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An Interview with Eric Eldridge, Chief Information Technology Officer, Haley & Aldrich
Summary: Haley & Aldrich is a leading environmental and geotechnical firm that implemented Deltek Vantagepoint to eliminate costly customizations and simplify usage for its more than 800 users throughout the United States, giving them more time to focus on client work rather than onerous data entry and management. With Vantagepoint, Haley & Aldrich can simplify business processes, leverage project-based functionality, and take advantage of the latest technologies to service their clients more effectively.
Over the last four years, Haley & Aldrich began to struggle with the day-to-day financial management of their business and the burden on their information technology (IT) team to maintain their project and accounting system. They needed a solution that could help them better support their dispersed workforce, better align business processes to those of a project-based business, and reduce their overall costs.
Business Challenges That Led to Change
Haley & Aldrich had been using Microsoft Dynamics for about four years when they realized it was time for a change. The biggest challenge they faced was using a tool that was not created specifically for the architecture and engineering industry, which led to costly third-party tools, add-ins and customizations. Eric Eldridge, Chief Information Technology Officer at Haley & Aldrich, explains that they had to transform the system to meet their needs, which became very unwieldy and expensive to maintain.
“We weren’t using anything that was out of the box and trying to do an upgrade was virtually impossible,” said Eldridge. “If you wanted to do an upgrade, it was like a brand new implementation and when you can’t upgrade, you can’t take advantage of new features.”
When evaluating their current solution, Eldridge determined it wasn’t feasible from a cost or functionality standpoint to stay with their current solution.
Why Deltek Vantagepoint
When looking for a new solution to manage their 800-person business, Haley & Aldrich didn’t have to start from scratch. They had a shortlist of solutions to consider and relied on insight from others in the industry to guide their selection. Ultimately, "it came down to the fact that Vantagepoint is written for our industry, a large portion of our industry is using it so many staff were already comfortable with it, and the capabilities out of the box met almost all of our needs,” said Eldridge. “We felt we could completely migrate to Vantagepoint in a short period of time and be in a better position on day one with some pretty significant cost savings.
By moving to Deltek Vantagepoint, Haley & Aldrich will realize about $200,000 a year in operational savings between licensing, maintenance and on-premises infrastructure to support their system. Not only will Haley & Aldrich experience significant annual cost savings, but there are other benefits to their teams as well.
Simple Approvals Lead to Big Returns
One common challenge all architecture and engineering companies face is timesheet entry and approvals and Haley & Aldrich is no different. With Deltek Vantagepoint, Haley & Aldrich has been able to improve their timesheet approval processes with mobile technology that not only improves timesheet data accuracy, but also expedites posting and improves cash flow.
'We're not looking for a rubber stamp of approval, but we needed a way for staff managers to make sure the right projects were being charged and time was being entered properly,” said Eldridge.
To have all timesheets completed each Friday and posted by end of day Monday, Haley & Aldrich needed a solution, like Vantagepoint Mobile Time & Expense, that makes it easy to get timesheets updated from anywhere and empowers staff managers to quickly review and approve timesheets. With so many employees on project sites, the mobile app makes it easy to quickly capture hours before the end of the week from a smartphone. A manager can get notified that a timesheet is complete and then review to see if anything is incorrect or needs updated before approval.
"Vantagepoint’s mobile app for time and expense really helped us improve accessibility while adding a little more complexity and control, so that we have fewer errors without sacrificing the amount of time it takes to process,” says Eldridge. “The time entry and approvals is one area that we get the most bang for our buck.”
Taking Deltek Vantagepoint to the Cloud
“We intentionally chose something that we couldn’t customize and couldn’t get into the backend database,” said Eldridge. “We had Dynamics in a data center, but it was our staff managing it and that was part of the problem. We had 20 servers in our environment for development testing, support environments, and then production.” Now, with the Deltek Cloud, that headache is gone.
“From a personal standpoint, I spend probably five or six hours less a week dealing with administrative accounting tasks than I used to,” said Eldridge. “I’m less concerned about backups and security updates, or spinning up new environments, now that Deltek manages all of that.”
