This article is an extract from the book 'Everything you need to know about Xero Practice Manager'
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Reporting on job performance is split into two defined categories:
- Jobs that are in progress
- Jobs that are completed.
Our jobs that are in progress can also be called open jobs. We split our jobs into these two categories because we make different decisions depending on what jobs we are looking at. Our open jobs are changing daily with every time sheet, cost or invoice, whereas our closed jobs are static.
We should be reviewing our open jobs as frequently as possible as they give the best insight into how jobs are progressing. Our open jobs tell us what is happening right now, and can also give us insight into the future profitability of a job. If we keep a close eye on our open jobs and address issues as they arise, we will be running a much more efficient and profitable practice. We ultimately want to understand two things about our open jobs:
- Are we going to go over budget?
- Are we going to miss a deadline?
We want to answer these two questions for all our open jobs, as easily as possible. Doing this allows us to easily identify issues early so we can address them before they get out of control. We want to catch our potential write-offs while the job is open, rather than finding out once it is completed with an enormous write-off.
Open jobs tell us what is happening, whereas completed jobs tell us what has happened. If we look at what is happening, we can take quick and decisive action when we identify risks. When we look at what has happened, we can understand our mistakes and make changes for the future.
We manage our open jobs by exception. We look for indicators that suggest our job might go over budget, or miss a deadline. As long as those two events do not occur, our workflow moves smoothly like a well-oiled machine.
If we are not monitoring these indicators throughout the year, we may find ourselves eight weeks from financial year end with only half our tax returns filed, resulting in the team working evenings and weekends to catch up. What happens next? A third of your team say to themselves ‘never again’, and hand in their resignations. You are then scrambling to replace them while creating the exact environment to repeat the cycle.
Ensuring a job does not go over budget is only half the battle. The other half is making sure we deliver our work on time. Failure to do this can upset your clients, and put your staff under a lot of stress. Missing deadlines are usually caused by clients not providing information on time, or overruns from other jobs that reduce available capacity to take on current tasks.
The best way to keep track of your due dates using XPM is with your workflow scheduling reports that you built using the report builder. Your workflow scheduling reports were covered in detail in Chapter 12: Scheduling and Capacity. Each staff member will have a list of jobs and their assigned due dates. You can use this report to view current and last month's tasks, which will provide visibility into which tasks have missed their due dates.
If you are using Link Reporting, the Open Job report contains fields to help manage deadlines. In your weekly stand-up meeting with your team, use the ‘Days Till Due’ field to identify tasks that are nearing their deadline. If a task has a close deadline and very little time against it, this may be an indication there has not been sufficient work done to meet the deadline. In your stand-up meetings, you want to discuss any obstacles the team has on their jobs that are nearing their deadlines.
Deadlines do get missed. It’s a fact of life. People get sick, new urgent jobs come up, and staff take unexpected time off work. When this happens, we want to ensure our workflow is shuffled around so we can get things back on track as soon as possible. It’s important we communicate with our clients if deadlines are moved so we are effectively setting expectations. If we don’t shuffle our deadlines, the problems can compound until deadlines are completely forgotten and staff are just trying to keep their head above water.
Let’s look at an example.
Say David has a target capacity of 120 hours for the month of June. He currently has 117 hours of work assigned to him, giving him three hours of available capacity. In May he had a few unexpected sick days, and a few jobs that went over budget. At the end of May, David has three jobs on his list that he hasn’t started, totaling 38 hours of estimated time. When June rolls around, David's capacity will no longer show three hours available. Instead, he will be 35 hours overbooked for June.
Using the capacity report you have built using the report builder in XPM, view David's worklist for June and reschedule some of his work to get him back to 120 hours (or thereabouts). The three overdue jobs are priority because the clients were expecting them in May. David keeps two of the three jobs and we reallocate the other job to Jane, who is ahead of her workload. The job we send to Jane has a 15-hour budget, so David will still be overbooked by 20 hours.
We find a job on David’s list for June that is not high priority, so we reschedule it for August. This job has an estimated time of 18 hours, and once removed from his June list David will have 122 hours scheduled for May. We are happy with this, and so is David. When then email the three clients and set new expectations of when the work can be completed, then do these jobs as absolute priority.
The Open Job report in Link Reporting gives you total visibility into your workflow and how your jobs are progressing. The reality is deadlines do get missed, so the scheduling report in XPM is your tool for reallocating staff and due dates to tasks. Between these two reports you can ensure your workflow moves smoothly through your practice and if deadlines are missed, jobs can easily be reallocated and communicated with your clients. You can help your team succeed by providing them the information they need at www.linkreporting.com
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