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Cetrus Blog

Join the Discussion - The Frustration with Personnel Billing Accuracy

Posted by Erik Hoogerhuis on Nov 1, 2017 5:00:55 PM

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A common frustration we hear from companies with a mixture of Fixed-Bid and Time & Materials contracts is the difficulty of reporting time to each project accurately. Let’s discuss it! (Comment at the bottom.)

What’s the Root of the Problem?

The issue of accuracy stems from employees using different methods to track their time.  These methods vary from keeping a document or application open and making note of every activity change, to feverishly turning in a time-card Friday afternoon based on memory alone (and let’s be honest, human memory is faulty at best).

In Deltek’s blog series “The Importance of Timesheets Part 3”, Shari Gardner explains that with improved timesheets “project managers get a more accurate picture of project status, and can see much sooner when people are doing things outside of the original project scope.” This is crucial to your company’s overall project profitability because “If [project managers] don’t have this visibility due to delayed time entry… [it] results in additional hours being worked that the firm is not compensated for…” (Gardner, 2016).

To bill accurately for Time and Materials projects, professionals must either:

  1. Work pre-defined blocks of time without distractions (Not a viable option as most people work on multiple projects simultaneously and are frequently called on to help colleagues),
  2. Diligently track their time with some time monitoring tool (Most people aren’t that organized or do not have the time to spare doing this),
  3. Or use an external monitoring solution.

External Monitoring Solutions

Unfortunately, no external solution can capture every second of a user’s project-related time. If you think about a project during your commute, is that billable time? If so, how can you capture that time?  For AEC professionals using specialty application software to work on projects, monitoring application use serves as a viable proxy for a significant portion of their billable activity.  To effectively capture use time without impacting productivity:

  1. Use needs to be captured at the individual file level.
  2. Only active time working on the file should be billed.

While this sounds conceptually easy, the devil is in the details.  To capture application use and activity status, the monitoring process needs to be able to grab data off of the workstation.  In addition, the monitoring solution needs to allow application at the file level.

Application monitoring solutions that don’t capture use at the desktop require the user to track his/her time externally, which is the problem in the first place.  Some solutions which monitor metered licenses require the user to close any open sessions, and then open a new session to associate use every time the user switches projects.  This is not just laborious, but it also only works for those applications which are metered.

So what’s the Solution?

Associating application use to a project to enable time tracking should have minimal impact on the users’ productivity and no impact license use.  For these to occur, a file session needs to be associated by the user to a project when the file is first opened or renamed.  Once associated, users shouldn’t have to alter their activities when they switch between files.

Monitoring use in the background ensures accurate representation of time spent using both project-specific specialty applications (from providers like Autodesk or Bentley), and any other desktop application.  More accurate data guarantees more accurate billing. 

 

Comment below to join the discussion!

Do you agree with our analysis? Do you have any stories you’d like to share? What are your business problems related to personnel billing? What solutions have you tried? We want to hear what you think!

 

References

Gardner, Shari. “The Importance of Timesheets Part 3.” Deltek, Deltek Inc., 26 Jan. 2016, www.deltek.com/en/learn/blogs/a-and-e/2016/01/the-importance-of-timesheets-part-3.

Topics: Project Management, Discussion