Saam Architecture, founded in Boston in 2014, has completed projects in diverse sectors, including aviation, government, healthcare, education, hospitality, mixed-use, residential, retail and transportation. A certified Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE), Saam’s 25-person team (22 of whom are women) leverages a wealth of skill sets in a holistic approach to design.
The firm’s name speaks to the central role that collaboration plays in its approach to architecture. In many languages, saam (pronounced “sahm”) refers to a method of accomplishing tasks, translating as “together,” “peaceful negotiation,” “collaboration,” and other similar terms. Saam’s architects, designers and project managers value trust and open communication, actively seeking client input into project design, specifications and execution.
With all its emphasis on collaboration, Saam fell short in one area: financial processes. Until Saam discovered Deltek Ajera, that is. Until 2019, Saam used generic solutions and a product that claims to be designed for architecture and engineering firms. However, Saam’s leadership team found managing two products made it challenging to accurately track financial status and evaluate project performance. The team decided to bring its financial processes in line with its collaborative business model, making it easier for firm members to work together effectively and streamlining communications with clients.
Diana Ostberg, Saam’s VP and COO, says, “After evaluating other solutions we found Deltek Ajera to be the best solution for our needs. The biggest benefit of moving to Deltek Ajera is that we no longer need to maintain two systems.”
The Beauty of Integration
Saam’s accountant, who works remotely, previously had to visit the office every week to reconcile two versions of every invoice created in two disparate systems — one by the project manager and the other by the accountant. There was no good way to assign invoiced consultant costs to project numbers or manage projects to Saam’s specifications.
"With Deltek Ajera, our accounting and project management are in one system, so only one person creates invoices, cutting invoicing time in half and eliminating busy work with a high potential for human error."
– Diana Ostberg, VP and COO
Saam can also configure invoices to meet specific client needs, which has improved cash flow. Diana notes, “That results in being paid more quickly. With Ajera, everyone is happy.”
Paperless Invoicing: Good for Business and the Planet
Now that Saam has fully implemented Deltek Ajera, invoicing is a paperless process. When invoice drafts are generated for approval, workflows in Ajera automatically email project managers so they know action is required. PMs can preview draft invoices from their Ajera dashboard and add notes as needed. PMs can update invoice status to inform the accounting team if changes are needed, if the invoice is approved or if no invoice is needed on the project for the given month. The paperless process saves back and forth emails or phone calls between project managers and the project accountant and eliminates stacks of draft invoices that are marked up manually. With Ajera, the project accountants can get feedback from project managers faster and quickly make updates and email invoices to clients.
Diana isn’t afraid to play favorites when it comes to Ajera features. She says, “The Consultant Pay When Paid report is a game changer. Before Deltek Ajera, our accountant wouldn’t know which consultant invoices were aligned with client invoices, so he couldn’t pay them until we sent him a spreadsheet listing payable consultant invoices. It was a painful process for all. Since we pay most of our consultants when clients pay us for their work, this feature makes it easy to track consultant AP. We indicate consultant payments directly in Ajera, and the accountant pays consultants on a timely basis. The whole process is much more efficient for us.”
Insights Lead to Success
Project managers tell Diana that pre-Ajera, they struggled to track project status against budget. With Ajera, they simply go to the snapshot tab in the project command center to see completed tasks, expenditures, budgeting, and invoices on a phase-by-phase basis—often without running a report.
“Ajera’s graphics appeal to visually oriented people like architects, and the presentation is clear and understandable. The snapshot tab is definitely the tool used most often by PMs.”
– Diana Ostberg, VP and COO
She also notes, “With our previous software, reports included a large amount of format options. It could be very confusing, and we couldn’t easily customize or save reports. That required us to run many reports numerous times, which was very unwieldy.”
Managing Scope Creep and Subconsultants
Saam does a lot of complex, phased project work. Deltek Ajera helps Saam organize the finances of these type of projects, whose scope is constantly shifting. Deltek Ajera is very useful in tracking multiple phases with different budgets and in tracking potential additional services. Diana explains, “Our practitioners and subconsultants start tracking their time in a designated ‘bucket’ in Ajera for potential additional services. We hold that time aside, not showing it as work in progress, but we move it into a WIP bucket if the additional service is approved. Managing this time would be a headache without Ajera.”
Improving Accessibility via the Deltek Cloud
The firm has found that Deltek Ajera in the Cloud supports its collaborative, dispersed culture. Diana says, “It’s great that all you need is an internet connection. Since data updates in real time, we always know the data is current, no matter when people are working or where they are working from.”
Diana values the customer care and technical help included with Ajera. She says, “We find it to be outstanding. When I put in a ticket, I get a call back right away, or I can chat. With screen sharing, I learn how to do tasks myself, which I really appreciate. Deltek’s technicians take time to dig into complicated requests and help us correct errors.”
The Best Tool for the Job
Diana notes, “The best accounting and project management software for us is one that practically disappears into the background, that runs itself, and that we almost never have to think about. Deltek Ajera frees up our time to collaborate with clients on great designs, give our employees exciting, rewarding work, and streamlines project management projects — in other words, the things that make us a successful architecture business. With Ajera, we’re moving forward with our collaborative vision, knowing that our back-office processes are in good hands.”
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