Business Management System

SystemX is launching its flagship cloud-based business management platform (BMP) that allows users to manage projects, business reports, time sheets, client data, documents signing, CRM, and more in one robust platform. Our Business Management Platform is integrated with MS Teams, MS OneDrive, Sisense, Crystal Reports, AccPac, to name a few and more on the way.

7 Fundamentals of IT consulting success

Thinking of becoming an IT consultant? That might not be a bad idea — if you’ve developed the skills and experience needed to help clients deliver successful projects.

Companies are in need of expertise in areas such as cloud computing, cyber security, big data and analytics, data center transformation, artificial intelligence/machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT) — among others. But they’re facing an ongoing shortage of talent with skills in these areas. That’s where outside consultants can help.

Pay for IT contract workers is on the rise. The Dice 2018 Tech Salary report notes that hourly rates for consultants increased 4.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, while pay for IT staffers remained fairly flat.

What does it take to be a successful IT consultant? Some of the obvious requirements include self-discipline, having good organizational skills, the ability to work independently, and so on. But experts say anyone looking to transition from a full-time IT job with an organization to being an independent IT consultant should follow some basic practices. Here are some of the more important ones.

Develop good interview skills

As a consultant you will be interviewed by prospective clients — in some cases multiple times by people at different levels of an organization. That means you need to learn how to be adept at interviewing. Be prepared not only to answer a host of questions about your background and skills, but to eloquently describe how you will help solve specific problems and deliver value to the client.

“Your resume may get you in the door of a prospective client, but your interview is where you make a lasting impression and land the opportunity,” says Todd Weneck, vice president of search at Modis, a provider of IT staffing services.

“You want interviewers to leave the discussion impressed with your technical capabilities as well as your soft skills,” Weneck says. “Practicing interviews with a mentor or recruiter can help you become more polished in your responses and go into an interview with confidence. Find someone who knows your industry and will give you candid feedback as you prepare.”Download CIO's new Roadmap Report on 5G in the enterprise! ]

As part of interviews, consultants need to provide quantifiable examples of how they affected work projects in previous roles. “What you must be able to do is effectively communicate what value you’ll bring to the organization and how you’ll be able to solve the problem the client is facing,” says Jim Johnson, senior vice president at IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “You’ll also want to be able to clearly convey how you’ve solved business issues in your prior roles, whether in full-time or contract positions.”

You might want to view the interview process as more of an in-depth business meeting, Johnson says. “Research the company in order to understand the issues the company or industry are facing, and come prepared with your own set of questions about the company and the project,” he says.

Learn how to review client contracts/confidentiality agreements, and find help if needed

Contracts should cover areas such as costs, hours, milestones, deliverables, deadlines, and who pays for outside expenses.

“If you are taking the independent contractor route, this is especially important, as you will be expected to comply with the ‘flow-downs’ of the company you are consulting with or the consulting company with which you are subcontracting,” says Steve Perkins, U.S. and global managing director of the technology industry practice at professional services firm Grant Thornton.

“In addition to SLAs [service-level agreements] and rates, this will include privacy, [intellectual property], insurance, etc.,” says Perkins, who began his career in government IT before transitioning to IT and management consulting. “It’s essential to learn the business model of consulting — how they make money — and the levers that can be pulled to improve performance.”

It’s not a particularly complicated business, Perkins says, with consultants generally charging an hourly rate with some fixed-price, value-based and subscription models. “But it’s a hard business as the competition is fierce, rates pressure is significant, labor costs are rising, and the technology consulting business itself is being disrupted dramatically by technology” such as bots and artificial intelligence, he says.

Navigating through the contract process can be a time-consuming, confusing, or stressful part of the consulting process for many who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of what goes into the administrative process, Johnson says. Many new consultants will lean on an outside services firm that can take care of the administrative tasks.

Consider focusing on one or a few industries and go deep in these areas

One of the first questions prospective clients are likely to ask is what kind of experience you have in their industry, so focusing on particular sectors and gaining lots of experience might help land assignments.

Don’t understate the value of the insights you gained working in their industry, Perkins says. “They are what will differentiate you in the early days of your consulting career,” he says. “Others will know the methods, tools and craft skills of consulting, but few will have the depth of industry-specific insight you bring to the table. Trade on this.”

As you develop a sense of which industry sectors most interest you, seek out assignments that will extend your expertise, Perkins says.

“Your value increases the deeper you go,” he says. “And conversely, actively manage yourself away from industry specializations that don’t interest you.”

Early in his consulting career, Perkins was assigned to two large agricultural chemical clients in a row, and was beginning to be referred to as the “AgChem” subject-matter expert. “Nothing wrong with AgChem, but I fancied myself a financial services technology strategist and took steps to gain experience in other areas,” he says. “At the same time, though, don’t neglect the emerging technologies and methodologies that will keep you attractive to a broad range of client and assignment types.”

Acquire relevant credentials and affiliations

Prospective clients want assurances that the consultants they hire know a lot about the particular technologies or services they are using. That’s where having credentials and affiliations in relevant areas can help seal the deal.

“These are table stakes in the consulting business,” Perkins says. “They range from the more general, such as certification in project management, to the specific, such as certification in a specific vendor product. These credentials enable clients, recruiters and consulting management to quickly appreciate your capabilities.”

Some are even required as a part of bidding for work in a structured proposal process, and a given in technology consulting for government clients, Perkins says.

IT certifications are beneficial in particular when they meet the needs of clients, Weneck says. “For instance, being an AWS Certified Solutions Architect is a valuable credential, but not if Microsoft Azure is your client’s cloud service,” he says. “The key is to know your audience and build on your existing skill sets.”

