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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
There were many things I noticed while attending Microsoft Convergence, but you can apply these key takeways to any trade show. They are sure to improve your convention experience and get the attention you know you want!
Don’t let your booth staff talk a visitor’s ear off
If anything they should LISTEN. This is the number one reason attendees don’t stop by in the first place. They don’t want a 10 minute sales pitch for something they might not want or need. It’s great to cast a wide net, but you need to train your team to target valuable prospects more selectively by asking the right questions. It might sound like a given but, actually pay attention to the comments from people who stop by your booth. James Brawner, Director of Marketing at Journyx, emphasized this point in his interview at the show.
Be sure to let your booth staff take a break when necessary. You can have the best attention-grabbing displays and games, but if the staff is moping and tired, prospects will have a bad impression of your booth. If you want them to be happy go-getters then periodic breaks are the best way to keep that energy up!
Attend the functions afterward
I know, I just said pace yourself. But here’s why I highly recommend going to the after parties: deals happen there just as fast as on the booth floor. It's another opportunity to get in front of attendees or future partners, and that means more bang for your buck. So have fun with it! Well, not
Do you have any other ideas for getting the most out of conventions? Let us know some of your best practices!
Government contracting differs from traditional business ventures in many key ways, and one of those is the marketing of your product. As in any industry, differentiators will ultimately determine who wins the contract, yet it is important to realize that these differentiators are unique when dealing with government agencies. For one thing, you are not offering a good or service to a wide market; you are offering it to one particular agency. For that reason, specificity is much more important than in traditional marketing. You are only trying to capture the attention of one customer, so your marketing efforts should reflect their needs in detail.
You also must realize that these agencies can see right through buzzwords, marketing slogans, etc. because they are ultimately irrelevant to them. Using such words in your approach is not only useless, but potentially harmful, as they indicate that you do not know what they actually want. Offering to build “the highest quality airplane money can buy” will be less effective than saying “we can build you an airplane that meets your target specifications for $50,000 less than you thought it would cost,” for instance. These kinds of details will make a big difference when the time for proposal comes.
It is also important to acknowledge the human element of these interactions. Since the idea of a massive bureaucracy is so closely associated with government agencies, it is easy to forget that individual humans have a significant impact on where a contract is awarded. It is therefore very important to network with the agencies that you are interested in contracting for to get an inside view of requirements, and also to become a friendly resource for them. Successfully doing this can translate to a contract award since you will be remembered as a valuable asset when they are making final decisions. Don’t lose sight of whom you are trying to win over, and market to specific agencies, and you can significantly increase the odds that you will win the contract you want.
Let’s jump right in to the final aspects of time management that automated software can help:
4. Timesheet Rules Handling
In nearly every business environment, there will be rules dictating employee time spent on work. This might mean that certain activities are disallowed at certain times, or that employees are only allowed to work a certain number of hours per week, or any other of a variety of regulations. For companies using a paper timekeeping system, these rules can quickly become arduous to navigate. Employees will be required to memorize or look up the rules every time they have even a slight deviation in their standard time entry, and approvers will need to be even more careful as they peruse the numerous timesheets submitted that might have slight errors. Again, minor errors at the data entry level can quickly snowball into much larger issues down the line.
Automated timesheets can effectively eliminate the vast majority of these problems. For starters, they can be arranged so that certain options are not even available to employees. This makes sure that those activities that employees should not engage in cannot be entered at all. Automated timesheet systems also allow for timesheet rejection notices and reminders that come without requiring the attention of a supervisor. Thus, employees will know immediately if there was an error, saving time for both themselves and their managers as well as minimizing the chance for entry errors.
5. Workflow Approvals and Process Auditing
At some point along the line most companies will want to get employee timesheets in front of a qualified approver to make sure that the time is being spent on relevant tasks and that there are no other issues. If a business is acting as a government contractor, the DCAA will also want to make sure that a qualified supervisor is monitoring employee time. In even modestly sized organizations, manual timesheet entry presents numerous issues in this regard. In situations that require multiple levels of approval things quickly go awry, requiring multiple copies of daily time entry to be stored and catalogued.
