The problem of low billable hours cuts right to the heart of things. It doesn't usually happen because there isn't enough work to do. Everyone might be constantly busy, but they might not be working on the right things.
Until you get that sorted you can never get the business back on track.
It typically happens either because there are too many chiefs, or because people aren’t working on the right projects due to a lack of awareness. Priorities have to constantly shift because circumstances, resources, events and client requests are constantly on the move. In businesses managing multiple projects, having to schedule multiple resources having to deal with demanding clients every day of the week, the typical result is the overservicing of some clients and the underservicing of others. But is this truly inevitable?
Phil Robinson, Founder & CEO of ClickThrough, told us:
“Synergist showed us we had been heavily over-servicing. We had to reassure our team that we needed to know these things. It’s not a reflection on them. We just need the facts to make informed decisions. The information empowers the team, and Synergist is here to help them. There are no silos now.”
Steven Clark Finance Director of branding and design agency Tayburn, said:
“Synergist pulls everything together. We track income, work in progress, cost overruns, margins, time utilisation, profitability analysis – everything comes from Synergist.”
If you give the team poor information, they can’t be expected to work smart. They might be making decisions based on incomplete, outdated or faulty information, for example. It’s costly and frustrating because all the inputs have been made somewhere along the way (sometimes multiple times) but the lack of coherence means that a unified set of up-to-date information is unavailable to the team.
Says Steven Clarke:
“In the old days we used a clunky, horrible job management system. I used to have to sit down with the account managers every month and ask questions like ‘Why is this job over?’ and ‘Why have we not billed this one?’ and it took an enormous amount of time to sort out each month. We only found out what was really happening after the event, when of course it was too late“.
Businesses tend to come to us when they realise that their current approach – typically using spreadsheets or several basic software apps – are letting them down badly
Gary Winder, Managing Director of environmental consultancy REC, told us:
“We used to run our consultancy based on spreadsheets, which resulted in a number of problems. We never quite had clarity or visibility of our WIP or when it was going to be delivered.”
Steve Revell, Managing Director of consulting engineers Maleon, said:
“Before Synergist, we used a lot of spreadsheets. But we were constantly moving data about, often 3 or 4 times. It wasted time and introduced errors.
“In those days there was no way to track a job properly all the way through. How much time has been invested in it? How much time is left? What modifications have been made along the way? What are the margins? We needed a serious system.”
"Before we went with Synergist, our time wasn’t integrated with revenues. We couldn’t track capacity or client profitability. We used lots of spreadsheets. Information was never up to date.”
Rebecca Frain, Managing Director of electrical consultancy Electrical Safety UK, told us:
“We’ve dumped so many spreadsheets!”
It’s hard to maintain a positive culture when everybody’s unnecessarily stressed. People who are frustrated by lack of clarity, wasted time, and having to use clunky tools each day are hardly likely to rise above it every day.
For some ideas on how to tackle this, see "Is Your Team Commercially Aware."
Do you find it difficult to set targets for the team? If so, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most difficult and sensitive areas in all of business, affecting morale, staff turnover, productivity and business culture.
But having the right information in front of you makes target setting a far easier task, plus your decisions are seen as more transparent and objective rather than arbitrary or manipulative.
“It’s helped with fine-tuning targets. It’s removed all the debates and emotions – it’s all factual now. We discuss the benchmarks with each department. We can see when a department has earned extra hours of specialist time. They can allocate it how they need. That’s very empowering.”
“We’re much better at setting targets now because it’s backed up by data. Before, it was all a bit top-down, and not always realistic enough.”
And Steve Revell has the last word:
“The best thing? It’s live data that drives the decisions that we make every day. Everything is at your fingertips. A client phones you and – two clicks – you have it all in front of you.”