On the other hand, if your credentials are not exactly what the client is looking for but you think they will translate to the larger context of the job, it’s important to be upfront about this and articulate how your background makes you an ideal fit for the position, Weneck says.

Develop communication and collaboration skills

Being an IT consultant in many cases means working with others on a team, and being able to communicate clearly with team members and supervisors is vital.

“One of your primary goals as a consultant is to secure long-term and repeat opportunities,” Weneck says. “When management is considering which consultant is the right fit for the job, it often comes down to how well they integrate with the existing team.”

Effective communication and interpersonal skills help position you to seamlessly assimilate with those already on the job, Weneck says. An annual trends survey of decision-makers that Modis conducts identified teamwork and communication as the most difficult soft skills to find among technology professionals. “It solidifies the need to hone these skills to be a successful IT consultant,” he says.

In many cases teams are assembled quickly from a large pool of potential candidates, and projects can be short term. “Your ability to quickly gel with your teammates to form an effective, productive unit is essential,” Perkins says. “And unless you are a solo practitioner, this will be an important performance evaluation measurement.”

Nurture relationships and get good references

When looking to land consulting gigs you will almost certainly be asked to provide references. This can be a challenge when you’re first starting out, so you’ll probably need to list former employers as references.

Once you’ve successfully completed consulting projects for clients, be sure to ask if you can cite the organizations as references for prospective clients.

“Clients do business with people they trust and respect,” Perkins says. “Even if you are a part of a large consulting business, it comes down to your personal reputation, your track record of client service, and referrals from previous clients. In this consulting business, you are only as good as your last project. While a well-recognized logo will open a door to a new client, your reputation will close it. Over time, your network — within industry and within consulting — will be more valuable than your technical skills. Constantly nurture it.”

As part of networking, “consultants should pull from past experiences, research, industry relationships, colleagues, partners, and what they learn within an organization,” says Kevin Rooney, vice president at AIM Consulting, a firm that specializes in IT consulting.

Get endorsements from people you work with on LinkedIn or other vehicles for showcasing your personal brand, Rooney says. “Everyone checks to see how you are connected before they will work with you,” he says. “This is how you will build a pipeline of business.”

Learn to be a salesman and business developer

In many cases the consulting work is not going to come to you; you need to go out and get it. One often-overlooked skill is the ability to both “sell” and “do,” Perkins says.

“The smaller your business — and especially if you are on your own —  the harder this will be,” Perkins says. “And when you are selling, you are not making money, and when you are delivering, no one is bringing in the next project. You will certainly move into consulting with a client or two and a project or two already in hand, but quickly will come the need to replace these.”

Business development skills are almost never acquired in previous industry roles, Perkins says. “You must be the steward [of] your own career, proactively seeking out the client projects to gain the experiences you want and need, and the training to achieve necessary and value-add skills and certification,” he says. “You may have a mentor to help along the way. [But] in the end, you must chart your path.”

What is agile project management?

Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing software development projects that focuses on continuous releases and incorporating customer feedback with every iteration.

Software teams that embrace agile project management methodologies increase their development speed, expand collaboration, and foster the ability to better respond to market trends.

Here is everything you need to know to get started or refine your agile project management practices. 

History

Stemming from Toyota's lean manufacturing concept of the 1940s, software development teams have embraced agile methodologies to reduce waste and increase transparency, while quickly addressing their customers' ever-changing needs. A stark change from waterfall project management that focuses on "big bang" launches, agile helps software teams collaborate better and innovate faster than ever before. 

Traditional agile project management can be categorized into two frameworks: scrum and kanban. While scrum is focused on fixed-length project iterations, kanban is focused on continuous releases. Upon completion, the team immediately moves on to the next. 

How scrum works

Sprint Planning Sprint Demo Daily Standup Retrospective
A team planning meeting that determines what to complete in the coming sprint. A sharing meeting where the team shows what they've shipped in that sprint. Also known as a stand-up, a 15-minute mini-meeting for the software team to sync. A review of what did and didn't go well with actions to make the next sprint better.

Scrum is a framework for agile project management that uses fixed-length iterations of work, called sprints. There are four ceremonies that bring structure to each sprint.

It all starts with the backlog, or body of work that needs to be done. In scrum, there are two backlogs: one is the product backlog (owned by the product owner) which is a prioritized list of features, and the other is the sprint backlog which is filled by taking issues from the top of the product backlog until the capacity for the next sprint is reached. Scrum teams have unique roles specific to their stake in the process. Typically there's a scrum master, or champion of the scrum method for the team; the product owner, who's the voice of the product; and the scrum team, who are often cross-functional team members in charge of getting s@#$ done.

The four ceremonies of scrum

The scrum board

A scrum board is used to visualize all the work in a given sprint. During the sprint planning meeting, the team moves items from the product backlog into the sprint backlog. Scrum boards can have multiple steps visible in the workflow, like To Do, In Progress, and Done. Scrum boards are the key component for increasing transparency in agile project management.

How kanban works

Kanban is a framework for agile project management that matches the work to the team's capacity. It's focused on getting things done as fast as possible, giving teams the ability to react to change even faster than scrum.

Unlike scrum, kanban has no backlogs (usually). Instead, work sits in the To Do column. This enables kanban teams to focus on continuous releases, which can be done at any time. All work is visible, scoped, and ready to execute on so that when something is completed, the team immediately moves on to the next. The amount of work is matched to the team's capacity through WIP limits, which is a predefined limit of work that can be in a single column at one time (except the To Do column).

