Yes, PM software can make your life easier!
Most of my Consultants and Professional Services colleagues don’t utilize project management software. Why? Some aren’t aware it exists and have never tried it before. Others think the time investment to learn a new software program isn’t worth the value it could provide.
In my 10+ years of working in professional services, it’s always been a pain point to juggle multiple priorities and projects with various deadlines and resource constraints across teams. I never knew there was another way to manage my projects more efficiently until I started using LiquidPlanner. Before I started using project management software, I used an Excel sheet or sometimes even a simple written to-do list to track my tasks and project timelines.
I quickly learned that project management software helped me to solve the complexities of juggling multiple priorities and projects across clients. They also gave me insight into questions I didn’t have clear answers to before:
- Are the resources available to meet the deadline?
- Can I meet the deadline given my other priorities?
- When will my project work be finished?
Project management software has helped me answer these questions and greatly improved my consulting skills. Now that I run my own consulting business, I see the immense value of using project management software for various reasons:
- Reduces the number of meetings and meeting length
- Ability to identify, communicate, and resolve roadblocks before they happen
- Track my time across clients
- Manage dependencies between teams and stakeholders
- Provide bettert estimates for project and task timelines to my clients
- Better define the scope of work
- Ability to manage more complex projects
Meetings can be a great resource in multiple ways:
- Ensure the team is aligned on priorities
- Communicate problems or changes
- Problem solve together as a group
But have you ever been in a meeting where you wasted an hour of your time because the topics weren’t relevant or the meeting agenda was hijacked? That’s where project management software for consultants and professional services workers comes in handy.
With project management software like LiquidPlanner, you can check in on project status without needing to have a meeting about it. Even changes in priority or resourcing can be communicated effectively in the software, eliminating the need for time consuming meetings.
Communicate roadblocks before they happen
Consulting and Professional Services are people-driven professions – so great communication skills are an essential core competency. Professional Services, no matter what industry you work in, is generally a mix of using your industry-specific skills and working together with your clients to solve a complex problem.
But oftentimes, a project will run into roadblocks that you need to work around to deliver on time and within budget. No one wants to tell their clients that a project will be delivered late or over budget. Project management software can help you avoid having to deliver bad news to your clients by solving the problems before they arise.
LiquidPlanner reveals when a resource or co-worker is a bottleneck well before the problem occurs. This allows you to change their priorities or find another suitable resource to use in their place to keep a project on track. The impact of scope changes are reflected in the plan in real-time, so you can see how much work might slide forward (or pull in with scope reductions). Plus, you can immediately see if taking on a new project will affect your other project delivery dates. This allows you to communicate upfront if that timeline is unrealistic given your other priorities, as well as help you understand how much more business you can take on.
Consultants and profesisonal services can track time efficiently
If you’re managing multiple clients, it’s critical to track time spent on tasks between various clients for accurate billing. This gets even more complicated if you have employees on your team that bill at different rates. If you’re using a simple Excel spreadsheet to manage your time spent on tasks for various clients, consider these possibilities:
- Can you easily provide insights on where time is spent to your clients?
- Is it easy to provide a historical record of billable hours across your team?
Cost codes are built into project management software to make this whole process easier for you. Plus, you can gain valuable insights on where time is spent much more easily in a project management tool, knowing down to the minute where time is spent if questions arise. Who doesn’t want to save time on menial tasks like this?
One of the most complex aspects of being a consultant is managing your project’s timeline against constrained resources. As an outside consultant, you may be unable to control other teams’ use of organizational-wide resources such as large machinery, employees’ time, and/or capital funding. You can certainly influence these factors, but the portfolio of priorities will always need to be considered.
Have you ever handed off a project to another team member who didn’t have the capacity to complete the project in time? They may have said, “if only you gave this to me a week earlier, my workload was really light last week.” You are not alone. Managing dependencies is nearly impossible without project management software. Project management software for consultants and professional services organizations can help give everyone in the organization insight on dependencies for each project to ensure their project timelines aren’t unexpectedly affected by other teams’ priorities.
Estimate timelines more precisely
Have you ever struggled to estimate how long a project or task may take to complete? Have you ever felt uncertain about the proposals you draft for your clients? Consultants and Professional Services workers often struggle to accurately estimate project timelines. Why is this the case? Oftentimes, they need to estimate the time to solve a problem they have never solved before. Or perhaps the solution has unique complexities previously solved.
One reason it’s critical for you to estimate your project timelines accurately in professional services is to ensure you set a realistic timeline with your clients. Overpromising, even with the most genuine intentions, doesn’t work out well for either side. We likely all succumb to underestimating the time it will take to complete tasks because we are all typically optimistic by nature. But it’s essential to build in a buffer for any unforeseen problems that may arise along the way. This is where LiquidPlanner can help you estimate your project timelines with confidence.
LiquidPlanner allows you to enter a best – worst-case effort estimate for each task, which factors in the uncertainty common in most services work into the plan from the beginning. Along with listing dependencies and their anticipated timelines. This methodology is unique to other consultants and professional services automation software because it automatically estimates project completion dates with 90% confidence.
Better define your scope of work
Building upon estimating your timelines more precisely – it’s also critical to ensure your scope of work accurately reflects your proposed timelines estimates. Creating and maintaining positive client relationships is another critical skill for anyone working in Professional Services. And being aligned on the scope of the work is the first step in the relationship-building process.
Project management software can make a consultant’s life easier by helping to better define the scope of work through each step of solving your client’s problems. Before you define your scope of work, use a project management tool like LiquidPlanner to list out each individual step you’ll need to take to successfully complete each project. Then list how long each task will take to complete with a best-case, worst-case time estimate.
This will help you ensure that you are not accidentally signing up for more work than originally anticipated or underestimating the amount of hours projects will take to complete. Taking care not to over-promise or under-deliver is an essential part of consulting.
Managing complex projects
Consultants typically are hired to help their client solve a complex problem that requires an expert skill-set not available within their organization. Professional services workers are hired not only to formulate a strategy to solve these complex problems, but to develop a series of solutions and work with their clients to implement those solutions. This level of complexity in project planning is made easier with professional services automation software.
Consider a marketing consulting firm: a client may employ an agency to design a new logo, formulate a marketing strategy, employ a copywriter to articulate their product features, and translate all of this into a new website design.
Each of these pieces of the marketing plan is dependent on one another. Without project management software showing these complex dependencies across your various client’s project timelines, you may create an unbalanced workload for your employees or deliver your projects late. Investing in project planning software for professional services removes the complexities of the planning process to free your time for more important tasks and protect your, and the clients’ team, from being overworked.
Your time and resources are precious, so consider upgrading your simple Excel tracking document to an affordable and easy to deploy project management software for consultants like LiquidPlanner. The software is designed to automate menial tasks to make sure you’re using your time wisely on the most important tasks. Plus it helps you scenario plan to forecast accurately for your clients and solve your complex problems with ease.
About the Author
Missy Day has over ten years of experience developing and executing marketing strategies for various industries. She runs and operates her marketing consulting firm and various other small business ventures. She also specializes in burnout management and prevention for other corporate professionals.