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Managing Your Firm
Gantt Charts Versus Product Roadmaps

  • Jul 25,2019
You’re using the wrong tool for project planning. It’s an easy mistake for any over-stressed project manager to make. These days, project managers have so many helpful tools for planning and organizing teamwork.

In fact, a lot of people get caught on when to use a Gantt chart, and when you should use a product roadmap instead. So what is the difference?

We’ll take a look at the problems that Gantt charts are made to solve, and what sets apart a product roadmap to figure out the best situations for using each of these organizational tools.

What is a Gantt Chart?

Henry Gantt was a consultant who needed a way to schedule and record work, so about 100 years ago, he would invent Gantt Charts.

Gantt set out to create something that would visually remind him of when project tasks need to happen, and how they fell within the big picture of the project at hand. Thus, the Gantt chart was born.

A Gantt chart is a bar chart that shows the schedule of a project. Each task is color-coded and has its own bar. It’s pretty simple. These task-bars go on the chart, and you can arrange the bars to show the order in which the tasks have to be completed so you can meet the project’s deadline.



When two tasks or more tasks are related, it’s called a dependency, and Gantt charts are great at showing dependencies. That way, you can know when specific tasks need to happen for every project to meet its deadline and its budget.

Gantt charts also show the critical path, which is how much time it will take to complete the longest group of dependencies. A project can have several critical paths, which let you know what your milestones will be, as well as your deliverables.

What is a product roadmap?

For the sake of comparison, product roadmaps can be thought of as a subcategory to Gantt charts. They can also be highly visual to help map and plan a project but differ in that they’re only used for product development plans.

Because of this specific use case, product roadmaps tend to be a more high-level summary of the development project broken into phases or key milestones that may align with general deadlines and dependencies. Used as a guiding document for product planning, they can be adjusted to best fit the needs of individual products and how each company wishes to visually present their plan.

A product roadmap can also include additional information not crucial to project planning pending the different audiences it’s shared with beyond the developers. For example, customers, board members, investors, and other internal departments, may all have an interest in a product roadmap and need further context around the phases.

Additional questions your product roadmap may answer:
  • What specific problem does each product solve for your consumers?
  • What risks will your firm need to take in order to create its products?
  • How consumers will use your product(s)?
  • What solutions can you offer for the risks your firm will accept in order to create its product(s)?

  • The best part of a product roadmap is that it’s flexible. Roadmaps are meant to be changed when your firm’s understanding of the development phase changes.

    However, Janna Barstow, CEO of several management firms, advises being careful of how many variables you make flexible in your product roadmap: “the more you add to the roadmap and the further down the line you get, the harder it becomes to manage.”

    Finding the right balance in a project like product development that has many unknowns and unforeseen roadblocks can be tricky. Which is why you may want to consider using Gantt charts within the internal development team to keep each phase of your roadmap on track.

    Let’s dive into the appropriate use cases for each tool, now that you have a better understanding of their key purposes.

    When to Use a Gantt Chart and When to Use a Product Roadmap

    To break it down, product roadmaps are to be used for the planning of product development milestones. How granular and specific you get with a product roadmap is up to your team and the audience you wish to share the roadmap with.

    Gantt charts can then be used for the more specific phases within your roadmaps that need to be broken out into structured deadlines and dependencies for your development team to stay on course.

    In addition to that, Gantt charts are built to be a strategic framework that is applicable to any project. Consultants, engineers, architects, marketing teams, anyone who has a project they want to stay on course can use the Gantt chart structure to help them succeed.

    If you’re ready to see what you can do with Gantt charts and planning tools in a top-rated project management software, then request a free demo of BigTime today, and see all the tools available to you.

    • Jul 16,2019
    This post is by Shane Anastasi, CEO and Founder of PS Principles, whose goal is to help customer-facing project teams deliver their projects more successfully. Shane will be joining us on August 14th at 2 PM CT for a webinar on his certification program and how it leads to stronger project management. Save your seat for the webinar here, and to view Shane’s original post of this article, visit his blog here.

    Too many projects. Not enough resources. High attrition. Low morale and low reputation both inside and outside of the company. While the effects of the professional services downward spiral are easy to identify, it’s the root causes that are difficult to see. Attempts to improve resource management or project oversight help, but they continue to mask the real issues of operational inefficiency in our basic customer-facing delivery models.

    In an ideal world, each project would require a dedicated group of resources a specific length of time to complete a project. We’d ship a team of people in on Monday and by the scheduled end date, they’d all be freed up to start another engagement. While we know this isn’t plausible, the root causes of the downward spiral can only be identified by studying the primary departures from it.

    DEPARTURE #1: ALLOWING CUSTOMERS TO CONTROL REVENUE

    Rather than making it clear that the customer has just secured a talented team of resources for a specific window in time, we allow them to reschedule the project timeline to fit their availability. This adjustment allows them to dictate our ability to generate revenue from that engagement. Why do we allow this without consequence? The contract mutually agreed on a timeline, a resource capacity, and an expected monthly price.

