Mavenlink has announced a new feature for its PSA solution, Personal Utilization Manager. The new feature aims to connect consultants with the critical KPI – utilization. What Mavenlink is aiming to do is provide a nudge for consultants to update their timesheets. In effect they are providing an indirect benefit of doing so.
That benefit is to display how their performance and billing hours track against what the company expects of them. In behavioural science a nudge is a concept: “which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals.“ – Source Wikipedia.
Enterprise Times spoke to John Reese, SVP, Marketing at Mavenlink about the new release and asked why it was created. Reese replied: “Historically for most businesses when they have well defined billable utilisation targets per role usually it is something that management holds on to. Sometimes they get shared with individuals and often times don’t. Then, when it does get shared with them there is no way to track it in real time.
“That’s what this feature is really doing. It is bringing that visibility down to the individual in real time so they can impact their performance relative to the financial performance of the business.”
Managers can set up the utilization targets for a given individual. They are also able to ramp up the target figure during the time a consultant is onboarding. Additionally, they can set an alert to warn the consultant if they submit fewer than the weekly target hours.
The nudge is
Personal Utilization Manager adds an interactive widget to each consultants’ dashboard named Time and Utilization Tracking. It enables the consultant to view their tracked billable hours by day, week, month or even annually. The standard screen shows how many hours they have tracked on the current day and delivers a colour coded bar chart for the week.
Through use of colour, more information is available to consultants. Each bar displays the allocated time in grey. This will be lower on days where they have time off or scheduled unbillable time. As they track billable hours the blue bar rises to show the proportion of billable hours. If they exceed the allocated time the bar turns yellow. This means that time off and holidays do not count towards the target calculation for the individual.
A summary target for the week is also displayed, if the target is met then the dashboard displays a green tick. This adds a level of solo gamification to the widget that will encourage consultants to make sure that they log their hours.
Why is this important?
Reese then explained the thinking behind the new feature: “It is designed to create alignment between management and individual contributor or project team members.”
That alignment is key for success in professional services firms. Consultants who have a better understanding of how their efforts contribute to the overall profitability of the organisation are often more engaged. The Personal Utilization Manager delivers that engagement.
Currently, the Personal Utilization Manager tracks only billable utilisation against non-billable. Further breakdown of non-billable utilisation is tracked in management reporting. Is this a missed opportunity? Possibly, it means that consultants cannot see how they are doing against other targets over a longer period without consulting managers or other reports. There is much discussion around non-billable utilisation and its value, how much time should be spend on training or CSR initiatives for example.
More to come?
By Reese’s own admission this is not a major feature release. Instead it combines information already available within Mavenlink and presents it in a way that has a definite purpose. Reese described it as: “One of the features that we developed to keep progressing our mission to unlocking the potential within services organisations and elevate business performance.”
It demonstrates that Mavenlink is working to constantly fulfil that mission. As a cloud-hosted solution the roll out of these new features is simple and quick, as companies do not have to wait for a major painful upgrade. Administrators can switch on this new feature as a configuration option.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
Personal Utilization Manager is a small but interesting update from the PSA vendor. While in itself it is not massive, it has some interesting development paths that Mavenlink may, or may not, explore. It could add more levels of gamification. For example: Delivering the average utilisation of peers to the graph, thus driving ever higher utilisation.
Additionally, within the monthly and annual views it could also add some view of the valuable non-billable utilisation information. Also the use of yellow as a colour to indicate excessive hours is interesting, a warning perhaps. Using red may have stopped consultants from wanting to hit targets. It may have been better to introduce a slightly more complex scale though. For example: On reaching the target the bar should turn green from blue.
However, if the consultant exceeds a threshold, perhaps 10% it should then turn yellow, if the consultant worked excessive hours, say 30% over target it could then turn red. The use of colour in such performance graphs is important, its impact should not be underestimated.