If you're a professional services firm, there's a new disruption in town that's catching even nimble tech companies flat-footed. It's more transformative than the cloud or mobile or social, and it's already invaded HR. What's on its way to causing panic in the c-suite and providing McKinsey consultants with job security for another decade? Millennials.
This time, the disruption isn't tied to some faceless technology acronym. This time, disruption is parked in the cube right next door. Or not. 64% of millennials say they consider work from home a higher priority than compensation when taking on a new job.
Professional services companies whose returns and growth are based on leveraging this talent have to rapidly change the way they manage their businesses. Millennials are the first digital generation which comes along with two very different points of view versus Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers:
They use their own mobile technology in every aspect of their life including work - 83% sleep with their smartphones within arm's reach
They expect to work outside of the office - 37% claim mobile technology increase the amount of work they do outside of the office and 87% view office as a "thing" not a place
So how do companies compel millennials to track their time when they don't want to be tied down? Tracking employee productivity, allocating time for projects and determining optimal staffing seemingly gets much more difficult when employees no longer want to be tied to a PC in the office and input their hours at the end of each day.
I recently spoke with John S. Howell, Jr., Executive Chairman of BigTime Software, Inc. to find out where the industry of time and billing software is heading with millennials becoming a greater percentage of the employee (and potential profit) base.
BigTime is a top-rated time and billing software application that runs on the cloud. It has complete integration with all versions of QuickBooks and was used by customers to bill over $2 billion in invoices in 2015. It was also recently named one of the Top 6 Indispensable Small Business Tools for Productivity in 2016 by Business.com.
Businesses still need to keep track of time.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but despite a changing employee base, some companies still don't quite get it. The longer it takes an employee to complete a project, and the greater the expense associated with that project, the less profit you will make. And different teams and combinations of employees have different impacts on project profitability. If one team is able to complete the same project in half the time, it's imperative that you understand why.
"BigTime is unique because we focus on making time tracking, billing and reporting work together so our customers can increase their operating margins and profit," says Howell.
Tracking time is about more than capturing and maximizing billable hours. Tracking time is about having a metric-driven insight into your firm's performance. BigTime IQ gives you that insight - and so it is critical employers have a tool like this, and employees are willing to work with it.
But, millennials have to be allowed to track time on their own terms...
Many smaller companies use basic spreadsheets to track time which has serious limitations for the millennial who works remotely and views work as a thing, not a place. But for all companies with offices in multiple cities and employees in different places working on the same project, how do you track time spent on a project or billable hours for a client?
According to Howell, "Many firms come to us who are moving up from spreadsheets and other tools that, while powerful, are almost impossible to integrate into a full solution. They have hit the wall due to the growing complexity of having to manage more people, projects and tasks. They need a new solution that integrates with their accounting software, is easy to deploy, and can be used remotely."
Howell is no stranger to spreadsheets. He is the co-founder and CEO of Solomon Software International, a company that is now part of Microsoft Corporation and winner of PC Magazine's Editor's Choice award.
Microsoft Office is one of the best suites of products available. Unfortunately, using an Excel spreadsheet for time and billing no longer meets the needs of even the smallest professional service firm.
And in their own place....
As everything is moving to the cloud, time and billing software is no exception. The cloud makes it possible for companies to manage multiple projects from multiple locations and is easier for employees to use. And, millennials can use it whether working from home or the beach.
"Millennials don't want to be restricted to just working from their desk on a Windows machine," adds Howell. "They want to use Macs, Chromebooks, smartphones and tablets. This helps productivity, it helps them pursue other interests and ventures and keeps them more satisfied in their jobs."
And, the cloud is critical for running a business in which your employees are your capital. According to Howell, "One of the underappreciated elements of cloud computing is the ease with which vendors can integrate their applications behind the scenes for a completely seamless customer experience. For example, there are 6 million businesses that use QuickBooks for accounting - many are professional service firms." It should be noted that BigTime has one of the best QuickBooks integrations in the industry.
And simply enough to make time for them to pursue opportunities outside of the office.
Other things important to all employees, not just millennials, is to make it easy to use.
The purpose of time and expense tracking software is to save money, plain and simple. You need to know how much a project costs and how much you are paying employees to complete the project. Before introducing a new software solution, firms should be aware that the time their employees spend learning a new program is time not being spent on billable client work. So, keep it simple, because if it isn't easy, people won't use it.
The ROI is higher than you think.
Companies who can get all employees on board to tracking time and running their businesses better will reap the rewards for years to come. "The more information that is available, the smarter we get in running professional services companies." says Howell. "These systems ultimately can act as brilliant business advisers. It would be like having an MIT genius who mines your data and serves up data-driven metrics and insights; a genius who costs you practically nothing but is instrumental to your company's success."