19th November, 2019

DIY solutions make for risky business management

When it comes to sprucing up our homes, we’re a nation of DIYers. But when it comes to business management, you’re better off investing in solutions that are built for purpose. Here’s why.

You don’t need to spend much time watching the television to figure out there are plenty of very handy people out there.

Some adverts go so far as to say do-it-yourself (DIY) talents are in our DNA.

But when it comes to business management, DIY is actually RRS (a Really Risky Strategy).

Business owners are wasting time and money on generalist solutions that don’t introduce efficiencies into their operations. Instead, they introduce duplications, errors and wasted effort.

Take for example, the case of an engineering consulting firm that recently switched over to Abtrac Online. Previously, they’d been using Excel for everything to do with their business management.

READ: Supporting professional services into the future – Abtrac Q&A

Abtrac founder and chief executive Edward O’Leary said the firm, whose name hasn’t been supplied for privacy reasons, was losing ground due to the sheer amount of admin work involved with its business management.

“They had 150 live projects in-train, weekly timesheets for 30-plus staff, up to 100 invoices per month and, yes, even payroll, debtors and creditors were all being managed through a raft of spreadsheets,” said O’Leary.

“At the end of each month, summaries of this data were collated and sent to their accountant in the form of more spreadsheets.

“In addition, they said they typically had 12-20 proposals in play, awaiting confirmation or clarification.”

But with new payroll legislation arriving, the business needed to review their system to guarantee compliance. This was the trigger that caused them to consider using Abtrac with MYOB.

“They contacted us at Abtrac as we have ‘timesheets’ featured prominently across our website,” said O’Leary.

“In the first call they were hoping we could meet their payroll needs.

“But they were open to expanding their thinking across a broader front.”

When asked, the business told O’Leary their current business management system “didn’t cost anything” because they employed an “IT guru” who managed all their spreadsheets.

“They told me without a hint of irony that it took less than two weeks of every month to run their business this way.

“And they thought they were saving money in doing so.”

O’Leary then set about demonstrating how switching to a built-for-purpose business management solution would save them time and money. He describes that process below.

Acquiring a new business management solution

Step 1:

I started by establishing a cost on the time the engineer was spending each month.

After a bit of discussion, they conceded it was nearly a $50,000 a year solution they were running. The hapless engineer, while enjoying the recognition he received for being the “IT guru”, was not enjoying that part of his role. He was not getting the chance to grow his skills, because handling the back office duties meant he couldn’t work on long term projects in a management role.

The business was very reliant on him and they already felt exposed in terms of that reliance. Plus, there was the ongoing risk of losing data while juggling so many files.

Step 2:

I showed them Abtrac Online and explained it could manage the operation of the business. That’s what we do.

Abtrac helps businesses frustrated with their current time billing system get their invoices out faster, with formats to suit their professional needs, starting with more efficient planning and management of proposals, projects and staff.

They were sold on seeing the first autogenerated, multi-column progress claim invoice. Abtrac can produce one with a button click. They also loved the fact that the entire system was online, giving their staff the ability to log in anytime from anywhere, with user privilege settings to moderate each user’s access as required.

Step 3:

All that was left was figuring out how the accounting side of the business could best integrate with their new business management solution.

Abtrac is an operational management system. It manages the planned scope of each project from the initial proposal, plus variations as they arise, through to planned and actual time and disbursements on each project. It also produces invoices, which means everything about each project is in the one integrated system.

READ: 7 things to look for in a project management, time and cost software

And since ‘everything counts’ Abtrac will also track non-billable time such as professional development, annual leave, general admin time and so on.

But the solution’s primary focus is on how the business earns its revenue. Once an invoice or anything else hits the accounting system, it’s history. So Abtrac’s designed for managing the work before the accounting entry comes about by ensuring whatever is done is done efficiently, on time and on budget.

But that also means it needs a solid accounting system to integrate with.

With the help of MYOB, we contacted a bookkeeper who showed them how MYOB AccountRight Live was an easy to use, cost-effective commercial accounting system – many times better than their error-prone spreadsheets.

Together we showed them how the two systems talk to each other, giving them an instant “write it once” functionality on a huge chunk of their business-critical data.

The Outcome

Together, the new system that included both Abtrac and MYOB cost the engineering consultancy around 10 percent of the real cost of their previous system.

It also provided them with new functionality which they’ll draw added benefit from over time, while having the ability to stay up to date as regulations continue changing.

“Abtrac and MYOB, unlike their previous system, wasn’t really costing them anything – in fact they’re now in a position to start realising genuine savings as a result of the efficiencies garnered.

“The firm’s directors are already over the moon about it!”

In summary:

  • The “IT guru” got his life and his career back
  • All staff can access and modify important information in real time, from wherever they like, rather than having to wait for others to pass along documents
  • Synchronising Abtrac and MYOB AccountRight Live offers a single system that ticked all their business and financial management boxes, including payroll (as per their initial request)
  • They’ve gained push-button functionality for all their administration around clients and jobs, timesheets, invoices, time and disbursements, job costs and debtor tracking
  • Their accountants are much happier
  • They now no longer need to rely on the ongoing support and integrity of one staff member, which is generally considered a disaster waiting to happen