Automated time entry systems can be programmed to follow a designated approval path and, once there, allows timesheets to be shared as necessary throughout the organization. Further, it allows multiple layers of approval so if an employee is working on a project, but that is not his only responsibility, then the project manager can view data appropriate to him while another supervisor receives different or more complete data, depending on the needs of the company.
For an audit report, this becomes even more critical, as the ease with which timesheets and timesheet processes are identified can make an audit either extremely painless or convoluted. Automated systems create an easy to follow approval path and offer instant access to timesheet data. As long as employees follow baseline processes, no audit will ever be unnecessarily difficult.
Remember, every time tracking system is a tool. Unless a business has effective processes in place, no timesheet system can be effective. That being said, an automated time tracking system is a much better tool than a manual system. Businesses who implement them discover the numerous advantages of easily accessible employee and project data, allowing them to make more accurate adjustments and future predictions that will ensure maximum profitability.
We recently came across this helpful video created by one of our customers, KOOP Radio.
Would you feel more comfortable logging your time as a volunteer for
Here at Journyx, we like to have fun! You might have figured this out from our previous blog about the giveaways last month. Well, I can’t wait to tell you about this new incentive we’re offering our fans and followers on social media.
You’ll want to pay extra close attention at the beginning of every month when we post a trivia question to Twitter or Facebook. It could be anything from “What is a trait you look for in a leader?” to “What’s the coolest piece of swag you’ve received at a tradeshow?” Prizes will range from gift cards to coffee mugs… or even something bigger! You’ll have to play to find out!
You could win lots of gift cards like these.
Why are we doing this? It’s just a wonderful chance to get to know you! Obviously if you have subscribed to us on our Linkedin company page, followed us on Twitter or are a fan of the Journyx Facebook page, you know a little about us. It’s very important to us to know you, as well!
Remember if you don’t play, you don’t win!
This is the second installment of our 3 part series entitled “5 Aspects of Time Tracking Nirvana” If you haven’t read part 1 please do so here.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific ways an automated time tracking system can optimize your daily time entry and data access needs:
1. Employee Project and Work Type Selections
One of the most important features of any time tracking system is for employees to track their time to specific tasks or projects. That way, the company can see exactly where employees are most productive and restructure responsibilities accordingly. In a manual system, employees will be required to sift through long lists of tasks, many of which are not applicable to their role. Obviously, the chance for confusion is high, and when confusion exists at this basic level it can snowball into massive errors requiring extensive revisions.
Automated time tracking software alleviates this issue by filtering tasks to specific employees. That way, employees cannot assign time to tasks outside of their role. This reduced chance of confusion and error helps establish a baseline by which an employee can properly navigate the time entry process. Further, it saves time by allowing the employee instant access to approved responsibilities.
2. Daily Time Entry Compliance
While companies have time entry requirements that vary from strict to relaxed, there will be situations in which is necessary to require specific, daily time entry. A great example of this comes when dealing with the DCAA as a government contractor. In this scenario, employees would be required to enter time daily (no later than 9am for the previous days work).
Obviously, this aspect of time tracking greatly benefits from software, as it is far easier to prove that there are standards in place for an automated system than in a manual, paper-based one. Automated software provides daily reminders that make it nearly impossible for an employee to forget this requirement, and the software provides an incredibly effective audit trail should the DCAA ever need to take a look at your records.
3. Auditable Correction Process
In even the most advanced time tracking software systems there will be the need for the occasional correction because, let’s face it, humans will always find a way to make mistakes. In time tracking as in life, it is the way those mistakes are handled that separate the excellent from the wanting. The DCAA can play a role in this too. If a business is acting as a government contractor then any and all changes to existing timesheet data must be documented.
In a manual system these corrections, and their documentation, can quickly get out of hand. There is really no easy way for an employee to make corrections, and then the approval of those corrections, along with a file keeping system that makes those documentations easy to access in the event of an audit further increases difficulty and room for errors. In practical terms, it is a logistical nightmare.
Automated time tracking software makes this process much more easy. Documentation is kept in the software itself, and previous time entry data is easy to access. Approvals of corrections, should they be necessary, are also much easier as managers can simply check the individual employees entry data. Again, auditing this system is very easy because all changes can be noted and viewed easily.
In the third and final installment of this series we look at the final two aspects of time management that automated time tracking software can help with. Stay tuned for more great information!
