Can you tell me exactly where your employees are and what they are doing? Do you know what the top 10 most profitable projects were for your company last year? Can you make a bid on a project that has little or no margin of error? If you can’t answer these questions, then you should know that someone else can and the business advantage lies with them.
Fortunately, gaining this type of insight is not particularly difficult if you know how to use the right tools to do it. Following are five ways to make sure you have the detailed, easily accessible insights necessary to remain competitive in an increasingly fast-paced business climate.
1. Track Projects Individually
Tracking employee time spent on projects is great, but you will reap maximum benefit when you track each project separately. This allows you to view each project as a unique element in company profitability.
This insight is incredibly valuable when allocating resources because you will know the parameters for each project relative to the current availability of the company. While too many metrics can paralyze decision-making, differentiated metrics allow you to execute projects with surgical precision.
2. Monitor Employee Tasks and Changes in Productivity
In any organization, the immediate benefits of knowing what your employees are doing at any given point should be quite obvious: You want them working on tasks that are actually beneficial to the company.
However, if you mistakenly believe that any forward progress is beneficial, roles become static and repetitive. Companies that have the same employee doing the exact same job for an extended period of time are quite frankly failing themselves and their employees.
While roles might not be dynamic, humans are. Employees might become better at certain tasks over time and excel in areas outside their traditional roles.
If you are not paying attention, you could lose out on productivity. Your employees will get bored and dissatisfied quickly. Implementing a system that allows employees to track time against specific tasks will allow you to see where they are most effective. Odds are that’s what they enjoy doing best.
Now, don’t go changing employee job roles every day, but do consider a change when the evidence suggests that they’ve honed skills in a new area.
3. Build a Database of Prior Projects
In the long run, having a backlog of your projects will be incredibly valuable, though it takes some time to build. It will allow you to make estimates with pinpoint accuracy. With this information, you can determine how many people it normally takes to finish a project; improve accuracy of your budgets based on scope; and perfect timelines based on overall project parameters.
Even the least-efficient projects become valuable because you can glean just as much information from them. You will know what did not work, what factors caused you to go over budget, and learn from the mistakes. Maintain the backlog well, and make sure it is easily accessible, because it can reduce the margin of error on your most-important business tasks, and save time and money.
4. Always Know Your Available Resources
Project planning can be incredibly time-consuming and tedious, but it’s worth it to keep a project running smoothly. A critical piece of the plan is creating your team. This task becomes easier when you know exactly who is available — with the skill sets you need — and what their schedules will be for the duration of the project.
It would create unnecessary stress if you, say, found out after making an assignment that the employee in question had already scheduled a two-week trip to Acapulco right in the middle of the project.
If you have an automated project management system, employee schedules are readily apparent and any requests for leave will be noted.
You will also know the tasks that other employees are working on so you can avoid stretching resources too thin or allocating individuals to tasks for which they aren’t well suited.
Constantly Monitor Resource Use Relative to Budget and Schedule
This is probably the most useful feature of tracking time to individual projects, as it ensures you do not waste time or money — as in, ever. If you compare time and resources spent on a project versus percentage complete, you can see which projects are absorbing too many resources to remain profitable.
This allows you to redistribute assets to projects as necessary or even kill projects that are too far gone to benefit your company. It is always better to determine issues early on, and a dynamic tracking system provides that insight. Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and move on; costs can quickly spiral out of control, causing your situation to worsen.
These tactics do not cost much, if anything, to implement and are not particularly difficult to monitor — yet they can drastically improve business operations. Efficiency is the key to success, and failure to maintain a razor-thin margin of error can result in lost profits and clients. Implement these fixes early in the lifecycle of your business and enjoy the benefits for years to come.