Project Status: Datto’s KPI #8, let’s jump right in!

  • by
project management

 

Now we’re talking! Finally, a topic we can really sink our teeth intoLet’s jump right in and skip all the rhetoric about how if all we did was Projects, life would be easy 

Or, until the projects come along, throwing all requests into a single queue seems to workOr, MSPs start to realize how inefficient Service Delivery is operating when Projects raise the noise to a deafening levelPMI’s PMBOK Best Practices are not our reality 

Ok, Ok, I will stop and get to Datto’s words of wisdom now… 

Click here for a Sales to Service Delivery Project Management Workflow.

Click here for a full Sales-Sales/Engineering-Project Management detailed step-by-step process.  

To get the eBook from Datto, download it here.  

Datto8th KPI: Project Status 

  • How you deliver projects is core to your service portfolio.  
  • Track projects to determine which ones are behind or ahead of schedule.  
  • Prioritize tasks that are due this week and uncover which projects are at risk, so you can proactively address issues and get things back on track quickly. 
  • If the project is overdue on both days and hours worked, then that project is way overbudget. 
  • Even if the project is a fixed price, be sure to track changes for out-of-scope work. This will allow you to adjust project templates for the future. 
  • Forecasting capacity is another important factor connected to project status. It determines how many projects the MSP can take on in the coming weeks and months. This also ties back to resource utilization, but with a lens specifically for projectsMSPs need to understand what the project burden looks like so that they can answer questions like, “Can I take on 5 on-site projects next week?”.
  • Gantt charts view is a great way to keep track of project workloads. This view allows you to visualize when hours are to be delivered and when tasks and projects are due through a calendar display. 
  • Properly tracking projects will help you avoid spending excess time on projects that can result in losses.  
  • If tracked correctly at the onset, projects can be one of the most profitable areas of an MSP’s business.

Let’s unpack this article and look at exactly what is being said 

  • How you deliver projects is the core to your service portfolio. 

That’s funny, I thought how we deliver Managed Services is the core of our service portfolioMPP – Managed Project Provider? Nah, that leaves too much outProject Service Provider or maybe Managed Service Project – it’s still MSP, but does it make sense? 

Based on our experience, unless Customer requests are being segmented and managed into separate workflows, there is a high level of inefficiency (lost profit) in the Service Delivery operationsBut it is not until a significant number of projects (more than 10 a year) come along that the noise and disruption levels get so high that an MSP notices. It is like boiling a frog or lobster in a pot of waterThey do not even realize the temperature of the water is rising…until it is too late. 

So, how you deliver projects is key to the core of Service Delivery operations.  Not because they are the core, but because they will disrupt the core, being the Managed Services we Provide (the true meaning of MSP)  

Here are some of the Activities that can reign Projects in: 

  1. Identify them with a very specific criterion. Such as any request with an estimated 16 hours of labor or more. 
  2. Tickets coded differently so they are easily identifiable, such as a priority of Project. 
  3. Completely different Sales to Project Management workflow including a SoW, BoM, What Was Sold meeting, Planning Time, and weekly Customer update meetings. 
  4. For larger projects, Engineering Review and Network Assessments before submitting the proposal to the Customer may be required. 
  • Track projects to determine which ones are behind or ahead of schedule. 

And 

  • Prioritize tasks that are due this week and uncover which projects are at risk, so you can proactively address issues and get things back on track quickly. 

Both of these bullet points can be addressed together by scheduling a weekly Project Management meeting where all open projects are reviewed for these types of issues  

At the same time, you can also review what is in the Project Sales PipelineIn addition to the project task issues, knowing what opportunities are in motion and when they are expected to close will weigh heavily on how to address these two bullet points. 

  • If the project is overdue on both days and hours worked, then that project is way over budget. 

The three sides of the Project triple constraint are Time, Cost (Budget), and QualitySo, it stands to reason that if the project is over in days scheduled or hours worked, it is over budget – or quality is going to suffer to finish on timeGood to know that the Triple Constraint is true – now what is an MSP to do about it?  

