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On this blog we will cover stories from all around the Exact ecosystem.

Posts Tagged ‘exact psa’

copyWBS

A medley of useful enhancements for deliverables and WBS in Exact PSA

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Event Manager, Exact Synergy

Now that we have covered deliverables and work breakdown structures as the means to manage scope and define the work in Exact PSA, there are a few additional small features that a project manager will benefit from.

 

First, all project managers need to see the progress of deliverables and specific activities from work breakdown structure as the project is getting done.

To address this need, Exact PSA retains a link from a WBS line to an hour planning or material allocation request. This allows it to display f all estimated, planned and approved (actual) hours or each activity line so that the project manager can see what the current status is.

Moreover, such linking opens the road to creating of all of new reports (for example project schedules via Gantt charts).

 

Second, our interviews with the customers confirmed that project managers often run projects very similar to the those that have been completed already in their organization. In such cases, recreating a full set of same deliverables and defining almost the same activities is a tedious job.

To save the project manager’s time, Exact PSA allows him to copy deliverables and WBS from an existing project to a new one.

 

Third, on fixed price projects managers often want to invoice per deliverable, and filling out all details of a new invoicing term request each time can quickly become unhandy.

To save the project manager’s time, Exact PSA allows him to create an invoice for a deliverable directly from the list of all deliverables on the project.

 

All these small enhancements are a part of the release 249/404 that will become generally available in the 2nd quarter of 2012.

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Managing scope in Exact PSA

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Synergy

Managing project scope remains one of the most important responsibilities of  any project manager who works on a project of larger than trivial size. A successful project is a project that is completed on time and within budget; and completed means that the scope of the project is delivered to its stakeholders as expected.

To be sure that this goal is indeed achievable, a project manager needs to have absolute clarity on what is in the scope of the project, and especially, what is not. Failing to see the difference often results in projects falling prey to scope creep, that is, when requirements get added to the scope without modifications to schedule or budget.

There are multiple tools and techniques to define and manage scope; almost all of them are based on the divide and conquer principle. That is, the scope should be broken into individual, smaller deliverables. PRINCE2, for example, calls them products and specifies a dedicated product breakdown structure tool that is a part of overall project planning.

We have reviewed such scope management tools with our existing customers, and after adding a few modifications to make them easier to use, we introduced this project management best practice to Exact PSA.

 

In an nutshell, the sequence of steps that a project manager will take looks like this:

1) Once a project is created in Synergy Enterprise, the project manager will define the scope by entering one by one deliverables that will be built. Sometimes they are very easy to spot, like reports, or installations of equipment and software, or agreed milestones.

2) Sometimes deliverables are less tangible, like testing or integration, and need to be broken down further — into smaller deliverables. The rule of the thumb is that a project manager should stop when he can comfortably estimate the amount of work and material it will take to deliver the deliverable.

A resulting parent-child structure in Exact PSA will similar to this:

In this example, in a project to implement Synergy Enterprise, there is a main project deliverable — the overall outcome of the project. It is called Complete implementation and it’s lifespan is the same as the lifespan of the project.

This main deliverable is broken down into three other deliverables: Requirements analysis, Onsite implementation and Final testing & acceptance. Each of these deliverables has its own start time and start date, that will define the schedule of the project.

The project manager considered Onsite implementation to be still quite large, and split it into two more deliverables: Hardware installation and Software installation. He also decided to that work on this large deliverable should be managed via a child project, since different team members will be writing hours on it.

All this information is displayed in a single screen, so that the project manager to see the complete scope of the project in one glance. (Special columns like Item, WBS cost and revenue, and Margin we shall discuss in the next articles).

 

In release 248, to allow project managers to using deliverables to scope the project, the administrator should enable a central switch in the settings of Exact PSA. However, based on customer feedback, in release 249 we delegated this choice to project managers, since they know best when to use deliverables to manage scope and when not to.

Often, in small projects centered around realizing, approving and invoicing a few billable activities, there is little incentive for a project manager to actively manage scope. However, interviews with customers showed that many disciplined project managers use deliverables on all their projects, regardless of size, so that they have the scope very clearly defined and managed.

In the next article we will discuss how the project manager can define individual activities and tasks that are needed to build an actual deliverable., and how he can track their progress. Stay tuned!

 

Exact PSA doubles the amount of supported bits

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Synergy

Full support of 64-bit Windows operating systems was a long-standing item on the list of requested features for our professional services automation (PSA) solution. Still we had to postpone it time after time because of other great and important features we wanted to deliver.

In the meantime some of our customers were getting increasingly upset about having to run background jobs on a dedicated 32-bit server locked somewhere in the basement, when the rest of their infrastructure has already been upgraded to 64-bits.