    We can partially control this. I’ve written contracts that require a customer to engage in the project otherwise, the resources will be reassigned. In other words, if our intention to generate revenue from this project is thwarted solely by the customer’s lack of engagement, then we have the right to seek that revenue elsewhere. We trialed this approach for more than two years and never had a customer reject the clauses. This is because it makes sense to everyone at the time of deal closure.

    DEPARTURE #2: LAYERED PROJECT STAFFING

    To compensate for Departure #1, we begin to layer projects onto consultants to account for the revenue-generating inefficiency. I recently heard someone say that we should assign resources by estimating the maximum number of projects one person could handle. If a person could handle 4 of these projects, then staff them at 25% on each. While I understand the thought process behind this approach, layering a consultant with the maximum number of projects can accelerate the downward spiral.

    This approach maximizes the impact that context switching, escalations or workload fluctuation has on all of the projects. When one project has an issue, it now affects the maximum number of other projects. It exacerbates the impact. The goal, instead, should be to minimize simultaneous projects. We can achieve this by focusing our delivery methodology on maximizing the use of resources wherever possible. For example, while running a CPQ consulting company, we built a project staffing model that consumed at least 50% of a resource at all times. We explained to customers that this level of resourcing gave them the greatest possible chance of success; which is true.

    For the customer, knowing that every resource only had one other project gave them peace of mind that our team was dedicated to their success. As a sales tactic, we asked customers to ask our competitors if they would guarantee the same ration of consultants to projects. Needless to say, it proved a winning tactic.

    DEPARTURE #3: CONTROLLING PROJECT PROGRESS

    When a project doesn’t finish on time, it interferes with the start of the next project. The turmoil makes it look as though we need better resource management. This can help, but it won’t stop resources from not being available because of project delays. If we want to fix this problem, we have to focus on improving our control of projects.

    Customer accountability during the design stage is key to finishing a project on time. During design, the customer must understand that its role is to specify a solution that will work in the production environment. Not, to make that determination once they get their hands on it in testing.

    Allowing the customer to bait and switch the purpose of testing to become what they want, rather than what they asked us to build is the major cause for project delays. We can control this by ensuring that customers develop test cases that only reflect the validation of the design they agreed and not a series of test cases that reflect what they wish would happen. This should be contractual. Again, I’ve spent years writing this into customer contracts and bar a few objections we’ve always managed to agree to this term because it makes perfect sense.

    Doesn’t iterative development fix this? Yes, if you do it right. A project requires at least 10 or more sprints to accurately predict its run rate. When the customer is funding a project to be completed (not kind of completed), then the run rate has to be accurate otherwise the project’s budget suffers. Unfortunately, most professional services engagements don’t have the ability to generate this many sprints. So instead, they go ahead with 3-5 sprints only to find that the same issues occur but now without a completed design to which to hold the customer accountable. Personally, I think this is a far worse result, what do you think?

    THE TITANIC HAD A DETAILED AUDIT TRAIL

    Over the past 10 years or so, we seem to have moved away from the importance of project-based certifications because they simply haven’t provided the increases in quality outcomes. Many industry executives do not believe that project manager certification is as relevant nor that ISO 9001 certification has done much more than provide an audit log of the disaster.

    While these programs have some value, we believe there is a significant disconnect from the real issue. Our 8K Certification was developed as an alternative to other programs that refocuses a team’s efforts on operational behaviors that increase the likelihood of a successful project. Certification for a professional services team should verify that they have project delivery best practices built into their operating model. Isn’t this what the customer wants? In the coming weeks, we have teamed up with BigTime PSA to start elevating the level of discussion around this topic.

    The professional services downward spiral starts because we keep trying to make up for operational inefficiencies already built into our model. Instead of waiting for other methods to make magic happen, we need to actively fix the model. Any customer is going to agree to increase its engagement and to be held more accountable if it means their project is delivered faster, closer to budget and of a higher level of success. All you need to do is ask.

    BIGTIME PSA & PS PRINCIPLES UNITE

    Join us on August 14th, as we start detailing a series of operational best practices that make up the 8K Certification. The first session will give a broad overview of the program before running follow up sessions to move into each discipline in detail. Register here.

    • Jul 15,2019
    It isn’t easy to be a good project manager, and it’s even more difficult to do excellent project management. Your projects are always moving, and you have to hit your targets, every single time.

    If you aren’t keeping an eye on projects and people, then you’re meeting deadlines, or working your magic to stay under budget. Every time a deadline passes, you feel like you just barely made it, and you know there must be a better way.

    Of course, there is. In this blog post, you’ll learn four steps for using a resource management tool to amplify what you already do well as a project manager. See how a basic project management software can make the most of your talents for managing projects, people, and budgets.

