A Worthwhile Planning Project
By Chip Herzog, DMC Owner and President
This past month, DMC was fortunate to have a client engagement focused on the Planning module within Deltek Vision. We have discovered that while many of our Vision clients profess the desire to use Planning, most don’t, as they don’t have the time or resources needed to invest in becoming proficient with it, or they have struggled with it in the past and eventually gave up. Yet, anecdotally, what we’ve heard is that many clients wish they were using it, as they see the benefit of having plans for their projects. Some can envision creating project plans which will drive a complete financial plan, and which can be updated as conditions change. Unfortunately firms that are utilizing this tool to the fullest are few and far between.
There’s no question that no matter what size a business is, it is extremely helpful to look forward and plan what the upcoming year (or half year, month, week – whatever’s appropriate) is going to look like. With a plan, it is easier to manage resource requirements (labor, cash, equipment, facilities) and to make tough decisions that can significantly impact the operation. But, it’s not easy to do a plan, as one can get bogged down in so much detail that the task seems overwhelming.
One way to get to the ideal is to start with one aspect of Planning, and then move forward one step at a time. In the case of our project in March, the client had been using a very large Excel spreadsheet to plan weekly labor. On a two dimensional worksheet, the client was updating up to 12 weeks of labor, by individual, by project, by project manager. Each product manager would go into this huge shared spreadsheet and update his/her section. At the bottom, it would total requirements by individual, and give a picture of utilization. In practice, as the firm grew, so did the spreadsheet and it had become unwieldy and difficult to utilize. So this firm’s first step was to convert it into Vision.
That’s where DMC came in – creating each of their projects in Planning (in the low hundreds) and setting up the labor resources (mostly actual, but sometimes generic) so that they could do their labor forecasting in each project plan. Vision has reporting and labor utilization tools that enable users to quickly see whether there’s forecasted under-or over utilization, as well as summaries. For this client, no more enormous spreadsheet, far less potential for errors, a more streamlined process and the ability (down the road) to do full project plans that include expenses, consulting, phasing, tasks, etc.
So, the first step completed, and one that is not beyond the reach of most firms using the software. Yes, an investment of time and money, although not major, but well worth it in terms of the clarity and assistance it provides project managers as they plan out their projects. It was obvious to us that this firm would eventually take advantage of the other components within Planning, creating an integrated system by which they will be able to manage all their projects and resources.
One step at a time, that’s the way to think about Planning for those not currently using it, but seeing the benefits. Sometimes the hardest step is that first one, but taking this one will result in significant operational improvement.