The SAP consulting firm Vikalp Solutions was missing out on revenue when it couldn't properly track and invoice all the billable hours it provided to clients. The answer? A new SaaS-based business management application from iBE.net that is customized for IT consulting firms.
Vaibhav Gupta is the managing partner for Vikalp Solutions, a 42-person SAP consulting firm in India. His job is to effectively manage the projects the firm does for various clients, and ensure proper task management so workers know what they are responsible and accountable for on a daily basis as well as from an overall project point of view. Gupta also does billing for his company, which entails collecting accurate time and expense information from employees and billing it properly to the customers.
It's a lot to handle, but it's all in a day's work for a typical manager of a small IT consulting firm.
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In the past, Gupta and his team used a range of tools to manage the business aspects of running this company. From project management and collaboration tools to spreadsheets and email, Gupta had to hunt and peck through siloed information sources to understand the status of projects and manage his human resources. He says the company had lots of issues around tracking billable hours and generating accurate invoices, which sometimes resulted in a loss of revenue for the company. It's never a good thing when a company can't collect the money it has rightfully earned. Luckily for Vikalp Solutions, this problem was solved by adopting a better business management application.
Toward the end of 2012, Gupta's company started using a fully integrated end-to-end business management application from Integrated Business Environment Inc. iBE.net is a new SaaS solution that provides industry-specific applications designed for running virtually all aspects of a small to midsize business. The initial market for iBE.net is professional services such as IT consulting and service management, with more business types to come.
Vikalp Solutions uses the iBE.net app to organize its workers and run the business. The app supports managing projects, managing tasks and collaborative work, capturing project time and expenses, managing employees' time and attendance, managing customers with lightweight CRM, billing and invoicing, and tracking payments. Soon the product also will provide general ledger, banking integration, tax reporting, employees' skills tracking and development, and other important business functions.
"We were using a lot of open source systems and project management tools like Basecamp," says Gupta. "The problem was we'd have our project management in one system and our time and expenses in another system using some other software. The data integration wasn't very good, if it existed at all. On top of that, it was costing us too much to use all these different applications."
Ironically, Vikalp Solutions is an SAP consulting firm, but SAP was simply overkill for running the small firm. What's more, it would have been too expensive and would have required diverting revenue-generating employees to work on unbillable internal projects.
Then Gupta came across iBE.net, which markets its application as the end-to-end business management tool that puts small and midsize businesses on a competitive level with larger enterprise organizations. iBE.net was built from the ground up to run in the cloud and on mobile devices. The collaborative aspect of the tool allows people to work together, even when they are dispersed in the field on different projects.
"We like the fact that iBE.net is very customized for our kind of industry," says Gupta. When he subscribed to the service he indicated his company is an IT professional services consulting firm. This triggered the software to deliver project management templates for common IT project methodologies such as agile development, ITIL and PRINCE2. The software came preconfigured with project templates based on IT industry best practices, phases and milestones. There also are preconfigured but modifiable templates for developing proposals, bids and contracts, which helps to standardize the way the consulting firm works.
The templates, along with the single source for all company data, have greatly simplified the way Gupta manages the company. "There are many ways we have found iBE.net to be in tune with our industry," says Gupta. "Specifically, the product templates, the workflow templates, the billing solution -- we could use them all straight 'out of the box' without any customization."
Gupta says his billing issues have been completely resolved by using the templates provided by iBE.net. "Our billing is based on time and expenses and based on approved hours from the customer. iBE.net has the concept of a pricing sheet in which they preconfigured all of that for us. Now when I run the billing process, this system picks up all of our consultants' time and expenses and generates the bill. It also converts our invoices into different currencies, which is important because many of our customers are in the United States, the Middle East and Australia. What used to take me three or four days to reconcile and generate the invoices now takes just three or four hours."
Gupta uses the iBE.net mobile app when he is out of the office to approve employees' time and expenses and to initiate and monitor tasks that different people are working on. The mobile app, which supports iOS today with Android coming soon, is a simplified version of the Web-based application. The mobile app allows workers to perform the most common functions that they would need while out of the office, such as log time, capture expenses, initiate or approve tasks, update project status, access documents and so on.
iBE.net is helping Vikalp Solutions run more efficiently and effectively. Gupta says that other small IT or professional services firms would benefit from the fully integrated end-to-end business processes and workflow built into the software. "Our experience with this software has been very good so far, and we like what we see on the future roadmap as well," says Gupta.
Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to her at LMusthaler@essential-iws.com.
About Essential Solutions Corp:
Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.