    Step One: Figure Out What You Want to Solve

    Say what is it that you want to fix. As the staff of the Harvard Business Review writes: “Planning is really about defining fundamentals: what problem needs solving, who will be involved, and what will be done.” So know what problem you can use project management to solve.

  • Until you identify what you want to accomplish, you won’t know if you’ve been successful or not, so be as specific as possible:

  • What problem does the project solve?

  • Once you know what you want to accomplish, sort out who can help:

  • Who should be involved in the project?
    What should be each person’s role?

  • Now is the time to think ahead to how you’ll allocate each staffer to a critical role in your project:

  • What will be the steps to completing the project?
    What’s your project’s status, today, and what tasks will it take to meet your deadline?

  • Then think about your firm’s resources:

  • Do you have someone on staff to complete every project task?
    Does your staff have everything it needs to do the project?

    Write down in detail what your staff will need to do to complete the project, and the resources they’ll need to do it, as well. Now that you’re aware of your project’s scope and resources, let’s make a plan.

    Step Two: Make a Plan

    You know what you want to do, who you have available, where you are today, and what your deadline is, so let’s make a plan to get you there. Start by going backward: begin at your deadline, and fill in the details, including the people, the available resources, and the project milestones. That way, you’ll be less likely to run out of resources toward the end of a project.

    In a project management tool, you can use the task editor to enter project tasks and to assign tasks with budgets and deadlines. That means a project manager can use the software’s dashboard to keep an eye on how all of their projects are performing, including people and budgets, all the way down to a project’s individual tasks. It makes a project manager’s work much easier.

    When you’ve entered the project’s tasks, and when you know you want to work on the project, the next thing to do is to use the software’s resource allocation tool to officially assign tasks to staffers. But if you know project management, you know how quickly your plans can change.

    If you have changes to make to the project, you can use resource allocation to adjust your plans, and see how your changes would affect the project’s deadline and budget. Having all of your planning tools in one place makes your work on projects so much easier.

    Step Three: See if Your Plan is Working

    You’ve identified why you’re doing this project, and you’ve allocated the resources your staff will need. Now it’s time to see how your staff is performing, not only so you can manage their progress, but so they’re aware of their performance.

    A team that’s working in the dark isn’t really a team, at all, so give your staffers all the information they need to do their best work. Besides, you know that lots of conflicts arise from miscommunications, and good planning should help you avoid problems.

    A project management software enables you to create professional-quality reports to show your staffers, your management team, or your clients. These customizable reports can show each staff member’s percent-complete by task, the overall performance of any project, and which employees are the most productive.

    If something isn’t going according to plan, you can be proactive, and get in touch with your client to ask for additional hours to be allocated for the project. In case that isn’t feasible, a resource allocation tool allows you to reconfigure your project’s schedule, so you can see what’s possible for your firm to accomplish.

    Step Four: Make Any Necessary Changes

    If you’ve put your plan in place, and your reporting tool tells you that something has gone wrong, then you’ll have to make some changes. That’s where resource allocation can be really useful for helping project managers adapt to change.

    A resource allocation tool updates in real-time, and includes dashboards that show your staffers’ performance, the status of project tasks, the budget status, and your current revenue. All of this information is vital for making decisions about what you can do to meet your projects’ deadlines and budgets.

    Project management software will give you the power to make the kinds of changes, big or small, that will bring your projects to completion. Most importantly, you’ll know for sure whether a project is on time and on budget, every time.

    Get in touch with us today to schedule a demo of BigTime, our top-ranked, user-friendly software for project managers.

    • Jun 28,2019
    Managing a professional services firm the manual way can be tedious, time-consuming and at times feel disorganized, but you know this. Often the first signs that your firm is in the right spot to invest in a professional services automation (PSA) software comes from internal struggles. It may be difficult to predict your revenue cycle, invoices are a lengthy process for every client, and double data entry haunts you in your sleep.

    Making a new software investment is daunting for small firm leaders. In some cases, it may even seem unnecessary if you or your team are able to accomplish the work, even if it takes you double the time needed.

    “Proof of value” is a common request of CIOs at larger companies, and if you’re pioneering for a PSA software to help lighten the firm’s workload, using a proof of value model is the best way to help your firm leaders see the light. Vocalizing the internal struggles are a good place to start, but the below value messages are what will drive home the idea that’s it’s time to work smarter, PSA software checks all the boxes to do so.

    Measurable Impact on Business Performance

    Firms who utilize a PSA solution can expect an increase in growth margins. Simply put the automation of each phase of your engagement lifecycle leads to an increase in productivity and profitability.

    By tracking time, expenses, budgets and resources all in one place, it’s easy to stay on top of important business KPIs to ensure things never go off track and be able to forecast accurately for the future. Customized reports can be pulled in real-time for the leadership team, rather than having to compile data from Excel sheets and hope for accuracy.

