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Broadgate Mainland is a public relations company specialising in the financial and professional services and higher education fields. Most of its revenue comes from retainers with occasional project work. It uses TimeSheet Professional to provide an overview of the cost of time spent against the retainer and the capacity levels of its 21 client-facing staff to ensure that both staff and customers are getting a fair deal.
Jenny Brown is the company’s Finance Director. Historically, staff tracked their time with individual spreadsheets but by 2009, this was getting increasingly complicated as staff and client numbers grew. For this reason, the company introduced TimeSheet, allowing the system to become more operationally efficient and produce data that the company could use at board level. The old system meant that analysis was time consuming and possibly inaccurate, whereas what was required was the capture of data focusing on what was important, but also made staff’s lives easier and the incoming data more accurate.
What mattered was that the company and clients had to be happy with the level of service they were getting and that the staff spend the right amount of time on each client. To achieve this, a target hours system was implemented in which each team member tracked their time per client but without having to break it down into specific activities. Says Jenny, “Staff do what they’ve got to do to achieve the client KPIs.” Each was given a target number of client-hours per month which allowed for other activities, depending on their seniority. For example, training and development, office admin and people management.
Management at all levels are able to tap into this information by time, client and other measures, in order to spot anomalies in service levels and workload. TimeSheet greatly simplifies capacity planning, so essential to companies whose primary product is time and knowledge. Broadgate Mainland is organised as a matrix rather than a series of silos, so TimeSheet is a great help when it comes to cutting the information in different ways.
Rates are applied to the hours and variances from retainer income can be spotted and necessary actions taken. For example, a client might be over- or under-serviced. Over time, this might not matter because a new client would tend to be over-serviced in the early months as everyone got up to speed. But, with an established client, it’s a clue that something’s not quite right.
Staff were resistant in the early days, finding the time capture a bit of an imposition and it being too early to really appreciate the transparency it brings to staff and client management. Jenny’s simplification helped and bringing much of the information out from TimeSheet and into Excel helped still further. The finance team was able to go beyond the already comprehensive and tailorable reports in TimeSheet and fine-tune analysis and reporting to the company’s exact needs.
DSA has always been a source of rapid and solid advice. Whenever Jenny was stuck with trying to extract some value from the data, she’d call the company and, often, what would have taken her hours would be sorted out in minutes. This is because DSA took the trouble to understand her business needs. Jenny says, “It is unusual to find a software company which understands how a business works, not just how its program works.” She once went on a one-day Excel course but admitted, “I learnt more about information extraction and pivot tables in half an hour with DSA, than I learnt in that whole day.”
Realising how much data is stored by TimeSheet, she recently took another leap forward by using DSA’s SQL Reporting View to establish a direct link between Excel and the TimeSheet database. (Using ODBC, if you’re interested in the technicalities.) This means that she can now tailor exactly what information she wants to flow in and she no longer has to use the default export/import facilities of each system (which work with industry-standard CSV formatted files). This saves time, eliminates human error and has made her life simpler. It has also opened her eyes to a host of new business analysis and reporting opportunities.
As Jenny says: ”Now I have my suite of reports set up using pivot tables on the database information, it is really easy to change to the current month’s data. As a result, I have added a couple of other reports to the pack. It will save a lot of time in future.”
The bottom line for Broadgate Mainland is, in Jenny’s words, “TimeSheet Professional with DSA’s SQL Reporting is enabling our managers to service their clients within budget.”