As a manager of a service-oriented business, time is literally money and you can’t afford to manage it inefficiently.
Some key areas that could help gain more billable time include:
- Monitoring staff capacity and project status in real time
- Closing the loop between capacity planning, work assignment to hour entry and invoicing
- Saving time on timesheet entry with pre-populated activity based on work assigned
- Reallocating manual administration and accounting time towards more strategic tasks rather than data entry and generating reports
In this post we’ll look in depth at some of the common challenges service businesses face and some ways these challenges can be minimized so that more billable time can be captured on projects.
Lack of real time data
Every business struggles with inefficiencies. A common challenge in service-oriented businesses is that time spent during the week on project activity is not apparent until staff enter their timesheets at the end of the week. In many cases, an admin or accounting person transfers time sheet data manually to another software tool or Excel to provide management with an update of project hours. Management doesn’t have a clear picture of the project status, hence the need for weekly meetings. Face to face communication is a necessity, but visibility into project status should be available at all times, not just on Monday morning.
On top of that, invoicing of the project time can be a manual and time-consuming process causing even more administrative burden.
Fragmented technology environment, duplicate entries
Another challenge faced by many businesses is the silos of data spread across the organization. The data that’s captured from prospecting through to project completion is often fragmented because it’s stored in various locations by different departments and individuals. This makes it very difficult and time consuming to pull the information together for a big-picture view of the business and ongoing projects.
A flexible, integrated technology environment
Rather than individual tools for each business function, look for a software application that encompasses your entire business. One such application is Exact for Professional Services (Exact PSA).
This is a solution that provides both structure and flexibility. It seems like an oxymoron but it’s possible. You can start with a framework and configure the software to meet your specific processes and data capture requirements. A fully integrated solution supports your business processes from HR, Prospecting and Customer Management (CRM) through to project management, time entry and invoicing.
Project Management with a focus on the big picture
With an integrated solution such as Exact PSA the focus is on the big picture rather than individual functions happening in each department. The software is developed in a way where the data is added in context which gives management a real-time view of what’s happening at a glance with the ability to drill down into the detail. The software provides a process structure which automates manual tasks and groups procedures such as hour approvals and invoice proposals. One Exact PSA user says;
It used to take us a great deal of time to enter the information contained in the Excel sheets. Especially in the end-of-month period I’m now able to save 2-3 days a week on administrative work thanks to Exact PSA. That’s around 24-36 days a year.
– Dennis Keijzer, Financial Manager, Serco
Managing Projects with Exact PSA
Once a project has been set-up in Exact’s PSA solution, the process flows seamlessly from rates and budgeting, scheduling, assigning work, entering time through to cost registration and invoicing.
The key data that’s captured throughout the process:
- WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)
- Activity/discipline (sales item)
- Associated costs
- Associated sales price / charge out rate
What that means from a tactical standpoint:
When the deliverables and work breakdown structure is tied directly to work assignment/scheduling:
- A clear definition of the work assigned and hours allocated are communicated to the designer/engineer
- The same work is pre-populated on their time sheet saving time in entering hours
- Management has a clear picture of who’s working on what project at any given time
When work assigned is tied to timesheets and invoicing, the process can be streamlined and automated:
- Entering timesheets requires less data entry
- The hours entered on the time sheet reflect directly back to the projects’ budgeted time against the WBS line (as actual hours)
- The hours entered register to the project costs on the accounting side
- Once approved, the hours entered are invoiced
- Once invoices are processed, the time reflects directly back to the project’s budgeted time against the WBS line (as invoiced hours)
The key points to consider when looking at ways to optimize your billable time and reduce administrative overhead is to find a solution that:
- Brings your data together in one place and
- Offers a flexible framework to structure your business processes and capture necessary data
An example of this type of solution is Exact for Professional Services Automation (Exact PSA). This framework promotes closed loop processes starting with HR and new project prospecting through to project intake including capacity planning, work assignment and on to hour entry, and invoicing. Exact PSA offers an organized jumping-off point to kickstart progress through a project, streamlining business functions into one central software application.
With all information captured in one platform, businesses can get a real time view of the projects status and scope at the same time, reducing administrative overhead.
When you have access to the information in real-time wherever you are, you’re able to make adjustments and capture opportunities for more billable time.