Paper based employee time tracking is certainly possible. However, possible rarely means optimal, and in this case it certainly doesn’t. Let’s list a few of the disadvantages of this antiquated time management system: Employees will require extensive knowledge about the types of projects and tasks they can log time against. They must also be trained on processes for manually correcting existing times entries. Approvers must then painstakingly review every timesheet to make sure that it is correct, and they must then account for any errors. While this might not take much time on a one-off basis, it will represent an enormous waste of effort that could be better applied elsewhere. Of course, the chances that an error might go unnoticed or uncorrected are also much higher in a manual process.
So what is the answer? Simple. An automated time-management system can drastically reduce errors while allowing employees and managers the ability to accurately view where and when time is being spent most productively. There are several steps in the time management process that can be automated to quickly downgrade any headaches. Those are:
- Employee project and work type selections on timesheets
- Daily time entry compliance
- Auditable correction process for existing timesheet entries
- Standard timesheet rules handling
- Workflow approvals that capture process/change details and ensure proper approval
Automating these aspects of time entry will have direct results, and the best part is that it isn’t very hard or expensive to implement such a system. The best providers will offer you both cloud and installed options for time management software.
In the next part of this series, we will begin looking at these time-management steps in depth to demonstrate exactly how quality software can maximize the value of your time and resources.
During our time at Convergence 2012, we had the opportunity to talk with Michele Price on her radio show Breakthrough Business Strategies. She captured some of the engaging techniques we used in our booth with a short video which you can view below.
Michele’s interview with James Brawner and Christa Freeland revealed multiple key ideas which you can use for your own business. If you’re considering going to Convergence next year, here are a few things we did at the show that Michele really complimented Journyx on:
- Michele thought our booth was very effective in telling attendees what we had to offer without requiring passers by to read a large amount of text.
- Christa highlighted how we followed the Convergence hashtags (#Conv12, #msdyngp, #msdyncomm) to create a live feed of everything happening for the show before we even went to Houston.
- Michele thought we were ahead of the curve with our flyer encouraging game players to scan a QR code to tweet their scores and spread the word about the Journyx booth.
- Michele really found our video game (Kinect Joy Ride) fun, innovative and engaging.
Do any of these tips give you new ideas for your next trade show?
This Q&A was taken from our Journyx webinar series featuring Wes Fue entitled “Federal Government Contracting-It’s a Whole New World!” For more information, sign up for an upcoming webinar or check our archives for previously recorded webinars.
The short answer to this question is: no. Consider this, you wouldn’t want your pricing information out there either! However, that does not mean that there is no way to determine a fair pricing structure for your contract proposal. One of the most effective ways is to go to usaspending.gov. From there, you can find a wealth of pricing information. For instance, you can see how much government agencies have spent on projects similar to the one you are proposing, you can see the total amount spent on certain project categories, and you can see the types of projects your chosen agency has awarded. If you are still on the hunt for competitive intelligence, it is also possible to type in the name of a business to see the projects that they have been awarded in the past and the pricing of those contracts. All of this information is free and public. So, even though it is not possible to see a specific bid for an active solicitation, it is very possible to structure a reasonable estimate using the wealth of information available online.
Many businesses require approvals of employee time entry, the more flexible the better. In addition, they often require layered approvals, or approvals from more than one individual, whether that be from supervisors, HR, or managers of specific projects. Microsoft Dynamics, one of the more popular offers a basic level of this functionality in Business Portal, but unfortunately the approvals are set to allow no more than one approver and one supervisor to review the timesheet. While this may work for smaller and simpler companies, expansion and a desire to use timesheets in a capacity beyond administrative functions will require a more robust approval system.
Another issue with the basic validation levels concerns the ability for employees to edit timesheets even after they have been approved. This effectively renders the approval invalid. Time spent going back and double-checking all previously approved timesheets for discrepancies is obviously and needlessly wasted. Approvers need to be able to “lock down” a timesheet after approval, unless of course there is an explicit reason for later modification, in which case the approver should be given the ability to request changes as necessary.
