Why is so much of my engineers’ time non-chargeable?

Marine Klein
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Engineers’ time drives value and profit – make the most of it! “Office manager” is such a bland title when you think of all the things the job involves. Some have suggested “jack of all trades” as an alternative, but that still doesn’t quite do it, because people always come back with the riposte “… and master of none” – which is a long way from the truth.

Perhaps a more fitting title would be Chief Logistical Officer or Multitasker-in-Chief. Because running an efficient small or medium sized business involves keeping everything under control. It may be a cliché to say it’s a juggling act, but it is true: take your eye off one ball and they will all tumble to the floor.

Perhaps that is why an office manager is very often a woman. It may be a stereotype and there are exceptions but women tend to be better at multitasking while men are more focused unitaskers – both are essential skills and in a successful business operation they must complement each other.

This is especially true in a plumbing, gas or heating company where the owner or boss tends to be from an engineering background. Day-to-day execution – in other words, getting things done – falls to the office manager.

And the major attribute required to do this is willingness to take responsibility: pressing yourself hard to meet obligations, which often means going above and beyond your duties.

But the heart of the office manager’s mission is to maximise value – and that means, above all, maximising the proportion of engineers’ chargeable time. There are three major dimensions to this challenge: people skills, project management and analytics.

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People skills

If you are an experienced office manager, you already have these in abundance. You exude integrity, practical logic and tireless dedication to duty and this sets the right tone for winning the respect of a team of engineers. On the other hand, those engineers are generally not in a position to see the “bigger picture” like you.

And this means you are likely to be spending an inordinate amount of time relaying the facts necessary to make others grasp a situation and take action, such as fitting in an extra job that wasn’t on the morning timesheet.

Sometimes, and with the best will in the world, this can come across as “cajoling” and it can breed resentment within a team, such as the feeling that some engineers are being treated with varying degrees of favouritism.

That’s just human nature. And no matter how good the manager’s people skills, it can lead to a strong set of individuals failing to function as a team. Ask José Mourinho!

Solution:

Having the facts not just at your fingertips, but also automatically in front of team members can save you an enormous amount of time and nervous energy while giving your engineers the feeling that they are in control and in a better position to make a stronger contribution to the company’s success.

For example: let’s say, for unforeseen reasons Engineer A has to spend more time on a job than expected, and can’t make his next appointment, while Engineer B has already completed his job and has a slot free.

At the same time, you are busy setting up future appointments and unable to make calls to both. Wouldn’t it be better if you could remotely rejig the two engineers’ diaries and make these visible on their mobile phones?

This would take the pressure off Engineer A while saving Engineer B from downtime or a wasted trip back to the office. End result: more chargeable time and no need to reschedule the customer’s appointment.
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Project management

Project management is one of the most prized disciplines in large corporations, and with good reason.

It is the discipline that involves initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.

Which basically describes what you are doing for much of the time, when you work out daily and weekly rosters, and adjust them as needs arise.

The difference is that at a large corporation they have a range of IT support tools to guide them through the process, whereas you are probably relying on personal and team diaries that are put together with a pencil and a notebook, or perhaps a Google or Outlook calendar.

However, when it comes to managing a team of people, such as service engineers, the possible permutations increase exponentially with each additional individual. When you are managing a team across a wide geographical area, further complications arise.

Even if you have a PhD in decision science, you are not going to arrive at the optimum solution without the IT support that is appropriate to your business.

 
"This software is a must for anyone looking to expand and progress their business. Commusoft is not only a software package, it is another employee.“

Solution:

Effective job tracking can be of huge assistance in the planning, execution and controlling of teamwork. Moreover, it is vital in meeting your number one success criterion, which is to maximise profits by optimising the use of time while minimising costs.

Moreover, if timesheet management links directly to your invoicing you need not leave money on the table. And on top of this, it will help you to meet another important success criterion: customer satisfaction, since there will be fewer missed or deferred appointments and engineers will turn up better informed about customer details and history.

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Analytics

A fancy word – but it describes precisely another area of your job that is difficult to grasp with even the most disciplined and well-organised of brains!

For example, do you have a firm grip on which engineers charge more time than others – and why? What is your projected sales revenue and profit and loss for the coming quarter? How is your cash flow?

If you are unable to get to grips with such questions then your company is simply never going to reach its full potential and might even run at a loss. And if you are trying to answer these questions manually or with spreadsheets it will be a huge drain on your time.

Solution:

With the right job management software, all of the relevant information is not only captured automatically, but can be used to generate standard reports that give you a clear picture of resource usage and financial performance, with clear and easy-to-understand graphics. So when the boss asks for a report, it is only a few mouse-clicks away.

"Commusoft is really easy to use, we had a new office person and when she came to the office for her first day she logged straight into Commusoft, was given a quick visual tour of the program, and within 5 minutes she was on her own."

See how Tim, get the most of Commusoft's software.

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