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.”

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?

Benefits of a Cloud-Based Project management Software [Platform]

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting social distancing at the start of 2020 forced companies that hadn’t already done so to transition to a remote workforce.

While there are numerous remote work benefits like increased job satisfaction and cost savings, the especially suddenness of the transition has its downsides.  

The below project management statistics highlight some of the problems the remote workforce faces. These problems can be solved through the use of workflow management features like task assignment and employee workload overviews.  

Using project management methodologies, PM software, and having a project scrum master unites a remote workforce and increases project success rates. 

According to the Pulse of the Profession study from the Project Management Institute, businesses with a clear project management structure in place have 38% more successful projects that met their original goals than those that did not.   

Having a PMO led by a project management professional means companies adopt a clear, standardized approach to project management. A project management office has the necessary soft skills risk management needs to prevent problems like schedule overrun. 

Additional statistics showing the value of project management are: 

(sources: GallupWellingtonePMP GartnerPMIUM Saint Louis)  

ASSEMBLING PROJECT TEAMS

Projects, no matter the size and scope, are complex. If they weren’t, they might as well just be tasks on a to-do list. Luckily, projects are also a group effort—for every project, there is a project team working together to make deliverables a reality.

How do these teams come together? Not on their own! There are many ways to form project teams and many factors to take into account.

What Is a Project Team?

A project team is composed of individuals that are working together towards a common goal. This can include executives, a project manager, team leaders from different departments and team members. How this team operates depends on how it’s organized, which can take the form of different project organizational structures.

Within a typical project team structure, projects are headed by the project manager, though they also can be led by an executive that the project manager reports to. The key characteristic of this type of team is that everyone reports to the project manager or another individual at the top of the chain of command.

The project manager often manages the project, the team and all the related tasks in a project management software. Ideally, project management software allows for team collaboration as well as planning, so teams can be at there best.

Three Key Steps to Create a Project Team

As we said, assembling a project team will look different depending on the project and organizational structure. That in mind, here are a few universally helpful details to focus on when putting together your team.

  1. Consider Interdepartmental Needs: Lots of projects require multiple departments to work together to achieve deliverables. Within the project team structure, each involved department should be headed by a leader who manages a team of individuals in their department. So, before getting into the nitty gritty of assembling the team, decide which departments to involve and who will lead them.
  2. Create Communication Practices: Because the project team structure does involve so many tiers of individuals, it’s extremely important to keep communication fluid. Otherwise, the team will begin to feel like multiple, independent departments working toward different goals. The best way to prevent this from happening is by setting a cadence for meetings, requiring status reports, scheduling interdepartmental collaboration time and any number of other ideas.
  3. Clearly Define Expectations: The best way to set communication up for success and keep the entire project running smoothly is by clearly defining expectations. The most successful projects are led by project managers who lay down ground rules and define expectations from the get-go. These rules can also include clear boundaries, what steps to take if something goes wrong and more. We recommend going so far as to put these things in writing and keeping the document somewhere the whole team can reference.

How to Map Team Member Skills for Assignments

Now that you’ve laid the foundation of your project team structure and assembled the team, it’s time to start giving assignments. But, before you do so, it’s extremely advantageous to assess who has the skills to best take on certain assignments. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and playing to a team member’s strengths can majorly improve results.

In order to learn which team members are the best fit for assignments, a project manager or team leader needs to take stock of everyone’s experience and specialties. This is done by creating a skills matrix.

What Is a Skills Matrix?

A skills matrix is a table used to quantify and illustrate each team member’s skills, experience and interest level. The project manager and/or team leader must first gauge a team member’s interest in a certain assignment. This interest is then compared to their skills. Then, this comparison is added to a table comparing the skills and interests of all team members.

To make an accurate matrix, you must create a scale to “score” individuals. When these scores are all displayed in one table, it is simpler to make objective decisions that are best for the project. It is also an excellent opportunity to take note of an individual’s interests vs. their experience, and perhaps give them more opportunities in the future.

young people group in modern office have team meeting and brainstorming while working on laptop and drinking coffee

Benefits of a Project Team Structure

When a project team is structured in a top-down way, everyone knows exactly who to report to, whether it be to ask questions, get approval, present results or anything else. There is zero confusion on which team members to collaborate with.

Another benefit of a project team structure is that it is entirely driven by the needs of the project. Different projects have different demands. This type of organizational structure is custom-tailored to these demands. Now, that isn’t to say a project team structure is always the right choice. There are potential pitfalls to be aware of.

