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Choosing a Project-Based Job Management System

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Written with contribution from Andrew Butel, CEO at Endgame and co-founder of PlanRight

Once you’ve determined that your business requires project-based job management, you are well on the way to narrowing down your search, but there is another important step to consider. Project-based job management systems can be further split into two key categories: (i) scheduling project management and (ii) financial project management.

Whilst scheduling and financials are intrinsically linked, it is rare to find a system that excels in both areas of project management. Sometimes, a company might choose to compromise in one area, but in many cases, there are substantial benefits to using two specialist systems together. With this in mind, when scoping your business project management requirements, it is important that you evaluate your scheduling and financial requirements independently.

What is Scheduling?

Scheduling covers a range of industries and workflow processes, and can vary significantly from business to business. In order to better understand this, here is a summary of the broad scheduling categories for business:

  • Calendar: One of the most common scheduling tools is a calendar function that links with your email. Plan out your day, week or month by adding dates and times, sending an email to notify attendees.
  • Booking: Provide recipients with the ability to book a time in your calendar that has not been blocked out previously. This requires the ability for others to access your calendar, and block out times are not available.
  • Task allocation: Replicating a whiteboard within a system. Keep a record of the stage that each job or task is at. The objective is to move each job or task through each of the stages until complete. This is ideal for an output based business that relies on fast turnaround. The goal is to increase output, and track stages in the process where jobs are being stalled. When a task is marked as complete, it is ready to be moved to the next stage, so all relevant staff should be notified.
  • Internal communication: Many jobs may not require a visual scheduling display and companies might simply need a tool that ensures all staff are notified of the job status. A communication app that provides these updates can help a company to manage their schedule of work. 
  • Staff dispatch: This is ideally suited toward service-based businesses that have a high turnover of jobs within a day, and their key focus is on the reduction of non-billable time in order to make money. GPS tracking can also help to group jobs by region, and reduce travel time. Remote app access is a significant factor in this type of business.
  • Rostering: Ideally suited to businesses with casual staff working inconsistent hours. Connect and manage teams to ensure your business consistently has the right people in the right place at the right time.
  • Asset allocation: Ensuring that use of an asset within a business is maximised, and also that it can be easily traced at any time.

Project Scheduling:

Scheduling in the context of project management involves planning a project in advance. There are two specific categories to consider.

  • Resource Capacity Planning: To maximise the return on investment from your team, it is important to understand resource scheduling and capacity planning. This form of scheduling will help you meet project deadlines and increase staff efficiency.

    Andrew Butel, co-founder of Planright Scheduling Software encourages his clients to split larger projects into two-week sprints in order to create clear, measurable objectives for their staff to work towards. These sprints help to create a clear division of labour, and allocate each component of the project to a specific team. Allocating this work in advance helps to display the capacity of each staff member or team, and therefore any potential resource gaps to be filled. In order to manage these resource gaps, it is essential that there is a scheduling tool to provide clear visibility across the business with the ability to filter by dates, job or by staff members.

    The constantly changing nature of resource planning requires a flexible scheduling tool with the ability to easily make changes on the go.
  • Dependencies: Another critical aspect of project management is the principle of dependencies. When one stage in the process is delayed, it means that all subsequent stages are also delayed leading to idle staff and idle resources. A scheduling tool with dependencies will notify all relevant staff when the previous stage is completed. This automation helps staff or teams to manage their priorities, and plan accordingly. This is especially useful for projects that involve managing subcontractors or external suppliers where delays are often inevitable.

What is Financial Project Management?

Do you know whether you are making money on your projects? Your staff can be incredibly efficient, your planning can run like clockwork, but that is no good if you’re not charging the right amount.

Financial project management provides real-time and retrospective project reporting.

Every business should have clear visibility over whether they are making or losing money on a project. To understand these financials, a business needs to be able to (i) set a budget, (ii) track project revenue and (iii) track project costs. Knowing these three components enables them to track their profitability at a project level.

The business owner can then use this information to improve quoting, manage costs, increase productivity, streamline processes, and steer the direction for future business.

The Top Priority for your Business - Financial or Scheduling?

Scheduling project management involves planning a project in advance. Financial project management involves real-time and retrospective project reporting. What do they have in common? An end outcome.

In order to reach this end outcome, the project manager must determine the key milestones that need to be met for each stage in order to deliver the end outcome on time and on budget. Setting milestones for each stage creates a deadline for staff, and helps to provide a real-time view of whether a project is on track. With this in mind, it is important that a system provides you with the ability to track each project by stage.

When you run a business that sells labour, time and money go hand in hand. If the estimated time that you allocate to the project is wrong, you are likely going to lose money. If your staff are inefficient, you are likely going to lose money. In my experience, whilst scheduling project management and financial project management are intrinsically linked, as a business owner, it is important to consider the value of specialist software for each.


Want more information? Let's have a chat. 
Stewart Ellison: stewart.ellison@xero.com 
Andrew Butel andrew@end-game.com

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Service: Financial Breakdown

Billable rate - $150 per hour
Cost rate - $70 per hour
Gross profit (billable less cost) - $80 per hour
Overheads by staff member - $1200 per week

Example 1 (40 hours - 100% billable week)

Revenue (150*40) - $6,000
Cost (70*40) - $2,800
Gross profit - $3200
Less overheads - ($1200)
Profit - $2000

Example 2 (20 hours - 50% billable week)

Revenue (150*20) - $3,000
Cost (70*40) - $2,800
Gross profit - $200
Less overheads - ($1200)
Profit - ($1000)

Example 3 (Breakeven - 27 hours - 67.5% billable week)

Revenue (150*27) - $4,050
Cost (70*40) - $2,800
Gross profit - $1,250
Less overheads - ($1200)
Profit - $50

To avoid losing money on each staff member, the business owner requires that his staff members work a minimum of 27 billable hours per week (breakeven - 67.5%). An average weekly billable rate of 28 hours will only produce $50 profit, and is unlikely to be a sustainable business.



Project: Financial Breakdown

Quoted - $15,000 (100 hours at $150 per hour)
Estimated cost - $7,000 (100 hours at $70 per hour)
Expected gross profit - $8000 (100 hours at $80 profit per hour)
Overheads by staff member - $1200 per week

Example 1 (project delivered in 100 hours)

Invoice on quote - $15,000
Actual cost - $7,000
Actual profit - $8,000

Example 2 (project delivered in 80 hours - under budget)

Invoice on quote - $15,000
Actual cost - $5,600 (70*80)
Actual profit - $9,400

Example 3 (project delivered in 120 hours - over budget)

Invoice on quote - $15,000
Actual cost - $8,400 (70*120)
Actual profit - $6,600

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Stewart Ellison
Stew Ellison has built a career consulting to Professional-Service Business in the Marketing, Pharmaceutical, Engineering, Architecture, and Cloud-Technology sectors. Former Business Development Director for London-based consultancy, Phastar, which placed 88th in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 List. Currently, the National Account Manager for WorkflowMax, the Project Management add-on for Xero. With a degree in Entrepreneurship, and experience running successful start-up ventures, Stew is passionate about helping New Zealand business owners to value their time, and to run their company more effectively.

Stewart Ellison