Insights Session – Issues List Management

At Sage’s partner conference, Insights, I will be presenting a session entitled Issues List Management (or How to Replace Time Sheets With Something That Actually Matters to Your Customers) (GEN12)  on Tuesday, May 12th at 11:00am.

In order to begin the conversation even before the conference begins, I am posting the abstract and inviting all possible participants to share their ideas and questions.

This session will be dedicated to the possibility that a professional organization can be run more effectively when people do not have to account for every six minutes of their day. Creating such an organization is hard work and not for everyone. It requires us to think differently than we have in the past about what it is that we do. You are hereby invited to open a dialogue on a new model for measuring the success of a professional firm by Ed Kless and business partner John Shaver who will co-facilitate this session.

Let’s face it, documenting every six minutes of your day is unappealing to say the least, In fact, it is downright insulting. (And we wonder why so few young people want to come into this business.)

Getting rid of time sheets does not mean an end to administration. However, instead of efforts, we should track results. Tracking time is like tracking swings for a baseball or softball player. “He swings a lot, must be good.”

In order to prepare for our dialogue, please read this blog post from Ron Baker at the VeraSage Institute. If possible the related links would be great as well.

Also, please post thoughts, questions, comments below.

6 thoughts on “Insights Session – Issues List Management

  1. Ed:

    I truly believe everything you say on this topic, but Timesheets are like a drug I just can’t kick. I am hoping if I hear it often enough, it will be like an intervention and I will finally kick the habit. And seeing that both the Red Sox and Mets have losing records, the challenge of breaking free of Timesheets will give me something to focus on this summer.

    Mike Fitzgerald

  2. Hey Ed… looking forward to this session. The challenges for me/us right now for kicking the timesheet habit is figuring out how to re-structure our consultants compensation and managing capacity. We’re chipping away at it, and have made some positive moves away from compensating on hours worked, but timesheets still trigger billing, which I know has to go. In any case, you still have only so many hours in the day. When planning capacity consultants time available is your inventory you have to sell, even if that’s not how you bill or compensate. I’m really interested in hearing ideas on how to go cold turkey on this successfully.

    The Computer Wisperer

  3. Sonia, thanks for the comment. While I might address your concerns at the session, I thought it best to jump start the thinking on the two questions you have.

    Your first, compensation, is tough because compensation is one of life’s imponderables. I reserve the right to change my mind on this in five minutes. That being said, I have done a post on compensation over at VeraSage that I believe is a good basis for any comp model in a professional knowledge firm –>

    Your second, capacity planning, is interesting because it is not really about time sheets. While I am opposed to have a professional fill out a retrospective time sheet, I am completely on board with resource (capacity) planning. This is “future time sheets.” I believe each professional should be responsible for planning his or her own capacity. This is done through the use of issue assignment and acceptance. We will talk about this in detail at the session.

  4. My .02 —

    I’m doing this now for phone support. I have no time sheet that I use to bill back costs to clients. It’s all prepaid.

    So I can testify that it works in that scenario

    Where it is always a challenge is for existing users where they invariably ask “well, could you break that out for me?” —- to which Ed suggests the answer be “yes, but it would be more”.

    I also have a fundamental problem that there is overhead in quoting these projects and as we are all painfully aware a large percent of quotes never go anywhere. I think sometimes prospects don’t even read them…. So it is my belief that for this type of fee structure to work you have to be very very efficient at quoting. If it takes you 4 hours to quote a 2 hour job (and the 4 hours includes back and forth time with the client) — long term you’re not going to be in business.

    There’s also a fundamental “leap of faith” that change orders will be used and that everyone will recognize when they need to happen and there will not be any disagreement on their use (aka – non-billable client meetings, etc). Ed’s belief is a typical engagement may have up to 12 different change orders. The problem that I have is that I’m usually elbows deep in a problem before realizing it is change order territory. I think this is the weakest part and/or hardest part to implement of Ed’s fixed price scenario.

    Concept wise I think the idea is great.

    Implementation wise it requires a great amount of discipline.

    And philosophically if you are not doing all your work this way — if clients have the ability to also request a time and materials and you provide them an itemized quote — then what you wind up doing is changing to “not to exceed” because clients most certainly remember what your fixed price was and do not now want to pay more than that.

    Is this something Sage is creating for us to shoulder responsibility and sell more boxes? Perhaps but we always have the ability to say no thanks or to quote the job higher.

    The other nice thing about fixed price — which may actually become the most prominent selling point — is that on new deals you completely eliminate the discounting of software (theoretically anyhow) which happens when the prospect goes down the lengthy laundry list of modules. If the prospect has one price to buy and implement software — there is no software price to comparison shop. In essence you’ve quoted the prospect a solution delivered by YOU — not a box of software that they could also get off the web…

    Food for thought…

  5. Thanks, Wayne.

    Great point about the discipline required to effectively implement change requests. You are absolutely correct in saying that it is the “hardest part to implement.”

    The skill that needs to be developed in consultants is that of recognizing (re-knowing in Latin) the difference between diagnosis and solution. We have trained our brains to flow so smoothly from one to the other that we often times do not see where one ends and the other begins.

    One way that I have thought of to do this is to consciously watch for at least one situation a week where you force yourself to stay in diagnostic mode for longer than you feel necessary, document and share it with a group. Sounds weird, but it worked for me.

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