Fortunately, it is still possible to reap the substantial benefits of the Microsoft Dynamics accounting programs. Journyx Timesheet combined with Accountlink for Microsoft Dynamics allows for full approval flexibility. Timesheets can be entered and approved through any web browser, and do not require any technical knowledge whatsoever to navigate and submit. Once the approval process has been completed, the data can then be easily transferred into the Microsoft Dynamics interface. In this way businesses can experience all the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics while maintaining the robust approval levels that modern businesses require. There is no reason not to experience the best of both worlds thanks to Journyx Accountlink for Microsoft Dynamics.
Technology can either make us feel like we’re superhuman or it can be a super drag. One area that makes most of us want to pull our hair out is our email inbox. Email can easily become too cluttered to be managed and it affects the sender and the recipient. I have experienced numerous times where my email gets lost in the shuffle and I am asked to resend important information so the recipient can finally find my email.
But what if your email could be clean and automated? What if email could make you feel powerful instead of inefficient?
Boomerang is an inbox management tool for Gmail and Outlook. With Boomerang you can…
- Schedule emails
- Track email responses
- Send email back to your inbox for a later date
Boomerang is also available on your mobile phone, so you can manage your email on the go. I think Boomerang is an awesome idea. I’m already used to sending email with scheduling capabilities via our marketing automation tool, so I can see how useful this feature could be for my own personal email. No more forgetting birthdays or looking like a spammer to new network connections! The more I read about Boomerang, the more I feel empowered by this tool and what it can accomplish for the user.
Does managing your time with effective technology make you feel like a superhero? Let our readers know so they can feel superhuman as well.
Unless you are living in utopian sci-fi society, all of your employees are human, and that’s a good thing because humans are smart and resourceful. They are also prone to make mistakes and forget things. The time entry functionality of Microsoft Dynamics Business Portal is unfortunately very susceptible to both of these flaws. If an employee makes a mistake or forgets to enter time by a set date, there is nothing to validate or remind them to do so.
That means, most unfortunately, that approvers will have to manually look through timesheets to check for errors or omissions with no real idea of where, specifically, an issue will arise. Since approvers are often managers or even higher-level employees, this waste of time can have a very real and detrimental impact to the operations of a company. Worse, because Business Portal doesn’t feature multi-layered approvals, it is possible that an erroneous timesheet could make it all the way to payroll, necessitating a lengthy period in which timesheet submission processes must be backtracked and fixed. Again, a waste of time for all involved.
Businesses must have a system in place that both validates timesheets to make sure there are no issues with the entered information, and that sends reminders so that timesheets are submitted at a designated time. Fortunately, Journyx Timesheet combined with Journyx Accountlink for Microsoft Dynamics allows for just such a functionality, and does so while still enabling all of the advantages of Microsoft Dynamics, extending its value by adding necessary functionality.
Data from Microsoft Dynamics can be transferred bi-directionally with data from Journyx Timesheet, so the robust validations and reminders set in Journyx Timesheet reflect in the Microsoft Dynamics program. Best of all, none of this requires any advanced technical skills, and data can be input and viewed over the web. It is a convenient solution to a very real problem, and can drastically improve the value of timesheet data through error elimination.
This Q&A was taken from our Journyx webinar series featuring Laura Faulkner entitled “Holding Your Ground-3 Keys to Expanding Your Government Contracts Now” For more information, sign up for an upcoming webinar or check our archives for previously recorded webinars.
This can be tricky, because it is never wise to spread yourself too thin and dilute resources. However, considering the potential volatility of government contracting (due to budget costs, contract realignment, etc.) it is also wise to branch out into several different contract areas to be sure you always have a place. Thus, it is advisable to proceed into those other areas using a low-risk approach. That might mean subcontracting or taking on smaller contracts initially. That way, you do not expend too many resources on untested ventures, and should the need arise to reallocate resources it will be easier to maintain a less risky contract with less experienced personnel.
That’s right – there were delicious giveaways left and right this month! First, let’s talk about a giveaway from a project management blog that is one of our favorite indulgences: A Girl’s Guide to Project Management. Brian from Utah won our CEO, Curt Finch’s book, “All Your Money Wont Another Minute Buy: Valuing Time as a Business Resource”. I’ve read it and can confirm it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to bring intelligent, forward-thinking time management into their business. Thanks to Girl’s Guide editor, Elizabeth Harrin, for coordinating the giveaway!
