Friday, April 27, 2012

SOP Friday: Managing Internal Administrative Tasks

Our organizations are outward-facing. That is, we are designed to provide services to other companies. As a result, we focus heavily on service requests from clients. But there are plenty of things to be done internally for our own companies. There are four basic types of internal activities:

- Training

- Administrative work

- Internal tech support

- "Unbillable" work done in support of managed service contracts (including drive time if you don't charge for that)

We will refer to these internal activities as "Tasks" to keep them distinct from client-facing Service Requests. You may choose to create internal Service Requests or Tasks in your PSA system. In either case, we'll refer to these internal tasks as Tasks.

We create these Tasks because we need to track all time during business hours. Why? First, we use our PSA to track employee time and generate payroll. Even though we might not be able to bill a client, we still need to pay the employee. Second, when it's time to analyze where our time goes, we will only be able to generate meaningful reports if we put useful data into the system.
For example . . .

- It is very useful to know how many hours are spent supporting clients. This is much more than the number of "billable" hours. If you don't charge for drive time, then you need to know how much time was spent on this activity. When you have someone check the service board and verify that everything is right (see Massaging the Service Board), that's company-wide overhead that you don't bill to a specific client.
Note: This is not the same as labor that is included within a specific client's Managed Service Agreement. Those are Service Tickets or Service Requests and have hours allocated, but simply have a zero dollar amount.

- Internal tech support is simply the maintenance of your in-house computers and network. It's not zero. It shouldn't be too either. If you have some technician who claims to spend an hour a day on internal tech support, you have a problem.

As with Service Requests, internal Tasks have priorities. Here's a place to start defining these:

High Priority
- Should be completed today before anything else. Must be completed before close of business.
Example: Get your Supervisor Evaluation form from last week completed and turned in.

Medium Priority
- Needs to be done this week or the deadline is less than a week away.
Example: Get signed up for next week’s Exchange training before all spots close.

Low Priority
- Needs to be done but there is no specific deadline. Usually these items are more of a reminder.
Example: Research New remote access tool to see how it compares to our current solution.

Activity Work Flow

Activities in the PSA system are basically the "To Do" List for a technician. Activities do not violate the rule that all work is performed against a Service Request because the time will always be logged against some SR even if it is a Tech Admin SR.

An Activity with a properly assigned priority is a way for the Service Manager or a Technician to create a time slot to get a good deal of work done in a block. This avoids working an an "interrupt driven" mode. In other words, a tech can knock out six or eight little chores in a half hour block. This is far more efficient than doing each item individually between client-facing service requests. That almost always results in six or eight time entries at fifteen minutes each!

Activities are worked from highest priority to lowest and from oldest to newest.

As hard as this is to believe for some people, every task that needs to be done should be entered into your PSA system. It might be high, medium, or low priority. You have to believe in the system! If it's IN the system, it will get done. If it's not in the system, it might get done. There's a big difference between "will" and "might."

Note: You can avoid abuse by having all technicians work in real time, and by having the service manager receive emails or text messages whenever a task or service request is closed. "Real time" means that technicians enter their notes and close tickets as they complete them. There should be a steady flow of work throughout the day. If you have technicians who clock in and spend the first hour of every day on "administrative" tasks such as checking email, you give them guidance on how you would like them to work.


This SOP requires three things. First, you need to define your priorities. Start with what we have here, but customize it for your business. Second, Write up your procedure so that you present them to technicians (and the whole staff). Third, you need to train all employees subject to this process. After that, everyone on the team should remind and support one another on this process.

There are no specific forms for implementing this SOP. You simply begin using your PSA system a bit more (or differently) than had before.

Your Comments Welcome.

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