Well, no need for that anymore. Once the PSA solution update 246/401 (comprised of Synergy Enterprise 246 and Globe 401) becomes generally available this June, it will run smoothly in a 64-bit environment after an upgrade.

No need for that 32-bit server anymore either. However, some people might be very interested in it.

Work breakdown structure

Managing work breakdown in Exact PSA

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Synergy

In the previous article we discussed the basics of managing scope using deliverables and looked at the simple project scenario. In that scenario a project manager used Exact PSA to create a set of deliverables to define the scope of his project to implement Synergy Enterprise at a customer site.

This allowed the project manager to see what needs to be delivered on the project; however, he is also interested in how much time and money it will take to deliver it. In Exact PSA he can define tasks (or, in other words, activities) that need to be carried out in order to build a certain deliverable.

Let’s take another look at our example. The project manager wants to add more implementation details to the deliverable Requirements analysis. He conjures the following list of activities, and enters them one by one:

What does he see after completing this exercise?

  • that he has estimated that 36 hours (32 hours of consultancy and 4 hours of project management) are needed to complete Requirements analysis;
  • that the cost and the sales price per hour for each activity are calculated according to the rate rules in Exact PSA;
  • the total cost and the total sales price of the whole deliverable are clear to him.

After having done exactly the same for every deliverable in the project, he will arrive at a complete work breakdown structure (or simply WBS) for the project, that will:

  • give him confidence that every single activity that needs to be done on the project is captured in the system and is linked to a correct deliverable (based on the scope that he has defined);
  • provide him with the project schedule, where each deliverable and each activity is plotted against a time range;
  • let him see the total cost and total sales price of the whole project (based on the applicable rates, but not including any personal rates);
  • allow him to share this calculation with the sales in order to create a final calculation for the customer, or to validate the original quotation.

In essence, that means a firm grasp of all estimated work on the project and its financials — something that a project manager is responsible for.

There are two additional features of Exact PSA that make work breakdown structures particularly convenient:

  1. It is possible to list not only activities for each deliverable, but also material, in case goods are procured and shipped to the customer. In our example (as shown in the previous article), a deliverable Hardware installation might include some equipment that will be billed to the customer together with installation hours.
  2. It is possible to plan hours directly from a WBS line, and, starting from release 249/404 it is possible to allocate material in the same way.

And last, in the release 249/404 the project manager will be able to see directly from a WBS line what hour planning or material & expenses requests are linked to it, that will give him insight into progress of the project. We will review these grand possibilities in the next article of the series.

An underrated feature of Exact PSA

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Synergy

A flexible structure of billing rates is one of the key requirements to any system that automates work of a professional services company, where time is the main billable resource. This structure is particularly important for project controllers, who need to express tricky contract conditions with different billing rates for different customers on different projects.

On the one hand, project controllers require plenty of options to capture any imaginable combination of hour prices for a specific assignment. On the other, they expect simplicity of use. However, achieving this simplicity becomes increasingly challenging as the amount of rates to choose from grows.

The upcoming solution update of Exact PSA addresses these needs by increasing the amount of configurable rates and providing simple means to work with them.

The more rates the merrier

Starting from solution update 246/401, a rate is a pairing of both the sales price and the cost assigned to a combination of criteria such as a person, a project, a customer or an activity. All rates have a date range attached.

All rates are listed in the following order, starting from the most important:

  • Project + person + activity;
  • Project + person;
  • Project + activity;
  • Project + person + activity of the parent project (if applicable);
  • Project + person of the parent project (if applicable);
  • Project + activity of the parent project (if applicable);
  • Customer + activity;
  • Person + activity;
  • Person;
  • Activity.

With this setup, rates in Exact PSA fall into one of three categories: personal rates, customer rates and project rates. When the system needs to look up a specific rate to populate the sales price of a billable hour, it starts from the top of the list and progresses down until the first non-zero match is found. In case no rates have been defined in the system, the sales price and the cost of an item that represents an activity is used.

This hierarchy of rates is configured in Synergy Enterprise and obsoletes previously available both the external rates that provided only the sales price, and the internal rate that represented the cost of labor. During the upgrade process all existing rates will be copied into the new rate structure so that nothing disappears.

Not getting lost in all the abundance

Access to rates is carefully guarded by Exact PSA: project controllers can view and edit all rates, consultants can see none of them. Project managers are allowed to view all rates that apply to the projects they are directly responsible for, but cannot peek into rates of other projects.

Project managers and project controllers can get hold of rates by following one of two paths: either by looking at an individual  personal, customer or project card or by listing all personal, customer or project rates from a dedicated overview screen.

 

The new rates structure will become available to existing and new Exact PSA customers in June 2011.

Vintage gas tank image by Woodhouse74.