There’s a new feature in the latest offering of Deltek Cobra 8.1 that allows you to load actual costs via a database table, rather than using a .csv file.
As I’ve been introducing this new capability around to my fellow Cobra peeps, it has been received with some considerable enthusiasm. The coolest part of this feature is that it is more secure than the open file format of .csv files. It’s also remarkably easy to use in the Deltek Cobra integration wizard. I think the most complex part of all this will be the process of creating and populating a database table that will provide the necessary actual cost data. Connecting to it and reading the data is a snip with the Cobra Integration Wizard.
How It Works
To make this work you need a Microsoft SQL or Oracle database with a cost table that is formatted with similar/equivalent columns to those you would find in a typical actual cost .csv file. Something like the following would work just fine:
Above is an example of a database table I put together using SQL Server Express. Note the column headers have names that, where possible, match the standard result and field names we typically would map to when using a .csv file. I’ve done this just for reasons of familiarity only: you don’t actually see the column names in the Field Mapper.
Next you need to define a Windows ODBC data source that points to the database where you have created your Actual Cost table. For this we use the Windows ODBC Data Source Administrator that is part of the Control Panel group of tools.
Using the Actual Cost button in the Integration ribbon, you open the Actual Cost integration dialog and click through the first couple of options just as you would for a .csv file load.
Until, that is, you reach the File Selection dialog. In here, you are going to choose the new ‘Connection name:’ radio button and then click on the ‘New’ button below that field.
Having created your connection, you click Next and select your database table in the resulting ‘Database Table Selection’ dialog.
When you click Next again, you will see the Field Mapper with 10 sample rows of actual cost data as it exists in the database.
The only difference between this Field Mapper and the one you see when you are loading a .csv file is the absence of a ‘File contains and header row’ option. That makes sense I guess, although I’d have liked to see it offer us a ‘Use Table Columns Header Labels’ option or something along those lines, but nevertheless, we can quickly map each of our columns to the appropriate Deltek Cobra field and save that setup for a future load.
Now you walk through the rest of the steps, such as choosing to calculate any unmapped Results, saving your configuration and so on and then, voilà! You just loaded your actual costs from a database: a more convenient and secure way of integrating Deltek Cobra with a cost system.
There you have it folks, a great new feature in Deltek Cobra 8.1 that I suspect will see a lot of uptake over the next few months. All you need is a database, a table inside that database, and an ODBC data source. At that point you are set to load your actual costs without the need to mess around creating a .csv file. Awesome!