5 Steps to More Profitable ProjectsFor Professional Services
- Increased competition from new and expanding firms
- The move to short-term, project-based work
- Eroding margins that eat away at profitability
- More remote teams and subcontractors
- The generational shift in workforces that demands a new way to work
- Expectations of greater speed and transparency from clients
The five steps detailed in this ebook are meant to improve service firm profitability from a variety of angles.
Each of these methods will not only help address the pressures being experienced by businesses today but are designed to make each project more profitable.
The Estimation Process Review
2. Match the Right Skills for the Right Task
Can you confidently say that you have the optimal capacity of resources to meet your current project demand? How about the right capacity to meet project demand in the next three, six, or nine months? Understanding your workforce’s skill sets at a detailed level and being able to accurately match them to upcoming projects is vital for effectively running a services business.
Core vs Peripheral Skills
Those that are directly tied to your business’ most essential and frequently used services, such as client management. These skills are a crucial part of how your business serves clients and require full-time commitments to keep clients satisfied and projects on schedule.
Only used for some projects, even if they are important. These projects do not happen frequently enough to compose the majority of a full-time work schedule and the skills required are not broadly applicable. For example, video editing is a specialized skill that requires in-depth experience, but may not be needed on a daily basis for a services firm.
The Contractor Network
Stay in contact with contractors and show them that you value them, even if you are not constantly using them. Check up on them with a friendly email, keep them up to date on company news and possibly send small tasks between larger projects. Fast contractor responses will prevent you from losing client deals while waiting for workers to agree to a gig.
What Resource Managers Want
What Project Managers Want
Finding the Perfect Balance
Creating a process for regular interaction/evaluation between RMs and PMs in order to maintain a healthy tension is critical. Consider a regularly scheduled meeting where managers review past, current and upcoming projects to discuss their needs. As they review worker skill sets and budgets, managers will be able to see each others’ points of view for better communication.
Keep the lines of communication between them open and make sure they understand each other’s true needs before a project begins, as well as during and even after its completion. Data-driven decisions will also help alleviate the unnecessary tension between them by basing budgeting decisions on what past project data proves, rather than one manager overriding the other. Data will also aid PMs in understanding project costs at a more detailed level, leading to more accurate project planning in the future.
4. Measure Profit & Loss at the Project Level
How to Track Profit and Loss for Individual Projects
Being able to see the true costs and profits associated with individual projects means that your business can make informed decisions about which projects to replicate, which processes to streamline and what types of clients you should focus on in your long-term business strategy.
A project-level profit and loss template should track and calculate the following elements:
Incentivize Project Managers to Take True Ownership
Consider your project manager as the “Captain of the Ship.” It’s natural for projects to have changes in scope, cost and client expectations during execution. As such, you need to enable your PMs to be dynamic, empowered and solution-oriented so they can respond appropriately. Empower them to make decisions by providing the right data at the right time, but also hold them responsible for where the project ends up. If they feel like they can’t adjust strategies and priorities when needed, PMs will be less likely to take financial responsibility for the project, which can affect margins.
Consider associating financial rewards to PMs for financial performance, which can further tie financial responsibility, project management and bonuses together for greater ownership. But this must be balanced. This is an incentive, not a punishment. The more successful a project, the larger the bonus for a project manager.
What to Analyze in the Post-Mortem Process
There are a few major measurements that should be applied to every project’s post-mortem process.
COMPARE YOUR ESTIMATES VS. ACTUALS FOR PROFITABILITY INSIGHTS:
Were there delivery challenges? What were your resource challenges? Did you create inaccurate estimates? What updates need to be made to the estimation process? You need to see how your estimates and execution align, which will help improve estimation skills and highlight areas that negatively impact project execution.
CREATE AN INTERNAL REVIEW TO EVALUATE TEAM PERFORMANCE AND ASSESS EMPLOYEE SKILLS:
How well did individual team members perform when completing tasks? Did their skills effectively align with the project’s demands? Learn how you can finetune performance and better determine core skills and peripheral ones. This internal review only becomes more important the larger you become.
GAUGE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION FOR FUTURE EXECUTION ON DELIVERABLES:
Are there opportunities for more projects with the customer? Would they make for a good reference or case study? What were your key performance indicators both before and after project completion? Understanding customer satisfaction will help you keep future clients happy with your work and more willing to return for future projects.