The kanban board

A kanban board is used to visualize all the work that's being done. It's also used for planning resources allowing project managers to see the work and develop timelines accordingly. A kanban board is structured into columns and lanes that stories pass through on their way to completion. Stories sit in the To Do column until the WIP limit allows for the next task to be worked on. The list of work should be split into relatively small issues and organized by priority. As you can see in this example, lanes can help keep the higher priority items separated from "everything else."

 

Estimate, report, and plan

Whatever agile framework you choose to support your software development, you'll need a way to see your team's progress so you can plan for future work or sprints. Agile project estimating helps both scrum and kanban teams understand their capacity. Agile reports show the team's progress over time. And backlog grooming helps project managers keep the list of work current and ready for the team to tackle.

 

Agile project estimating

Project estimating is an extremely important aspect of both kanban and scrum project management. For kanban, many teams set their WIP limit for each state based on their previous experiences and team size. Scrum teams use project estimating to identify how much work can be done in a particular sprint. Many agile teams adopt unique estimating techniques like planning poker, ideal hours, or story points to determine a numeric value for the task at hand. This gives agile teams a point of reference to refer back to during sprint retrospectives, to see how their team performed. Jira Software can be customized to capture your teams' unique project estimations.

 

Agile reporting

Project estimations come into play at the beginning and end of each sprint. They help teams determine what they can get done at the beginning of the sprint, but also show how accurate those initial estimates were at the end. Agile reports, such as Burndown charts, show how many "story points" are completed during the sprint. Jira Software offers dozens of out-of-the-box reports with real-time, actionable insights into how your teams are performing. Having data to support your retrospectives is an invaluable way for agile teams to improve.

 

Backlog management and grooming

A product backlog is a prioritized list of work for the development team to do that comes from product roadmap and its requirements. The development team pulls work from the product backlog for each sprint.  

Grooming and maintaining your backlog helps teams achieve their long-term goals by continually adding and removing items based on the team's long-term capacity and changing business objectives. Jira Software lets teams groom huge backlogs with multi-select ranking and order user stories and bugs by dragging and dropping issues. You can also filter with Jira Software's flexible search to find a particular user story or bug.

How to Deal With Employees Not Accountable for Their Time at Work (Remote Work)

If you are looking for a cost effective timesheet solution, CLICK HERE TO TRY SYSTEMX TIMESHEETS for 14 days for free (no credit card required).

Many employees don’t spend a lot of time under your watchful eye in the workplace, including sales representatives, consultants, telecommuters and those who travel a lot on the job. Even employees who work on-site might not be that easy to monitor all the time. As a supervisor, you have several options for dealing with and tracking the whereabouts and performance of your employees to make them accountable for their time.

Monitor Hours Worked or Job Performance

Decide what you want from each position in your company. Are you more interested in the number of hours an employee is physically in your place of business, or are you more concerned with the volume and quality of work being performed? Some managers feel they need to see an employee to make sure he is busy. For example, if you manage a store, you want to make sure you employees are helping customers when customers are around, or arranging merchandise when customers aren't around. In other cases, however, you might be comfortable letting employees set their own schedules as long as they are meeting their responsibilities in a timely manner. If you manage a sales branch, you don't want your people hanging around the office when they should be out in the field drumming up business.

Are Employees Salaried or Commissioned?

Hourly employees can be asked to punch a time clock, check in and out at a front desk, or submit a detailed work log to account for the hours they work. Commissioned employees expect more leeway in tracking their hours. They should be given this leeway provided their performance goals are met. A commissioned employee's paycheck is based on how much revenue he generates for the company. As such, he might need more flexibility in the hours he puts in to accommodate before- and after-hours sales calls. You can make these employees accountable for their work by establishing specific financial goals or sales quotas.

Monitor Work Stations

Managers can use commercial software programs that let them track the time an employee spends on his computer, whether he is telecommuting or working in an office environment. This not only allows a manager to monitor the hours being worked. It also her track Internet usage to ensure work time is not being spent on personal pursuits, such as surfing the web, shopping, playing games or checking social media accounts. Employees who misuse their work time can be reprimanded according to corporate policy for conducting personal business on company time.

Monitor Recurring Bad Habits

If you have an employee who is often away from his work station, or who fails to complete assigned tasks on time, it’s time for a frank, one-on-one discussion. An employee cannot account for his work time might be leaving work early, arriving late, or spending time on non work-related activities. Meet with this person in private to discuss your concerns. You might find the employee has a medical condition that requires frequent restroom breaks, or one who tries to leave work for short periods to check on a child or elderly parent. Once the issue is out in the open, you can discuss solutions or actions. If the employee has a valid reason for being away from work, consider a more flexible schedule or reduced work hours. If an employee is ambivalent about his job or is just lazy, insist on hourly personal check-ins and weekly time breakdowns that detail hours and work performed. Revisit the issue at regular intervals to ensure work time continues to be accounted for.

Tracking Consulting Expenses

For an effective expense tracking, timesheet, and client billing, we have just the right solution for you. CLICK HERE TO SIGNUP FOR A FREE 14 DAY TRIAL OF SYSTEMX BUSINESS MANAGEMENT PLATFORM

At the end of the first year of self employment, consultants quickly discover that their income is taxed differently than that of an employee. To offset this, self-employed consultants also have the advantage of claiming far more expenses. Long before tax time arrives, talk with your accountant to learn how the tax law applies to your practice and develop a method to track these expenses as they occur. Then, tax time will become a far less painful experience.

Expenses While Consulting

Almost any amount spent with a client can be claimed as an expense, as long as it pertains to the job. You can claim paper, pencils or any office supplies. Rental of equipment like a computer or projector and the purchase of items for the client need to be tracked and can often be included on invoices. Food set out during presentations or meetings also can be reported, but track meals with a client separately, since different rules apply.

