This week on NVTC’s blog, George Lavallee of NeoSosytems offers five challenges and solutions to help customers receive the most out of CER.
Deltek Costpoint Enterprise Reporting (CER) provides customized, data-driven business intelligence (BI). Fueled by the IBM Cognos 10 analytics engine, CER enables organizations to mine their Costpoint data to provide consistent snapshots of performance, view historical trends and predict results.
CER is the king of BI. With state of the art capabilities, there are also potential roadblocks (employee turnover, user experience levels and changing data/accounting needs, other systems within the enterprise) that can keep companies from fully reaping these benefits. Unresolved, these challenges can cause inaccuracies, consume months of time and erode leader confidence.
1. Powerful Customization Capabilities
While running CER reports is simple, developing them can be challenging for users unfamiliar with Costpoint’s underlying data structure. To solve this problem, Deltek created standard reports (CER Reports) covering everything from project management to payroll to procurement. These prebuilt templates enable users to quickly generate reports that capture the most commonly used fields across a wide swath of businesses. However, they may not include user-defined fields or specific metrics that you have implemented for your specific needs.
To capture these data, enterprises will want to build custom reports or modify existing standard reports. Creating or modifying Cognos reports requires a strong working knowledge of both the Cognos tool as well as the structure of the Costpoint database. For example, you can’t simply click a button to tailor a report to your accounts payable process or labor management structure. You will need to understand where the pertinent data elements reside and how to access them using the Cognos toolset. Many intermediate users lack the skills to effectively craft custom reports.
2. Complexity of Government Contracting Accounting Data
Costpoint uses more than 1,800 inter-related data tables that capture a wealth of information about your company. Access to this complex store of data can be of great benefit to your organization, but creating a report that captures the data relevant to your needs challenges many organizations. Many users are unsure about which data to query and how to convey it on a well-designed report. Common questions include:
- What data tables do I access?
- How do I arrange the data?
- Which charts do I use?
- What rendering options are best?
Additionally, most organizations have budgets and forecasts and want to integrate this data with actual results within their reports. You may have used another system to create your budgets, such as TM1, Adaptive or even Excel. Accordingly, integrating this data into reports generally means pulling data from systems outside Costpoint, further compounding complexity.
3. Robust Security
Increasingly in today’s world, data breaches are affecting companies in all sectors. Breaches tarnish a company reputation, expose data and sabotage audit requirements. Fortunately, Cognos and CER deliver robust and highly configurable security controls. The hundreds of available settings, however, can stymie many organizations.
Novice and even intermediate users may not realize that out-of-the box Cognos installations may not incorporate security settings that are optimal for their company’s situation. Organizations could inadvertently expose proprietary data and confidential employee information. For instance, you might assume that granting access to the projects package would only enable users to see project-related data but close examination of that data reveals that confidential employee information may be included if it is not properly secured by appropriate user-specific security profiles. The default security settings may not be sufficient to provide the degree of security required in rapidly changing environments.
4. Analytics Development and Optimization
Unless you have a dedicated analytics staff with the required expertise, individuals developing your reports may not be effective. Why? Developing reports and maximizing efficiency requires experience with both Costpoint and Cognos.
Often, employees tasked with reporting business intelligence have other duties. CER management is a part-time responsibility. They may have deep functional knowledge, but minimal understanding of Costpoint data structures and Cognos query and reporting requirements.
If you are caught in this situation the results can be challenging. Inexperienced users take 10 to 20 times longer to develop a report than an expert. Reports can be late compressing the time available for meaningful analysis as well as diverting time away from other business-critical duties, which may better align with their hired skillset.
5. Meaningful Results
Inexperience can also cause inaccuracy in reported results. Novice users may query the wrong data or omit data that would dramatically improve the reports usefulness. Such mistakes could put contracts at risk or result in poor or ill-informed business decisions. You want your reports to carry the most meaningful data possible.
Imagine you’ve tasked your logistics manager with developing an incurred cost submission report. That individual skillfully maintains your supply chain. But he or she doesn’t use Costpoint every day and may not understand which direct and indirect cost tables to query. Your report might miss critical costs or include unallowable items.
Errors like these erode leader confidence. Just one inaccurate report, and senior managers may mistrust all your data outputs. You’ve damaged your reputation and possibly jeopardized your contracts simply because you didn’t fully understand the data structures and how to best capture the data that conveys the most meaning.
Signs You Need Help
How do you know if these challenges are hindering your data analytics? Talk to your users and business managers. If you hear the following, you are probably underutilizing the power of CER or you might need a CER tune-up.
- Reports are consistently late.
- More time is spent collecting data than analyzing it.
- Executives don’t trust data accuracy.
- Significant manipulation is required to analyze data.
- Reports have unusually long run times.
- Project managers lack administrative visibility (i.e., they can’t see unpaid invoices, approaching funding ceilings, missing bill rates, etc.)
Consequences of Inaction
Inexperienced users waste time collecting the wrong data and not enough time analyzing results. Inaccuracies cause executives to doubt the validity of all your reports. Poor security can expose proprietary data and compromise audit results. Depending upon the number of users, solving these challenges could save your company months of labor and lead to better, more timely business decisions.
If you owned a Telsa, you would make sure you were trained and educated in how to fully utilize it. At a minimum you would take it to experts to make sure it was operating efficiently and effectively.
What You Need to Know:
To fully benefit from Deltek CER, companies should routinely assess their CER configurations, processes and output. A CER tune-up is easy and should be a standard operating procedure within all Deltek organizations. Maximizing the power of CER will allow companies to reap substantial benefits, overcome any “obstacles” and enable their organizations to succeed.