Strategy games and business share plenty of similarities, with rules, risks and rewards for the winners. But how do you use the skills of two of your key players – HR and finance – to shape your business strategy, and avoid leaving success to chance? Here, Steve Berridge, Finance Technology Consultant at business software specialist The Access Group explains how staff who don’t bill can add value at every step.
Teams who undertake billable and commercial work are at the forefront of any project-based business but without a good strategy and support, their success is likely to be limited. They might win new clients with ease but fail to get repeat work, or find that projects consistently over-run, dampening their profitability. Sometimes there are ‘unseen’ problems that only become apparent when you drill into the data, such as an over-reliance on freelancers or poor allocation of staffing resources.
The past year demonstrated that all companies must be able to adapt quickly in response to changes in the market. Winning projects has become a hard-fought battle for many, so it’s more important than ever that each one delivers maximum value and paves the way for repeat business, cross-selling and up-selling, as well as glowing reviews and recommendations.
It’s only when you improve efficiency and productivity that you make projects more profitable and achieve growth, and this is where HR and finance can help. As custodians of people and financial data, their combined insights are invaluable in shaping business strategy – enabling you to allocate resources more effectively, spot commercial opportunities and improve performance.
If managing projects is a strategy game, rather than a game of chance, then HR and finance are two of your most important players, even if they don’t bill clients or win new business themselves. The problem is their time is often taken up with business-as-usual (BAU) tasks and manual reporting, rather than helping to shape project strategy. Furthermore, without standardised workflows, there’s every chance their data is out-of-date, siloed within departments or conflicting due to errors or recording inconsistencies.
By empowering HR and finance to refine their processes and collaborate, with each other and the wider workforce, you can transform projects, avoid stagnation and achieve growth.
Time is money
The commercial success of any project depends on the correct allocation of staffing resources, though it can be hard to get the balance right when you’re juggling different deadlines.
Under-utilising staff time and skills means you don’t get the most value from your biggest cost, especially if experienced professionals are assigned to run-of-the-mill work a junior could undertake. Conversely, when teams are stretched too thinly, productivity and performance are likely to suffer – causing projects to over-run or fall short of client expectations. To make sure work is completed, you might need to outsource it or offer overtime, though this will hit your bottom line.
Project-based businesses depend on timesheets but they’re prone to ‘guesstimates’ if staff leave them to the last minute. Making the process as easy as possible, using online and mobile timesheets that can be filled in on-the-go, promotes accurate recording and will quickly show whether clients are being over or under-served, based on hours worked and income accrued.
Using real-time financial data, your finance team should also be able to offer rolling insights to help you track spending and address problems while the project is underway, so you can take action promptly.
Understand your players
As mentioned previously, bringing in freelancers is sometimes necessary to get work done but how do you really know whether they’re eating into your profits or simply offer the flexibility you need?
It’s only when you drill into the data – from finance and HR – that you see whether your current spending represents value-for-money.
Review what skills you need within your team and ask finance to cost different alternatives for permanent staff members – a senior, a junior, full-time or part-time. The good news is that dynamic scenario planning tools make it possible to model different scenarios, using a range of variables, in minutes, unlike manual methods such as spreadsheets. HR can then work with you to build skills within the workforce with a strong talent pipeline, recruitment, training and performance tracking.
We know that winning new projects is a challenge for many in the current economic climate, especially if your teams are depleted due to redundancies and recruitment freezes. Even though you might be preparing for a recession, you can still allocate your resources strategically to deliver the best outcomes to clients. You’ll not only improve the profitability of each project but your chances of securing repeat business too.
Data from your finance team can highlight which services or types of project are the most profitable across the business, giving you an opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell them building on your existing relationships with clients. With the support of your HR team, you’ll see exactly what additional skills, training and appointments are required to deliver and grow these services effectively.
Unlike a strategy game, the decisions you make in business have real-world consequences for your company, people and clients, so it’s vital that they’re informed by reliable data.
Unless HR and finance work together, you risk making decisions based on poor or limited datasets – for example, cost-cutting without thinking about the impact it could have on employee wellbeing and retention. When they’re able to collaborate across a single shared platform, you gain a comprehensive view of what’s happening, so you can navigate any setbacks and move to the next level with confidence.
For a deeper dive into how HR and finance can help your team pull together, download The Access Group’s free guide here.