    Tracking those key metrics also allows for stronger staff management and allocation on projects. More insights into staff’s time available and project status allow for a more productive workforce with a decrease in bench time.

    Strength in Consolidation

    When most firms first start out, they grow by adding on systems or technologies to solve individual needs as they come up. There may first be a need for time tracking, then project planning, until their tech stack starts to look like a spider web.

    Once a PSA software is introduced, many of the operational technologies previously needed can be consolidated. Much like a game of telephone, the fewer links it takes to function properly a higher accuracy level and lower error margin can be expected.

    For the technologies that are still valuable for feeding information into your PSA hub, integrations come into play. Instead of spending extra effort managing a CRM and accounting software in addition to a new PSA tool, you can integrate the cloud-based systems to talk back and forth seamlessly. This reduces the time spent on the double-entry of data and allows each system to do its job in flow with one another.

    Direct Improvement for Customers

    Last but not least, the important value for your leadership team to see if how it will provide direct improvement for their brand’s relationship with customers. With an improved and more synchronized internal workflow, invoices and projects are more likely to be generated on time and with accuracy.

    Invoices can also be customized to show branding and give your firm the same representation as a larger organization. Being able to improve your project and business management has a direct overflow into your customer retention based on their perception of your work quality and professionalism.

    If they’re still uncertain, the best part of it all is everything is measurable with a PSA software. You’ll be able to see the results and track the improvement in your firm to see if your custom structure within the software is working for you.

    To learn more about BigTime’s PSA software or to use a free trial of our tool to see if it’s the right fit for your firm, request a personalized demo here.
    solving common consulting challenges

    • Jun 24,2019
    Every business has its own set of challenges. If you work or own a professional services firm, you most likely spend the bulk of your day solving problems for other businesses offering expert strategy, advice or skillset. But, while your busy helping clients succeed it’s easy to lose sight of the operational side of your firm.

    So who helps you? This is where professional services automation (PSA) software comes to the rescue.

    We’ve heard from many of our clients over the years, and when it comes to a growing firm the pains always seem to be the same. If you are faced with the four challenges outlined in this blog post – don’t worry, you’re not alone, and we even have some tips to share with you on how to overcome these hurdles when you take the backseat and let technology take the wheel.

    What does the future look like?

    Predicting what the future holds for your business’ financials can be one of the most stressful pieces of operating a small business. The solution to this is having analytics that can show your current status, averages over time, and the ability to then forecast for your next quarter or year.

    PSA software combines the data entered for time, expenses, bill rates, and operational costs to give you accurate reporting of where your business stands in real-time. Confidence in metrics makes it easier to take steps towards the future and have stronger management practices.

    Why does my team always feel spread thin?

    While your company grows there are often periods where you take on more engagements that seem exciting and manageable, but then becomes a scramble to coordinate the right people on the right projects at the right time.

    Using a resource allocation tool that is synced with your project management is vital. Many firms try to band-aid this problem with hours a month spent on staff capacity meetings and Excel documents that look more like crazy master plans than useful tools. When project planning and staff time are tracked within the same software, that’s when the magic happens. Project managers or firm leaders can easily find the right staff available for the project and how much time they have to dedicate to it.

    Once you’ve shifted to more automated project management that stores your firm’s efficiency data utilization rates can then be easily tracked. At staff and company level you can see how efficient your company is being managed and ways to avoid being spread thin or accumulating bench time.

    How can I have more cohesive information?

    As we hinted above, cohesive insights are key to success and often a puzzle for small firms that rely on manual systems for data recording. The traditional business model has groups operating in silos. Accounting owns their numbers, consultants own their time and expenses, and leadership manages bill rates and performance.

    However with the introduction of PSA software that can integrate with accounting tools to be the central hub of all your business metrics, keeping a pulse on performance and increase profitability because less of a mystery and more of a developed strategy. To protect the traditional silos, user rights can also be put in place so different groups only have access to their specific data, while the leadership team can still see the big picture in a variety of reports and dashboards.

    Where do we scale from here?

    At the end of the day, everyone is looking to grow their business. Reaching your existing numbers through strong management is important, but it’s where to go from here that most small firms are looking for the answer to.

    Here’s what we can tell you. Investing in a tool like PSA software can’t guarantee you new clients or engagements, but it will be the backbone of your organization so your internal operations are strong enough to stand up to new opportunities. When project management, staff allocation, budget tracking and invoicing all align your firm will be able to work at its optimal efficiency and the areas for growth potential will come to light.

    If you’re interested in hearing more about how our clients specifically have managed and created opportunities for growth through our platform, you can request a personalized demo of our platform here.
    better_time_management_3_steps

    • Jun 14,2019
    You’re here because you could manage your time better. We all could. The catch is knowing how to change. Everybody gets to the end of a workday, and wonders where all the time went, but it seems like some people can just get more done in a day. How could you become one of those people? It’s not as hard as you’d think.

    Put simply via New York University, time management is making a plan so you can get the important stuff done, consistently. But here’s the catch: you can’t add time to a day, so you’ll have to get more done in a day. That’s the challenge of time management. If you want to do better, you’re going to need a plan, as well as some good tools.

    Step One: Add Goals to Your Calendar

    If something is important enough to you, then you have to put it on a calendar, no questions asked. That’s the best way to start setting goals for your time. When you don’t have a goal, it’s easy to get lost, and then waste time. So write down some goals that you need to accomplish during this coming week, or in the next month, and be realistic about what you can get done.

    “The best way to manage time,” writes occupational-health expert Bill Thomack, “is to set a goal, develop a plan, and measure the outcome. Without goals, it is impossible to set priorities.” In other words, you can’t really know how you’re doing if you don’t have goals to tell you that you’re getting more done.

    By the time you get the hang of managing your time with a calendar, you’ll be ready for the next step, which is to share your calendar with your co-workers. That will let everyone at your firm know what you’re working on, when you’re available, and just how productive you are working. Some high-quality project management software will even let you integrate your calendar directly with their resource allocation tools.

    Step Two: Schedule for the Way You Work

    Everybody at your firm schedules work differently. As you know, some people need to work a schedule where they change tasks every hour, while other employees need lots of unrestricted time to do problem-solving for work. You wouldn’t schedule all of those people exactly the same, would you? The next step is to schedule for how you work.

    In his popular essay on the topic, the programmer Paul Graham writes that there are two kinds of schedules. One is the manager’s schedule, which is scheduled hour-by-hour and is spent largely in meetings. The other is the maker’s schedule, which is scheduled in multiple-hour blocks of time, and spend largely creating things without hourly goals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t schedule for both kinds of workers.

    You can use a project management tool to do things like defining your work week, setting your submission period, and adding or renaming the columns in your timesheet. When you commit to completing the goals that are important to you, and you make a plan that fits the way you work best, then you’re already on your way to doing better time management.

    Step Three: Discover What Makes You Productive

    Now that you’re scheduling your high-priority goals, and now that you’ve made a schedule that fits how you actually get work done, the last step is to pay attention to how you accomplish those goals. Do coworkers frequently interrupt your progress? Are there times when you put off your deadlines? When do you usually have spare time, and when are you always swamped?

    In other words, what exactly prevented you from getting something done on deadline? If you’re like most workers, the same three or four things always prevent you from doing good time management. So how can you get better? You have to identify the things that make you unproductive, and reorganize your schedule so you can work more productively, or you’ll never be able to change. To do that, you’ll need more some more info.

    You can start measuring your productivity in a project management software, where you can get lots of helpful data about how you work on tasks, or about how you spend your time. Do you see any repeated patterns that you think you should change? A helpful software tool even gives you the power to make any necessary changes to your project schedules, using Gantt charts, simply with a click of your mouse.

    There will never be enough time to do everything you want to accomplish. However, when you align your working schedule with what’s important to your firm, and when you’re committed day-by-day to always doing what’s most important, you’ll always have control of your time, because you’ll always be working on something important. That’s how to do better time management.

    If you’re interested in project management software, please request a free demo of BigTime, and see just how productive your firm could be.
    improving_billable_utilization_rate

    • Jun 13,2019
    Measuring Productivity with a Billable Utilization Rate: Where to Start

    How do you even begin to measure your firm’s productivity? What are you supposed to do when you have to know whether your firm is billing at capacity? You can start by measuring your billable utilization rate.

    That’s when you compare an employee’s total billable hours to their monthly capacity. For example, in a given month, a worker might have a capacity of 160 hours (or 40 hours per week by 4 weeks in a month) and 120 total billable hours. That employee would have a billable ratio target of 75 (or 120:160) and might work each month to meet that goal, helping your firm to be more productive.

    It’s easy to figure out the billable utilization rate for one worker, but when you want to improve productivity for a whole firm, it can get a lot more complicated. That’s why we’ve outlined these four basic steps to help you start using time-tracking information for insight into your firm’s performance.

    First, Set Up Your Time Tracking

    If you can’t count it, then you can’t measure it. Start by finding the best way for your employees to enter their time, both billable hours and non-billable hours, so you can assign numbers for both their total billable hours and their capacity.

    Project managers usually ask employees to enter their time weekly or daily, not only to guarantee consistency in reporting but also to make sure that time entry actually happens regularly. When your team members give you numbers to work with, consistently and correctly, then you can start to get a good picture of their total billable hours.

    Be smart about how your firm tracks time, and make it as easy as possible for employees to enter their hours worked, with a time-and-billing software that can figure out the total billable hours for you. Some software even lets employees enter their time through a mobile app, whether they’re in the office, working from home, or even offline.

