The importance of a project management system

When starting a new home, service-based business, we have a tendency to use simple resources to help facilitate the launch process.  Simple resources are things such as spreadsheets and word documents. These simple resources work very well when a business is small, but as the business grows, they generally do not scale well.  This lack of scalability becomes a major limiting factor in the ability of the business to maneuver in existing markets and to expand into new ones.

To overcome this obstacle, the business ultimately must employ some system or mechanism that provides project management. Now, project management comes in many flavors, but for this post we are specifically discussing managing projects with-in the home services industry.  In this industry we are typically juggling multiple clients, projects, workorders, change orders, vendors, employees etc. There are a lot of moving pieces, and the ability to manage them properly can be the difference between a 10% profit margin and a 35% profit margin.

On a small scale, this is not the end of the world if your margins aren’t amazing.  But when you are talking an increase of 15% profit per project across 200 projects, now we’re talking significant dollars. The question is, are you one of the many small businesses just leaving this money on the table?  If you are, you need to start looking into driving efficiency using project management systems.

Every business has unique requirements and unique business practices.  What works well for one business might not work at all for another.  The same can be said for the various project management systems out there.  Some of them will fit your business like a glove, and some of them will feel like playing hockey with a baseball bat.  The point being, you need to go and look at what is available and take some of them for a test drive.

Some things to keep in mind while you do this. One of those things is pricing.  Knowing your numbers is important.  What can you actually afford?  Balancing what you can afford with the features you need is where you’ll find the best result.  It doesn’t do your business any favors if you are paying $400/month for a project management system that has 100 features and you only use 3 of them.  You would be better served paying $40/month for a different product that has 10 features and you use 3 of those. So, be sure to keep that in mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is ease of use. This might seem obvious, but the ability for a user to get in and start using a system is important. This could be the difference between using 3 features, versus 5.  If you can’t figure it out, you won’t use it and you are wasting your money.  Look for products that seem intuitive.

A third thing to keep in mind is initial setup cost. There are a lot of companies that offer products which include a setup cost to get you up and running. Generally this is an acceptable practice because it is often a very time consuming process and can be difficult to get an existing company plugged into a project management system.

My Field Manager came into existence to address some very specific problems. One of them was a lack of business insight. Business insight is a collection of data points which helps to establish your bearing regarding the current condition of your business.  Am I currently being profitable?  What are my average expenditures per project on labor or materials?  Business insight provides you with a real-time snapshot of how you’re doing.

My Field Manager was also designed to help juggle the scalability problems that are introduced by taking on multiple projects at the same time.  We built in features that allow you to easily access data on each project that your company is actively working on.  How much do we owe our vendors?  How much does my customer owe me?  Has this client been invoiced yet?  These are some very important questions that don’t always have easily available answers.  As a project manager, this information is critical. 

Now I can go on and on about the features we’ve already baked into My Field Manager, but it is definitely not the only project management platform on the market.  There are TONS of them out there.  If you take a look at what My Field Manager has to offer and it does not fit your business needs, I recommend two things.  One, let us know.  My Field Manager is under active development.  This means that we are literally building new features and making adjustments based on your clients feedback.

The second thing you can do, is spend some time browsing around sites like SoftwareConnect.com to see what else is available.  SoftwareConnect.com has a massive database of potential software solutions for your business, and they also have a matching service that you can use. This allows you to speak with one of their team members to identify what you are looking for, and they will help match you to products that meet your needs.

If your business is struggling to scale, or you are wondering where all of your money is going, then you need to get your business plugged into a project management system.  And even if you aren’t, it’s never a bad idea to evaluate products that might help you increase your margins further.

Ryan Farley

Ryan Farley

Lead Developer @MFM

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