Billable hours are the lifeblood of any professional services organization.
The more billable hours your consultants log, the more successful you’ll be!
But It’s easier said than done… For a variety of reasons, consulting and professional services firms often don’t record as many billable hours every week as they should.
If your consultants aren’t billing 30-35 hours every week, here are some things you can do to improve the numbers:
1. Clearly Communicate What’s Billable and What’s Not Billable
What’s billable and what’s not? Getting this right is one of the fastest ways to increase the number of billable hours your consultants deliver every week. Do you bill for communication time? Emails? Phone calls ahead of a consulting gig? What about the time spent preparing materials for an on-site visit? Often these activities are not billed to a client. Some of them could be billed. But only if you clearly set expectations with your clients during the sales process.
2. Use Communication Checklists
It’s easy to tell your sales staff to “clearly communicate” with prospects. It’s not easy to get them to actually follow through. The easiest way to ensure communication happens is to give your sales team a checklist of items to cover with new clients. Require that they use the checklist with every new customer, check off the boxes, and turn it in with all purchase orders. That way clients aren’t surprised (or upset) when they see the items their invoice later.
3. Take Administrative Duties Away from Consultants
Consultants are often burdened by countless administrative duties. Emails, phone calls, planning sessions, internal conference calls, quarterly check-in calls, appointment confirmation calls, and on and on.Some of these things are necessary. But some could be delegated to administrative staff. The more “non-billable” activities you can take away from your consultants, the more money they can make for you.
4. Assign Team Members Based on Skills and Availability (Not Just Assigned Accounts or Territories)
Out of convenience, leadership in many service delivery firms assign work based on territories, size-of-company, or pre-existing relationships. While common, these approaches can easily lead to major workload imbalances a your consulting or professional services team. One team members might be booked for months. Another might be sitting around watching training videos. There’s nothing wrong with training of course. But with a bit of planning, most consulting teams could do much better at allocating their resources. This is one way using a professional services automation (PSA) tool can lead to major improvements in revenue. In Klient Software’s PSA solution, resource planners can see everything they need to know to assign resources—all at a glance. Each consultant is tagged with his or her specific skill set. And a visual, drag-and-drop calendar makes it easy to make assignments—in a way that maximizes the resources you have available.
5. Enforce the Use of CRM and PSA Tools
The tools you provide your team can provide significant increases in efficiency (and revenue) if utilized. The easiest way to enforce the use of the tools you provide your team is to say: “If it’s not logged in the system, it didn’t happen. “That’s usually motivation enough to get your team to use their CRM or PSA tool—especially if they’re paid on commission or eligible for bonus pay for performance.
So… What can you Do ?
- Take some time today to evaluate the number of hours each of your consultants are billing.
- Even better, set up a regular report that tells you the average hours your consultants bill every week.
- If the average isn’t 30-35 hours per consultant, it’s likely you’re leaving money on the table. Use the tips in this article as a starting place to improve your numbers—and your revenue.
… and if you want the ultimate shorcut, why not scheduling a Klient Demo?
You’ll will see all the amazing features klient has to offer, including the one to “Make your billing easier”.
Stay sharp! – Klient team
Time is money, especially for consulting firms.
This means that project management isn’t just a way to track what is or is not completed; it is also the best way to make sure resources are being used strategically, that output is maximized, and that progress is in line with projections and commitments.
In a consulting company, project management can help improve profitability and productivity by improving timeline and budget management, maximizing resources, optimizing processes, and ensuring consistent and timely deliverables.
Here are some of the best project management tips for achieving best-in-class consulting services:
Scope Thoroughly And Specifically
If there’s one thing that every consultant dreads, it’s a mid-project change in scope. One of the biggest threats to a project’s profitability is when the scope changes partway through a project and timelines and budgets get thrown out of whack.
Taking the time to truly understand a project and include a detailed scope of work in the contract can help to prevent the scope of work expanding without compensation. It gives you the opportunity to create change orders—including an updated budget—if a client comes back with additional changes not included in the initial scope of work.
But scoping a project should be equally as important in terms of your project management. Being specific about what is included in each stage of a project will enable your employees to do exactly what is required—no more, no less—for a more controlled output. Being specific about project scope within your team means you’re ensuring additional resources aren’t being used where they won’t result in actual productive business impact.
Don’t Start From Scratch When It Isn’t Necessary
Efficiency is key to productivity and profitability. Most consulting companies have aspects of their deliverables that are repeats in whole or in part of products already completed for other clients. Whether this is templates of documents, programming code, presentations, or other projects, it can be highly productive to prevent redundancy in your consulting company. This allows you to produce similar output with decreased input.
A helpful tip is to make it part of your project management process to identify what aspects of completed tasks may be reusable, and to have these items readily accessible to your team. It can also be helpful to tag tasks in your project management software or Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution that can be completed using one of these reusable documents.