On the Road

Airfare, hotels and car rental all qualify as business expenses. Keep all bills and receipts and credit card slips. Some meals can be reported, but talk with your accountant to determine which can be expensed. When driving to a client, whether to a distant city or just up the street, always track the miles driven. Keep a log book listing the reason for the trip, the starting and ending odometer readings, and then calculate the number of miles driven. Each year, the IRS publishes a standard mileage rate and these miles add up quickly.

SMARTASSET.COM

Home Office

If you set aside a separate room for your consulting practice, the IRS allows you to expense a percentage of your mortgage, utilities, insurance and other home expenses. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to this practice, so discuss this with your accountant. Even if you choose to not deduct the space, keep track of the furnishings and equipment purchased for the business. Desk, chair, computers, fax and other equipment all apply. Also remember to track phone calls and consider purchasing a separate cell phone specifically for the business.

Tracking Expenses

The best time to track an expense is when it occurs. Keep a notebook or Day-Timer handy to jot down expenses or tap them into your smartphone. Remember to also keep all receipts. Once you are back at home, enter them into a spreadsheet or small business accounting program. For most, a checkbook program like Quicken works well, is easy to learn and offers a variety of reports by category and time period. Buy a file box or cabinet and a stack of file folders. Then, organize the receipts, credit card slips and other paper by expense category, month or client.

Top 5 Project Management Certifications To Become A Great Project Manager

Are you working as a project manager? You may want to improve your prospect. There are many certification courses for project manager you should do. We here bring the great options in project management certification. Here you can know the various options available in certification and how to continue in your post.

You as a project manager can increase your skill and prospects of job sharp with certifications. A project manager who combines certification with their degree get opportunities. In the past few years, the PM jobs have got increased to 425%.

Behind all IT projects success, you can find a highly talented and capable project manager. From software to hardware upgrades to security patches, application development and software itself, a project manager has to keep their teams on task and production.

Almost all IT professional can benefit from adding a certification to their IT credentials. It shows how you plan, schedule the budget, execute it, deliver and report them on IT initiatives. If you want a hike in your salary, a certification can give you this.

If you are looking to gain all the above-mentioned points, you can analyze and choose the best project manager certification for your requirements.

First of all, you should know which the best certification is. The top 5 certifications for project manager available are:

  1. PMP
  2. PRINCE2
  3. CAPM
  4. CSM
  5. PMI-ACP

Let us see, what all these courses have to offer you in details:

Project Management Professional (PMP)

One of the top credentials is the PMP certification (Project Management Professional) for project managers. This is the most widely accepted and popular certification you can find anywhere. The Project Management Institute is the accreditation body for the PMP certification.

About the PMP certification exam structure

The PMP training certification examination can be passed only if you are perfect with all the techniques needed to plan and monitor a project from its start to finish. According to the 8th edition salary survey of Project management, a project manager who has PMP certification should get 17% more monetary benefit than others.

The PMP exam isn’t easy to clear. To be successful, you need to spend about +35 hours to prepare for the exam.

The exam has about 200 MCQs and runs for 4 hours. No extra time is given to you for the exam unless specified otherwise.

No negative marking is awarded, so it’s best you answer everything; even if you aren’t sure of the correct answer.

PMP certification prerequisites

To be able to do the PMP certification, you need to have:

Or

You can pick a PMP training either from a university or from an online training provider. In fact, in many cases, PMP is integrated into certain master’s degree programs.

This project management certification ensures you possess certain skill and qualification that is necessary for successfully managing all phases of the project. This includes planning, initiating, controlling, monitoring and closing the project.

A manager certified in PMP will be highly equipped in managing every aspect of the constraints of cost, time and scope. The employers will depend on the project manager to manage the budget, track costs and expenditure, ensure there is no scope creep and to identify potential risk factors that could impact the project and minimize such risk to protect the investment of a project.

  1. PRINCE2

The PRINCE2 certification course is another important project management credential project managers can take.  was first introduced for the government offices of UK. After the huge success, it came into the corporate world. Now it has become an important certification program in much organization all over the world.

PRINCE2 is accredited by AXELOS and focuses on managing, directing and delivering projects throughout all phases from pre-project to initiation, delivery, and the final delivery.

About the PRINCE2 Certification exam structure

PRINCE2 is divided into two: foundation and practitioner. The entry-level credential is Foundation that tests your basic methodology and terminology of project management while in Practitioner tests the advanced project manager who has passed PRINCE2 Foundation. The key features of this exam are:

The Prince2 exam consists of 50 objective-type questions, each of which weighs about 1 mark. The duration of this exam is two and a half hours, with no extra time given for breaks. 30 marks or 60% is required to clear the exam and get certified.

PRINCE2 certification prerequisites

The Prince2 foundation exam has no prerequisites. The Prince2 practitioner exam, however,  needs proof that you have cleared at least one of the following exams.

  1. CAPM

The CAPM certification or Certified Associate in Project Management is the precursor of the PMP certification and is also accredited by the PMI. If you are a professional without graduation or project management experience or you want to pursue PMP certification next all together, then CAPM is the first step toward this.

About the CAPM certification exam structure

The CAPM certification in project management is a renowned program for the IT professionals who want their career to grow as project manager. The CAPM certification exam has 150 MCQs that needs to be completed in 3 hours. A candidate needs to retake the exam every 5 years to maintain his or her CAPM credentials.

CAPM certification prerequisites

The eligibility for this certification is:

or

If you are interested in shifting your career to the project management, get this certification done. When you get CAPM certification, it shows the commitment of yours learning new skills. This also shows you understand the processes and terminology used in this project management.

