The business model of AB projects GmbH from Erlangen focuses on IT projects in the medical sector. Founded five years ago, the company has grown to nine employees in the past year thanks to strong growth in demand for its quality services. AB projects uses the SaaS tool ZEP Professional for time recording and project management.
The AB projects computer scientists are known for their efficient concepts: "We always offer an efficient IT solution that is also feasible," says Jürgen Heilmann, project manager at the company since 2010. He joined AB projects as the "third man", so to speak, to support the two founders and managing directors and supervised two IT migration projects. Two projects quickly turned into ten. Additional employees were needed. With the number of projects and experts in the company, the need for a reliable time recording and project management solution grew. At that time, project data was entered into Excel spreadsheets and - as with many "start-ups" - the founders and managing directors worked around the clock. There was only limited controlling in the true sense of the word: Time was recorded at the client's premises, travel expenses were settled on the basis of entries in an Excel spreadsheet.
IT consultancy projects vary widely and can last from five man-days to three years. Some are charged according to fixed prices, others according to hours. They all have one thing in common: they have to be efficient and save costs. "In the end, there has to be a plus for our clients and for us," says Heilmann, summing up the economic aspect. Precise recording of resources and control of the projects help here. In the past, agreeing on a fixed price always meant a high financial risk: "You always had to estimate the effort for new tasks on the basis of previous projects," says Heilmann. As a result, there was always a certain uncertainty factor in the calculations.
Heilmann found the provantis software "ZEP" on the internet. He tried out the free installation offered on the website via a test account and was taken with its performance. He is convinced that the solution is particularly suitable for those companies that see time recording and project management in connection and want to improve their performance via efficient post-calculations. Several other programmes that Heilmann compared did not meet this requirement. Among the employees, the introduction of the new time recording and project management solution was initially met with "a natural resistance to innovations." Some reservations had to be overcome until the switch to ZEP was made. "In everyday project work, colleagues have realised that it is not a waste to record their project data in ZEP, and they recognise the benefits," says Heilmann.
The implementation costs of ZEP were relatively low; only the internal training requirements grew as the number of users increased. As a key user, Heilmann is the interface to the ZEP consultants at provantis. In the meantime, the manuals are no longer needed. When questions arise, he appreciates the direct line to support: "Even if my first contact person is not available in the office, I get expert support - great.
Today, AB projects uses ZEP to record times and receipts, and the system is also used for travel expense accounting. In addition, the software is used to prepare invoices and to track invoiced project milestones. In the future, project control is to be carried out in even greater detail. The "overtime/holidays" function is now standard for all employees. When a new order comes in, the project is created in ZEP. Each project is assigned employees in ZEP and is divided into three to four milestones. Each milestone is accounted for in ZEP and the information is forwarded to the tax office. An important task that ZEP also takes care of is the (wage) cost distribution (DATEV) to the project cost centres based on the recorded hours of the previous month. Another special benefit of the system is the project cost centre-related recording of all receipts.
Heilmann: "Today, ZEP shows where which effort is being expended. From the results it is possible to conclude what can be done even more effectively in similar projects in the future." Many evaluations can be generated from ZEP. The most frequently used is the monthly evaluation on "Projects & Employees" (as a matrix). The list of projects is regularly submitted to the tax consultant for cost centre reconciliation. An evaluation that key user Heilmann uses constantly shows the total hours in the project and the comparison to the project planning. In the future, the computer scientist would like to see article management as another function so that quotations can also be created in ZEP.
"ZEP is ideal for recording planned costs and calculating internal hourly rates - an almost perfect solution for us," says Heilmann. All projects have become measurable, project control faster. His conclusion: "We are satisfied, ZEP supports the growth of our company in the right place - without ZEP the risk would be too great in case of miscalculation."
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