate the “spreadsheet chaos” that often plagues organizations that have no formal planning and budgeting tools. There are two primary audiences for these products:

  1. Finance personnel leverage Budgeting & Planning for visibility into project budgets and to roll up both project and divisional budgets into a complete operating plan. The solutions' intuitive user interfaces (UI’s) make it easy for managers to constantly review projects and reconcile discrete organizational budgets to determine how they are tracking to the operating plan. Budgeting & Planning delivers the information that government contractors need to make the necessary business adjustments such as adding/reducing headcount, pursuing new business, or adjusting provisional rates.

  2. Project managers utilize the Budgeting & Planning solutions to provide clearer visibility into actual project costs and how they are being allocated throughout a project’s lifecycle. The solutions track multiple cost types (including labor, material, and expenses) enabling project managers to do near real-time project cost tracking and perform variance analysis to determine whether a project is staying on budget. These solutions feature over 180 out-of-the-box (OOTB) reports that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each project manager.

Deltek Mobile Time: Another new product for Deltek’s Government Contactors (GovCon) customers that was recently released was Deltek Mobile Time. This is a Blackberry application that works directly with Deltek Time Collection, and enables mobile professionals to view, record, update, submit, and approve labor activity from their smart phone. This ability should greatly increase the timeliness and accuracy of time collection processes.

Deltek Mobile Time makes time-card entries as easy as performing this activity from the home office. By ensuring more accurate and timely recording of labor activities, government contractors should achieve the following benefits:

  • Tighten the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) compliance -- because timesheets are more accurate and up to date

  • Improve employee and manager productivity -- because time entry activities are done in real-time from the road, rather than much later in the office

  • Lower Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) -- due to timely project billing

  • Decrease payroll and billing costs -- due to reduced time-card reprocessing

Deltek Vision Connect for Microsoft Outlook: For Deltek Vision customers, the company announced at Insight the upcoming release of Vision Connect for Microsoft Outlook. This product is now generally available (GA) in the marketplace, and leverages technology from the innovative vendor invisibleCRM. This new solution empowers business development professionals to manage their opportunities, appointments, emails, and contacts within Microsoft Outlook and automatically update Deltek Vision to ensure one system of record for sales and marketing activities.

In many organizations, business development professionals use the following two disconnected systems to manage marketing and sales activities with prospects and customers: Microsoft Outlook and their internal customer relationship management (CRM) system. Juggling two disparate systems can lead to data inaccuracies and inefficient work processes.

With Vision Connect for Microsoft Outlook, business development professionals will be able to manage their business appointments, emails and contacts, as well as manage clients, activities, and opportunities, all from Microsoft Outlook. By enabling personnel to manage the Deltek Vision records directly in Outlook, user adoption of Deltek Vision CRM could expand significantly within organizations that use both solutions. The solution offers numerous capabilities, including:

  • Client, Vendor, and Opportunity Management to enter and update client, vendor and opportunity records within familiar Outlook forms.

  • Contact Management to easily maintain Vision contact information within the native Outlook contact form. With this feature, there is no need for multiple contacts folders, as the solution manages personal and business contacts that are all shared and stored in Deltek Vision.

  • Email Management to create and send emails in Microsoft Outlook that are captured within Deltek Vision. In addition, the solution creates permanent activity records and links email attachments to appropriate records within Deltek Vision to maintain one repository of all business development activities.

Product Previews (Solutions that were Demonstrated and Shown Fully for the First Time)

Deltek Costpoint 7: The vendor demonstrated its next-generation, fully web-architected version of Costpoint, which is slated for release within the next year or so. Deltek Costpoint 7 features an updated user experience (UX) design that was built with the help of “human factors” experts. The UX is designed to let users work in Costpoint the way they want to, and to reorganize and adapt the desktop to match the way users do their jobs.

Program Management Portal: I have only hinted at this integrated project control solution (code-named CAM Dashboard) in my previous blog series, but now I am at liberty to talk about the industry’s first application built for project managers, program managers, and Control Account Managers (CAM’s), and their need for unified information. Namely, all of these individuals manager complex programs and need a solution that integrates information on costs, schedules, and technical performance that will simplify a project manager’s efforts to keep programs on time and on budget.

For example, a company like the Boeing Company would have one CAM that is an expert on the landing gear, one on navigation systems, etc. Each CAM develops the scope, schedule, and budget for each component for which they are responsible in the context of the entire system that is being designed and built. They determine and authorize what will be built, how long it will take, and what it should cost.

With that in mind, Deltek is building a command center for project and program management teams that are leading major programs and managing their critical components. This ground-breaking solution provides one centralized location to status and monitor programs. Program Managers (PMs) and CAMs need access to scheduling, cost management/earned value management (EVM), risk management, and estimating tools, and for many years there was no single vendor that offered it all (i.e., each tool had to come from a separate vendor).

What lies at the heart of this new solution is customizable workflow and alerting engine. Program managers will be able to define the optimal business processes for handling things such as scope changes, project variances, and compliance procedures and be alerted to its progress. This opens a whole new dimension to how programs are managed and promotes not only process consistency but also process optimization.

Now, given the Enterprise Project Management (EPM) suite that Deltek has been delivering, CAMs and PMs should have all the software systems they need from one vendor. Since Deltek EPM covers most of the project management bases, the next step was to empower the PMs and CAMs with the information they need to understand project status at any time because all of the data that resides in the system.

Deltek is thus building this portal using Microsoft .NET Framework that will show EVM metrics (cost metrics, bulls-eye charts), schedule metrics, subcontractor performance reports, and even labor reports pulled from an ERP system, all in one place. This could be a huge innovation since managing all of this information to understand risk is where most programs break down.

Currently, I am not aware of any other vendor that could pull this all together because no one else owns the planning & scheduling, EVM, risk management and accounting systems on the back end. Deltek does that via the respective products such as Deltek Open Plan, Deltek Cobra/MPM, Deltek WelcomRisk, and Costpoint/GCS Premier.

Ultimately, the vendor’s goal with this integrated program management portal is to leverage all of these systems to give managers real-time status on all aspects of the component of the program that they are managing. Again, this offering could be a true game-changer in the industry, delivering an integrated solution and eliminating the multiple disconnected systems that are often used today. For the first time, project leaders could have complete traceability for all aspects of their projects in one place, greatly increasing their ability to keep critical programs on time and on budget.

Part 2 of this blog series will continue with my belated analysis and impressions from Deltek Insight 2010, especially in terms of some corporate announcements and new directions. In the meantime, your comments, opinions, etc. on Deltek’s approach and strategy are more than welcome.
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