  1. CSM

We cannot mention project management without bringing up the CSM Certification. The Agile methodology has become the standard of all IT organizations. Therefore it is not at all surprising that IT professionals must be qualified uniquely to manage any projects. A CSM certification offers a big jump to project managers starting out as Scrum professionals.

Scrum Alliance is the parent organization that accredits the CSM certification. The Scrum Alliance helps organizations follow Scrum and Agile practices, promote user group and also provide resources for development professionally. CSM certified project managers can facilitate teams in using scrum effectively for successful project organization.

About the CSM certification exam structure

The CSM exam consists of 35 MCQs, out of which you need 24 or more correct answers to clear the exam. Candidates are given an hour to complete their tests, with extra time given for breaks. You can pause and take breaks as and when required.

CSM certification prerequisites

This is a great certification for anyone who is a beginner in the field of project management. There is no set prerequisite for candidates to take this course. While a working knowledge of how scrums work would be beneficial, this isn’t mandatory. Having said that, there are prerequisites that need to be fulfilled for you to take the exam.

These are:

  1. PMI ACP

ACP stands for Agile Certified Practitioner. The PMI-ACP certification carries a high level of integrity professionally because it includes agile training by examining the tools and fundamentals of agile projects.

About the PMI-ACP certification exam structure

PMI-ACP helps people address the need of their organizations. It helps professionals apply their skill on different projects in a proper manner.

To get certified, you need to take the ACP test, which consists of 120 MCQs. To successfully clear the paper, you need to answer about 100 of these questions in 3 hours.

PMI-ACP certification prerequisites

If you are a project manager who works in rapidly changing environments, or if you have to deliver products in a short developmental cycle, then you should explore this certification. Its requirements are:

The PMI-ACP certification helps you discover techniques for managing the project scope actively and learn the principles of Agile to improve the performance of the team and collaborate that to ensure better delivery.

Regardless of choosing which certification is better for you, ensure they are well-versed in all concepts of the project methodology, and you are capable of handling all the aspects of all projects successfully. Now that you understood the basic principles of these top 5 certifications; it is going to be easier for you to choose anyone. You should prepare properly for appearing the certification examination.

Timeboxing - An Efficient Time Management Technique for Productivity

Our inability to efficiently manage time often lands us in hot water, with hordes of delayed assignments and fast-approaching deadlines. Keeping up with the daily activities then becomes a Sisyphean task where you do not actually get anything done but are always in the grind with no way out.

While most of us are eager to start and end our daily tasks on time, very few of us are actually able to do that because of poor time management. Even with a set to-do list or proper planning, staying on track is a difficult feat. Fortunately, we have the gift of different time management tools and techniques that aid in improving our time efficiency.

People use different methods and tools to make the most of their time. On average, a person uses around 13 different methods for time management. Among these different methods, one that has proved its efficiency time and again is timeboxing.

Timeboxing is hailed as one of the best methods for time management. The method targets gaps in time management to help you improve your work productivity. Additionally, the technique can help you fight procrastination and narrow your focus for better working.

This article will answer your questions as to what is time boxing and how to use time boxing.

What Is Time Boxing?

As we mentioned earlier, timeboxing is a time management technique. The unique method offers a different approach to time management wherein you allot a specific time to a task.

This method of management can help you focus your attention on the task at hand without any distractions or lapses in the focus. Your goal is to accomplish the task within the specified time limit. There is no flexibility in terms of increasing your time.

Scheduling your tasks into timeboxes significantly improves the time spent on tasks. When you start your timebox, you have to rid yourself of disturbances to make sure you optimize your working during this time and accomplish your goal.

Hard Timeboxes Vs. Soft Timeboxes:

There are two types of timeboxes that you can schedule your work in:

Choosing between the two is completely up to you!

How To Use Time Boxing?

How to timebox your tasks? Managing your time through timeboxes is as easy as it seems. Follow the following steps and you will realize how easy and quick it is to manage your time with timeboxing technique.

1. Create A Timebox for The Items in Your To-Do List

The first step of the technique involves determining the complexity of each task on your to-do list and allocating a timebox to it. You have to determine the approximate time that will be required to complete the task and create a timebox accordingly.

Make sure to leave some time for breaks and unexpected disturbances that may hinder the smooth working. You should have sufficient time to complete the task within the specified timebox.

2. Set A Timer on Mobile or Desktop

Once you have figured out the time you will spend on each task, you can set a timer that will alert you whenever you have to move on from one task to another. The time will help you stay focused so that you can optimize your work performance during that time and accomplish your goal within the specified time.

You can use your phone or desktop for this purpose.

3. Hard Timebox or Soft Timebox

Before starting the timer, you can also decide whether you will go with a hard timebox or a soft one. A hard timebox will work better if you are looking for perfection and are certain that you will be able to complete the task without any delays.

If you are not sure about the time limits or are afraid that it might take more time to complete the task, you can go for soft timeboxes that offer more flexibility. A soft timebox will give you the freedom to adjust your time and keep yourself focused on the task.

4. Start The Timer

Now that you decided everything, the only thing left is to start the timer for the timebox and start working. The end of the time limit does not only indicate the end of the allotted but also notifies you of the impending task that needs your attention. So, make sure to follow the timebox.

5. Evaluate And Revise

Once you have completed your tasks, evaluate your performance and revise your schedule to improve your work efficiency. Take a look at your performance during the day and analyze whether you completed all the tasks on time? Is there any room for improvement? How can you optimize your work?

With each evaluation, you can identify the gaps in the process and develop strategies to enhance your productivity.

All in all, timeboxing is a simple and easy technique. You can easily use the method to make significant improvements in your work.

