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The right way to use time data for business improvement

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  • 1. The Right Way To Use Time Data for Business ImprovementTime and attendance tracking is necessary for obvious reasons, yet manybusiness owners do not realize that this data can deliver enormous benefits tothe organization, aside from payroll. In fact, having employees track their timeagainst tasks and projects allows managers to develop key performanceindicators to measure progress against strategic goals such as increasedbillability, adherence to project estimates and project profitabilityoptimization.Key Performance IndicatorsA key performance indicator or KPI measures an organizations progresstowards a strategic goal. When leveraged correctly, KPIs can make a hugeimpact.First, you must determine what the most important business goals are. Itmight be increased profitability, reduced number of defective parts perthousand, maintaining a certain percentage of customer satisfaction, orperhaps revenue per store location. Once this is established, you can create aKPI to help you measure your progress.Next, you must ensure that your KPI is measurable. "Make customers moresuccessful" is not an effective KPI without some way to measure the success ofyour customers. "Be the most convenient drugstore" wont work either ifthere is no way to measure convenience. In addition, it is essential that yourKPI definition remain stable from year to year. For example, "increaseutilization rates” needs to be more specific and address such things aswhether to measure by hours or by dollars.Keep in mind that a KPI is part of a SMART goal—one that is Specific,Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. For example, consider thegoal, "Increase average revenue per sale to $10,000 by January." In this case,“average revenue per sale” is the KPI. This goal wouldn’t be SMART if it wasn’t
  • 2. achievable, if the word “January” was left out, or if it was not relevant (e.g. ifthis was a portion of the organization that had nothing to do with sales ormarketing, such as human resources).Simple and Useful KPIsThere are three basic KPIs that you should be able to calculate from any timeand data labor source.•Billability. This is often termed the utilization rate. It is the percentage oftime in a given period during which employees are working in a revenue-producing capacity. You must configure your timesheet system to trackwhether or not work is considered billable to the customer. Once you havethis information, utilization for any period, group or person is found by theformula “B divided by T”, where:B = Billable hours for the employee/group in the periodT = All hours worked for the employee/group in the periodMost organizations try to keep their utilization rate above 70%. A higher rateis better, until you’ve reached a point where administrative tasks that arenecessary to the business—like tracking time—are not being accomplished.Then you know you’ve pushed it too far.• Adherence to EstimateMany contractors or consultants do a poor job with bidding appropriately. Inorder to avoid underbidding or overbidding, you can use the formula [(E-A)/E] where:E = Estimated hours to complete projectA = Actual hours used to complete project
  • 3. Improving this number can be difficult for some companies until theyunderstand a simple truth: similar projects often have a strikingly similarratio of early phase cost to overall project cost. The early phases of a projectare usually referred to as the “requirements,” “design,” or “specification”phases. If after carefully tracking time on a batch of similar projects, you findthat the first two phases usually take about 10% of the total project time, youcan then use that data to predict the length of future projects.The following diagram shows how tracking the time it takes to complete aproject helps in planning future projects. By tracking time and subsequentlylearning that the first two phases of Projects 1 and 2 took approximately 10%of all project time to complete, the projected length of Project 3 becomes easyto determine. If the first two phases of Project 3 take 1.8 months to complete,you can estimate that the entire project will be completed in 18 months. Thisproject estimation technique has proven itself to be extremely accurate forsimilar projects in a variety of companies.• Percentage of Projects Profitable“Percentage of projects profitable” is a KPI that can really affect your businessin a positive way. As an analogy, consider British Petroleum (BP) and itsexperiences in drilling for oil. BP created a strategic vision for the companycalled “no dry holes.” Drilling for oil and not finding it is expensive. Ratherthan try to make up for all the dry holes by finding an occasional gusher, BPdecided to try to never have a dry hole in the first place. Changing the attitudethat dry holes were an inevitable cost of doing business fundamentallychanged its culture in very positive ways.If you set a strategic goal for your company of “no unprofitable projects,” itwill change the nature of discussions in your business. For example, itempowers frontline employees to legitimately push back when a project isbeing taken on for political reasons. Conversely, having the attitude that thewinners will make up for the losers doesn’t do this.Measuring this KPI is easy because you can obtain direct per-project cost datafrom your timesheet system. Correctly applying indirect data (such as sales or
  • 4. accounting time) to the direct costs is a bit more complicated. Connecting allof this to revenue data gives you per-project profitability. Once you have thatdata, you can work on your KPI of percentage of profitable projects to try tomaximize it. The formula for this KPI for a given time period (usually a quarteror a year) is:# of profitable projects/# of projectsOther KPIs that could be useful are:▪ Calendar time to complete a job (because overhead costs increasesubstantially due to delays)▪ Percentage of customers satisfied▪ Time to complete initial free estimateUnfortunately, many businesses that track time and attendance for payrolland billing overlook the other benefits such data can provide. Real-time accessto relevant KPIs, however, can give early warnings of project problems andlead your company to faster growth and more profitability.Reference Link: http://www.hr.com/en/app/blog/2012/04/the-right-way-to-use-time-data-for-business-improv_h1fj2sfe.html