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Professional Services

Time is of the ‘Essentials’ – Time flies when you are getting things done

Hitachi Solutions > Blog > 2020 > 03 > Time is of the ‘Essentials’ – Mobile App Time and Expenses

Fee earning employees in a Professional Services organisation invariably need to travel around to meet the demands of their clients. Many people see this as one of the major benefits of being a professional (I know I do), getting to see new places, immersing yourself in the client’s ways of working and meeting lots of interesting people. But this does come at a cost and in my experience that cost is increased pressure on your time.

An area that we commonly let slip is our own Admin’ tasks such as completing our Timesheets and Expenses. However, this valuable information is extremely important to the business as it drives billing, project performance, utilisation metrics and many, many other vital tasks. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that we are being effective and careful with our time.

As an example, our timesheet entries and expenses claims can make up the majority of the costs and revenue opportunities within a professional service organisation. From a managerial perspective, this level of information is essential to the running of the business and communicating with our client.

When it comes to the information we are capturing on our timesheets, we need it to be:  

  • Accurate
  • Consistent
  • Timely
  • Accessible
  • Secure

Any piece of information that doesn’t meet each and every one of these criteria, I would argue is not useful at all.

So let’s pull all of this together, and see how we at Hitachi Solutions use our own internal instance of Microsoft Dynamins 365 for Finance and Operations to help us achieve this level of useful information. I’ve illustrated four potential issues that could result from pressure on our time and how Hitachi Solutions suggest these can be solved.

Late or incomplete timesheets – Every Project Managers nightmare

Example:

We have all been here; you have been working away all week and missed your weekly Friday deadline to submit your timesheet. The impact is that your PM does not have accurate costs of time spent on their project. Is it on budget? How much effort is left to complete the task? What can we bill? These are just some of the questions our PM is unable to answer.

Time is wasted:

  • Chasing up missing timesheets
  • Not being able to submit our Project Status Report to our client on Monday morning (but our competitors can)
  • Having to try to remember what it was you actually did last week

Hitachi Solutions' resolution:

Use the D365 FinOps Mobile App (see the image below) to enter your timesheet on the go, without having to physically log into your laptop. It also makes it easier to capture time as you actually do your work, which has the added benefit of ensuring you don’t forget anything and being extremely up to date.

Booking time to the wrong timesheet code

Example:

You are a busy professional. You are focussed on doing the best possible job for your client, ABC ltd. You accidentally book a day’s work to ACB ltd on your timesheet (but it was done before the Friday deadline). You have never actually worked on ACB Ltd, and the PM has no idea why they have an unexpected cost of 8 hours of your time.

Time is wasted:

  • The PM chasing you asking you why you have charged your time to their project
  • You writing an email to the PM admitting it was a mistake – distracting you from your actual work
  • Reports having to be re-generated
  • Someone having to manually correct your time booking to the correct code

Hitachi Solutions' resolution:

The Time entry option on the Mobile App will only give you visibility and access to projects and codes that you are actually allowed to book time to. For example, you physically cannot book time against ACB Ltd until the PM specifically allows you to. So no more nasty surprises.

Submitting expenses – Awkward situations are best avoided

Example:

Your employer provides you with a corporate credit card for travel expenses. Your company will incur fines and additional interest for any statement items that are not expensed and settled by the end of the month. Even worse than that, you could face disciplinary action for non-compliance with company policy. Imagine your horror when you discover that you have mislaid a receipt for £300 for a train ticket. And you didn’t even manage to get a seat on the train!

Time is wasted:

  • Looking ‘high and low’ for the missing receipt
  • Having an awkward conversation with your boss to explain the situation
  • Explaining to your partner that you have to pay back the £300 out of your own pocket

Hitachi Solutions' resolution:

The Expense management Mobile App allows you to capture electronic images of receipts, which is fully compliant with HMRC guidelines. The images are stored in the Cloud, meaning there is no chance of losing it again. Instead of spending hours completing all your expenses at once each month, the app will make it more beneficial to record and allocate expenses as and when they are incurred. This will also allow the PM to have the most accurate, up to date view of the financial status on the project.

Approving your expenses – My personal favourite

Example:

As the manager of a team of 10 hard working consultants who each incur a lot of necessary travel expenses, you find it hard to manage the Expense approval process in a timely manner, trying to ensure that your team are not ‘out of pocket’ for longer than is necessary, whilst at the same time being diligent in your review process.

Time is wasted:

  • Reviewing and then returning incomplete claims to your team
  • Answering questions about what stage of the approval process an individual claim is at
  • Seeking clarification that a particular expense fits within the company expenses policy
  • Manually having to match paper copies of invoices against each expense line

Hitachi Solutions' resolution:

Our Essentials approach will focus on the specific Travel and Expense policies of your business, and configure your system to meet those requirements. We can be very detailed when configuring the system. For example, ensuring that the policy for various maximum hotel rates for different locations is enforced, or capturing the correct VAT on the mileage claims.

In addition, we will ensure that an employee can only submit expenses once all potential policy violations are cleared. This could be ensuring digital receipts are attached to each expense line.

With careful planning of your workflow approval structure you, as the manager, are given access to the claim on your Mobile App (because you also have to get out of the office and earn some money from time to time). You are automatically certain that each claim meets the policy requirements of your business, or else you wouldn’t be able to approve it in the first place.

Finally, the claimant can see the progress of their claim at any time, with clear instructions on policies and a full audit trail.

This has the added extra bonus of keeping your Auditors happy too (and who doesn’t want a happy Auditor).

Summary

As you can see, the Mobile app is very simple to use but opens up a whole new world of possibilities to empower and enable your workforce to work more effectively. The Mobile app is just one of many great time-saving tools that Hitachi can provide to make the essential parts of your business run more smoothly. However, one thing that we never lose sight of is the importance of remaining compliant with all of the internal and external rules and regulations we must meet, such as GDPR, HMRC, ISO, IFRS and a whole host of other acronyms to name but a few.

My next blog will focus on the Projects module, focussing on how we can make sure we put the right people on the right assignments based on skills and experience.

Speak to our experts today

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Matt Treadway

Matt Treadway recently joined Hitachi Solutions after working as a senior Finance consultant on a number of Professional Services implementations over the past seven years. Matt is a FCCA qualified accountant who first worked with Microsoft Dynamics as an end-user within a major PLC, who now focusses on making implementations of D365 FinOps as successful as possible.

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Author Spotlight

Matt Treadway

Matt Treadway recently joined Hitachi Solutions after working as a senior Finance consultant on a number of Professional Services implementations over the past seven years. Matt is a FCCA qualified accountant who first worked with Microsoft Dynamics as an end-user within a major PLC, who now focusses on making implementations of D365 FinOps as successful as possible.

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