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Analyze and Optimize Your Team's Time Usage

How to Analyze and Optimize Your Team’s Time Usage

Time is one of the most valuable resources for any business. There are equally 1440 minutes per person at our disposal every day and no cutting corners on this hard cold fact. However, how we use it makes us either highly successful or utterly stressed-out.

For service-based businesses, time is the most valuable resource. If you bill for your time, the profit of your company is directly tied to how productively your team uses their time. Instead of putting in more hours and expanding your team, make sure your current team utilization is at one hundred percent.

Follow these 5 simple yet proven steps and take your team’s efficiency to the next level.

1. Define and bundle your team’s activities

It might seem odd or even impossible to standardize the daily workflow of creatives and knowledge workers, but let me show you a simple process:

  1. Write down all the recurring activities for your team.
  2. Let your team assess and improve the list of activities.
  3. Create unique activity categories.
  4. Start tracking time as per defined categories – ask your team to add an activity tag to every task they log in.

In the end, you should have standardized activity types – that consist of tasks – which include time entries under the tasks.

In Scoro, you can add a Title, select a pre-set Activity Type, and write a description for each task.

For example…

…if you’re a Marketing Agency, the defined activities could look something like this:

  • (Visual) content creation
  • Social media management
  • Paid advertising
  • Email marketing
  • Customer communication
  • Admin tasks

Why is it important?

First of all – ROI (return on investment). Do you currently know which daily/weekly/monthly tasks drain your time resources? Alternatively, on which activities should you focus to increase profits? Remember the Pareto 80/20 principle:

80% of the results will come from 20% of the efforts.

What’s your 20%? Analyzing time usage can be difficult – bundling will make it much easier and more accurate. If you do not define activity types before starting time-tracking, everyone will describe their tasks vaguely in their own words. Could you imagine processing and analyzing all this information afterward?

Do the preparation and make sure that everyone’s on the same page about how to categorize their work and which aspects have to be documented and collected.

2. Collect the data

Are activities all set? Good! Let’s start tracking! Wait, but…

…which tools to use?

The names for productivity and time management tools can be quite misleading. Depending on your business, you might look into various work/project/time/business/team management, ERP, PSA, and other related software. It all comes down to features – you’ll want to be able to see:

  • Tasks;
  • Logged time per task;
  • Projects;
  • Deadlines and work progress;
  • A shared team calendar;
  • Bonus: customized pre-set activity types
  • Bonus: real-time KPI dashboard

An excellent time management software is easy to use, yet it will give you deep insights and reports about your team’s work and results. You can choose a simple task-and-time-entries tool, but it’s recommended to keep all your business and team management in one place. It just makes everything much more fluent and efficient.

Keep in mind – everyone must use the same tools for collecting and storing information. You don’t want to end up with scattered data.

Read on: Agency Increases Revenue by 40% with Productivity Tools

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How to motivate your team to track their time?

  1. Transparency plays a significant role in whether your team will successfully track their time. Make sure they are aware of which data is being collected, how it will be used, and who will access it.
  2. Lead by example by tracking your own time, and making your schedule and time usage reports accessible to your team.
  3. Explain in-depth that the goal is not to have obsessive control and micromanage, but to be more productive as a team. Maybe improved results could also mean getting a monthly bonus? Or perhaps it means less over-time and more family time? Or less stress and many more moments of celebrating success? You know your team best – bring out the aspects your people value the most.
  4. Tracking time does not have to include complex and in-depth analysis – if people are aware of their daily habits and workflows, they will inherently start to think about how to improve and optimize. Tracking makes people more cognizant of how they work while they work. It makes them notice the ups and downs, and make calculated decisions about how to make the best use of their time. Help your team understand how the tracking will also benefit them individually.

Read on: 8 Rules (DOs and DON’Ts) of Employee Time Tracking

3. Crunch the numbers

How to know what’s working and what’s not? Are there any industry standards? How do I decide which tasks take too much time, and what is fine?

Calculate your Net Profit Margin

Net profit margin, or net margin, is equal to net income or profits divided by total revenue and represents how much profit each dollar of sales generates.

Net margin = Profit / Revenue

Profit = (Hourly rate * Billed hours) – (Payroll costs + Overhead expenses)

In HubSpot’s survey of digital agencies, a majority of companies were either not sure of their profit margins, or reported margins between 11-20%. By these statistics, anything over 20% is outstanding, while other industry experts argue that even 15% is great. Hubspot’s researchers add that you shouldn’t take an example of those who report margins of 30% and more – it’s likely their books are a mess, or they are confused with the net margin term.