Next off, I’d like to congratulate Tommy from HireRight for winning one of our grand prizes at the Microsoft Convergence conference – an Xbox 360 w/ 250 GB and Kinect. Congratulations to Tommy for scoring the top time racing around the Journyx Dash Track on the JoyRide for Xbox Kinect. He was quick – I know, I raced against him!
Erin from the Microsoft Convergence team presenting one of the prizes.
We also gave away a $50 Visa gift card to Stefan from Canada. Anyone who Tweeted about their Journyx Dash Track experience got entered into the drawing. The biggest giveaway (quite literally) was a 42” LCD HD TV – maybe you read about in our previous Convergence post. We are shipping it to Stephanie Holcomb of Kansas.
Once again congratulations to all of our winners and thanks for playing!
If you’ve been following my posts on this blog, you may already know this about me: I love, love, love SXSW Interactive. But do you know what Interactive means? Do you know why I think it’s so grand? Let’s take a closer look at what’s behind all the annoyingly bright orange lanyards, outrageously long lines, conference hashtags crowding your Twitter stream, more swag than you could possibly ever use, and a conference that turns major highways into parking lots. Despite how “glamorous” I just made SXSWi sound, it’s actually quite incredible and here’s why.
Hands down, the main reason I enjoy going to these tech events is because of the community they bring. Bringing together the most intelligent, proactive, disruptive-thinking people so they can all interact is electric. It’s kind of like TED – SXSWi has an “Idea Worth Spreading” (pun intended). SXSWi shares similar TED qualities but with lots of wide-eyed entrepreneurs, gaggles of freshly venture-backed startup teams, a sea of highly judgmental venture capitalists and, of course, me!
Here’s a little secret: experiences like this actually happen all the time in Austin. SXSWi just attracts people from around the country to our playground for a week. Talk about intense! I love to brag that I have the opportunity to live in this up-and-coming tech hub. Although now our secret is out and Austin really isn’t “up-and-coming” anymore. It has arrived with fascinating momentum!
This would not have happened without organizations putting in the elbow grease to make this work. It is absolutely necessary to give credit to networking groups like Door64, Tech Ranch, Austin Women In Technology , ATC, We Are Austin Tech and, of course, Austin Ventures. All of these organizations recognize the great potential of getting the geeks (and geekettes!) of Austin in collaboration.
Armed with a Redbull, I stopped by the We Are Austin Tech booth at the SXSW Startup Crawl in the gorgeous downtown Omni Hotel for the Interactive kickoff. It was great to meet up with director/producer, Ruben Cantu of We are Austin Tech at their booth.
Let’s keep in mind that it’s all of our responsibility to grow the community. I’ll speak for Austin when I say we certainly have a fun time doing it!
The most obvious question many people ask when they decide to pursue a government contract is almost always, “where do I start?” Unfortunately, they will often hear many different things from various advisors, and while the advice can be quite solid, it always overlooks the fundamental first step of the process. I am not talking about receiving your DUNS number or even checking the available RFP’s. In fact, you shouldn’t be directly involving yourself with any government agency at this earliest and most crucial stage. No, your first step is incredibly obvious, yet so many aspiring contractors overlook it – a critical mistake.
The first step when pursuing a contract is to create a business plan.
Again, this seems incredibly apparent, but a major factor in contract failure is the inability to meet the terms of the contract due to poor initial planning. It is impossible to make a realistic plan without knowing the resources you have available and what the realistic costs of the pursuit will be. That means going through your existing business plan (you did create one initially, didn’t you?) and revamping it with this new business goal in mind. Contracts require some flexibility, so it is always best to err on the side of caution when adding this important endeavor to your future plans. However, the pay off for going through this innocuous logistical task means that you will be better prepared for the rigors of contracting.
In order to create a plan with a potential contract in mind, it is absolutely essential to know your business data, best achieved by keeping and maintaining a backlog of information from past projects. This will allow you to make accurate forecasts about future allocations of resources. You will also be able to make more precise proposals that promise the maximum ROI for your company while still being competitive. Without an accurate estimate it is very possible to either over or underbid on the proposal, resulting in needless frustration for you and the agency, and even a possible loss of the contract. So, right now, go and fix your business plan. It’s an easy step that will save immense headaches later.
