4 Ways To Tell If Your Business Systems Are At Tipping Point

Posted by drew-west on January 8, 2014

do you need a new business system

A glance around your professional services firm shows people working hard, and a backlog of work likely to keep everyone utilised for at least a another quarter. So why aren’t your projects as profitable as you’d hoped? And why doesn’t growth seem to come more quickly?

Perhaps you’ve reached the tipping point. Just like a child who’s outgrown a bicycle, maybe you’ve outgrown the systems that manage data and workflow across your firm. And despite your best balancing act, those once reliable systems are now actually keeping your firm from its profit potential. 

So how can you tell when you’ve reached tipping point?


There are 4 Symptoms that indicate you need a new business system.

Look for any of these four symptoms found in firms at a tipping point.


1. Meetings

Billable time generates revenue – but non-billable internal meetings pile up cost while stealing time from billable capacity. Why so many meetings? Because nobody’s certain – certain which resources are available, the actual status of work in progress, or how much completed work is now billable. So lots of seemingly “busy” people are found in meetings, just reconciling information. All of this because the various systems running your firm are disconnected. It’s not uncommon to see resource plans in Microsoft Project, project budgets in Excel, the sales pipeline in a contact-management tool, and the financials in a back-office bookkeeping system – leaving some people in the dark, and others with conflicting data.


2. Maintenance 

Time spent caring for systems creates yet another cost to be covered by the margin on billable work. Yet having multiple systems means more time and cost to keep them all working – each system needs its own upkeep, as do any brittle interfaces stitching them all together. Firms commonly deploy piecemeal tools for each area of the business. But rarely are these systems architected specifically to drive professional service KPIs like Utilisation or Realisation, and they need lots of configuration just to structure proposals how you need them or reports how you want them. Instead of a strategic advantage, all this internal IT administration brings only expense.


3. Mistakes 

Lower than expected profits are the unintended consequence of misguided decisions made during projects. Everyone’s trying to do the right thing – but disconnected systems make that so difficult. All of those gaps make it hard to see how decisions made at one phase impact the ultimate result. Blind to the project budget or the estimate-at-completion, how can a manager seeking to accelerate a project know how adding resources will impact its profitability? And all those costly status meetings are still typically too late to figure things out.


4. Mysteries 

Your experienced, talented people still make many smart decisions – so can your reports reveal what went wrong? It’s extremely complicated to combine disconnected islands of data into a single ocean of information. And after reconciling redundant data, it’s nearly impossible to find cause & effect relationships if you’re seeking to reveal any meaningful insight – leaving project managers and IT resources equally frustrated with the entire reporting process. Everyone is mystified about what to do more of (or less of,) so it’s hard to improve results over time. 

If you find people in too many meetings, trying to solve mysteries, perhaps your firm’s information management is at a tipping point. And if the mistakes and maintenance have become too costly, maybe it’s time to make a change to your business system.

In our next post, we’ll shed some light on what you might look for in a more complete and connected management system.