IQbusiness was founded in 1998 and is the largest independent management consulting firm in South Africa. They are privately owned and proudly South African, with headquarters in Johannesburg and an office in Cape Town. The business has 800 employees working in consulting, research and contracting. As a business, they pursue select mergers and acquisitions which allow them to strategically fast track growth, diversify and evolve their business.
Challenges with Managing Consulting Projects
One of the main challenges IQbusiness experienced when managing their consulting projects was the lack of a single data source for project information. They needed to recapture sales and HR data for the project costing process. Ultimately, this impacted their ability to do efficient project billing. Annalize Croukamp, CFO at IQ Business, said, “the one thing that was fundamentally missing was an end-to-end solution to manage our consulting projects.”
Historically, IQbusiness had a system that was managed from overseas. Over time they found this solution to be inflexible and billing was impacted by a fluctuating exchange rate. After evaluating several solutions, IQbusiness chose to implement Sage X3 because of the system’s ability to scale as the business grows. The local support offered by Sage and SynergERP – a Sage partner – was also an important factor in the buying decision.
In the first phase of the project, the aim was to move away from managing projects with manual spreadsheets and whiteboards and to have a truly digital process providing visibility into project costing and resourcing.
The team working on this project can indeed be celebrated for doing a fully virtual implementation while under COVID restrictions. The project team chose this quote from Winston Churchill as their motto, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”
SynergERP consultants and the IQbusiness project team sort to understand the most business-critical aspects of the system. They focused on the development of a logical flow to manage resources and costing, from sales through to projects and billing. This was achieved using the functionality in Sage X3 as well as the enhanced functionality offered by SynergERP’s PJRC Advanced Module.
Benefits Attained in Project Management and Billing
Going forward, lead capture is part of the workflow in the system. Consultants working with large corporate clients can easily capture new leads for additional work.
Employees no longer need to recapture data from sales opportunities into projects – offering a significant improvement in the overall efficiency of the team.
Consulting hours required for future projects are calculated in the sales opportunity, and because the HR data is available in the core system, the relevant HR information can be pulled through e.g., hourly rate for resources. This simplifies the process of calculating the cost of sales in the opportunity as well as providing an understanding of future resource utilisation.
A sales opportunity is easily converted to a project making details from the sales opportunity instantly available for project management.
Timesheets are prepopulated with the project data, and with less manual entry, capturing project hours is much easier.
Users can update hours and capture expenses via their mobile devices empowering them to manage their project data in the system. Expenses may be marked as billable and allocate to the relevant project’s billing. This ensures that all billable expenses are allocated correctly.
There is better visibility of resource utilisation and management, from the allocation of resources that are currently idle or coming to the end of a project, to the tracking future project requirements.
Automations – the system makes use of workflows to reduce the need for manual interventions, ensuring that any changes e.g., hourly rate change, can easily be pulled through to all the relevant projects With project costing being largely automated, it has enabled reduced monthly closing times.
IQbusiness reduced their month-end close process from 18 days down to 4 and actioned their first paper-free billing month.
Having all project data in a single system simplifies reporting which can now be done according to dimensions that are relevant to the business. Managers can quickly obtain an overview of project performance and address any variances per project. It is also easier to compare projected sales with actual billing, and this visibility has helped to instil a more disciplined process for pipeline capture.
Because there is improved real-time data for projects, it has reduced the need to restate results after month-end and there is a closer tie-up between sales projection and actual billing.
Comparing Actual Sales vs Pipeline
Before the solution implementation, some quarters showed a variance greater than 50% when comparing the projected pipeline with sales. Once the project process was managed in Sage X3 the variance was reduced to less than 10%.
Following three acquisitions in 18 months, the Finance team were able to appreciate how simple it is to add a new company and migrate data to the Sage X3 system. Croukamp said, “I think the ease of this process is just phenomenal.”
With the successful completion of Phase I, the setting up of the core ERP project costing module, IQbusiness will embark on Phase II which will aim to provide enhanced scheduling functionality.
IQbusiness gained visibility of all business data, access to project accounting, the ability to track project profitability and advanced revenue recognition. The result – they plugged any revenue leakages.
Sage X3 and the PJRC Advanced module have created a feature-rich solution for a leading consulting company. The open architecture of Sage X3 offers IQbusiness flexibility. Croukamp commented, “Now we have the freedom to say we want to change this process in the business, and we can bring the system along.”