Operational finance

Understanding your data and finance function

By September 30th, 2020 No Comments

Getting your team to track their time consistently is no mean feat. If you have managed to achieve that in your agency, give yourself a big pat on the back.

The next challenge is what you do with the data. You’ve put in the hard work getting the team to take time tracking seriously. However, this will be wasted if you don’t do anything with the data.

You also create a lot of admin with the time it takes to track their activity. And it’s not fun for them either!

So, if you’re making all of these sacrifices, you better be getting some serious value out of it.

Yet many agencies have never quite been able to get to a point where the data is speaking to them in a way that they get true insights into what’s going on in their business.

To make this breakthrough, make the team responsible for finding the insights.

You can ask the questions, but they need to find the answers. 

Here are the benefits of doing so:

1. They will acknowledge the importance of tracking the time accurately, in order for the insights to be gleaned.
2. They work out for themselves where their productivity issues lie
3. They start to think more commercially about the business that they work in

So, think about the questions that you want to get answers to, and ask your team to come up with the answers. If they can’t, it’s probably because the way they are tracking time isn’t working, and that gives them the impetus to work out how to adapt their model for tracking time to match the purpose of doing it.

Here are some questions you could be asking:

  1. Which of our services are the highest and lowest contribution to our profit?
  2. Out of our clients, which are the highest and lowest contribution to our profit?
  3. Which teams are highest and lowest contribution to our profit?
  4. From the roles we have, which are highest and lowest contribution to our profit?

The challenge with the last two questions of course is that the people finding the answers might be concerned about showing up themselves or their colleagues as being a drain on the company’s performance if they are shown to be producing a little or even negative financial contribution.

It’s therefore so important that you make your intentions clear about why everyone needs to know this information. It’s not about throwing people under the bus, it’s much more about how the business grows. Explain your commitment to keeping the people that you have now and that the data might just suggest you don’t bring in lots more of the services/roles that are proven to drain cash from the business.

There is also a point that as long as the team/department/pod is making a healthy contribution overall, the individual role contribution might not be so important, particularly if their contribution is affected by a high amount of internal activity – management, business development, etc.

So, get your team tracking their time right first of all, then decide what questions you want to ask of the data, then task your team to find the answers and present back to you. If you get this right, your team will take ownership for improving the performance of the business – this is perhaps the most valuable project you could work on in your business.