The Goal of Service Quotes
Delivering projects on time and on budget remains a major business challenge for professional services firms. Achieving those goals begins by helping your Account Executives set their projects up for success!
This is where the Service Quote template comes in mighty handy.
An extension of your scoping or discovery document, Service Quotes define the relationship between an Account Executive’s Statement of Work (SOW) deliverables and the delivery team’s budget and timeline.
Service Quotes are your organization’s first line of defense to ensure your team is properly managing the allocation, timeline, and budget of a project.
Moving from “Look & Feel” Quoting
Because a repeatable processes can’t live in your head
Even mature businesses sometimes determine project budgets with the “look and feel method.” The problem with this method materializes as the subject matter experts get further and further away from scoping projects. Maybe a business could do this while scaling, but with a team of 100, you need a process to foster success – both from a profitability and resourcing perspective. When an Account Executive hands-off a project to the delivery team, it shouldn’t be the first time a business is thinking about or assigning roles, budgets, or timelines.
Service quotes are meant to do several things:
- Standardize a relationship between timeline and budget
- Ensure a proper timeline to deliver
- Show potential resource allocation
- Organize role and human resource budgets
- Give project management a full view of ALL hours on the project including admin time like per-quote planning and development
- Factor in potential risk hours for Fixed Bid projects
Using Roles to Build Projects
Because working towards a budget vs deliverables is more sustainable
There are varying levels of sophistication when assigning teams or individuals to projects and it all depends on your particular business model. But we have found success tracking projects by roles.
If you use more than a few team members to complete a project, then roles are extremely important. Even if using a flat hourly rate, roles help organize project duties and differentiate between internal cost rates. For example, if everyone is billing at $175 an hour, but costs vary by person, then expected margin and profitability are effected. Another example would be that if a project is on budget for hours but your highest paid developer is 20 hours over and your lowest paid implementation specialist only billed two hours – you’re hitting your target but not your margin.
In addition, assigning hours and budgets to roles gives you an incredible amount of insight into a project as it is progressing and when it is complete.
For example you can:
- View estimated hours & budgets vs. actual cost
- Understand profitability more clearly
- Allocate multiple resources on a team or across your organization to achieve the hours required in the timeline available
- Bill at different rates
Understanding Administration vs. Development vs. Margin
Because deliverables aren’t going to manage themselves
Sometimes we forget that the heartbeat of a project is the person managing it. Your project managers keep everyone accountable and on target to reach the team’s delivery objectives, while the BA’s and Solution Architects help craft the user stories and design the project to enable the team to build and configure the correct solution, in terms of both UI and UX.
The Service Quote template ensures that whatever size project you’re running, you appropriately give the project management side its required hours. These project percentages between development and management should be split about 80/20. And by determining the development scope, you help establish the management parameters of the project as well.
It’s also important to remember that projects don’t start on day one. There are knowledge transfers, research, and meeting preparation time that also needs to be accounted for. So, when building out your customized Service Quote, it’s crucial to add in prep time as part of the whole project scope. If you don’t, a single one-hour team meeting between the AE and the delivery team (Project Manager, Business Analyst, Implementation Specialist, Developer) puts the project four hours behind budget.
Creating reasonable timeline goals and proper resourcing
Because proper timelines and resource allocation are the keys to success
Before the client puts pen to paper and indeed, even before the Account Executive shares the SOW, there needs to be an established communication process between the Operations and Sales teams. This is a top down transparent review process that needs to be determined from the Head of Delivery to the Director of Sales. So that when an Account Executive gets the client’s approval on a contract that states: “project to start within 2 weeks of signature,” resources have already been secured to hit that timeline.
A business’s project success starts with a well defined communication and approval process between these two departments. The Service Quote goes a long way to prep the team on the expected timeline and level of effort before the delivery team starts their own discovery and build process. The trust between these teams is crucial to ensure the project starts smoothly.
Below is a guide to help determine where responsibility falls:
|Sales Provides||Delivery Approves and Confirms|
|Scope Document||Scope Review|
|Project Risk||Executive Review|
|Signature||Schedule Knowledge Transfer|
Anticipating Project Risk
Because we don’t live in a perfect world
You can avoid risk in two ways:
1) Give an astronomically large quote to cover all your bases, or
2) Bill everything as T&M with a large budget.
This, of course, is only applicable in a fictitious world where your client has an infinite budget and is completely hands-off.
Back in the real world, Account Executives and Solution Architects do their best to understand the project’s deliverables and correlate those to appropriate budget hours. But no project, client, or team member is perfect and even a well scoped project can go awry.
Before they give approval of a Service Quote and put those final budget amounts into the client SOW, a VP or CEO may conduct an executive review to assess project risk. During this assessment, they can perform a gut check and increase (or decrease) the overall project budget.
As we mentioned above, it is important to standardize and create best practices around your processes, but sometimes it comes down to experience to protect your bottom line.
A seasoned executive can draw on past experience to help the team determine if any of the following factors come into play:
- The project has an extremely tight timeline so there is a cost premium for more experienced team members that can keep the project on target
- Third parties will need to be involved for integrations which could result in delays.
- This is the first time the client is undergoing a major software configuration, so more PM support and extra time needs to be added.
Putting the Service Quote template into practice
How to use this tool
The Service Quote template is meant to be tailored to your business.
Using your most successful projects as a guide, you can create best practices, develop standard project hours and implement budget parameters so that projects of similar complexity and scope have a solid foundation to build upon. In other words, they won’t be starting from scratch.
The goal is to enable your team to make strategic decisions, project by project. It lays the groundwork for successful project management and execution, while giving your team the freedom to make their own decisions within an established framework.
So, the next time a client asks for an email campaign, to implement a PPC campaign, or create a single RPA process, your team can simply turn to the template adjust the hours, risk percentage, and role rates to meet the client’s requirements.
The Service Quote template comes with several standard timelines – 5 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks+ or a retainer/dedicated resources – and include, at minimum, a week of prep.
For example, let’s say you’ve determined that there are 158 configuration hours needed for the client. That means the AE should start with the 10-week timeline (Sheet 2 on the template) that includes 47 hours of Administration Time and 127 hours of Development. From there, they can tweak hours assigned, review onshore or offshore resource allocation, and add a risk threshold.
We are always available for any questions you may have regarding best practices for your organization and are happy to be a sounding board! Feel free to reach out through our contact form, or directly via the contact information below:
Timothy is a fanatic of all things process related and passionate about problem solving. He takes great pride in helping others hone in on their pain points and delivering solutions that result in greater profitability and operational efficiency.