Tuesday, January 19, 2010


It amazes me after being in the delivery of project solutions business for over 18 years how we complicate what we do by doing something "simpler". I guess I have to confess to you first of all I'm a recovering accountant. For those of you that know me know that although I understand accounting, have an accounting degree, I am often referred to as the worst accountant in the world. I don't think that is true, I'm pretty sure there are a couple of accountants that are worse than I am somewhere oversees, but otherwise I might have to admit all I care about is that the numbers are correct. If they got there through 1 huge summary entry with 47 thoughts going on, ultimately I only care about that it is correct.
Which leads me to simplicity and how it kills productivity. We all want to be productive and that is the key to project solutions, to make what you do operationally drive financial reporting and activity. However, we tend to kill productivity by using a "simpler" solution. The efficiency killer I'm ranting about today is Microsoft Excel. Don't get me wrong, I love this application and actually know many Excel users that love it so much it becomes their reporting system, data entry system, word processor and picking up their dry cleaning. How did we get so far away from application efficiency?
It is not just accountants, but everyone involved in project management helps perpetuate this problem. Here are some examples of how project employees utilize Excel:
  • Report Writer (of course with manual re-key of data)
  • Financial Statement creation (of course with manual re-key of data)
  • Scheduling System (this is a crazy use of Excel that involves so much re-keying of data it is unbelievable)
  • Resource Planning
  • Task Assignments
  • Project Status Reports
  • Dashboards for Project Employees, Project Managers and Executives
Microsoft Dynamics SL, Project Server and SharePoint are great solutions for these Excel applications, so why don't we use them?
I'm convinced that simplicity of someone not having to think about process, discuss cultural challenges with other project resources and laziness are a big part of the Excel phenomenon. Amazingly it is an easy problem to fix. We have to think about how to make what we do operationally drive activity. Example, how is time captured on projects? Make sure that time updates costs, updates project schedules, updates projects for billing purposes and use SharePoint to provide role based reporting.
Sounds difficult? Amazingly, there are pre-configured solutions that allow us to do exactly this. I know because we deliver these solutions to Excel addicts every day. I don't want to beat any of you Microsoft Excel users up because I'm a recovering Excelaholic. I just want to offer you an easier way to see productivity gains within your organizations.
So next time you run into a problem with your system, take a step back, think about your processes and don't click the Excel button. I hope this helps you out.
By the way, sorry for some of the spelling and grammer in this blog, I struggled because evidently Excel doesn't have speeling and grammer checker :)

Kreg Decker

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 the year of Project Management

As I get excited about 2010 and what it holds for our clients and prospects, I see this as the year of Project Management. We have barely started the 2010 calendar year and the number of calls we are receiving about the need for better project management is amazing. The calls typically reside around software with questions like, "Does your software do scheduling" or "What kind of Resource Planning capabilities do you have" or the biggest lately "Does your software do Earned Value Management". I believe there are many reasons for these inquiries suddenly popping up in 2010. I would love to believe that New Vision's commitment to preaching the value of Scheduling, Resource Planning, EVM and Issue and Risk Management is the reason, but I'm smart to realize that isn't it. There are a few reasons that this explosion in search/demand for project solutions has occurred. Here are the reasons that I see as why companies are finally needing to utilize these tools:

• The end of the T&M projects (now I know what you are saying "We still do a lot of Cost Plus and T&M projects"). I understand that, but I also understand that with these difficult times that when Business Development provides proposals or Statements of Work, the client is holding project organizations to those budgets. Yes, there are change orders, but the scoping of projects is becoming much more critical. More and more prospects and clients are telling us that they are not seeing T&M projects like they have in the past.

• Government Contracting has picked up dramatically with the Stimulus projects and many firms that had never needed to do Earned Value Management (much less even knew what it was), is now being called on to provide EVM on their projects. The misinformation and fear is amazing to clients that need to be able to report on Earned Value.

• Layoffs and cuts have driven many project organizations to need to manage resources more skillfully than ever before. There is not any fat left to cut since so many project organizations are running lean. Scheduling must be done to ensure goals are met and deadlines kept. The days of managing organizations without true resource planning are over.

• Fixed price overruns. Since T&M projects are being run as fixed price and clients are demanding justification for change orders, project plans are growing in popularity like never before. With the ability to tie schedules into Project Budgets and ERP solutions, the ability for organizations to track schedules while tracking costs gives great comparisons to budget versus work performance on projects.

• Competition has never been tighter in many project organizations industries. The need to estimate correctly is a key component to selling jobs. If you are still using gut-feel or old projects as estimates, you are probably not winning the number of projects that you have in the past. Owners/Clients know times are tough and they are squeezing everything they can out of projects. It is up to your organization to know exactly what it costs you to complete a project so you can adjust to market pressures accordingly.

• Microsoft Project 2010 - in all the years of working with Project Organizations, I have never seen so much anticipation and excitement over a product release. After reviewing and utilizing Project 2010 and Project Server I realize that this product is coming out at the perfect time. Users that have never dove into Project because it is too "complicated" will find that Microsoft has simplified the ability to create/modify plans so that many beginners scan begin to manage projects effectively.

As is always the case the new year brings many hopes, plans and challenges to most organizations. I'm looking forward to 2010 to see if it truly becomes the year of Project Management.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Microsoft Project doesn't work for my business"

It never ceases to amaze me that every time I speak to large audiences about Project Scheduling, Resource/Capacity Planning, Project Collaboration or integration with Microsoft Dynamics SL, I always ask two questions:
1)How many of the people in the audience have used Microsoft Project (every time nearly everyone in the audience raises their hand).
2)How many people that raised their hand to question number 1, still use Microsoft Project (every time I lose almost half of the hands).