Tackling Over-budget IT Projects at the MSP 

From my experience, when dealing with a project that is over budget, it is best to let it goFinish the project strong, take the loss, and double down on lessons learned so that this is the last project that loses money (Ok,let’s be reasonable here) 

Pain can be a great motivator and teacherIt is often realizing that projects are losing money that drives an MSP to embrace the fact that projects need to have a different workflowNot just a different workflow in concept, but something that is very alien to the MSP culture 

What does it take to execute projects profitably?  Doug Rabold says it takes 12 things in this article 

Where do you start? Easy! Begin with these few critical pieces: 

1. Communicate (go figure), not just during the project but before, before again, during and after. 

  • Before the project opportunity proposal goes to the Customer for signature, Service Delivery should see the SoW and BoM, and have an opportunity to bless the proposal. 
  • Before engaging on the project, Sales needs to communicate to the Project Team what was sold, and the Lead Tech needs to communicate the project plan. 
  • During the project, weekly update calls between the Project Manager, Lead Tech, and Customer must be held. 
  • After the project has been completed, the Support Team needs to review the internal deliverables (Client Docs) and accept the project as completed before the Project Team is released from the project. 

2. Planning, not just between the close op and boots on the ground, but once the opportunity is created in the PSA software until the last phase of the project kicks offThis not only includes the project plan, but also: 

  • Scheduling 
  • Impacts to the Customer 
  • Logistics both for Parts and Engineers 
  • Communications 
  • Each of the 12 steps 

3. Portfolio management, or the tracking of projects across all Resources, throughout all future weeks, until the last project date is accounted for.  

  • Forecasting capacity is another important factor connected to project status. Forecasting capacity determines how many projects the MSP can take on in the coming weeks and months. This also ties back to resource utilization, but with a lens specifically for projectsMSPs need to understand what the project burden looks like so that they can answer questions like, “Can I take on 5 on-site projects next week?”. 

This bullet point right here merits an article unto itself, not just the 67 words written hereFortunately for you, there is such a thing: 

https://www.sbuyze.com/?s=Resource+Planning 

https://www.sbuyze.com/rpvideo/ 

  • Gantt charts view is a great way to keep track of project workloads. This view allows you to visualize when hours are to be delivered and when tasks and projects are due via a calendar display. 

Using the Gantt Chart in Autotask as discussed in Datto’s eBook is a simple, easy way to see what project task dates look likeThe challenge for MSPs is that it is not granular enough for a Pivot Gantt Chart (not sure this exists, but I hope you get the idea) 

For an MSP, which projects are scheduled is less important than which Resource is scheduled with which Customer project (and who is available to take the existing project so you can add to their workload).  A simple off-line Excel spreadsheet with Resources listed down the roles and future weeks across the top will do the trick.  Populate the cells in the crosshairs with the name of the Customer whose project the Resource is scheduled to do that week.  Keep in mind  the real schedule is in Autotask and can be seen in the Dispatchers Workshop. 

  • Properly tracking projects will help you avoid spending excess time on projects which could result in losses.  

It’s unclear how Tracking projects will help avoid spending excess timeFrom our experience, it is the planning and communication that helps you avoid spending too much time on projectsIn other words, the project will take as much time as it will takeAs far as how to avoid the resulting losses, this is where Lessons Learned comes in: 

  1. If you are losing x% consistently, plus up the proposal by that amount. 
  2. Form a habit of tracking how long it takes to do each phase in a project (hint: many projects are single-phase, single skillset projects). Plan and schedule for the time it takes to do the project, not what the Sales estimate is. 

I do not know of a single Engineer who purposely takes their time doing a projectIf the project goes over budget, it is usually because: 

  1. Not all the parts were in the Build of Materials, or  
  2. The estimated time to complete it was a guesstimate and not based on past experience 

Properly tracking projects is for the purpose of communicating to Sales when the opportunity that is going to close in the next month will be started and ended with a reasonable probability (100%).  

  • If tracked correctly at the onset, projects can be one of the most profitable areas of an MSP’s business. 

This is so trueWhile MRR is the economic engine, Projects are kingThe appetite for Project billing rate at 50% higher than all other work has Owners salivating 

Done right, 50% of the Service Delivery Team hours can be T&M billing, another 30% proactive recurring scheduled engagements, and only 20% break/fix 

But to get there takes a lot of mindset shifts, hard work, and doing things that do not come naturally – Communication, Planning, and Close-outs with internal and external sign-offs. 

To get the eBook from Datto, download it here. 

Summary: 

The 300 words Datto gave us are a great start, but to really do the topic justice, it takes a series of articlesIn case you missed it, here is our Project Management series: 

 

Click here for a Sales to Service Delivery Project Management Workflow.

Click here for a full Sales-Sales/Engineering-Project Management detailed step-by-step process.  

 

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply