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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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Build Intelligent Quotes Using WorkflowMax

Almost every practice we visit to provide software implementation advice has separate quoting, project delivery and invoicing tools and processes.

Typically the way these businesses operate is that the partners or principals have their own base of clients that they know well and have strong, enduring relationships with. Each partner is usually responsible for bringing in their own projects by meeting with clients, pricing the project and preparing a quote. The Partner relies on their technical skills, experience and business acumen to price each project. Michael Gerber describes this in The Emyth as an inherent conflict for every business owner.

People become partners because they're good at what they do and they want the flexibility and opportunities that come with working for themselves. However, what they end up with is the ongoing responsibility of bringing in work for their growing staff. And, in many practices that we meet, a bottleneck forms due to partners needing to simultaneously be prospecting, quoting, managing, delivering and approving invoices.

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The Objectives

Quoting, although necessary, is not a value-added activity for your clients. So how can we turn out accurate quotes using the least amount of time and brain power from people who would otherwise be doing value-added activities?

By using software such as WorkflowMax, we’re able to achieve the following 3 objectives:

1) Extract the experience, skills and business acumen from the partners preparing quotes, and build this into all future quotes.

2) Reduce the amount of time taken to prepare quotes.

3) Feed our successes and failures back into the assumptions that built that quote.

We can achieve these objectives by using the following three features of WorkflowMax, combined with the right training and some defined processes:

1) Job Templates

2) Staff Task estimates

3) Report Builder

How It’s Done

An important part of what we do as a software set-up specialist is to identify typical types of projects that might exist in a practice. We analyse historical quotes, current projects and client mix to do this. We’ll then take these projects and build them into Job Templates.

These templates capture:

1) The tasks involved in a project or project phase

2) The step-by-step processes involved in completing a task

3) The type of staff (Senior, Intermediate, Junior) that might be required on this sort of task and how long we'd expect this task to take.

From there we start to build up a picture of what this project might look like before you've even won the work. We can then start to apply the business acumen of the partners to modify this quote for things like project-specific items, contingencies, the market and of course margin. 

All of these are currently occurring in your practice but invisibly and at lightning speed inside someone's head.

When the quote is accepted, all of these assumptions are applied to the job and inform the basis of our budgets automagically:

1) Visible - this means having a template that clearly outlines the breakdown of the quote

2) Repeatable - that is, the same assumptions are applied each time to quotes

3) Improvable - continuously using the feedback loop to update the quote template

This means your project managers know exactly the kind of maths you did in your head when you quoted this work and don't have to build these project budgets themselves.

The Reward

Throughout the project we're getting live information from WorkflowMax on what time and budget is remaining for a task, phase of tasks, team or individual person.

At the end of this project we can see where and how our initial assumptions proved true or false. How did our quoted assessment of the time involved in completing a task compare to the reality of delivery? Where were our overruns? Where did we make more margin than expected?

An important final step is to use WorkflowMax's Report Builder to tell us this information in a digestible way on a semi-frequent basis to test and adjust our Job Templates. This completes the feedback loop and lets you build truly intelligent quotes.

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