30 July 2019

Time recording for IT project companies: Account complex projects promptly and precisely

IT projects are usually characterised by a high degree of complexity. On the one hand, this applies to the large number of tasks that arise within the framework of such projects. Often it is even necessary to divide the project into several - interdependent and interlinked - sub-projects. On the other hand, this also applies to the number and variety of different project participants, which may change several times during the course of the project. Especially in IT, the shortage of skilled workers is currently particularly high, which increasingly leads to the need to integrate external experts and freelancers into the project. For time recording, accounting and project controlling, this means high demands on user-friendliness, flexibility, accuracy and functionality that cannot usually be met with standard tools.

Outlook and Excel reach their limits

IT project companies in particular initially rely on Microsoft Office for time recording and accounting: appointments and tasks are maintained in Outlook, documentation of project time worked is recorded in Excel lists and if an invoice is then to be issued, the Office duo of Outlook and Excel becomes a trio of Outlook, Excel and Word.

However, due to the complexity of their projects described above, both in terms of tasks and personnel, the companies realise that the Microsoft trio quickly reaches its limits.

Even with a small number of parallel projects, the amount of work and time required for time recording and accounting increases dramatically. This is inevitably at the expense of timely and accurate billing. Both the IT project participants and the person(s) responsible for compiling the data required for the accounting fail to recover from mountains of manually created time and project plans and the corresponding Excel lists in which the working hours to be accounted for were entered more or less accurately and promptly.

On this basis, project controlling is not even conceivable.

Business Intelligence: Turn Big Data into Smart Data

Big data is one of the current top trends in many sectors such as trade, mechanical engineering or the construction industry. The companies operating in these sectors have more and more data at their disposal, both technical data (machines, production systems) and data about customers and business partners. It is now important to gain insights from this data that help to make business decisions, optimise business processes or offer customers a better customer experience.

The simple but often fatal equation applies: the worse the data, the worse the findings and thus the decisions.

Business intelligence, i.e. the collection, evaluation and presentation of data in electronic form, is thus becoming the supreme discipline. The procedure is actually clearly structured and consists of the four tasks:

  • Data extraction
  • Data optimisation
  • Data visualisation and
  • Select an appropriate BI tool to perform the first three tasks as quickly, flexibly and accurately as possible.

However, in order to deliver truly usable results, BI projects must be designed for the long term. For this reason, external consultants and IT project companies are often used in such projects.

Infocient: SAP BI Consulting - For efficient access to your data

One of these external BI consulting companies is Infocient Consulting GmbH from Mannheim. The company supports SAP users in the upper midmarket as well as large international companies in creating reports and analyses, cockpits and dashboards as well as planning applications based on the SAP software solutions SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI), SAP BusinessObjects (SAP BO), SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) and SAP HANA. For time recording and accounting, Infocient relies on ZEP - Time Recording for Projects.

"In the early days, Microsoft Excel was sufficient to create the corresponding activity sheets for the project work done, and standard invoicing software was used to write the invoice. The client then received the invoice plus the printed Excel list as proof of activity," Infocient co-founder and managing director Jochen Weintz recalls of the company's early days. "With only a few customer projects per month, the effort was kept within limits". However, as the company continued to expand in the following years, this approach reached its limits. Jochen Weintz adds: "The previous largely manual workflow for time recording and accounting proved to be no longer feasible against the backdrop of an ever-increasing volume of projects and an ever-increasing number of employees. Soon it 'felt' like it was costing us a whole day just to gather the documents required for accounting."

With the use of ZEP, it was possible to automate the manual effort and thus reduce it to a minimum. Jochen Weintz explains: "ZEP makes our work much easier. The solution is web-based and can be used by all our employees regardless of location and time. The use in the cloud computing model also has the advantage that we don't have to worry about operating the application and don't have to maintain our own IT resources."

The complete case study on the use of ZEP at Infocient can be found at here.