Benefits Of Timeboxing Your Daily Tasks

Timeboxing has several benefits to offer, some of which include the following:

With all these benefits, timeboxing can help you ace all your tasks within the deadline.

Tips To Make Timeboxing Work for You:

Before we conclude this article, we would like to add a few tips to make sure that the technique works for you:

You can take help from these tips and create efficient timeboxes for your work. These tips will surely come in handy when you are working with timeboxing.

Conclusion:

We hope that this article has answered all your answers related to timeboxing or how does it work. What do you think of this technique? Is there any other technique that you use to manage your time?

How to Start a Consulting Business

If you are an experienced consultant or just starting out, you must have a strong operational backbone to support your business as it grows. From managing projects to billing and invoicing clients, managing independent contractors and team members, logging billable hours, and managing bookings, we at SystemX have a solution to get you started. CLICK HERE to allow us to walk you through our cloud-based Business Management Platform and show you how we can help.

The dictionary defines a consultant as "an expert in a particular field who works as an advisor either to a company or to another individual." Sounds pretty vague, doesn't it? But unless you've been in a coma for the past decade, you probably have a good idea what a consultant is.

Businesses certainly understand what consultants are. In 1997 U.S. businesses spent just over $12 billion on consulting. According to Anna Flowers, spokesperson for the Association of Professional Consultants in Irvine, California, the association has recently noticed an increase in calls for information from people who want to get into the business. "The market is opening up for [the consulting-for-businesses] arena," Flowers says.

Melinda P., an independent consultant in Arlington, Virginia, thinks more people are getting into the consulting field because technology has made it easier to do so. "The same technology that has helped me to be successful as a consultant has made it easier for others to do the same," she says.

A consultant's job is to consult. Nothing more, nothing less. It's that simple. There's no magic formula or secret that makes one consultant more successful than another one.

But what separates a good consultant from a bad consultant is a passion and drive for excellence. And--oh yes--a good consultant should be knowledgeable about the subject he or she is consulting in. That does make a difference.

You see, in this day and age, anyone can be a consultant. All you need to discover is what your particular gift is. For example, are you very comfortable working around computers? Do you keep up with the latest software and hardware information, which seems to be changing almost daily? And are you able to take that knowledge you have gained and turn it into a resource that someone would be willing to pay money for? Then you would have no trouble working as a computer consultant.

Or are you an expert in the fund-raising field? Maybe you have worked for nonprofit agencies in the field of fund-raising, marketing, public relations or sales, and over the years you have discovered how to raise money. As someone who has turned a decade of fund-raising successes into a lucrative consulting business, I can tell you that fund-raising consulting is indeed a growing industry.

Things to Consider Before You Become a Consultant

Why an Organization Wants to Hire You

According to a recent survey, here are the top 10 reasons organizations hire consultants:

1. A consultant may be hired because of his or her expertise. This is where it pays to not only be really good in the field you have chosen to consult in, but to have some type of track record that speaks for itself. For example, when I mentioned earlier that I had become an expert as a fund-raising consultant, I knew that every client who hired me was doing so partly on the basis of my track record alone. After all, if you are a nonprofit organization that needs to raise $1 million, it makes sense to hire someone who has already raised millions for other organizations.

2. A consultant may be hired to identify problems. Sometimes employees are too close to a problem inside an organization to identify it. That's when a consultant rides in on his or her white horse to save the day.

3. A consultant may be hired to supplement the staff. Sometimes a business discovers that it can save thousands of dollars a week by hiring consultants when they are needed, rather than hiring full-time employees. Businesses realize they save additional money by not having to pay benefits for consultants they hire. Even though a consultant's fees are generally higher than an employee's salary, over the long haul, it simply makes good economic sense to hire a consultant.

4. A consultant may be hired to act as a catalyst. Let's face it. No one likes change, especially corporate America. But sometimes change is needed, and a consultant may be brought in to "get the ball rolling." In other words, the consultant can do things without worrying about the corporate culture, employee morale or other issues that get in the way when an organization is trying to institute change.

5. A consultant may be hired to provide much-needed objectivity. Who else is more qualified to identify a problem than a consultant? A good consultant provides an objective, fresh viewpoint--without worrying about what people in the organization might think about the results and how they were achieved.

6. A consultant may be hired to teach. These days if you are a computer consultant who can show employees how to master a new program, then your telephone probably hasn't stopped ringing for a while. A consultant may be asked to teach employees any number of different skills. However, a consultant must be willing to keep up with new discoveries in their field of expertise--and be ready to teach new clients what they need to stay competitive.

7. A consultant may be hired to do the "dirty work." Let's face it: No one wants to be the person who has to make cuts in the staff or to eliminate an entire division.

8. A consultant may be hired to bring new life to an organization. If you are good at coming up with new ideas that work, then you won't have any trouble finding clients. At one time or another, most businesses need someone to administer "first aid" to get things rolling again.

9. A consultant may be hired to create a new business. There are consultants who have become experts in this field. Not everyone, though, has the ability to conceive an idea and develop a game plan.

10. A consultant may be hired to influence other people. Do you like to hang out with the rich and famous in your town? If so, you may be hired to do a consulting job simply based on who you know. Although most consultants in this field are working as lobbyists, there has been an increase in the number of people entering the entertainment consulting business.

What is Timesheets in Project Management?

If you are looking for a cost effective Timesheet solution to track time by project managers, and teams, send us a quick note by CLICKING HERE.

Timesheets rarely get a lot of good press among employees. Admittedly, they often live up to their bad reputation: nobody likes to sign a ton of papers just to “prove” they had put a given amount of work time.

