Every engineering firm is trying to do more with less. Engineers are under pressure to exceed billable ratio targets, while leadership wants to increase client satisfaction, and IT is expected to make business run smoothly while minimizing their cost to the business. At first glance, these goals seem at odds with one another. However, achieving all three is not only achievable but quite simple.

On Tuesday, March 14 at 1:00 Eastern, Kerri Whelan, Product Marketing Manager at Polycom, will present a webcast on how engineering firms can increase billable hours while keeping clients happy. In under 30 minutes she’ll present common use cases for video collaboration, collaboration solution innovations and success stories. We hope you’ll join us for this exciting event. In the meantime, we sat down with Kerri for a preview of her presentation.

 

What sorts of things make it difficult for engineers to exceed billable ratio targets?

There are three major levers that an engineering firm can focus on to impact billable ratios.

The first is client communication. This is especially meaningful at the front end of a project. When the project team truly understands the objectives of the client, it not only prevents costly missteps during the project, but also allows the team to come up with the best possible recommended course of action when problems are encountered.

That brings us to the second lever, which is problem solving. Engineers tend to be binary by nature (project plans are either “right” or “wrong”), but the work they do is often wrought with unexpected obstacles. Whether it’s human error, the opinions of a planning board, or a statistically unlikely environmental impact that comes to fruition, problems will occur and it is how project teams react that often make or break a project’s budget.

The third is resource management. With economic, environmental, and even legislative forces at play, project work often comes into an engineering firm in bursts, leaving projects understaffed during the busiest times and with many resources billing their time to admin during the quietest times. Effective resource management allows you to charge the most billable hours during busy times and minimize administrative billings when times are slow.

 

Why is a video collaboration solution a good fit for an engineering firm?

It’s been proven time and time again that face-to-face is the best way to communicate. And video conferencing has been helping businesses of all kinds make eye contact with people inside and outside of the organization without leaving the office.

What makes video conferencing even more interesting to engineering firms now is the advances made in interoperability, integration, and cloud delivery models. The latest video conferencing technology allows engineering firms to collaborate with clients, sub-contractors, partners, contract workers, etc. regardless of their device or location. With the right integration, video collaboration is embedded in the solutions engineers are already using. And cloud deployment of video conferencing means the firm can start small, scale quickly, upgrade often, and only pay for what is actually being used.

 

How does IT support come into play?

IT can be at odds with the resource centers within an engineering firm, often viewed as a “necessary evil” that reduces the overall billable ratio of the firm. It can be difficult for IT to secure funding let alone the resources required to deploy new technology to engineers, and adoption is often stifled with perceptions that IT doesn’t truly understand the business.

But that doesn’t mean that IT doesn’t have an important role to play. Once executives understand the value of video collaboration, IT has the opportunity to elevate its status by recommending a solution that makes starting a video call simple, intuitive, and quick. It’s also imperative to recommend a solution with a tenable support strategy, like the cloud deployment option mentioned earlier or one that includes managed services.

 

Can you give us a sneak peek at one of the use cases you’ll present during the webcast?

We probably won’t get this specific in the webinar, but I want to share a story that I think really drives home the impact these solutions can have for engineers.

We were speaking recently with a project manager at a small, New England engineering firm. The job site for his largest project was 3+ hours away and he got a call at the end of the day from a field engineer that something was going wrong with the materials being used in the project. They spent 30 minutes on the phone discussing the issue, but were unable to resolve it. It sounded like faulty material, but the project manager didn’t feel comfortable initiating a complaint with the material vendor until he knew for sure.

So after rearranging his schedule for the following day, the project manager spent nearly seven hours of travel time to/from the job site to spend less than 15 minutes looking at the material and deciding it was a failure in the material.

The project manager initiated a complaint with the supplier and heard a flat “no” at his first request for replacement material. Fast forward several weeks, it came to light that the material was failing on several other job sites and that the supplier knew about the failure for weeks.

Now imagine that same scenario where the project manager examined the material from his desk while the field engineer pointed the camera on his tablet towards the points of failure. And that same conversation with the supplier, but instead of just hearing a flat “no,” you saw the supplier shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

It’s not difficult to see the impact video conferencing could have had in this one small example. When you multiply that times the hundreds of client communications, problem solving, and resource management decisions happening within an engineering firm in any given day, it seems crazy to do business any other way.

 

Register for the webcast, Increase Billable Hours While Keeping Your Clients Happy to learn more from Kerri on Tuesday, March 14 at 1:00 pm Eastern.