    Second, Ask Employees to Make Notes on Their Time:

    If you don’t know how your employees spend their time, then you don’t know much. When you aim to improve your firm’s productivity and to increase the number of hours for which your firm bills, you have to know exactly what workers do with their time.

    Start today by asking employees to make very short notes about the time they enter. Adding notes can give you a lot of insight into your firm’s productivity hour-by-hour and day-to-day, and for the little time it takes your employees to enter a note, notes are an important step toward increasing productivity.

    In fact, our recent study into billing realization shows that entering a note of only 140 characters can increase billing-realization rates by 4.65%. That means a note as short as a Tweet could increase billing by $35 billion, annually, for middle-sized US professional services firms.

    Just a little extra information can add a lot to your ability to measure productivity. A good project management software will let workers enter notes along with their time. When you know how workers spend their time, and when you know how productive they are on average, then you can start watching how productively your firm completes projects.

    Third, Look for Opportunities

    Once you’ve figured out the billable utilization rates for your firm’s employees, you can use software to begin keeping track of whether each employee works at their utilization rate, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

    Using software to look at the billing utilization rates will give you the opportunity to find interesting patterns in how your firm’s workers use their time. You can see which employees are regularly invoicing for time, as well as which employees are working at capacity and whether certain employees are doing billable work or doing non-billable work.

    After a little while, you’ll start to learn more and more about your firm’s utilization rates, and you will be able to spot irregular patterns in productivity. When you know enough about how your firm works, and how you want it to work differently, you can confidently start making some informed changes.

    Finally, Refine the Way Your Firm Works

    By the time you have a few weeks of info on your firm’s billable utilization rates, you will be ready to make changes in your firm, using a software tool called resource allocation. When you use resource allocation, you have the power to change how and when your firm uses its two most vital resources, its employees’ time and its money.

    That’s how you put the billable utilization rate to work: if you know can put a number to each employee’s productivity, then you can make changes if an employee is not working at capacity, rather than wasting the company’s resources.

    Resource allocation can be as simple as using software to shift around the projects and tasks that an employee is working on, or to stay aware of changes in overall utilization rates, or to assign tasks from one worker to another. Some resource allocation tools can even automatically track your ongoing utilization rates, and they’re very easy to use, too.

    Any firm that asks its employees to track their time, and to add notes to their time entries, can start measuring its productivity. Once you have reliable software to give you the proper perspective for making decisions, your firm can start working smarter, today.

    If you think your firm might benefit from a project management software, please contact us to request a demo of BigTime, and learn how productive your firm could be.

    • Jun 10,2019
    For smaller professional service firms, balancing the consulting you’re passionate about with the mandatory business management to run your practice can be difficult. While the client is always the priority, it’s like they say about oxygen masks before take-off, you must help yourself before assisting others.

    To keep your practice afloat and running profitably, it’s important to keep a constant pulse on your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and make adjustments to optimize your work and plan for future projects. Often firms without a PSA (professional services automation) software struggle to see their metrics or spend hours compiling data from different places into one spreadsheet to get a general idea of their performance.

    With PSA software, project, staff, and financial data live all in one place giving firms the power to access these KPIs in real time. Stronger measurements lead to better management.

    Below are the five KPIs every professional services firm should track that can be uncovered easily through automation software.

    Project Margin – What projects are turning the highest profit? Review the revenue earned minus the labor costs associated with a project to find out how successful your revenue model is and which projects, in particular, are the strongest.

    Tip for Improvement: The projects that turn a low profit, go a step further into the data to find the weak points that need to be tweaked. For example, fewer hours being budgeted than are actually required causing an increase in non-billable time.

    Delivery Margin – How profitable is my current business structure? Similar to your project margin, the delivery margin includes the overhead cost in addition to labor cost. This will give you insight into operational and internal expenses that impact your bottom line.

    Tip for Improvement: Take advantage of all the automation solutions available in the PSA software to cut down on time and money spent on internal workflows. Streamline project approvals, set up invoice templates and integrate into your accounting software to cut down on manual data entry.

    Billable Utilization – Am I using my team and resources efficiently? Track how much time is billable versus bench time, and then adjust for a higher utilization rate. By look at a combination of historical and forecast data, this stat gives you the power to boost profit from efficiency.

    Tip for Improvement: Use a staff allocation tool with your PSA software when planning projects to see which staff is available to take on more work and which staff members have too much on their plate and may affect the projects progress. This will ensure you’re making the best use of all team members time and decrease the amount of time staff spend on the bench.

    WIP (Work in Progress) Status – Are my engagements within budget? Instead of only measuring project performance at the end, project managers can play a role by staying on top of current projects with real-time analytics to make sure budgets are on track and deadlines are met.