Pitfalls of a Project Team Structure

Above we discussed how project team structures are determined by the needs of the specific project. While this can be a great thing, it can also result in waste. How? At the beginning of each new project, a new project team structure must be created, rather than reusing a structure from previous projects.

Another pitfall to be aware of is the potential for the entire team to become disjointed. If the project manager isn’t careful, communication between leaders can fall apart. When this happens, collaboration comes to a screeching halt, and team members start stepping on each other’s toes.

How to Improve Team Collaboration

Improving team collaboration is easier said than done, and assuming that perfect collaboration happens all on its own is a big mistake. Successful team collaboration is the culmination of thoughtful strategies and adapting to challenges. If you’re asking yourself where to start, consider these three tips.

SYSTEMX BUSINESS MANAGEMENT PLATFFORM Makes your Project Team Better

SystemX offers the smartest team management solutions around, connecting everyone on the team, improving collaboration and cutting down on confusion. Every aspect of our project management software was built with project teams in mind, and we’ve made it easy to collaborate on any and everything you need, like tasks, Gantt charts and more.

Need to know the right person to ask a question? Use the Team page to see what everyone on your team is working on and who might have the answer. And when you’re building a new team for a project, see a roster or individuals broken down into departments or filter individuals by certain skills.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TIMESHEET COMPLIANCE

Assuming you want your business to be profitable, if your product is predominantly people, in that you’re delivering a service or project, it is the same people that are your profit margin. Therefore, how you measure billable time is of utmost importance; do it poorly and risk damaging your profit margin, alienating customers and creating a despondent workforce.

Beyond this any business whereby utilization is a primary metric, whether or not for forecasting deliverables or implementing them, you’ll likely be reliant on the employee themselves to accurately record their time, likely in the form of TIMESHEETS!

But, and we’re not pointing fingers here, employees tend to not like them making it problematic to the following departments:

WHAT IS TIMESHEET COMPLIANCE?

Stage one is understanding this question. Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Do ya timesheets! Beyond that timesheet compliance is about filling it in accurately and correctly; often these are to a set of standards that are predetermined at the company level, to establish what is pertinent to them, or on an industry level, so there is affinity to project types. This means projects are tracked effectively and forecasting is consistent and accurate, but also people get paid accurately.

WHY DO PEOPLE CARE?

For the employee it might not be that simple though. Yes there are rules to follow but as a PM you have work to do and a poor memory for the hours you’ve worked. This can cost your business for the following reasons (nicely they all turned out to be P’s):

  1. Profit: if your employees are mis-reporting it’ll likely lead to inaccurate forecasting and this could be in either direction - over or under. Clients getting overcharged, or mis-charged in line with sales promises (sometimes referred to as the value-promise gap) often results in poor customer success, churn and no repeat business; this is only further exacerbated as you then provide correctional work for free. It can also create issues with starting on time when the volume of time required is mis-forecast, further hitting your bottom line.
  2. Pay: on the flip side, undercharging clients might mean your employees are getting the short end of the stick, especially if there is variance in billable rates due to differing types of work or if you offshore your resources. You want to be accurate for both internal and external reasons.
  3. Projections: your forecast’s accuracy is dependant on historical data and if timesheet compliance is low you’ll likely be mis-judgeing how long work should taking in actuality; this can impact in a variety of ways from losing clients at the bid stage as your competitors were able to provide more realistic timelines and SOWs, or it can impact success later with work not aligning to the SOW at each milestone. Timesheets are essential to the concept of good resourcing and beyond - under or over budgeting time can kill a profit margin.
  4. Performance: all of the above puts a customer relationship at risk but also can damage your employee satisfaction, which exacerbates the former. Using timesheets effectively means you can track the important moving parts of a project and your business overall as it can highlight these risks, for example, burnout, underperformance, unprofitable work, client engagement and (un)fulfilled promises.

THE SOLUTION


The SystemX Time Sheets Module in our Business Management Platform. You don’t have to buy the full platform license, and instead just use our time sheet module integrated you’re your accounting software to record billable hours by employees, and project based consulting.

Timesheet tools are commonplace and there are a variety of options to choose, but if service delivery is your world then you should look at our Time Sheets module. Click here to book a 15 minute no obligation demo with us.

The best systems should easily accommodate flexible working practices like part time workers or those who have less hours a day in comparison to a colleague, so that you can truly see the cost and capacity based on individuals as opposed to blended data. If you want to be able to make business decisions based on data, the data has to be accurate and automation can create a more accurate picture of work with the added bonus that employees don’t have to spend hours on doing the thing they hate the most...timesheets!