An interview with Laura Filson, Director of Finance and Accounting, Azimuth Corporation
Founded in 2001, Azimuth Corporation delivers innovative solutions to the national security and intelligence communities in a wide range of disciplines, including programming and policy development, security and threat analysis, and operational, program and administrative management. The company also provides database, modeling, and research and development (R&D) lab support to the U.S. Air Force R&D and acquisition teams at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Out With the Old Guard, in With the New
Shortly after Director of Finance and Accounting Laura Filson joined Azimuth in 2017, she realized that the company’s three-person finance department needed to improve processes to fully support company growth.
QuickBooks® was Azimuth’s accounting tool, and to comply with strict Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) regulations the company had a separate timekeeping system, but it wasn't user friendly. The timekeeping system did not integrate well with QuickBooks having persistent data issues.
“We had to set up inventory items for each employee and establish employee hourly rates for the whole year. Variances and rate changes forced us to create new items with new rates—a cumbersome, manual process,” notes Filson.
The timekeeping/invoicing accountant spent all of her time with Azimuth’s complicated cost-plus fixed-fee billing, which necessitated doing invoices in Microsoft® Excel to ensure they calculated correctly and keying the data into invoices in QuickBooks to record revenue. Everything was done in Excel and again in QuickBooks which required constant reconciliation.
Quickbook’s inability to integrate with Azimuth’s other systems caused additional business challenges, including:
- Untimely reporting which impacted Azimuth leadership’s ability to support timely budgeting, forecasting, and strategic decision making
- Inefficient timekeeping and billing processes led to unreliable accounts receivable and cash flow
- Azimuth’s unintegrated solution required dual entries and much duplication of effort
“Running financial statements in QuickBooks for a quarter or other time period was a challenge, because new data entered in QuickBooks changed the financials,” says Filson. “Dealing with constantly changing numbers is not good. So, we had to enter financial statement data in Excel, which also meant duplication of effort and introduced the risk of error.”
The good news, Filson knew a state-of-the-art option was available. She says, “After doing research and having in-depth conversations with Costpoint users, I knew Costpoint was precisely what Azimuth needed.”
Three factors were compelling drivers in Filson’s decision to propose Costpoint to Azimuth’s chief-level executives.
“It allows full integration of timekeeping and accounting, it’s equipped to receive imports from ADP, which Azimuth would switch to in October 2018, and since so many government contracting companies use Costpoint, I would have more reach leveraging the product by joining a peer group, which would help me find answers during implementation.”
In June 2018, the Azimuth’s leadership agreed, "We have to go to Costpoint." Filson notes, “In October 2018, we implemented Costpoint in four months, which was very fast.”
A New Era of Financial Efficiencies
For Azimuth’s finance department, Costpoint delivered many savings and efficiencies.
“The biggest initial benefit was doing timekeeping and invoicing directly in Costpoint, one of its core features,” says Filson “This is the story I tell everybody who will listen, Costpoint gained us so many efficiencies that we no longer needed our timekeeping/invoicing accountant. With a few pushes of a button, I could do timekeeping, track PTO, and create and send invoices myself. Instead of two weeks for each cycle, it now takes only one day, allowing us to send invoices—and get paid—much more quickly, solving our cash flow issues. A year after implementing Costpoint, we no longer tapped into our line of credit. Not once did we use it in 2020.”
Another Costpoint core feature, financial reporting, gave Azimuth the ability to budget, forecast and strategize more intelligently. And, while Azimuth has never undergone a full DCAA incurred cost submission audit and QuickBooks made voucher audits complicated - Filson says, “Costpoint handles changes in hourly rates, billing customers the exact costs we incur and documenting everything in the supporting schedule, where previously we had to provide a reconciliation. Costpoint automates creation of its standard supporting schedules for cost-plus fixed-fee contract invoices. I just generate the invoice and upload it.”
And That’s Not All: Other Costpoint Benefits
Knowing other Costpoint modules could help Azimuth run its business and accelerate its five-year growth plan, the company purchased the full suite of interconnected modules.
For managing subcontractors Azimuth needed Costpoint’s procurement module which generates and sends purchase orders (POs) to subs.
“We're building a workflow in Costpoint to generate requisitions that go to POs, making a useful work product for subs. We can also manage their procurement funds, track their purchases, and coordinate POs from multiple points of contact in the same organization to eliminate purchasing duplications. This service will allow subs to focus on research rather than purchasing minutiae,” Filson mentions.
Current efforts at Azimuth are focused on connecting GovWin and Costpoint’s contract management and project control to efficiently turn opportunities into bids, proposals, and contracts.
“Deltek gave us the idea to develop an easily searchable repository of project financials, consistent contract verbiage, customer data, and other details from which our business development team can generate these documents and pipeline reports, the latter of which the bank requires for our line of credit,” Filson adds. Until now, Azimuth maintained the repository in Excel and physical folders, but not thoroughly enough, and it was not easily searchable.
Another Leap Upward: Moving to Deltek Cloud
Initially, Azimuth used a third party to host Costpoint. All was well for six months, but with a switch in vendors, service declined, including outages and lack of communication and transparency. This led to Azimuth making the decision to switch to hosting in the Deltek Cloud.
“Deltek helped us solve the problems—after all, who knows Costpoint better than Deltek? To stabilize the system and get the level of service we needed, we moved to Deltek’s cloud. We couldn’t be happier, since all our past issues are history. Deltek’s support gives us what we need—a resolution to whatever minor issues crop up and an understanding of what Deltek did to fix it. In fact, when it comes to our overall relationship with Deltek, I rank it an 8 out of 10,” Filson concludes.
Watch this on-demand webinar to learn more about how small government contracting firms are streamlining their procurement and vendor management processes with Costpoint.
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