When your company runs on projects, you know how important time management is. Even a slight extension of your timeline can have a significant impact. Every additional hour is an added cost outside your budget. If you can’t bill for that extra time, profitability takes the hit. Not to mention the impact these delays can have on client satisfaction.
And yet, proper time management is still one of the biggest challenges, especially for smaller firms. In theory, it should be easier when you have smaller team to coordinate and manage. But most small to mid-size firms still rely on basic project management tools and spreadsheets, which adds complexity to the whole process and makes time management more difficult.
With that in mind, we’ll look at five strategies you can use to manage your time better and keep your projects on track. Most of these can be done using whatever tools you have, but the right systems make the biggest difference. If you think your spreadsheets are working for you, I might just have you convinced otherwise by the end of this post. 😀
1. Create a solid project plan
It might sound trite, but proper planning really is the key to success. Knowing how much time you plan to dedicate to the project is the foundation to managing your time effectively. You know the parameters you have to work within. But if you really want to be successful, take it a step further and define the timelines for each activity. Set start and end dates, add your milestones and sequence the activities so your team can clearly see how a delay on one activity impacts the rest of the project.
A detailed project schedule gives the entire project team a roadmap to guide the work. Estimating the duration of each activity in the planning phase offers a concrete signal if your timelines are off-track. When an activity runs longer than planned, you can proactively look at ways to make that up later in the project. But it also sparks a valuable discussion about why you ran over time. Was your estimate low? Did the client change scope? Did you have the right skills assigned to the task?
2. Assign the right resources to the right activities
You know your team well – what their skills are, how long it takes them to complete tasks and what their capacity is. But do you have a way to track that? Or is it just general knowledge trapped in the project manager’s head? When your business is built around people, managing your resources effectively is key.
A spreadsheet is a step in the right direction, but they can be tough to manage – especially as your project volume increases. This is where a proper Professional Services Automation (PSA) software can offer a big advantage. You have a centralized place to track resource information, so you can search for resources and assign them to project activities based on their skills match and availability. This gives you total visibility into commitments across all projects and resources, so you don’t end up with a scheduling conflict or over-committed team members.
3. Track where time is spent on projects
According to data from a Leadership IQ quiz on time management skills, 50% of people say that more than a quarter of their time is wasted at work. When your organization is built on billable time, that’s a huge problem. This is why it’s essential for every employee to track their time consistently and accurately. You need to understand how much time is spent on each project activity, but also what other activities are burning chargeable time.
It’s not enough to have your team track ‘best guesses’ on their timesheets. This is often what happens when they enter their time at the end of the week (or worse, the end of the month). Ideally, they should be entering time as it’s worked or, at the very least, at the end of each day. But how do you get them to do it? Give them a time tracking tool that’s easy to use! You’ll get a far more accurate picture of project time when your team is entering billable time against project activities and non-billable time (like vacation, etc.) into one place. And with the right solution, that data flows straight through to the project, accounting and payroll – a win on all fronts.
4. Monitor project progress in real-time to manage risk
Even with the best planning, things will shift throughout your project. Your client might request changes in scope, or you might discover certain activities need more time for whatever reason. Managing the relationship between time, cost and quality is a delicate balance. To do so effectively, you need a real-time view of your progress so you can identify issues and address them before they jeopardize the success of your project.
If you centralize your project data in a PSA system, you can see how your projects are progressing down to the task level. You have a much better view of your timelines and costs, so you can see if you’re falling behind schedule. The best solutions will allow you to record project issues, assign resources to address them and track the resolution. Can you do that effectively with spreadsheets or a project scheduling tool?
5. Use PSA software to simplify project planning, scheduling and tracking
Many small and mid-size firms rely on a collection of tools to manage their projects. Each of the strategies we’ve discussed above could have its own dedicated application. That gets complicated in a hurry and, quite frankly, takes a lot of time just to manage the data. You want time savings? Simplifying your project management tools is a great place to start.
PSA software takes all these functions and pulls them into one system. Your project managers and delivery team have one place to go to manage schedules, resources and track time. When you consider that 90% of a project manager’s work is communication, think how much time you could save by giving the rest of the team access to the information they need, instead of relying solely on the project manager. Every employee has personalized dashboards that give easy access to critical project information and empowers them to manage their time more effectively. When each person on the team has the tools and information to improve time management, the effect is cumulative and has a big impact on project success.
Curious what this type of project management software looks like? Here’s a quick overview.
Ready to explore PSA software?
NetSuite's PSA solution is designed to unite your service delivery, financial and sales functions. Managing the complete bid-to-bill process in a single solution, you can improve resource utilization, streamline invoicing, deliver more projects on-time and drive profitability. And with a fully cloud solution, you don’t have to worry about the IT overhead – it’s all handled for you.
As your North American NetSuite implementation partner, we’re here to guide you through the process – right from evaluation, through implementation and beyond. Here's the perfect starting point – grab a copy of our PSA Buying Guide!
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