Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants


Unlocking the true value of time

By Chartered One

Unlocking the true value of time

For over 30 years Bryan Roberts, VP of Intapp has been involved in helping companies apply state-of-the art software solutions to underpin their strategic and operational objectives and goals.

For the past fifteen years, Bryan has been particularly focused on the provision of business take-on and compliance solutions, practice management, including time management solutions in the UK Financial Services, Legal and Accountancy industries.

Here he gives his views on one very important issue for all of us – TIME.

Time recording has been one of the most active technologies within the professional services arena over the past 18 months, with traction not only in the traditional sectors such as legal but increasingly within the accountancy space too. But why? What are the factors behind this accelerating groundswell of firms either switching away from existing timesheet/jobsheet systems or embracing new specialist systems for the first time?

The answer is quite simple. At the sharp, decision-making end of an organisation, you have finance directors, managing directors and CEOs now focused far more on understanding the true cost of doing business. It’s about getting a clear picture of what it actually costs to deliver a piece of work to a client, be that accounts preparation, an audit, tax advice, an investigation or business consultancy-type engagement. That means gathering accurate time and activity data for everyone, all of the time, whether that time is spent on client work (chargeable) or on business support activity (non-chargeable) or even on travel (chargeable or non-chargeable).

Without that data you can’t conduct the sort of analysis that will powerfully inform aspects such as pricing, budgeting, resourcing, job profitability, individual performance and productivity. In short, you need the data as an input if you are to have analysis as the output and better decision-making as the outcome. That puts the onus squarely on time recording systems to deliver timely, accurate and comprehensive data sets in the first instance.

The slight irony is that the technology per se isn’t the big news. Rapid, accessible and affordable Cloud-based deployments of functionally-rich, slick and intuitive applications have transformed the appetite of timekeepers for what was once a hugely resented and poorly executed administrative task. With the right choice of toolset, the majority of individual’s time these days can be captured automatically and seamlessly; not only does a better quality of data result but effort that once went into painful timesheet construction can now be reinvested in the more gratifying area of fee earning.

So today there’s no longer a need to get so hung up on the tech - much better to reappraise your thinking around the whole fundamental question of time. That’s why we’ve been encouraging firms to shift their mindset, to no longer exclusively focus on time as a function of billing; but to look beyond that tradition and to start better understanding the currency of time, to see how time relates to cost and how time/cost data can be leveraged in ways that have real value to the business. There’s a truism that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’; and as the results of trial periods have come into the executive boards of our customers, and the stats and metrics have started to be weighed up, it’s been possible to see a whole new level of empowerment developing, a feeling of much greater control through much improved knowledge.

Was the time allocated for that audit on the money? Was that piece of value pricing based on fact or finger in the air? How much scope creep went on in that engagement? How many hours were spent in total on that advisory work? Did jobsheet time entries tally with actual time spent? Was the resourcing level – and the respective input - appropriate for the charges levied? How much travel time needed to be factored into costings?

The visibility and granular nature of the data collected, and the ability to socialise the resultant findings through the business, is a huge step forward in helping accountancy professionals to gauge the true cost of their work; and then to use this knowledge to shape a more value-oriented but profit-aware approach to the delivery, pricing and resourcing of services.

Those that have successfully shifted their mindset and adopted what we call Total Time Management (TTM) are now no longer concerned by the daily routine of timesheet submission, but focused almost exclusively on the transformational potential afforded by better data and bolder thinking. Whether it’s innovative pricing models or the reengineering of the professional ecosystem or the recasting of client relationships, TTM has the power to drive change and to unlock, finally, time’s true worth.

Bryan Roberts
Vice President of Intapp