This article is an extract from the book 'Everything you need to know about Xero Practice Manager'
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For the tasks that vary from client to client, we are unable to add an accurate time estimate to the job template because they vary so much. We still need to estimate the time required, however, so our staff know how much time they have available to complete the task. We have two options here:
- Create a job template per customer
This method is the most time consuming initially but could save you time in the long run. Here we create a job template per customer so that when their annual jobs roll over, the tasks and time estimates are specific to their engagement. We would still need to review these any time the job budget changes. The downside of creating a job template per client is that you go from having a dozen job templates to having hundreds or even thousands.
- Update estimated times on tasks each year
Because there are tasks on every engagement that vary in time estimate from client to client, we need to update the estimated time on these tasks each year while scheduling. This can be time consuming but only needs to occur once per year.
Regardless of the method you chose, you must ensure the total of estimated times you allocate to the tasks represent the budget of the engagement. Without estimated times on tasks, staff are unable to see how much time they have been allocated to complete their work, and you are unable to manage capacity in your practice.
It is tempting to update your estimated times based on last year’s actual times for each task. These can indeed be a great source of insight for how long tasks actually take. Our time estimates, however, should always be based on the job budget. Updating our estimated times to match last year’s actual times without first having a conversation with the client is a big mistake. This is because we are solidifying task overruns from last year into future years. Use previous year’s actual times as an indication for what next year's fee should be.
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