After the usual laughs that incur and the usual quotes about MS Project like:
· "We use it for the initial schedule that the Client requires, then we don't use it anymore"
· "We bought it thinking it would solve our Scheduling conflicts, but it only made it worse"
· "All of our Project Managers keep their individual schedules on Project, but spend all their time e-mailing project plans to each other, which actually takes more time than not using Project."
· "We bought xx number of copies of Project, but now only 1 or 2 people still use Project".

I usually take this opportunity to ask the following questions:
· "Have you ever heard of Microsoft Project"
· "Are you using Project Server with Microsoft Project"?
· "What if I told you that Project Server is the key to making Microsoft Project work for your business"?

We then go through the usual comments about they don't understand hardware or IT items and they typically think Project Server is a big computer that IT needs to deal with related to Microsoft Project. As a Microsoft Dynamics consultant, its my job to understand these things for them.What amazes me is that Project Server is the key to making Microsoft Project work properly for project organizations. It is funny because it is an easier tool to use than Microsoft Project, and it is the key to unlocking the potential that makes companies buy Microsoft Project to begin with. I guess you can say I am on a personal mission to help companies understand the value of Microsoft Project Server. I talk to companies about the fact that running Microsoft Project without Project Server is like running Microsoft Outlook without Exchange. So if Project Server makes Microsoft Project work for project organizations, what does it do?

Here is a list of some of the basic features that you can immediately take advantage of:

· Project Server immediately takes all Microsoft Project plans, that in the past, were on individual project managers computers and publishes them to everyone in the organization to provide visibility to all projects.
· Project Server takes the tasks of all projects and publishes them to all project resources.
· Project Server takes control of provisioning a Project SharePoint site so that everyone can collaborate about the project. This includes Project Resources, Subcontractors, Owners/Clients, and Project Executives. This SharePoint site then becomes the common location to surface issues/risks, document management, and review project plans.
· Project Portfolio management allows the organization to view all the projects that your organization is either working on or considering working on. This provides breakdowns by divisions, project managers, type of work and location.
· Resource Planning to view either individual resource capacity or global resource capacity.

This is just a basic list of the immediate advantage of turning on Project Server for your organization. I guess I hope that between now and the release of Project 2010, New Vision can start doing a better job of evangelizing the value of Project Server to the non-Microsoft Project Server community. It is easier to use than Project, provides value to the whole project organization and gets information to project stakeholders when they need it and where they need it. If you haven't looked into Microsoft Project Server I encourage you to look into the value of turning on Microsoft Project Server to connect project plans, communicate project data to your whole organization and to most importantly resolve the question where I don't have to hear anymore at these meetings "Microsoft Project doesn't work for my business".


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Microsoft Project Conference 2010


As I am gathering my thoughts from the Microsoft Project Conference 2010, I have to admit, it is two weeks later and I am still blown away by the conference and more importantly the release of 2010. First you have to know that as a solution provider and someone who presents software to people as a living, I don't often get very excited about demos, presentations or other "hype" around new releases (unless of course I am the one presenting). I guess what excites me the most about Project 2010, isn't the improvements to SharePoint 2010, which make the product so much easier to use as well as providing so much more workflow. It isn't the Project Server improvements, which make using Project Server very difficult to distinguish between what can't be done in Project Server versus Project Professional (this is amazing). It isn't even Portfolio Server being included with Project 2010 (although this will absolutely assist larger organizations in doing Project Portfolio Management and Planning). I guess what excites me the most is that I believe Microsoft Project 2010, will bring Project Management to the smaller organization in a way no other release of Project or any other Microsoft application has done. I look at how they have made functionality for smaller project organizations, that don't have a history of Project Management Methodologies, or PMs that have extensive history with Project Management, to begin to take advantage of Project Management solutions that are easy to use. All companies need project management. Microsoft Project 2010, now provides project management for the small, mid and large organization.

The Project Conference in Phoenix had the usual benefits of connecting with users and partners and sharing of ideas, but the buzz around the new release was something I haven't seen before from this conference. The great thing is that Project 2010 builds on the foundation of what was built in Microsoft Project 2007, so our clients and our own company, need to continue to improve with 2007 and let Project 2010 enhance that internal improvement. I had the luxury of meeting with many from the Microsoft Project team and the fact that they have been using Project 2010 internally for so long has helped to fuel a passion that I have to admit is contagious. It makes me want to get to 2010 as soon as we can, and it allows our organization as well as our clients to continue to finish the initiatives started on Project 2007, so we can fully take advantage of the enhancements of Project 2010.

As a solution provider of Microsoft Dynamics SL, Microsoft Project and Microsoft SharePoint I have never been more excited about how these solutions are going to change the way our companies manage their businesses. It is not often that hype around a product, lives up to the actual product. I have to admit that they hype for Project 2010, really delivers solutions that I know will help New Vision and our clients be more successful in managing projects. Mid to large companies will benefit from the improvement workflow, portfolio management, resource planning and scheduling improvements. However, I have to admit the most excitement for me centers around the ease of use that will allow small organizations, who are so desperate to find a way to better manage projects, to finally have tools they can utilize to manage their business.

I have included some great links to more information about the conference and Project 2010.






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