One of the great joys of designing and building a software product that is used by a myriad of different people in a myriad of different companies is helping them understand some new and novel ways they can get the most out of Projector. Some of these best practices come from how we thought about how Projector should be used when we designed the professional services automation suite in the first place. Many come from ideas and approaches that you, our clients and our users, have shown us. A lot of these ideas may already be familiar to you, but hopefully you’ll find in this list an unexpected gem or two that could help you make your experience with Projector richer and more efficient.
Introducing the Blog
We’re planning on using this blog in the immediate future to provide some additional detail around many of these ideas. We are also planning on further drilling into some of these topics in an educational webinar series that we will offer over the next few months.
Once we’re done with fleshing out this list, we’ll continue to use this blog as a forum to keep you updated about what’s going on here at Projector central, talk about some of our ideas about where the professional services and professional services automation markets are going, and to let you know about other opportunities to learn more about getting the most out of Projector.
If you’d like to be kept up to date when we announce new educational opportunities, when we publish a new blog post, or when anything interesting happens here at Projector, you can connect with us in a myriad of ways:
Anyway, enough housekeeping.
The list below is intended to be useful to all organizations that have implemented Projector, no matter which module or modules you’ve chosen to implement or how you’ve decided to use the product. There are, of course, a myriad of hints that we could talk about that are specific to individual modules, but that’s another post…
At any rate, here are our thoughts about the top 10 ways to get the most out of Projector:
1. Roll Your Own Reports
Projector comes with about 50 standard analytical reports that provide great visibility into everything from accounting transactions to zero-value timecards and everything in between. What many users fail to do, however, is look beyond the pre-canned reports. By understanding some of the fundamental concepts behind each of the different report types, it can often be faster to create a report from scratch than to search for an existing report that kinda sorta meets your needs and modifying it from there.
2. Embrace Your Inner Pivot Table
Some people love pivot tables, some people hate them. We see them as a tool that, with a little understanding of some basic concepts, can morph from confusing and scary to incredibly flexible and powerful. For the most part, what we’ve seen is that once people start to get more comfortable with manipulating data in pivot tables, they have a new analytical tool in their toolbox that they enthusiastically apply to data whether Projector-related or not. Best of all, Projector gives you the power of the pivot table without requiring you to know how to build one in the first place.
3. Let Tab Groups Guide the Way
Let’s face it, there’s a lot to Projector. It’s also probably fair to say that Jim in accounting has very different needs from Sally in the corner office or from Scott, who’s got his hands full managing six different projects. Each of these people need different parts of Projector, and don’t want those other parts to get in their way. That’s why we created tab groups: to allow users to quickly get to the tabs that they need to do their jobs by identifying the role that they play. You can leverage this notion of tab groups more fully by specifying the default tab group that will be used when a user first logs in, or even customize Projector and create custom tab groups for yourself.
4. Manage Permissions through User Roles
Somewhat similar to how Projector can be customized based on the role an employee plays within the organization, their access rights and permissions can be managed in a similar manner. Many organizations just set up permissions for specific people, which probably is just fine for smaller numbers of users. Larger organizations, however, often have a harder time keeping everyone’s individual permissions straight, which is why we introduced the notion of User Roles. Properly implemented, User Roles can give you the granularity you need to properly set up people’s access rights, but greatly ease the initial set-up and ongoing maintenance of those permissions.
5. Customize Dashboards KPIs
Just like different people within the company find different parts of Projector important, organizations often choose different Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to keep an eye on to figure out the overall health of the business. We designed Projector’s Project Dashboard to allow different firms, and indeed different users within those firms, to choose which KPIs are meaningful for them. We also give you the ability to set up your dashboard to do some quick waterline analysis so that you can tell at a glance which projects you need to pay attention to and why.
6. Run Side by Side
Have you ever found yourself in a position where you wished you could look at screen A in the management portal while you worked on screen B? Perhaps you wanted to replicate a client or check on an engagement’s contract terms while you were approving an invoice. Many people don’t know, but are thrilled when they find out, that you can just start up two instances of the Management Portal and run them side by side.
7. Play in a Sandbox
Ever wonder “what happens when I do X?” but didn’t want to just try it with your production data? Perhaps you wanted to try out a new feature, but didn’t want to roll it out to the organization in general yet. A sandbox environment might be the answer. Like the name suggests, sandboxes provide you a safe area where you can play with new features, try out configuration changes, or conduct some end-user training without having to worry about the impact on your real production data.
8. Understand Time-Effective Dates
One of the features of Projector that just doesn’t exist in some other professional services automation systems is the notion of time-effective dates. If a Consultant was promoted to a Senior Consultant as of April 1, you really don’t want Projector to think that that person was always a Senior Consultant, with a Senior Consultant’s bill rate and a Senior Consultant’s costs. Similarly, if you negotiate with a client a new rate structure as of January 1, you want to be able to model in Projector the old rates through December 31, and new rates as of the first of the year. Understanding time-effective dates and whether you need to make a change over time or to change history is key to getting this straight.
9. Run the Management Portal on your Mac
There are many more Mac users out there than when we first designed Projector, and many of them need to get access to the power that Projector delivers in the Management Portal. We’re working on a strategy to move all the functionality in the Management Portal over to a browser-based interface that can run on most any platform. Until that happens, what many Mac users don’t realize is that Projector will run just fine on their Macs today under an emulation program such as Parallels, VirtualBox, or Fusion.
10. Connect, Learn, and Explore
There are a myriad of ways to continue learning about Projector, and we’re coming up with more each day. One of the most underused resources available to Projector users is the on-line documentation, which can be accessed by pressing F1 in the Management Portal or by clicking on the (?) icon in the Employee Portal. Doing either will bring you to context-sensitive help based on the page or screen that you were on, and you can use the on-line help’s search feature if you need more.
In addition, we’ve seen users go for months wishing that we’d add a certain feature into the product, only to find that it had been already added in a recent release. Take advantage of the release notes and webinars that we produce for each major release to keep up to date about what’s new and what’s changed in Projector.
Finally, help us keep you in the loop by signing up for Projector updates via e-mail or by configuring your notification preferences in the Management Portal, or through one of our social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. As we come up with new ways to learn more about Projector (like subsequent blog posts and the upcoming client education series), we’ll be announcing them over these channels.
I hope you found our brief description of the top 10 ways to get more out of Projector helpful and that there was a tip or two that was new to you.
Stay tuned for some additional posts in which we will explore some of the more involved tips in a little more detail.