Building Digital Transformation Through UX Innovations
By Todd Walker, Vice President of Product Management, Deltek.
In 2018, Deltek built a new and improved user interface (UI) for Costpoint, giving the solution a solid foundation for adding new “rooms” to the Costpoint “house.”
Since then, our team of user experience (UX) professionals has interviewed dozens of users to get their opinions on how to make their Costpoint house more functional and easier to live in.
Many users have similar wish lists. Above all, they rely on Costpoint government contractor accounting software to improve efficiency and profitability by keeping a tight rein on project accounting. Because they know they can count on Costpoint, they’ve asked Deltek to transform it into an end-to-end ERP system with easy, fast UI interaction.
We’re up to the challenge. In 2019, we’re breaking down finance/accounting walls to create what you might call an open floor plan that makes business-critical functions easier and welcomes new residents: business development teams, subcontractors, suppliers, and vendors.
We’re as excited about these innovations as our customers are since they leapfrog Deltek into a new generation of government contractor ERP solutions.
In this post, I’ll walk you through these breakthroughs.
If You Can’t Stand the T&E Heat, Get out of the Kitchen--Fast
Like the kitchen in brick-and-mortar homes, everyone uses the time and expense “room.” In fact, roughly 90% of all Costpoint users are billable employees or subcontractors who use the software to enter time and create expense reports, the epitome of time-consuming tedium. But since time and materials contracts are the most heavily audited contracts, it’s critical for government contractors to collect accurate T&E info. Our goal is to make the process simple and get users in and out of the kitchen quickly.
More and more users are on the go and want to enter T&E on their choice of platform. Yes, you can use a browser designed for a desktop and refactor it for a phone, but end users want and expect a simple native app. And many people simply won’t interact with organizations unless they offer a native app. That’s why we’re making these T&E enhancements to our device-specific native mobile app (iOS and Android), which will debut this summer.
While app developers want you to spend lots of time on their app, Deltek designed its intelligent T&E app so that your billable resources spend very little time on it.
Let’s look at time entry first. Contractors must comply with US government tracking requirements, so the app’s regulatory and compliance components validate users and the time they enter. A new dashboard makes it easy for billable resources to identify timesheets that haven’t been submitted or approved.
Our ultimate goal is virtually touchless time entry, where the app performs much of the intelligence. In the future, geolocation technology will prompt users to start or end timesheets when they enter or leave a client location geo-fence. With a yes/no prompt that users respond to in a mere second, that’s the ultimate in minimal time (and clicks) to perform a necessary transactional task that adds no value for contractors’ clients.
When it comes to expenses, we’ll release our new Expense Wizard this summer. The workflow-based system walks users through a minimum of intuitive steps to create and submit an expense report. And coming soon is optical character recognition (OCR), so users won’t have to enter expenses line by line; instead, they’ll take photos of receipts, and the system will draw info from receipts to enter expenses automatically. A new dashboard will make it easy for billable resources to identify expense reports that need to be submitted or approved, and we will add travel booking integration to systematically generate expense reports based on travel bookings.
These innovations are not only a boon to billable employees and subcontractors. They also benefit Finance employees who are responsible for processing expenses, because the T&E data they receive will be more timely and accurate. They’ll spend far less time chasing down employees who haven’t submitted their time, not to mention reconciling missing or incorrect timesheets and expense reports. That means you can bill customers and recognize revenue faster. Finally, accurate labor data will come in handy for business analytics and plans.
A (Supplier) Portal to the Future
Walking through a doorway into the new Supplier Portal is like stepping into the future of ERP. All government contractors use subcontract labor, and end customers often require the use of small disadvantaged businesses. Also, it just makes sense to use them for short-term projects or filling skills gaps. So in response to customer requests, we’re adding end-to-end subcontractor management.
Building on the subcontractor management tool we recently released, the portal will enable collaboration between our customers and their subcontractors, suppliers, and vendors on Purchase Orders (PO). Subcontractors will review, acknowledge, approve, request changes to or reject POs—all within Costpoint. Subcontractors access that data to bill their customers and pay their employees. Everyone in this continuum can see and use the data, all with certainty that they see the ‘single version of the truth’. (In a future phase, subcontractors will have access to pre-award information and be able to generate invoices off a PO to further automate the source-to-pay process.)
That’s a huge step forward from paper-based transactions, where customers print a PO from Costpoint and mail or email it to the subcontractor, who creates a PDF invoice and sends it back to the customer, who reconciles transactions manually to determine who gets paid how much—all processes that impact the bottom line.
Opening the Front Door to the Business Development Team
In breaking down finance/accounting walls to welcome business development teams, we added opportunity tracking in 2018, and now we’re improving integration with GovWin IQ and embedding sales pipeline reports in dashboards to provide better visibility into the progress of new opportunities. Check out our recent webinar to learn more. We’re also improving competitor, contacts, and activity pursuit tracking, giving everyone a 360-degree view of opportunities.
Closing in on the Month-End Close
Later this summer, Finance users will fall in love with our simplified month-end close process (customer testers are already enamored). Instead of several hours to run as many as 9 different processes, our new process will involve only “X” steps—care to guess how many?
As Lisa Rabideau says in her post on the Five Pillars of UX Transformation, software companies have a big challenge and opportunity: make software that’s indispensable to success because it meets customer business requirements and it works the way users think. That takes innovation.
As I said in a previous blog, innovation is what Deltek does, and we’re especially into innovations that improve the UX. By ensuring that Costpoint is intuitive and easy to learn and use, we aim to put the fun back in functional. That’s why Deltek has introduced more customer-requested features to Costpoint in the past 4 years than in the previous 10 years. And we will continue to respond to customer requests until they are completely at home in their ERP.
About the Author
As Vice President of Product Management, Todd Walker is responsible for leading the product strategy and roadmap for Deltek’s Costpoint and Human Capital Management solutions. Todd has over 20 years of experience delivering market leading, purpose built, on premises and cloud enterprise software solutions for aerospace & defense and government contracting organizations. Connect with Todd on LinkedIn.
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