Resolutions for Profitable Growth in 2013

By Claus Thorsgaard

As we turn to 2013, you’re probably thinking about how to drive profitable business from existing clients, and how to attract new ones. Consider a few resolutions that will lead your firm to an even better year ahead.

Maximize Your People
Resolve to improve resource capacity across your firm, from partners to staff. Select the best people for a project by providing visibility to the firm’s entire workload— actual and planned. To avoid “fire drills” resulting from the typical rush to staff new work, allocate resources with consideration for proposals in the pipeline as well as actual work-in-process. That way, capacity is constantly updated as work is completed or as new work is proposed or won. With a current and accurate capacity view, you can maximize utilization, and cut down on last-minute resource shuffling.

Consider also better ways to align talent to work. Go beyond “assigning” based on capacity to include attributes such as skills, industry experience, and work preferences in identifying project teams. With a more sophisticated resource selection process, you can consistently place people on rewarding client work, and find the most effective combinations of partners, managers, and staff.

Optimize Your Projects
Nobody likes surprises, especially about expectations or actual results. Yet engagement managers and team leaders often see results after-the-fact, when it’s too late to make changes. Avoid this by providing visibility into projected vs. actual project metrics, and setting clear expectations on project and team performance. Establish individual, team, and corporate targets, and provide timely metrics to enable team leaders to manage project performance and make adjustments to keep engagements on target.

Instead of more meetings and multiple reports, publish KPIs such as margin, utilization, and realization in graphical dashboards tailored to the different roles in your firm. With accurate project status and quick access dashboards, your team will easily identify engagements that need immediate attention.

Integrate Your Systems
Looking back across the past year’s engagements, a few will stand out for their success in exceeding client expectations. Wouldn’t identifying and repeating those “bright spots” bring better results to your firm in 2013?

Yet it’s often hard to gain insights on project performance and understand what led to such positive outcomes. Like many firms, you may have client data in financial systems, resource information in planning software, and engagement details in a project management system—complicated further across practice areas and geographies. Gathering this disconnected data is complex and time-consuming.

You need to understand the relationships among work, people, and decisions that made the job successful. A recommended approach is to bring the relationships into a common system. With an integrated system for resource allocation, financial management and project management, you’ll have the complete engagement history and context of the decisions that led to the results. Instead of pleasant surprises, those “bright spots” can reveal best practices that can be applied across the firm.

Mobilize Your Workforce
In the past, remote work meant long delays in capturing hours, entering expenses, or approving timesheets. Such delays slow down invoicing and jeopardize WIP accuracy. Now mobile access keeps work flowing smoothly and free of delay.

Information on the pipeline, work-in-process, resource capacity, and accounts receivable is made available. A mobile device is ideal for tasks like submitting or approving time, approving expenses, or triggering a client invoice. Your firm can benefit from the accuracy such real-time information capture brings to resource capacity or work-in-process, or how a smooth billing workflow accelerates revenue collection.

In addition, a “BYOD” policy allows everyone to use their preferred device—an increasingly common policy that leads to a more engaging work environment.

Resolving to improve the management of your people, projects and processes in 2013 will drive your firm to profitable growth. As you plan for the year ahead, make resolutions to guide your firm to greater success.

Claus Thorsgaard is Executive Vice President and General Manager, Professional Services of Deltek .