On the other hand, however, timesheets can be truly beneficial for both managers and their team members. The key is to select the right tool for your team, establish processes you can follow regularly and support everything with ongoing communication. In this article I will outline a couple of ways in which you can gather insights from your team’s timesheets.

Let’s start with the question at hand:

 

What is timesheet management?

Simply put: timesheet management is a practice of monitoring and analyzing timesheets (recorded work hours). It can also involve taking different actions e.g. calculating employee payroll or invoicing the client based on these timesheets.

The working time used to be summarized on a sheet of paper, hence the name of the timesheet. Nowadays, online timesheets are much more popular, although there are several options here as well: from simple spreadsheets to AI-powered software tools.

As I’ve mentioned at the top of this article, timesheets are notorious for being rather unpopular among employees. Let’s dive into this topic and try to answer a question that is being raised frequently:

Are timesheets evil?

Not necessarily, but there are definitely cases in which timesheets are an utter waste of time that may greatly contribute to people’s dissatisfaction with their workplace.

See, historically, timesheets have been a way to prove that people have actually done their work. That’s where things get problematic. First of all, this can easily create a culture in which people feel that their timesheets are more important than the effects of their work. It doesn’t feel good to have to prove that you worked or that you’re being that closely watched (and timed) by your supervisors.

Also, this doesn’t incentivize people to be more efficient at work. Why look for better solution if you can just log more time in the timesheet (and possibly get paid more)?

This is not to say that paying by the hour is necessarily bad, even in the project setting. While in this text we don’t go into detail about using timesheets to determine one’s monthly earnings, we understand that it’s an important use case for companies who e.g. work with freelancers. This is why we’ve created a separate guide on calculating employee payroll.

Finally, people are really bad at remembering how much time they’ve actually spent working on something. This is why filling out timesheets at the end of the week or, worse even, a month is closer to writing fan fiction than collecting reliable data.

All in all, we can say that timesheets have little effect unless:

The latter aspect is something worth emphasizing as many teams still rely on simple spreadsheets to do the job (most companies have thankfully moved on from actual sheets of paper). It’s a step in the right direction, since an online document can be easily updated and accessed by multiple team members if needed, but it’s still a sheet that needs to be filled out, which is not the most convenient thing to do.

Modern time tracking tools often come with start/stop trackers that can be switched on and off by one click. Others offer beacons that automatically record clocking in and out.

From the managerial perspective, another important aspect is that the timesheet software is paired with a leave management tool. People need to be able to record their working time as well as their time off, otherwise you might end up worrying about empty timesheets of someone’s who’s just on vacation.

Using software that serves also as your team’s schedule gives you an extra value of being able to compare the planned working hours with the recorded ones. Data-driven project managers can use this insight to evaluate the state of their project and whether anything should be adjusted.

That’s just one example of how timesheet management can support PMs in delivering their tasks but there are more. In fact, I’m going to dedicate the next section to ideas as to how you can use your team’s timesheets to the benefit of the team and the project.

 

Effective timesheet management: use cases

 

Calculate the cost of your projects

A must-have for companies who operate on time & materials contracts. Since you’re billing your clients for the labor your team puts into the project, you might simply use their timesheets as the base for your invoice. Many resource management tools allow you to export the timesheet data or share it externally.

Find room for improvements and savings

Analyzing your team’s timesheets is a great opportunity to dive deeper into the data and identify improvement opportunities. Many time tracking tools offer an option to tag recorded time entries with predefined categories or add comments to them. This way you can analyze how much time of your team goes into non-billable activities. Granted, a lot of it is probably well-justified, but you might also see worrying patterns. What could they be? An abundance of meetings could be a red flag. People spending a lot of time on administrative tasks would be another one. It might turn out that investing in collaboration or knowledge-sharing tools could be a money saver in the long run. Your team morale will also benefit from a more robust process.

 

Forecast resources

Historical data, such as timesheets, can be also used to forecast recruitment needs. Looking at numbers from previous years or months, companies are able to spot trends that are likely to happen again.

Identify problems before they escalate

Sometimes project difficulties are fairly simple to notice just by looking at the recorded timesheets. For example, people may start logging a lot of overtime in order to deliver the next milestones.

It’s a good practice, however, to regularly compare your team’s recorded time entries with the estimated schedule. This will allow you to spot any inconsistencies before they result in missed deadlines.

Another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to timesheet management is that timesheets can’t replace regular communication with your team.  

The numbers will provide you with information that something happens. But in order to understand the “why”, you need to discuss matters with the project team. Not only will you be able to get to the bottom of the problem, but it’s also a great way of building a workplace culture in which employees are actually heard and respected. As such, they’re less likely to treat timesheets like a necessary evil hanging over their heads.

Timesheets alone won’t tell you everything you need to know about your team’s effectiveness or the quality of work, but they can provide important signals for project managers to act upon. Creating a deliberate and transparent policy of timesheet management, backed by open communication with your team will help you keep your projects under control while maintaining high employee satisfaction.

Why is Project Management an Important Skill for Managers?

One recent study shared an alarming statistic: 57% of employees have left a job specifically because of their boss. 

Yikes. As a manager yourself, you don’t want to be part of that figure. You want to become better in your role and lead your team more effectively.

But how do you make that happen? Cross your fingers? Close your eyes and click your heels together? Sleep with some leadership books under your pillow and hope that knowledge magically transfers to your brain?

Sure, you could give those a try (though we don’t guarantee any results). However, like any other position, improving your leadership expertise is all about honing the right skills.

In this article, we’ll break down some of the most important competencies you need to be an effective manager — with a healthy amount of emphasis on the importance of project management. 

