Understanding Critical Business Metrics in 10,000ft

Running a business is hard. The intensity of day-to-day work, meetings, and other obligations can make it feel overwhelming to spend time digging around and aggregating information to make data-supported decisions.

At 10,000ft, we focus on not only making important metrics visible to everyone on your team, but also on giving you the ability to quickly run detailed reports about the most critical parts of your business to help you achieve scalable growth.

Below, we break down four questions that are essential for any business to understand, but often difficult to find the answers to.

In this article (click to jump to a section):

1. When should we hire?

For any company looking to grow, one of the biggest challenges can be knowing when it’s time to hire. 10,000ft helps organizations ranging in size from 5 people to 1,000+ people answer some of these concerns:

  • Do we have enough people currently on staff to complete our existing workload?
  • What if we close a new deal? Who will work on it?
  • How do we know if projects are understaffed?
  • How do we give our clients an estimate and timeline for projects in the pipeline?

Using the Placeholders feature can help with these questions. Placeholders are a way to schedule projects when you don’t yet know who on your team will be performing the work. Like People, Placeholders can be assigned a Role, Discipline, custom bill rate, and any other properties you use to filter your team. Below are some examples of what you can do once you have Placeholders set up.

Projecting staffing needs

When looking to sign on future work, you can use Placeholders to schedule those projects. Once they’re scheduled, utilization reports will show you which disciplines can handle the workload and where you may need to staff up or hire a freelancer.

New hire or position

Want to see what type of impact a new hire will have on your workload? Placeholders are a great way to assign that work and feel confident that your new hire will have enough to work on. This could even be a great way to share with a job candidate what types of projects they can expect to work on if hired. You’re your new team member is onboard, you can simply reassign those Placeholder assignments to them.

Costing a project

Placeholders allow you to create assignments for specific roles and disciplines, without impacting someone’s actual schedule or utilization. The Placeholder can be setup with any bill rate you’d like, giving you accurate quotes for new business.

Tentative resource sandboxing

Account Managers can use Placeholders to request a resource from a Resource Manager. For example, an assignment for a Placeholder could be an indicator to a Resource Manager that someone needs to be assigned to that project. The Resource Manager can then re-assign the Placeholder’s work to a real person, essentially “approving” the Account Manager’s request.

2. When can we take on new work?

When business is in full swing, it can seem easy to think, “We feel busy, so we must be doing well and making money.” Unfortunately, this short-sided thinking can be detrimental to a company’s growth because it can make it easy to overlook where your team’s time is actually being spent.

Let’s say you thought your team was spending 75% of their time on active project work, but you find out that on average, they’re spending 40% of their week in meetings. Is that the best use of their time? Depending on your business, maybe it is. Having insight into this area of your business is crucial for long term success.

When your team is doing Itemized Time Tracking in 10,000ft and using Categories, you can quickly run monthly reports to see where time is being spent. To do so, follow these steps:

1. Navigate to Analytics > New Report
2. The View will default to “Time & Fees”, which is what you’re looking for
3. Select “Last Month” as the Time Frame
4. First group by “Category” then group by “Resource”

This report breaks down all the activities your team members worked on and shows how many hours they spent on each.

Tip: Click on a team member’s name to see a more detailed daily breakdown with notes.

3. Why did that project fail?

Projects can run over budget for a variety of reasons. We often create assumptions about why – blaming stakeholders, clients or other influences outside of our control. When a company relies on this rationale, they lose the opportunity to confront the actual cause of the problem and discuss actionable steps that will help avoid future overages.

You should be able to break down individual projects and compare what you planned against what actually happened. We recommend holding project post-mortem meetings (read a how-to guide here) after every project so you can understand what went well and what didn’t go so well. By comparing this information across different variables, you can begin to uncover where overages are happening and talk through the reasons why.

Why projects run over budget

Under-scoped assignments

This is usually a result of unclear expectations between the stakeholders and team members, or a lack of understanding of what it takes to do the work. Having historical data about when team members previously spent longer on an assignment than expected will help you improve your estimates overtime. Learn how to create more accurate project estimates here.

New information or unexpected feedback

It’s inevitable that new or unexpected information will derail a phase or project from time to time. It’s important to have systems in place that allow you to take in the new information and record how and why the project ran over. Your team should understand the importance of tracking the actual hours they worked, even when they spend more time than scheduled. This will help you understand where and why you went over budget, and what you can do to prevent it in the future.

Lack of a shared understanding

In a competitive atmosphere, your team’s first priority is to do the best work possible. This can mean individuals don’t have a clear sense of the business constraints of the projects they are on or how their time influences the bigger picture. Managers should communicate why working according to the plan is important, and give team members visibility into how their time impacts the financial health of the business.

4. Who on our team is over/under worked?

While some people thrive in a fast-paced work environment, there are big consequences for overworking your employees: higher turnover, cultural disruption, and knowledge loss.

Overworking your employees isn’t the only risk to your business. It’s easy to overlook the impact underworked employees have on the health of the company. Underworked employees can begin to question why work isn’t being assigned to them or if the company values their contributions. The reality might be that there isn’t enough insight into that person’s availability.

Studies show that it costs companies 2-3 times someone’s salary to re-hire a replacement. If people are frustrated with their jobs, that could mean they look elsewhere and the financial and cultural impact is big.

To understand the workload across your team, you can run a Utilization Report in 10,000ft. To do so:

1. Navigate to Analytics > New Report
2. Select “Utilization” View
3. Select “Next 90 Days” as the Time Frame (or a different desired time period)
4. First group by “Discipline”. This will give you a high level roll up of utilization percentages across each team.
5. Then group by “Resource”. Now that you’ve layered in your people, you can easily compare who is scheduled for more or less work relative to their team members.

Tip: If you’re using Placeholders, you can also see which positions are most booked, which will give you insight into when you should think about hiring (see #1 in this article for more).

“10,000ft has increased our profitability by 10% by giving us a clearer picture of our team’s utilization. We’ve been able to optimize the use of our resources and predict cash flow with extreme accuracy.”

- Digital Agency Centric Digital, New York City

Conclusion

Reports in 10,000ft are a powerful way to understand critical metrics about your business, and the information becomes infinitely more valuable when you feel confident that the data being entered is “good” data.

We recommend discussing the importance of inputting good data with your team from the get-go, and then sharing these metrics on an ongoing basis with your leadership team. Reports can also be a powerful way to create a dialogue with your team members, and if reports are exposing problems you didn’t know existed, don’t worry – it’s the conversations and decisions you make after you uncover issues that will help your company will grow.

10,000ft is different from other project management tools because we focus on the context of your people and projects. Our software surfaces the most important in data real time and makes resource management simple. Even as work ebbs and flows and changes inevitably come up, team members can stay up-to-date on the status of their projects without being weighed down by unnecessary levels of detail or granularity.

Unlike software that is mostly focused on task checklists and projects workflows, our goal is to make it easy to access critical information like project budgets and timelines, team utilization, staffing conflicts, and hiring needs. Teams who use 10,000ft feel more empowered because this key information is always visible, which means that everyone can focus more time on doing the actual work, rather than just managing it.


As always, we’re here to help. Let us know if you have questions by emailing us anytime at support@10000ft.com. We’re happy to set up a call or a demo with a consultant from our team who can help you run the reports that are most important to you. You can also register to join one of our weekly webinars here.

- The 10,000ft Team

10,000ft Team
February 1st, 2017
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