Steven Burns, the Chief Creative Officer (and self-professed recovering architect) at BQE Software, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on project management. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.
Burns joined Buckner to discuss the modern challenges and demands on project management software of those in the professional services industries.
Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation:
TA: What are the main pain points that today’s professional services industry is facing?
Steven: Well, I would think the basic foundational issues for firms don't really change over time. Their services haven't really changed. What's really wonderful and terrible at the same time is that there are so many incredible different options and choices [to view and track data].
People now have become accustomed to having the information they want when they want it.
And having easy access to it, we have become spoiled by our iPhones or android phones or whatever our platform is. It’s kind of trained people to expect instantaneously they have what they need when they need it. That’s been a great challenge for us as as well, because we've been around for 20 years, so there’s a lot of legacy that we have and the way we develop software to provide technology to our customers back in the 90's. And even 5 years ago we had to meet the expectations of our customers.
But for me it's always come down to not so much the technology, but the fact that people don't always really want to deal with business management. They really loved doing their work. A lawyer loves practicing law. They love researching and defending and being with clients, but don't really care about the business side of things. And for me, that ultimately always comes down to how you can make managing your business or understanding your projects and your performance a fun, enjoyable part of your business process.
TA: How does all this information and data affect the functionality of project management software?
Steven: There's only so much you can tell people to do because we’re inundated with data. We would be overwhelmed with the data that's being given back to us. “Do I really need to know that right now? Is that going to make my job better? Is that going to make a difference in my client's life, the service I can give my clients?”
So for us, where we constantly balance the simplicity of what do the people really need to know right now in their lives against the fact that "wow we have all this great data wouldn't it be even nice for them to know that?”
And that's the struggle for I think every technology business type right now. Keep it simple and let people know what they need to know at the moment they need to know— but no more than that. For instance, is it really that important for me to know that over the past year I spent 130 hours dealing with tax returns to this client? That's a nice data point, but it doesn't actually make any difference in my life.
TA: That does bring up a really interesting question regarding time tracking data. What are some examples of why to keep track of your time? Are there any surprising benefits?
Steven: Well, it better be easy, or people won’t want to do it. A lot of people don't want to do it because they don't necessarily understand the benefit. We're always in pursuit of the magic time card that takes all the pain out of it to make it frictionless. But the real reason we need to know is to understand how you're making money. A lot of small businesses or professional services think they're profitable because there's money in the bank, but it might not be true profit. The number one reason it’s important to track your time is: you can never understand the true profitability of a project unless you know the costs that went into it.
Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes. You can also subscribe to just the project management category.