An interview with Debra Hadley, Chief Financial Officer, SAWTST
SAWTST, LLC (SAWTST) a Small Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOSB) with more than 500 employees – with 40+ locations spanning 17 states, prides itself on identifying and seizing Information Technology (IT) and Enterprise Logistics opportunities for growth – striving to exceed their clients’ needs.
The roles and responsibilities of a CFO are diverse and challenging, and that’s even more true for a CFO in government contracting. For Debra Hadley, CFO at SAWTST, the job is nuanced and requires special skills and a deep understanding of how the government manages its finance and accounting. “How we handle our project information – and our accounting, finances and reporting – requires the right partnerships with those that understand how the government thinks,” said Debra. As CFO for a government contractor, numbers must be internalized from a GAAP and tax perspective, but also a cost pool. Therefore, it’s critical to quickly disseminate the difference between the two.
As SAWTST experienced consistent growth, it became apparent that their prior accounting system, Unanet, wasn’t meeting their future needs. The company knew they needed an all-in-one ERP solution like Deltek Costpoint that was purpose-built for government contractors to support their compliance requirements, from bid to invoice. Investing in a comprehensive solution makes it easy for end users to automate processes, increase efficiencies and connect the entire company to project data as a single source of truth.
The Importance of System Automation
Three years ago, SAWTST went through an ERP evaluation and selected Unanet solely based on the cost. While initially appealing, Unanet was not a long-term solution, especially with SAWTST's aggressive plans for growth. “Had I known then what I know now, I would have made a different decision – to implement Deltek Costpoint,” shared Debra. “While Unanet’s system provided more capabilities than we had previously, I didn’t realize at the time how much it lacked.”
Government regulations require a lot of reporting and data analysis, which can be cumbersome if reporting capabilities aren’t inherent to the system. After implementing Unanet, it became clear that the system lacked business development capabilities and comprehensive reporting. As a result, it was challenging to extract information, requiring SAWTST to export a lot of data manually and to manipulate the data within Excel to meet their needs. The system was also complicated to navigate as an end-user if not used daily, requiring support and leading to inefficiencies.
Debra is confident SAWTST’s efficiencies will significantly improve with Costpoint’s out-of-the-box reports designed for the government contracting industry, complete with built-in capabilities. “Comprehensively, Deltek Costpoint is a mile ahead of Unanet, and it’s going to cut down greatly on the amount of manual intervention,” Debra discussed. In addition, the company anticipates significant cost savings with the automated reporting offered in Costpoint – by eliminating the additional headcount for manual processes that would have been required with their Unanet system.
The Benefits of Migrating Multiple Solutions Into One
In addition to the growing firm’s accounting software, SAWTST relies on Paylocity to operate HR payroll activities and powers its Business Development (BD) processes through Deltek’s GovWin IQ. With Unanet, these systems were disparate and siloed, which hindered effective communication and transparency of information across the company.
Switching to Deltek Costpoint will enable SAWTST to merge all three systems – accounting, HR and BD – into one single solution. Integrating these disparate systems will not only improve day-to-day payroll activities, it will also allow all company data to be stored in one place, enhancing communication across teams.
Additionally, the integration capabilities between GovWin IQ and Deltek Costpoint will improve the company’s BD processes. “By upgrading the entire company into one system will allow us to cohesively work together and prevent the excessive manual intervention that is slowing us down today,” said Debra. “This change will not only save us time and resources but will allow our teams to achieve excellence for our clients, including but not limited to the U.S. Army, Defense Logistics Agency and the Department of Veteran Affairs.”
A White Glove Experience
While Unanet was attractive at the time and seemingly had what SAWTST needed, Debra soon realized you get what you pay for.
“I wish somebody would have been in a position to give me advice at the time I chose to go with Unanet, by encouraging me to truly look at the built-in capabilities within Costpoint,” Debra shared. “If standard processes need to be accomplished to meet the industry’s requirements and your software isn’t cutting it, how many extra man-hours are you willing to spend to get the job done?”
She went on to say that it would have been helpful for an industry peer to share what a business might hope to achieve from a reporting perspective when using Unanet – as it is not at all what the end user will get. “Approximately 40% of the reports are out-of-the-box within Unanet’s system, but the other 60% are not which is a very critical component – as it has to do with the development and project arm of our business,” Debra said. “It’s very difficult to gain insight into cost by project, cost by time or detailed reports that are not high level – drilling down - without extracting data.” But with Deltek Costpoint the reporting features are inherent and robust, and time won’t be wasted manually creating reports.
SAWTST anticipates winning a contract award with close to 180 full-time equivalents (FTEs) – the labor involved in the accounting and finance activities to manage the contract would also require another headcount. By switching to Costpoint and improving automation and system integration, the company isn't planning on needing that additional headcount since they anticipate improving operational efficiencies by a full FTE.
In addition to Unanet’s product shortcomings, the evaluation experience between Unanet and Deltek had resounding differences. “When evaluating Unanet, I didn’t feel like I was getting a comprehensive demo,” disclosed Debra. “I wasn’t given the opportunity to see all of the products that were available with the Unanet system. Their team was more concerned about us purchasing the foundational piece and worrying about the rest later. Deltek didn’t do that.”
Deltek’s team of government contracting experts understood Debra’s need to prepare SAWTST for the future and set them up for success. “It was refreshing to partner with a team that spoke my language and prioritized my needs to move the company forward – giving me peace of mind with the big decision that lay in front of me,” Debra said.
Knowing this small business government contractor has a very aggressive 5-year growth plan and that a new ERP solution would be a critical piece to the company achieving their goals, Deltek’s team is keeping SAWTST’s need to improve operational processes and controls at the forefront of the journey. Debra wrapped up the interview by saying, “It's a big decision to move your ERP, especially after just 3 years with another provider. It's a lot of work – and I’ve felt like Deltek has been by my side the entire time.”
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