    Tip for Improvement: When a project starts to go off course and you’re able to alert your clients as it’s happening rather than a surprise on their invoice, there may be the opportunity to budget in more hours for the project or use the resource allocation tools again to get all staff hands on deck to make sure another deadline isn’t missed.

    After you have your dashboards set up for tracking the KPIs that are valuable to you, reports can be pulled in minutes to share all 5 of these KPIs easily with your leadership team. You can also create custom user rights for staff to view analytics that is valuable to their success without sharing full business performance metrics.

    To learn more about BigTime’s PSA solution and reporting capabilities and dashboards, request a free customized demo here.
    increase_productivity_resource_allocation

    • Jun 05,2019
    This is How It Always Goes

    It’s 3:00 pm on a Friday when your most important client calls with an urgent request that your firm must absolutely complete by morning. It won’t be easy. You spend over an hour figuring out who is available to work, since your system is disorganized and out of date, but you still can’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly. There’s just too much you cannot see.

    And you can’t be expected to predict the future, right? You can’t expect to know exactly how much extra to bill the client for last-minute work, or precisely how many extra hours to request from your client to complete a project, or whether your best worker is available for the next six months.

    In fact, you can easily know all of those things, and it’s easy to do. That’s where resource allocation helps you.

    What Resource Allocation Does

    Resource allocation is when you look at the resources, staff and time, you have, and you plan your project based on when your resources are available. It’s simple. If you know exactly what you have today, you can make reliable plans for tomorrow, or for weeks to come.

    That’s why so many people use resource allocation tools to make their jobs easier. No matter the size of the firm, a lot of project managers depend on resource allocation software to quickly and easily answer questions like:

  • Who is available, right now, to take on some work for a project?
  • Does a project need additional staffers to meet your client’s deadline?
  • Have you exceeded the budget?
  • Does it look like you’ll exceed the budget before the deadline arrives?
  • How many staff hours must you allocate in order to complete a project on time?


  • How You Benefit from Resource Allocation Software

    When you relieve the stress of doing every detail of project planning, and you let the software do the resource allocation for you, then your entire firm can instead focus on hard work. No more over-complicated spreadsheets, no more educated guesses and no more doubting yourself. Know your business.

    When your firm starts using resource allocation software to manage its projects, you’ll start to notice changes around the office:

  • Project Managers will be more organized and better prepared to respond to unexpected changes because they’ll be able to see every detail of each project. No more scrambling to find out who’s available. No more living in the dark. No more simple mistakes.

  • Consultants will be more engaged with their work when they know you can easily see who is available to work, as well as how much time and money is being spent on a project, and what each worker is contributing.

  • Clients will see an indirect payoff in all the work you’re doing behind the scenes by a higher chance of deadlines being met, and the power to answer their status questions in real-time with accuracy.

  • When You Should Do Resource Allocation

    It’s not enough to know what resource allocation is. To be successful, a project manager must also know when to use a resource allocation tool, and when to depend on a different management strategy. Here are some situations when using resource allocation software for project management makes a lot of sense:

  • Communicating with Your Client: A client calls you to make major changes to an existing project. However, your client might not fully understand the consequences of making those changes. When you check in with your resource allocation software, you notice the client will exceed her budget by 50 billable hours. Working together, the two of you are able to find a more reasonable resolution that won’t exceed his/her company’s budget.

  • Avoid Invoice Surprises: Your high-profile client’s project is going smooth until you notice that you’ve budgeted 300 hours for a six-month project, and after the first month, your staff has already worked 200 hours. Be proactive and inform your client of your status and ask for more hours, instead of submitting an invoice for 600 hours at the end of the project.

  • Organizing Your Staff: Your star designer has an emergency two days before a huge project is due. To make it up to your client, and to bring the project to completion, you need to find out what other designers are available to take on 12 hours of work. Not only does a resource allocation tool show you who’s available at a moment’s notice, but it also lets you rearrange all of your firm’s project schedules, even if they run concurrently. That way, while you’re busy saving the day, you can be as cost-efficient as possible.


  • Those are all great times to depend on your resource allocation software, which helps you do the best project management you can, no matter the challenge.

    If you think that a resource allocation tool could help you and your firm, please contact us to request a demo of BigTime, our top-rated project management software.

    • Jun 03,2019
    If you want to do better project management, you have to keep a close eye on your projects’ deadlines and budgets, each and every day. That’s not easy to do. The best way to avoid any mistakes is to start using resource allocation to guarantee that your firm has the time and the staff to meet every project’s deadline.

    What’s more, resource allocation can save you time and money by keeping your firm’s projects on schedule and within budget. Here are five common problems that businesses can overcome by using software to assist in resource allocation.

    1. Planning and Prioritizing Projects Remember that you’re in full control. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re in charge of planning your firm’s projects: there’s a lot of time and money riding on your ability to make accurate plans, and see those plans through to completion. At any point, you could make a mistake in scheduling or budgeting, and ruin the whole project.