PS! Did you notice that a whopping 15% of surveyed agencies were not sure what’s their profit margin? Hope you’re not one of them!

Higher Net Margin = Higher Billable Ratio

Why not just say, “more billable hours equals more profit”? Because then it becomes about increasing quantity, not quality. You could hire more people or have your team put in more hours, but it will not increase the ratios. So, you’ll end up doing more and more work with getting lower results because of poor efficiency. The key is to raise your team’s Billable Ratio.

Karl Sakas, author and agency advisor, offers a great explanation: “To increase agency profitability, you must increase your agency’s Billable Ratio — that is, the percentage of time that your team spends on client-billed work. I recommend a target of 60%+ agency-wide, but individual employees’ targets will range from 0% (for sales and operations) to 80% or more (for Subject Matter Experts like designers, developers, and copywriters).”

“When I see agencies with low or negative profit margins, it’s almost surely a sign that Billable Ratio is closer to 30-40% than 60%. Fixing this takes time and effort, but isolating the problem is the first step.” – Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Analyze time utilization per position

If you get paid for time, your capacity is divided between billable and non-billable hours. While some positions could aim for a 100% billable ratio, consider that some jobs have few to none billable hours per month.

To get a good overview, you could create a table similar to this:

Keep in mind that the suggested overall Billable Ratio is 60% and up. Make sure you calculate your numbers per position and in total – see if they align.

After setting a desired and realistic billable ratio, you can start tracking if:
1) your team’s time is fully utilized;
2) or you have an issue with billable hours getting lost.

Analyze every position (or even team member) separately to see if there are any blind spots to be improved.

Analyze ROI per activity type

Remember the activity types you created in the beginning? After accurately tracking tasks, billable and non-billable hours for each activity, you’ll be able to identify which activities and tasks bring in the most money, or in the opposite – need to be optimized very carefully, such as meetings.

You could create a similar table to assess your activity types:

*This example is based on a $20/hour salary and $100/hour billing fee.

4. Set metrics and goals

Which metrics to track?

KPIs tracked by agencies, according to Hubspot research

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – William Bruce Cameron, sociologist

While revenue and net profit are essential, tracking utilization rates is important for optimization. So if you’re looking to raise your team’s efficiency, try looking past money numbers, and put these metrics on your dashboard:

  • Time logged (per activity type and position)
  • Billable and Non-billable Hours (per activity type and position)
  • Total Billable Ratio
  • Billable Ratio (per activity type and position)
  • Total Time Utilization
  • Time Utilization (per activity type and position)

PS! Metrics are usually tracked on a KPI dashboard or in spreadsheets. Read more about how to create the perfect real-time KPI dashboard with Scoro.

What are your goals?

If you know what to track, you’ll also need to define what you are aiming for. There is no glory in vanity metrics and overwhelming your KPI dashboard with unnecessary data.

Your goals could include something from these:

  • Uncovering inefficient work processes, such as time wasted on unproductive meetings, time-consuming tasks with low ROI, etc.
  • Uncovering your golden tickets – activities or positions which bring in the most profits.
  • Making sure that actual billable hours are equal to desired billable hours.
  • Desired Net Margin and Billable Ratio increases by the end of the year.

5. Checklist for optimization – answer these questions

  1. Have you set activity types for your team?
  2. Are you tracking every billable and non-billable hour? Is your team motivated to do it correctly and consistently?
  3. Have you implemented proper time management and tracking tools?
  4. Do you know which metrics are you tracking?
  5. Have you set up a real-time dashboard to keep an eye on your team’s metrics and work progress?
  6. How often do you analyze, evaluate, and improve the time usage of your team? Have you set yourself a recurring task with a specified scope?
  7. Is your business’s Net Margin over 20%? Or have you set your team a different desired Net Margin?
  8. Is your team’s overall Billable Hours ratio over 60%? Or have you set your team a different desired ratio?
  9. Have you set standards for every activity type and position in your team for billable and non-billable hours?
  10. After analyzing your current situation – have you set your goals? What exactly, how much, and in what time will you improve?

Read on: All-time Best Hacks for Business Optimization and Analysis

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Liisi Ruuse

Liisi Ruuse takes interest in marketing, business management, innovation, and startups. She's all about reading, good coffee, and cats.

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