Despite the possibilities offered by current technology supporting acknowledged best practices, many firms still choose to follow antiquated approaches, resistant to the idea of changing ways of working for potential ‘increases in efficiency’.
In many cases, companies don’t even realize their current planning methods are far from optimal, continual focus on short term profitability discouraging exploration of changes for the longer term – particularly at smaller businesses.
Getting the right software support is essential to creating the accuracy and flexibility you need for success. Here we look specifically at the benefits project administration software can offer the planning side of the business when all functionality is fully integrated.’
1. Nail down your resource planning
The key to taking on the right work at the right time is to know what your people are doing. Integrated planning functionality linked to your project management and human resources will support at a glance overviews of on-going work and remaining capacity. Skills overviews per consultant will then help you to take on the right projects for the people you have available, and place the right people onto the current projects that need extra hands.
2. Enrich your employee-linked data
In addition to being able to link your people easily to your project’s overview, there are a number of other factors that can influence their availability. An embedded HRM layer will allow you to create overviews that take holidays, sick leave, sabbaticals, job-share and part time employees fully into account. With a genuinely accurate picture of who is available, you’ll make sure you don’t end up accidentally understaffed.
3. Get a firm grip on your potential projects
CRM functionality will allow you to register all sales opportunities against detailed account information. Depending on the stages of your opportunity process, you’ll be able to create clear overviews of the work that could be landing on your doorstep – next week, next month or even next year. You can then pursue the right choices for the gaps you’ve identified in your planning and the resources you’ve got lined up. Funnel looking a bit empty? Could be time for a promotional discount. Overflowing? Time to get selective and choose the projects most suited to your corporate goals.
4. Make decisions based on all the information
A complex organization running multiple projects over a range of timeframes and disciplines creates a lot of information that can aid future decision making. An administration system that makes it easy to store all documentation and fully cross link it to all relevant projects and employees puts the material to hand quickly and easily. Whether it’s planning documentation explaining why decisions were made, correspondence with customers, performance reviews or industry research, an effective electronic archive will empower you to make informed choices.
5. Get the complete financial picture
Planning against projected cash flow is a core aspect of your work acquisition strategy. Integrating your project administration with your financial back office allows a clear view of your future revenue streams. Your profit and loss statement becomes a dynamic document reflecting the real time situation. Seen against your planned costs, current outstanding items and entered quotations can generate an accurate picture of expected and/or likely revenue, and thus profit, over a given period.
When it comes to taking on new projects, historical data on payment behavior can actively influence billing structure. Slow payers, for example, might need to pay a larger chunk up front. Tracking invoiced hours against project plans can also help you identify areas for improvement in your budgeting process. With flexible, continually up-to-date reporting available on both past and projected income, you’ll be able to make choices based on hard financial evidence.
Be open-minded – and enthusiastic!
Unfortunately there is a flip-side to the organization and control that project administration solutions offer – employees who feel that leaders are suddenly breathing down their necks, checking up on them, doubting their reporting and engaging in micro-management. Consultants want to feel they have room to move, and can feel threatened by increased transparency and regulation. Take time to coach the workforce that detailed insight will be good for everyone.
Accept a helping hand
Running the right software will be a major help in ensuring new work is acquired in the best interests of the company. Integrated planning, HR, archiving and financial systems will allow decision makers to choose work confident that the right skills are available in the right quantities, and that the revenue generated is sufficient to meet costs and deliver a profit within the agreed duration. With detailed reporting available on the past, and a clear picture of the likely future created from robust, standardized planning processes, professional services companies can make strategic decisions with precision and confidence.
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