At Journyx, we speak to many professionals who deal with payroll on a day-to-day basis. Our customers have an easy time submitting data to payroll, but other companies that don’t have a solution like Journyx can have a harder time. Payroll can be a huge headache, especially for a CEO of a start-up. Take, for example, the CEO of Tasting Table:
Being without a bookkeeper, Geoff Bartakovics needed to process payroll ASAP. I find it interesting that Bartakovics felt such pressure to get payroll done on time because of his employees. He believed that distributing his team’s paychecks late would make his employees doubt his new company. The faith that his employees had in the business wasn’t something Bartakovics would sacrifice.
When I hear this story, I wonder if I take my on-time paycheck for granted sometimes. As a young worker, I sometimes read horror stories on Facebook of friends who aren’t paid on time. I can’t imagine the stress they’re going through with a late paycheck; how is that affecting their ability to support themselves? I can remember a former job where I experienced something worse than a late paycheck—a bounced paycheck. My trust for my employer was shaken during that time, and rightly so. It was a clear sign that something was seriously wrong with the company and shortly after I left, the company folded.
In this stressful economic time, are you making sure that your employees are paid on time? Is payroll a total nightmare for your company or a breeze?
This Q&A was taken from our Journyx webinar series featuring Wes Fue entitled “Federal Government Contracting-It’s a Whole New World!” For more information, sign up for an upcoming webinar or check our archives for previously recorded webinars.
This is an excellent question. Unfortunately, the answer is that they do not have to. While agencies do release the final competitor standings they do not necessarily advise across the board. For a business that is waiting for a decision to proceed on certain other business operations, this information can be crucial. Therefore, it is a good idea to stay on top of the contracting agency and ask for a debrief if you have submitted a contract and know that submissions close on a set date. You can also wait a couple of weeks to see if a decision has been made if you are uncertain of the close date. Finally, it is a good idea to find out where you stood in relation to the other competitors if you do not win the contract because most agencies will base their decision on a relatively fair scoring system.
It may seem a little counterintuitive, but tracking time can actually be used to strengthen employee morale at the office. When viewed through an automated system wherein employees track time to tasks, it can readily become apparent where employees are spending the majority of their time, but more importantly, it can also demonstrate where they are spending their time most efficiently. These two metrics can be referenced together to gain insight into what employees are assigned to do, and what they actually enjoy doing.
Let’s break this down a little further with an example. Say John is in charge of managing his company’s website. Viewing the hours he has tracked over a set period of time, it is obvious that he spends the majority of his time cleaning up bad code, refreshing links, and performing mundane site maintenance. However, as an occasional side assignment, John also works on building code for his company’s software. His timesheet indicates that he spends far less time on this.
However, the savvy manager looks at the time spent on both of these tasks and compares completion rates to find that while John spends much more time on maintaining the website, he actually completes a greater percentage of work in less time when working on the software. The manager checks the software and finds the work is good, thus negating the possibility that John was simply speeding through the task to get it done. On these grounds, the manager decides he has enough information to speak with John about a shift in responsibility since it appears that John is better at programming software, and thus might enjoy that work more.
This example might seem simplistic, yet you would be surprised just how often circumstances like these appear in an organization, and how often they goes unnoticed. Employees working on tasks that they view as mundane will become dissatisfied in their job roles very quickly, increasing employee turnover unnecessarily. With a little insight it is possible to increase employee morale without necessarily spending more money or offering incentives. Simply giving workers responsibilities at which they excel creates the groundwork for increased satisfaction and productivity long term.
It’s typical for local publications to showcase the yearly keynote speakers at SXSW Interactive here in Austin where Journyx is based, but there’s always one speaker that shines just a little bit brighter than the others. This year it was Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case:
Case is responsible for the app Geoloqi and speaks at many tech conferences. She even has a TED Talk under her belt called “We Are All Cyborgs Now.” I find Case fascinating because she speaks about technology like she’s already seen how it will ultimately develop. Case isn’t afraid of the fact that we are dependent on technology. Rather, she sees power in mobile technology becoming an extension of ourselves. Case has convinced me that we need more philosophical discussions of our developing relationship with technology as new tech is developed.
Ultimately, what Amber Case has to say about technology makes me very excited, and a lot of other people are taking notice as well.