Consulting and outsourcing company Xoomworks claims to be making savings of more than £15,000 a year, after introducing a cloud-based system to track its consultant’s billable hours.

The company has replaced an ad-hoc system of spreadsheets, internally developed software and phone calls, with software capable of recording and analysing how consultants spend their time.

The system has allowed Xoomworks to reduce the time it takes to process clients invoices from five days to two, said Jamie Holmes, operations director.

“We realised we’re are not a small company, and we needed to start behaving like an established one. If an outsider were to look inside and value the company, then good systems and process is vital,” he said.

Billable hours

The software makes it possible for consultants to record their billable hours, when they are working on client’s premises, which has led to an improvement in the accuracy of billing records.

“With our old system, a lot of our clients’ firewalls would not allow our consultants to hit our servers. Even now, if the worst comes to the worst, we can still do it by mobile. There are no excuses,” he said.

It has also significantly reduced the time it takes consultants to complete administrative tasks such as filing expenses, freeing them up for more valuable work.

“Expenses were hugely manual and open to error. We could lose half a day’s consultancy revenue because some guy had to fill in different spreadsheets for different projects and different currencies,” he said. “That alone pays for this project.”

Software as a service

Xoomworks began looking for alternative billing systems in October 2012, after upgrading its finance software. The company evaluated a number of solutions before choosing a cloud-based service from Replicon in preference to an on-premise alternative.

The system has given the company a clear picture of how its consultants are spending their time, both with clients and on other work, for the first time, he said.

Xoomworks has been able to use the software, for example, to ensure that all consultants spend time supporting sales and other parts of the business, in addition to working billable time for clients.

“Everyone knows they will have to submit a time sheet to show they have done one day of sales support,” said Holmes.

Cloud CRM

The consultancy plans to implement Replicon’s resource-planning capabilities over the coming months, before working to integrate the software with the company’s cloud-based Customer Resource Management Software, SugarCRM.

“We want to say that when a sales opportunity is looking likely, we want to trigger the time sheet system, so we can start to allocate people to those jobs,” he said.

The software will also take consultant’s holidays into account in planning project work – a process that previously required manual intervention.

“Before we would have to check multiple systems, or we would forget to ask, and people would ask why we are £10,000 short on our projected income,” he says.

Currently Holmes relies on a custom spread sheet to manage resource planning. “It is built by me and I am the only one who can use it,” he said.

The company rolled out the SugarCRM system over the Summer, to replace a Google Spreedsheet previously used for sales planning.

The system is able to forecast sales, handle accounts, support sales meetings and automated campaigns.

“Now everyone can go in, see the status of an opportunity, and see who has talked to who. That transparency is enormously valuable to use,” he said.

Supplier service levels improved

Holmes said the level of service he received by moving to cloud was far greater than the service he had received from non-cloud based suppliers in the past.

“They want to make sure I renew next year and the year after, and they are making sure I am a happy bunny,” he said.

Original Source: ComputerWeekly

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