Hiring external consultants is a critical strategy for many businesses. It can cut your costs, increase your available talent, allow you to leverage remote workers, and improve your efficiency. For these reasons and others, some companies depend almost entirely on external consultants.
But depending on outside help presents significant challenges as well. It’s vital to have an effective project management system for controlling work scope and tracking hours in order to maximize your investment. It’s also necessary to track expenses and to maintain oversight of IT tools. Here are some tips on how to help achieve these goals in order to save time and expenses when hiring external consultants.
Improving Timesheet Oversight
One of the fundamental challenges with employing external consultants is the problem of tracking time. Consultants typically challenge by the hour, making time of the essence for calculating expenses. But since outside consultants typically aren’t located on site, time tracking can’t be handled through a traditional punch card system. A digital solution is required to avoid getting overcharged for nonproductive hours.
The best way to facilitate remote timesheet oversight is to use productivity tracking software tools designed for this type of task. For example, Time Doctor provides an interface that lets you track time worked for all team members, including remote workers, with the breakdown by client, project, and task. You can track time worked as well as break time, with options for advanced supervision. Screenshots, webcam shots, chat monitoring, and web monitoring let you see how time is being used, and you have the ability to automatically nudge workers who aren’t being productive. Analytics tools allow you to see how your team is spending their time so you can optimize your work schedule for maximum productivity. Billing and payroll are calculated automatically to save you time on bookkeeping paperwork.
Tracking expenses is another challenge when managing external consultants. Consultants may have certain expenses that require reimbursements, such as equipment costs or travel. Both for accounting and tax purposes, it’s necessary to track these expenses carefully. This can be complicated, especially when workers are traveling and are short on time for expense reporting.
You can save time on expense reporting by using expense tracking software tools such as Zoho Expense, Certify Now, and Expensify. Today’s expense tracking tools often include automated scanning so employees don’t have to manually enter receipts. Cloud-based expense reporting technology enables you to automatically link the reporting process to payment and bookkeeping software, saving you paperwork. Travel reporting is also integrated into some of today’s expense tracking tools.
Managing IT Tools
Managing IT software effectively can be another issue when employing external consultants. Your in-house team and your consulting team may be used to using different software for key business processes such as communications, calendar scheduling, productivity, and project management. Getting everyone on the same page is essential for a smooth workflow.
Setting a standard policy on which software to use when interacting with consultants can help you coordinate your collaboration so you don’t suffer IT mix-ups that can cost you valuable billable time. For example, Vast Conference’s Conference Calling services allow companies to manage, simplify, and document internal and client-facing calls, with features such as live chat, screen, and file sharing, call recording, and integrated transcription. This makes an ideal platform for managing communications with consultants. Similarly, standardizing your productivity and project management software can help you maintain a steady workflow.
Managing external consultant collaboration can be challenging, but you can streamline the process by following some best practices. Using productivity tracking software automates the process of time tracking so that you don’t get overcharged for billable hours. Expense tracking software simplifies the process of expense reporting. Standardizing your project software helps your internal workers and your consultant team stay on the same page. Implementing these strategies can keep your relationships with external consultants time-efficient and cost-efficient.