IT Services Company Bridges the Gaps Between Project Management and Accounting with Quickbase
Like many service providers, Next Phase Solutions and Services uses professional services automation (PSA) software to manage its project schedules, resources and financials. However, Next Phase discovered there were "gaps" between the capabilities of its PSA system and its accounting system. The solution was a program management office (PMO) app built on the Quickbase platform that enables Next Phase to deliver on more projects without having to add staff or spend time coding, testing and supporting new apps.
- Business leaders identified gaps between PSA software and accounting software
- Immediately needed a system for managing the company's full portfolio of projects, contracts, and resources that was available from any device and didnt require an IT staff to build and maintain
- Cloud storage (Google Drive) too difficult to search and too unstructured
- Program management office (PMO) app built on Quickbase
- Automated workflows to keep contracts manageable via alerts and subscriptions
- Dashboards for fast access to management data, deadlines and deliverables
- Integrated document repository for complete version control and ease of use
- Less staff time spent on document management and information retrieval
- Greater responsiveness and accuracy in dealing with clients
- Visibility of data not available in PSA or accounting systems
- Improved revenue predictability for better planning and outcomes
- Needs met in days without programming or capital/labor investment
How Gaps in the System Harmed Project Delivery
Next Phase Solutions and Services is a Baltimore/Washington, D.C.-based technology services firm that provides a range of expertise and services to clients primarily in the healthcare and space science industries.
Next Phase uses a professional services automation (PSA) software system to manage its projects, resources, and costs. However, leaders at the company spotted several "gaps" neither the PSA system nor the company's accounting system (Intuit QuickBooks) could properly manage. For example, Next Phase wanted a system that could input a new contract as a booking that created backlog, then manage burning off the backlog items as work is completed and invoices are sent. Essentially Next Phase needed an efficient order fulfillment system for its projects.
"PSA systems allow you to enter a single number that represents the total value of the project, and report how much of that value you have burned off. But none of our projects are that simple. They are subdivided into many smaller parts that all must be managed individually," says Mike Uveges, COO, Next Phase.
The company first tried using Google Drive to manage the vast array of project information. While that solution successfully stored data in a hierarchy of folders, locating specific information was difficult because of different naming conventions and the lack of advanced search capabilities. In turn, employees kept their own parallel repositories of information, which led to continued reliance on email and phone calls to locate needed documents, and no real golden source of data.
Uveges also considered using Microsoft SharePoint, but knew it would require too much in support and development costs. He needed a system that was inexpensive to own and operate, while being quick to deploy and easy to use.
Automation Triggers Efficiency
Uveges was familiar with Quickbase from a previous job, though he had never had an opportunity to use it. Within a week of starting a free trial, Uveges saw the value in using Quickbase and had built the first version of a program management office (PMO) app that could track and report on key project data in a way that matched Next Phase's processes.
The Quickbase app transforms documents into records tagged with attributes that make posting and locating easy. Contracts, for example, include client names, starting and end dates, dollar values, time budgets and document numbers. Next Phase staff can easily generate reports to sort or group on those attributes, or create a graphical display of subtotaled values by date range. Now, the staff has a system they want to use instead of one they have to use, says Uveges.
"I did more in two days with Quickbase as a non-programmer than my last company's IT team did in a year with SharePoint," he says.
The Next Phase PMO app tracks projects, documents, contracts, invoices, client histories, and interactions at every phase of the project. PMO staff and management access information through customized dashboards to see deadlines and project status based on contract terms.
Email alerts and reminders notify staff when contracts are nearing termination so they can request additional funding or begin looking for new assignments for project staff. Other alerts let the finance department know when a contract can be invoiced.
The company can now track hours and resources against contracts, and management can access reporting otherwise not available in the PSA or accounting system. The app also enables team members to generate customized reports to monitor the volume of contracts, revenue earned, and project backlog.
The Benefits of Holistic Project Management
Nine months after launching the PMO app 100% of Next Phase projects are using it to automate contract workflows. It is as essential to the operation of the company as the PSA and accounting systems. The app saves time by storing all contract terms and deadlines in a central database that is accessible and easily searchable.
Next Phase is also better able to predict and manage revenue, as team members can bill customers at the right time thanks to automated status update notifications, and can see impending funding issues in time to take action. Senior managers benefit from relevant, easy to use reports and charts that they can generate themselves, rather than waiting for IT or a business analyst.
Finally, the staff is able to respond to clients more quickly thanks to the overall reduction in administrative overhead. Staff can also respond to changing business requirements thanks to the ease of modifying the app design in Quickbase.
Quickbase as a Platform for Growth
Next Phase's success with the PMO app inspired the team to find other gaps that needed to be filled inside the organization. Using Quickbase as a flexible platform for rapid development, Next Phase has been able to build and customize apps for other areas of need including:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Human Resources Information System (HRIS)
- Asset Management
"As a small company, these are all necessities that we could not afford to have without Quickbase," says Uveges.
Overall, the ability to build and create apps on a single, affordable platform that offers fast deployment and a high ease of use gives Next Phase a competitive advantage in its industry.
"We do more with 20 people than other companies our size, thanks to Quickbase," says Uveges. "We have automation and functionality that our peers simply don't have."