Automating Professional Services

Deltek offers new Vision for automating processes at professional services firms

Herndon, VA  October 1, 2002  Software company Deltek this week rolled out its new solution for automating processes within professional services firms, offering a single platform for handling everything from client relationship management to billing and accounting through a Web-based interface.

Deltek sells its solutions to professional services firms and project-based organizations that deal with commercial or government clients, as well as small- to midsize government contractors.

The software company is targeting its new Vision solution at project-based professional services firms ranging in size from ten to several thousand employees and working in such markets as architecture, engineering and construction, accounting and legal services.

The provider is positioning Vision as a "knowledge management" solution for professional services firms, a system that lets these firms share information more efficiently than in the past. Vision is intended to maximally automate processes within professional services firms, from front-end activities through to back-end processes.

Deltek, which began its life two decades ago as a CPA firm, says that while Vision includes much of the functionality included in the provider's previous software, the new solution is entirely new, written from the ground up to include the latest technology and to be fully self-integrated, although its different modules can be purchased separately.

Modules incorporated into Vision include client relationship management, with such functionality as a contact manager and activity manager; proposal automation that works in conjunction with a repository for past proposal and project data; resource planning, which allows for managing, budgeting and scheduling the necessary human resources for a project; time and expense entry; human resources; and a billing system, among others. The system includes a Web-based reporting tool using technology from Actuate that allows for flexible customization in generating reports.

In addition, the application has a so-called "N-tier" architecture, allowing it to meet the requirements and resources of both small and large firms and to support single and multiple application server environments. The product's Web-based N-tier architecture is scalable, and its open foundation allows for rapid deployment as stand-alone modules or a tightly integrated end-to-end solution, said Eric Brehm, executive vice president and general manager for Deltek PSA Systems.

Vision has been in Beta since February, with about 40 companies testing the solution. Of those Beta testers, ten currently are running the solution live in their production environment, while a total of 152 customers have signed up to buy Vision, most of them existing Deltek clients.

Explaining Deltek's decision to make the Vision solution Web-based from the end user's perspective, Brehm noted: "IT directors have been complaining to us for years about the deployment of software. We're dealing with firms that might have 1,000 employees, and our product gets deployed to all employees, even if they're only using the time-collection component." Vision requires no Deltek software to be installed on end-user workstations, thus lightening the burden on a firm's technology staff.

The system can run through an application service provider, although Brehm says that all the deployments to date have been onsite, largely because clients are sensitive about maintaining control over their critical business data.

Pricing for the solution is based on the number of employees at a firm and the number of modules purchased. A full system can range from $10,000 for a 10-15 person organization to $500,000 for an 800-person organization.