When delivering projects is your business, visibility means managing the here and now, such as timesheet and expense management, resource management and consultant skills tracking. But it also means looking ahead at the business, projects and concerns barreling down the road at you—and whether you have the resources, skills and expertise to address them.
True visibility means real-time reporting on project and sales pipelines and then forecasting resources that they will demand. It means being able to see which projects are profitable, on-time and on-budget (or not), so that you can spot problems before they occur and direct your team or clients accordingly. It means identifying areas where you need to grow and develop your team, outsource to third parties or team up with partners.
Some of our most enthusiastic and successful customers have taken the extra step to empower their teams with role-based reporting and dashboards. I recently had the pleasure of getting a personal demo from Michael R., the head of operations at a NetSuite OpenAir customer. This global cloud computing professional services/consulting organization has approximately 300 users in multiple geographies leveraging NetSuite OpenAir’s professional services automation (PSA) software.
In a preview of a presentation he’ll make to other NetSuite OpenAir customers at SuiteWorld 2011, Michael gave me a fantastic hour-long tour of some of the NetSuite OpenAir dashboards his company uses to run its entire business. For individual consultants, regional and team managers, executives and beyond, they created personal and role-based dashboards that allow all users to get instant visibility into the information that matters most to them. For example:
- An individual consultant can check the status of her projected billable vs. actual hours worked for the month, timesheets that are open, submitted or have been rejected, projects she is working on and more.
- The manager of a particular team or geography can check reports specific to his geography, view projects in his world, and assess what is profitable, on-time and on-budget—as well as proactively identify and address problem areas.
- Executives can get a rollup of all aspects of the business to see not only what is going on now, but also what can be forecasted as the business moves forward.
Michael’s favorite part of the newfound visibility comes in two parts:
1. Everyone in the company can at any time check the health of their individual portion of the business. Every person in the organization—from the junior consultant, to the director, to the CEO—can see, in real-time, how he or his team is directly impacting the success of the larger organization.
2. The dashboards were easy to configure—much easier than the complicated, manual army of spreadsheets they used previously to get monthly snapshots of the same information. Michael and his team set up the dashboards with only about 1½ hours of planning, and less than a week’s worth of hands-on work.