What is your utilization rate for billable consultants?
How often do your consultants enter their time?
Do you have resource utilization goals?
While these questions scare many business owners, I know I can look at accurate utilization rates of my employees daily, right in my CRM system.
This is important for me as an IT services provider, and in fact for all professional service organizations, because higher utilization rates equal higher profitability.
What is my secret?
I Require Daily Time Entry
All of my team members are required to enter their time into Dynamics CRM on a daily basis. That way they will be more detail oriented in what they are capturing. They must account for 40 hours each week, which can be billable time for projects, or non billable time, such as PTO or internal tasks.
Many business owners are shocked by this. They tell me that they literally have to chase down, or bribe, their employees to enter time even once a week. A major reason for this is that most time tracking systems are complicated and make it laborious to enter time, especially for a busy consultant who may be working remotely. But honestly, how accurately can anyone remember the time they spent on a task a week ago? Our clients deserve accuracy. And I feel confident answering questions about our billing.
One major benefit of our Project Management solution, built right into Dynamics CRM, is that it makes entering time simple and painless. It is easy to access and easy to use. So there is really no excuse for not getting time entered every day.
My Three Favorite Project Reports
Each of our Dynamics CRM implementations is set up as a project in the system. Once the time is entered it is calculated and tracked against the defined project budgets, tasks and milestones.
Every day I look at my project management dashboard in Dynamics CRM for a quick overview and I can drill down into these reports:
- Project budget report.
- Profit & Loss report.
- Resource-utilization report.
How I Use Resource Utilization Reports
In terms of resource utilization I want to know the time actually spent versus the time billed to the client, and the person’s billable time versus his/ her operational cost to the company.
If I see someone who is underutilized from a billable standpoint, I look at what kind of other tasks they are working on. I call these “external projects”, e.g. things worked on now that we could profit from later or time spent improving our own internal processes. Using my daily reports, I can quickly move available resources to these external projects while they wait for the next billable task.
An Example of a Utilization Problem
Yesterday I looked at a project where we had estimated 30 hours for one task. I know we actually spent 110 hours. However we can only bill 30 hours to the client as we provide fixed bid proposals for our Microsoft Dynamics CRM projects.
What can I learn from this?
Perhaps a more junior resource was assigned to accomplish the task; I am fine with that since it was a lower cost to me. Even if they spent three times as long, I am still profitable and they are learning valuable skills.
Or it could be that a developer estimated this incorrectly. Maybe s/he did not factor in testing, Q&A time and project management time. I can show him/her this specific example and try to help them understand why it was estimated too low. Having this information in a report steers our conversation towards future improvements in estimating.
However, if this was a senior resource, and I have estimated it incorrectly in the sales process, you can be sure I will not do that next time.
My Utilization Goals
Our business is built around helping companies use software to be more efficient, so it is only reasonable for us to use these same tools to be more efficient ourselves.
I set a goal of 80% utilization for all of my Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultants. And I know that we meet those goals week over week.
I know this because I use AbleBridge Project Management for Dynamics CRM, and you can too.
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