Regularly Update The Client And Check-In On Their Satisfaction
Don’t initiate a project and then fail to check in until the deadline is approaching. Healthy project management requires regular check-ins to make sure the project is developing on time, on budget and most importantly, to the customer’s satisfaction.
A good tip is to identify which points of the project have the highest risk of throwing the project off course and the earliest points you’d be able to detect these threats, and to set—at minimum—check-ins at these points. It can also be helpful for consultants to choose a PSA solution that allows you to see at a glance the health of your current projects. A tool with surveying capability to routinely request client feedback and gauge their satisfaction level is an added bonus as well.
Keep Everything In One Central Location
Our next project management tip for consultants is to keep everything in a central location. Many consultants have fallen into the trap of using multiple file management systems including multiple messaging platforms (such as email, chat, or Slack) as well as CRMs to track conversations, DropBox and/or Google Drive to store documents, different file versions unintentionally saved on multiple devices, and so on. This can lead to confusion, inconsistency, and lost productivity.
Instead, part of your project management process should include managing documents, revisions, client feedback, customer information, and communication in a central location. A robust PSA solution like Klient Software can manage your entire services business on one platform. And by integrating with your existing CRM, ERP, and other applications, you can ensure that all of your processes are in sync.
Learn From Past Successes And Failures
The final, and perhaps most important part of your project management strategy should be a project debrief at the completion of every project. This debrief will help you and the rest of your company to understand what went well, what went wrong, and what processes can be improved in the future.
If you managed your project effectively, you should have analytics that show the progress of task completion, information about when budget was used and whether it was in line with projections, resource use compared to projections, and reports from any risks or changes that may have manipulated output. A PSA solution can be especially helpful in making sure you have this data available at the completion of a project.
The information from each debrief should then be compared to previous reports. Is there a part of your projects that your company predictably underbids? Resources that aren’t being used efficiently or that aren’t being given enough time to complete tasks? Steps of the process that tend to go slower or faster than expected? Analyze your data, adjust processes accordingly, and repeat what is working well.
How does Professional Services Automation (PSA) differ from project management (PM) software? And how can you choose the right comprehensive solution to run your business?
Here are a few key differentiators between PSA and PM.
1. PSA Puts Customers at the Center Instead of Projects
With project management software, the emphasis is on projects. PM software helps you track tasks and collaborate so employees can keep up with their day-to-day work. Your customers may see the end result of your internal team’s work, but that could be incidental. A PM tool could be purchased solely for the benefit of your employees, regardless of how it affects your customer experience. Professional service automation (PSA) puts customers at the center. The focus is on optimizing the client’s experience, not just on tracking individual tasks.
Because the system has multiple touchpoints with the customer’s experience, employees have greater access to customer information across the board, while customers feel more taken care of across the entire scope of your business.
2. PSA Connects the Front Office to Sales and Service Delivery
Beside providing your customer with an better end-to-end experience, a PSA system provides your employees with much better visibility across the entire service delivery pipeline. The front office, the back office, and every service employee in between can see what the other departments have contributed to the customer’s account, whether that’s contact information, projects working and delivered, or expectations for future services.
3. PSA Integrates Seamlessly From CRM to Accounting
Many PSA or PM systems can integrate with your CRM. But many of them also aren’t easily set up, a problem that usually results in service delivery being run separately from the CRM. A great PSA will include a strong PM feature set and integrate closely with your CRM. Klient Software is built natively within Salesforce, meaning integration isn’t a concern — it’s built to run together from the outset.
From the moment a customer is entered into the CRM as a contact, everything can run seamlessly with the PSA.
4. PSA Generates Revenue
Professional services automation systems are particularly helpful for generating revenue, for a few reasons. If you have billable hours or services and you’re using a Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) system, having a PSA system to help you adjust profitability, margin, bookings, and revenue on the fly can lead to easier and greater revenue increases.
Additionally, SPI Research recently conducted an ROI study on professional services automation. The results found that a $200,000 investment in software and implementation could lead to nearly $23 million in increased revenue and reduced costs, based on a firm of 172 people — an ROI of 115 times the initial investment.
5. PSA Includes Many Other Modules Beyond Project Management
Professional services automation isn’t just different from project management — it encompasses it. But PSA also encompasses many other services and modules. This includes (but is not limited to) time entry, billing, invoicing, CPQ, proposals, document management, expense tracking, calendar management, revenue recognition, forecasting, and customer communities.
Because PSA includes so many more options than just project management, it’s capable of replacing many more systems than just PM.
Conclusion: PSA Is an End-to-End Service Delivery Solution
The right PSA system for your organization can provide or replace a PM-only tool while providing many additional solutions for your business. And because all of these tools work together within one PSA, everyone at your organization will have greater access to your customers’ information.
That means more profitable client engagements, increased customer retention, and more revenue over the life of the customer, just by using the right PSA system.