California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) is a nonprofit consulting company whose mission is to create solutions for the improvement of their customers’ performance by fostering innovation and sharing knowledge. Operating in two sectors, CMTC provides solutions to achieve growth and profitability for manufacturers and the sustainment and modernization of legacy parts for the defense industry.
CMTC is the largest center in the United States within The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). MEP centers, such as CMTC, work with small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers to help them create and retain jobs, increase profits, improve competitiveness, expand into new markets and create new products.
CMTC serves up to 800 companies a year on a fee- and non-fee-based basis, involving up to 14 partner-funded programs at a time. These are highly complex client engagements involving time, expenses and materials that must be carefully tracked.
For its fee-based work, CMTC relies upon Changepoint to book and manage engagements, manage time and expenses flowing through each program associated with a client, and accurately handle revenue recognition.
“We are a nonprofit, partially funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce, and we work very closely with California’s state-funded workforce investment boards in our Southern California service area, which are themselves mandated to coordinate various education, training and employment programs into an integrated workforce development system that supports economic development,” explained CMTC chief financial officer, Jack Van Buren. “Every contract we receive from a workforce investment board constitutes a fee-based program that has a lot of complexity and requires a high degree of accountability. We must answer to auditors from defense contracting agencies, from the State of California, and from each workforce investment board, accounting for costs and expenditures against each program. Our data must be
rock solid, or we could find ourselves writing a very large check.”
CMTC’s investment in Changepoint was made 10 years ago. At the time, CMTC was using a homegrown proprietary system for project management and reporting, but the system was difficult and costly to maintain, and in Van Buren’s opinion, was not delivering the expected value. An internal team was established to look at commercial professional services automation solutions. After examining the offerings of four vendors in detail, the selection team unanimously voted in favor of Changepoint.
In the solution’s original implementation, CMTC opted to customize Changepoint to align with the organization’s unique processes around engagement bookings and revenue recognition. Over time, however, these customizations became an impediment to upgrades, and CMTC moved to a non-customized version of Changepoint that could now handle CMTC’s requirements for revenue recognition. “Changepoint is a critical part of our business and it allows us to support and show how money is spent on behalf of our partner-funded programs,” said Van Buren.
All expenses flow through Changepoint and are fed through to the accounting department which processes expense reports for staff on a weekly basis, a process that has been greatly accelerated and streamlined over the previous homegrown system. Finally, Changepoint’s powerful workflows manage all approvals for time expense, providing a much needed audit trail showing that time has been properly entered and expenses are approved, either by a line manager or in some cases a project manager. To support CMTC’s detailed reporting requirements, Changepoint’s data is fed into Cognos.
“The data coming from Changepoint is very good, very clean,” said Latriza Petrie, Senior Business Intelligence Analyst.
The use of Cognos business intelligence, too, in conjunction with Changepoint allows CMTC the flexibility to analyze every part of their business, and make the necessary changes to boost efficiency.
“The combined power of Changepoint and Cognos has impacted every aspect of the business, allowing us to significantly streamline our contracting and accounting process—as one example,” said Petrie.
CMTC recently upgraded to Changepoint 2012 to remain current with the latest release, and looking ahead, Van Buren and Petrie are considering a move to the cloud to reduce their infrastructure and administrative burden, and expect to tap into Changepoint’s mobile device support in the future as the organization implements an environment that is more friendly to telecommuting.
Over CMTC’s 10-year relationship with Changepoint, the solution has become a vital information hub for all the nonprofit’s fee-based business. Changepoint is a focal point for time and expenses, feeding critical data to Cognos, allowing CMTC to remain accountable to its clients and partners. But if there’s one lesson to be learned from the organization’s experience with Changepoint, it is to avoid customization at all cost.
“I would advise any Changepoint customer to remain with the core platform,” said Van Buren. “Over the last several years, Changepoint has greatly enhanced its user-defined fields, which really eliminates the need to customize. The solution today offers any user tremendous flexibility, and it is a tool we heavily utilize in our business. Changepoint offers people a lot of options for what they can do.”