This last week I gave a presentation about CRM strategy. After the presentation, there were some interesting comments made by the business owners in the group I thought might be interesting to both my technical and non-technical readers. Specifically about business services workflows. After a lot of good business question, this weekend something has been nagging at me. So I went back to the basics for business services organizations. I thought I’d take advantage of your interest and share some of the insights I gained.
From the context of workforce productivity, a business services organization is split into two business roles: Billable roles and Non-billable roles. For the business services organization to be most productive these roles need to be delineated and organized to avoid staff members performing both types of roles. The business services staff workflows are divided into either billable or non-billable roles. All role tasks are then organized to support keeping the billable roles from being distracted by non-billable activities.
So for example, in a law office the managerial, front desk, sales, office manager and the accounting roles are all non-billable. The attorney’s and the paralegals are both billable roles. Profitability is directly dependent on how much time is lost when the billable roles are distracted from billable activities. This is fairly intuitive.
The problem is that in many business services where billable and non-billable roles. In our law firm example, the owner, attorneys and paralegals are expected to perform both billable and non-billable tasks. What happens is that the larger the business grows, the more time the billable roles spend on non-billable activities. (i.e. Answering phones, selling the business, managing the business, etc.) Every minute a billable staff member is on a non-billable phone call is lost profitability. The reality is that the more time a billable role spends on non-billable activities, will directly (and negatively) impact the bottom line profitability of the organization.
So what is the solution? Well it depends. Mostly it depends on the owner and the vision of the organization. There are basically three strategies for growth, strategy 1 is to build a larger non-billable staff to support the owner (and raise the billable rate of the owner). Strategy 2 is to increase the non-billable time the owner spends on the business, in order to build a larger billable staff and take a piece of each billable roles income. Strategy 3 is to become highly specialized and only take on the most profitable diamond (vs. dross) opportunities. (Requiring an ability to find or attract those types of diamond opportunities.)
The owner of course will ultimately decide what business strategy(s) to choose. Based on this strategy will determine how to organize the non-billable and billable staff workflows to support maximum profitability. By following these business workflows the staff activities will naturally align to keep the billable staff as close to 100% billable as possible.
From a technical perspective… To this point my technical team has been helping the owner and staffs identify and plan these workflows. With and understanding of these workflows my technical team can import these workflows into the organization’s CRM, ERP and other business systems. Each staff member is then prompted to automatically follow the workflows designed by the organization. In this way billable and non-billable roles perform documented tasks a way that the owner has planned. Because the workflow was created by the management team, results can be measured by the team itself without having to become technical experts. The technical teams can then step away from the business management roles within the organization
I can’t go away without thanking Robert Sailer (Pacific Northwest Law Group), Mark Walters , Corey Hansen, Eric Veal, Mark Brown and Gavin Johnson (In Vigor Law Group) and the AU business club for their contributions to the presentation. The educational presentations are unique opportunities to get the input of many experts. The result is seeing the same business problem through another business experts eyes. Thanks to everyone involved.