What skills do you need to be a manager?

When it comes to being a top-notch leader, there are a lot of important manager skills you’ll lean on — and many of them will depend on things like your company, industry, and even your team.

The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to figure out what areas of improvement you should focus on as a manager – just ask your team. Yes, it’s your role to offer feedback to your direct reports, but it’s just as important that you ask for it.

In fact, 80% of survey respondents said their boss has a significant weakness that everyone recognizes and covertly discusses with one another, but not directly with their manager. That’s valuable information you could be using to boost your leadership skills. 

But if you at least want to get started with the basics, there are some soft skills that remain consistent between successful managers. Here are five of the most important project management skills.

1. Communication             

Managers are the link between the company’s overarching vision and their own teams. That means they need to communicate effectively to eliminate confusion and ensure alignment. 

Working on verbal and written communication that’s frequent, direct, and concise will help set leaders apart — especially when one survey found that 91% of employees claim that their bosses lack communication skills.

2. Decision making

Naturally, teams look to their leaders for direction. They trust their managers to make informed decisions about priorities, challenges, and next steps.

Decisiveness doesn’t come naturally for all of us, but it’s a skill worth honing if you want to take your management skills up a notch. 

3. Delegation

As the manager, you’re ultimately the one in charge. But we can likely all agree that there’s nothing more frustrating than a boss who exercises total control and refuses to loosen the reins every now and then.

Unfortunately, 59% of employees say they have worked for a micromanager at some point in their career. And, even worse, that constant supervision had a negative impact on their work. 68% of those who had been micromanaged say it decreased their morale, and 55% said it hindered their productivity.

That’s why successful managers need to know how to delegate. They should provide the necessary context, resources, and support, but then get out of the way so their teams can do their best work. 

4. Problem solving

Here’s one of the challenging parts about being a boss: You don’t get to stand on the sidelines and hope that somebody else solves the problems on your team. It’s quite literally your job to resolve conflicts and help your team overcome roadblocks.

Demonstrating that you’re willing to step in and provide guidance when the road gets rocky reinforces the fact that you’re in your team’s corner and, as a result, boosts trust and morale. 

5. Project management 

You knew we wouldn’t make it through this list without mentioning project management skills development. When bosses are the ones leading the charge, it’s undeniably important that they know how to confidently spearhead projects from inception to completion. 

Why is project management such an important skill?

We know we might seem a little biased in terms of the importance of project management. But there are a few reasons that a leader with top customer facing project management skills will be far more effective. Let’s dig in.

1. Managers need to steer the ship

Even if managers don’t personally have a hand in every single project, they’re still the ones who have to provide leadership to their team and ensure that expectations (including project timelines and budgets) are being met. They can also answer some of the most frequently asked questions from team members, such as "Why are projects important?"

Additionally, not all projects go according to plan. So when things run off the rails, managers will need to step in on a variety of projects to help navigate any roadblocks or conflicts, regardless of how much individual involvement they have with that particular project.

Finally, the team’s manager is the one who oversees bandwidth and ensures that projects and requests are a productive use of the team’s time that brings them closer to company-wide objectives.

Whew, that’s a pretty big job, right? And that amount of leadership and decision-making is all the more challenging if you don’t have any project management skills. 

2. Managers need to balance team-wide priorities

As much as you might wish you could say “yes” to everything, there are only so many people on your team and so many hours in a day. It’s up to the manager to decide what projects and tasks deserve a spot at the top of the list.

Should your team tackle a refresh of your onboarding process or should they work on revamping your benefits enrollment? What should come first?

Oftentimes, it can feel like you have competing priorities, and you’re bound to juggle a lot of projects, objectives, and deadlines at one time. Project management expertise will help you effectively identify things like project goals and scope, and then prioritize and schedule them for your team accordingly. 

3. Managers need to effectively oversee resources

Your team is highly focused on a pressing project when you get an unexpected request from another department. Should you accommodate that? Or keep your employees on the task at hand?

These are decisions that managers need to make every day, and project management skills can help them be mindful of their resources (think things like budget, time, and team bandwidth) and manage them appropriately.

Without thinking through those resource limitations, it’s far too easy to bite off more than you can chew and spread your team too thin. And that constant, overwhelming state can quickly tank morale.

According to a report from the Society of Human Resource Management, 38% of people feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to get completed when they’re on the clock. 

Understanding resources not only helps you be more realistic about your team’s workload and avoid stressing out your team, but it also helps you plan out more accurate project calendars and manage the expectations of other stakeholders. 

4. Managers need to track progress toward goals

Do you want your team to complete projects for the sake of checking them off the list? Or do you want a team doing work that really moves the needle for your company?

Obviously, the second option, right? That’s where project management expertise comes in.

Leaders with project management knowledge can successfully provide strategic direction by clearly stating a goal or vision (which should be highlighted in the kickoff meeting and the project plan) and then frequently tracking team progress toward that agreed-upon goal.

Managers can use a variety of systems (like KPIs, OKRs, or SMART goals) for doing this. But, regardless of the specific goal-setting technique or framework, one thing remains the same: They should know how to monitor progress and course-correct when necessary, and project management skills will help. 

Boost your project management skills and fearlessly lead your team

You want to be an effective leader who helps your team meet goals, maintains a positive culture, and keeps your top talent around — rather than sending them straight for the door.

There are a lot of skills you’ll need to make that happen, but we think that project management deserves some special attention. Why? There are a few reasons:

So, if you’re going to start somewhere, focus on honing your project management skills as a leader. We promise it’ll take you (and your entire team!) far.

Ready to take your team’s project management up a notch? Start your free trial of SystemX Business Management Platform.