    When your project planning includes a resource allocation software, you can schedule every step of a project to see when your project will be complete, and you can see how any scheduling changes could affect your deadline. You can even assign a project’s different tasks to different employees, monitoring the project’s progress, and making necessary changes along the way.

    In this image, you can see that when Ben Herrol was added to the project Website Updates: Task 1, BigTime’s resource allocation feature responded with Allocated: 61 to show that you’ve allocated too many hours to this project. That’s why resource allocation is valuable. You don’t want to go over budget, or off schedule, do you?



    2. Understanding Capacity It’s hard to know who in your firm is available to work on a project. That’s why one of the secrets to good project planning is capacity, which is how many hours a given employee is available to work during a month, on average.

    Resource allocation can help you make decisions based on what is most important to your firm. When you view a project by staff member, you have the power to make vital capacity-related choices for staffing projects, and to make informed decisions for the future of your project.

    In this image, you can see that Jason should work 40 hours per week (see Jason Alexander, 40.00 Hrs.), that he’s been scheduled for 28 hours during the week of December 3rd (see Totals), and that he has been given 113 hours to work the chosen period (see Allocated). Knowing that Jason hasn’t yet met his capacity, you could allocate him another 27 hours, without worrying if he’s over time. That’s really easy, isn’t it?



    3. Thinking Long-Term A huge part of resource allocation is thinking ahead to where your project and your staff will be in weeks, months, or even years. Succeeding at project management means being able to guarantee that all your projects will be under budget, and will meet every deadline, so you need a smart way to make reliable decisions about how your projects will happen.

    There are a lot of software tools available for project management, so you have to be careful. A good project management tool will prevent you from:

  • Over-allocating tasks to your project staff. Any useful software lets you know your current capacity and future capacity for any project.
  • Becoming under-staffed. A helpful tool will inform you’re understaffed, so you can make hiring decisions at just the right time.
  • Getting swamped at busy times. Every good project management software lets you restructure your project’s staffing, at any time, and shows you the results.
  • Being caught off guard when your project’s deadlines or funding change. A smart tool for project management will allow you to make changes as the situation of your project evolves.
  • Running into conflicts with other projects. Any worthwhile software will let you see all of your projects, at the same time, so you can see all of the projects your firm is working to complete.

  • That’s why, in BigTime, you can check the status of any project, or staff member, or task. As the image below shows, all you have to do is to use the navigation arrows to scroll forward or backward in time.



    4. Rolling with the Punches Nothing ever goes as you’ve planned, and when you’re managing projects, you have to be prepared to change your project planning at a moment’s notice. If at any time you need to modify a project’s staffing, timeline, budget, or scope, then a project management tool will help your firm to easily adapt to change.

    Any high-quality project management software uses dependencies to do resource allocation, which is a way of managing projects where a staffer must complete a certain task before a staffer can begin another task, to avoid wasting money and time. For example, resource allocation in BigTime has a tool called Shift Allocations that lets you move around your resources without re-entering anything, at all. Just move your resources where you need them to be.

    Once everything is in the right place, you can re-assign your staff and their tasks, and keep your project moving. In the image below, you can see what BigTime looks like when you re-assign how your project resources are allocated.



    5. Staying Informed You are the person with your finger on the pulse of every project, so you need to be able to see the progress and status of every employee’s tasks, immediately and easily. A useful project management software will update you on your firm’s projects, in real time, using elegant and informative graphics. Look at all the information you get from a quick glance at software like BigTime:



    In seconds, you can answer questions like:

  • Have I assigned all hours to all available staff members?
  • Which staff member is logging the most hours on a particular project?
  • Is a project on budget, right this second, and will it be on budget next month?
  • What staffing changes would you need to make in order to get back on budget?
  • Who has hours available, tomorrow, to work on a last-minute project?

  • If you need to make a big decision based on the best information you can find, a project management software will create reports using your resource allocation data, showing you everything you need to make smart choices.

    You can even run reports based on resource allocation to do revenue forecasting. Whether you’re forecasting by project, or across staffers, you can learn which months you’ll be cash-flow positive, or which staff members will most likely to make the most revenue during the next quarter. Any top-tier Project management software gives you two ways to predict your firm’s revenue:

  • Hourly Revenue Projection (as rate * budget): do revenue forecasting based on an employee’s hourly rate.
  • Fixed-Fee Revenue Projection (as % of overall budget): forecast revenue using a fixed amount that you set for a client.


  • For example, here is what revenue forecasting looks like in BigTime’s resource allocation tool:



    When you look at everything you have to do to be good at project management, it can feel a little overwhelming, but there are a lot of excellent tools to help you do your best. Even when you’re at the top of your game, a top-rated project management software like BigTime gives you every tool you need for resource allocation, whenever and wherever your firm’s projects demand.

    See what project management software looks like by requesting a demo of BigTime.