Moving to the Deltek Cloud has freed up Eldridge and the IT team at Haley & Aldrich to focus on more strategic initiatives for the business and eliminates much of the noise. “They’re not just dealing with bandages and duct tape, but they can focus on moving us forward as a business,” said Eldridge.
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After a challenging implementation with their previous solution, Haley & Aldrich was focused on a manageable and successful implementation for Deltek Vantagepoint. They also made a conscious decision to maintain the scope of the implementation. “We took a crawl, walk, run approach to our implementation,” said Eldridge. “We needed a solution that could manage our financials and evolve with our business.”
In Eldridge’s experience, there can often be a steep learning curve to get users up to speed, but with Vantagepoint, it was different. “We had a two-week period of time where there were no transactions posted at all. We went live on a Friday and once live, I was getting approval requests from accounts payable the next day. And, it wasn’t just one or two – I got a hundred over the weekend so they were processing very quickly,” shared Eldridge. “From getting time entered to getting invoices out the door – those groups didn’t miss a beat. Our cash application and project setup teams had a similar experience.”
Eldridge says that the intuitive nature of Vantagepoint and their training program made this transition more seamless. Haley & Aldrich had an implementation team that trained key leaders from each group to be the point person for their teams. They also delivered role-based training that focused on what each group needed to focus on in order to complete their day-to-day tasks. The usability and impact of training goes beyond just the power users.
“I have not heard one person in 800 people say they wish we hadn’t changed systems,” said Eldridge. “It’s not always 100% the way they want it, but what I hear from the staff is that it’s a lot better than what we had.” Eldridge also contributes their success to their partnership with the Deltek Global Consulting team and Deltek Partner CCG. The consulting team not only had in-depth knowledge of the solution, but also shared experiences from other users to help Haley & Aldrich make the right choice for their business.
Recommendations for Architecture and Engineering Firms
Eldridge shared some key considerations for other architecture, engineering and environmental firms looking for a financial management or enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. “If you are in our industry, you definitely want to look at Deltek Vantagepoint because you are going to get more out of the box than you will with other solutions that need to be augmented and can be difficult to maintain,” said Eldridge. “You don’t need to try and fit a round peg in a square hole.”
He also shared that some ERP projects can be a great opportunity to improve your business processes. “I would much rather have a system that works for a large number of companies than think my process is so much better than everyone else’s and try to change the software,” said Eldridge. “There are times when you do an implementation, where you have to change your processes, because improvement has to be a combination of people, process and technology.”
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What's Next for Haley & Aldrich?
Haley & Aldrich completed their implementation of Deltek Vantagepoint in the midst of a global pandemic and also completed an acquisition during that time. According to Eldridge, their next task will be moving the newly acquired company to Vantagepoint from BST and then determining the next set of capabilities to implement across the business.
“Whether it’s resource planning or customer relationship management (CRM), it’s good to know that Deltek has an industry-focused toolset that can help us accomplish our goals,” said Eldridge.
Haley & Aldrich is also focused on connecting with the Deltek user community through user groups, the Deltek Insight user conference and town halls. “To get the most of your investment, you have to be an active participant, so we are making sure we are getting involved in the Deltek Community and talking to peers to stay informed and connected,” said Eldridge.
And, as Haley & Aldrich looks to the future, they are confident that the time and cost savings achieved with Vantagepoint can be put toward innovation. “Our strategic vision for five years from now is focused on how we leverage evolving technologies to better deliver value to our clients,” said Eldridge. “And you can’t just fund that from thin air. You need to have time and resources available to invest. Eldridge anticipates the time no longer spent managing updates and security will be spent finding better ways to serve their clients.
About Haley & Aldrich
Haley & Aldrich provides environmental and geotechnical engineering services throughout the United States for a wide range of projects in industries such as aerospace, healthcare, education, manufacturing, mining, energy, government infrastructure, and real estate development. Haley & Aldrich has more than 800 professionals in more than 30 offices who focus on solving complex problems above and below ground for their clients.
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