Our 21st-century lives are full of automation.
Robot vacuums clean our carpets, smart home devices place our grocery orders and we’re growing accustomed to seeing driverless vehicles on the road.
But when it comes to running a business, many of us find it hard to make the jump from relying on humans to relying on machines. Your business is your brainchild, and you need to trust that the people — or things — you’ve enlisted to work are capable of advancing your mission.
Moreover, being a service provider comes with wildly different expectations than owning or managing another type of business. Your clients count on your team to be available, to have answers.
Does the demand for customized services and human availability align with something as predictable as automation?
We’d argue that every client-based business can benefit from the time savings and efficiency that wise tech usage can bring. There are some functions for which automation can be pivotal to a professional services business’s evolution.
Let’s review why you should consider automating:
To some, tracking employees’ time is an antiquated practice that predates the era of distributed teams and flexible hours. Yet, knowing how we spend our time is critical for deciding how to shift priorities and expand our individual and organizational impact.
Data about how we work makes the case for seeking knowledge about where your employees’ hours are going. Zippia reports that the average employee allocates 51% of each workday to low- or no-value tasks. And there are clear consequences: Lack of tech advancement and poor time tracking cost the average professional services business $110,000 every year.
Time tracking is the answer to recovering those inadvertent losses, but, traditionally, employees haven’t been great about tracking their time accurately. Forgetfulness and timesheet errors are common struggles for employers trying to calculate pay and get a sense of what their employees are doing all day.
Time-tracking automation saves you from paying someone a salary to check for payroll errors. It can also inspire employees to take regular breaks and pay attention to their work-life balance — healthy habits that encourage job loyalty.
Accelo's utilization dashboard gives a clear picture of employee time usage
Securing a reliable income is just as important as keeping tabs on your outgoings. Cash flow should be a top priority because cash flow problems are a major reason half of new businesses fail within the first five years.
Your clients are your most reliable source of cash — but only if you bill accurately and regularly. As you may have already discovered, ensuring accuracy only becomes more time-consuming and expensive as your business grows. Not to mention, encouraging clients to pay on time often requires detailed invoices and ongoing reminders.
When you automate bulk invoicing that consolidates real-time records about each client’s billable work, plus budget usage, you increase the chances of stabilizing your cash flow.
This time- and money-saving magic is possible when you use an end-to-end platform like Accelo to connect your company’s billing to project management and employee time tracking.
Accelo's company invoice tool allows users to view and filter all unbilled objects
The key to attaining max efficiency in client work is smart budgeting. Time is a limited resource, and you risk wasting a lot of it if you’re not paying attention to the budget for each project.
Knowing where your team stands is only possible if you get a straight answer from clients about their budgets. Ideally, you’ll build the budget conversation into your sales process. But even with existing clients, it’s worth communicating that you want their budget estimate to provide the highest quality service and save them money. You can only do that with data.
Even when you have a sense of the numbers you’re trying to hit, budgets can be an internal source of recordkeeping frustration if you don’t have a tool that makes accurate insights accessible. Because your team is completing tasks daily, this data needs to be as close to real-time as possible. So, whether you opt for retainers or a project-based payment structure, it’s essential to implement a solution that can automate budget usage tracking.
Just any project management software won’t cut it. You need to see how much of the client’s budget has been used and, more importantly, be alerted if you’ve gone over. This knowledge directly affects your decisions about team responsibilities, hiring and how much to charge for your services.
Accelo's Projects dashboard shows budget usage for all current projects
Understanding your business’s performance over time is crucial, but generating the numbers you need to gain that understanding could feel daunting when juggling many clients.
Some business owners decide to hire data analysts to help them make smarter business decisions. However, when you consider that analysts spend 80% of their time finding and preparing data, it’s clear that this function could (and should) be automated.
Tech that visually presents your employees’ time records compared to sales insights, project progress and budget usage will give you meaningful support for making timely choices about hiring, spending, expansion and more.
Thus, automated reporting isn’t just about saving the time it takes to create reports regularly, but about gathering data you or a general analyst might not otherwise think to look for.
Accelo's profitability dashboard provides valuable insights into each client project
If you haven’t already automated the above core processes, now is the time. Instead of considering automation a means of replacing your employees, think of it as an opportunity to redirect their time to more valuable tasks that will move the business forward.
Not only will your clients appreciate more detailed invoices, budget insights and reports, but you’ll have the data you need to make critical decisions without expending unnecessary effort.
Discover the extensive automation power of Accelo by scheduling a demo.