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Get Your Team to Love Non-Billable Hours

With all the focus on client projects and billable hours, it′s easy to forget that we sometimes have to work on internal things, too. Marketing, human resources, or even administration–these non-billable  tasks support the client-facing side of the PMO, and therefore have to be given the same importance.

But how do you get the team to understand this?

Bill to Value

Some people seem to think that non-billable hours are a waste of time because they don′t make any money. Teams could be so concerned with their quota of billable hours that they start crediting hours when they shouldn′t, or even block billing.

But not all non-billable hours are a waste. In fact, non-billable tasks could potentially earn more money than a billable one.  A developer could spend an hour to writing a blog post, which in turn convinces a client to award the PMO a project. Is that non-billable hour still a waste of the developer′s time?

What you could do instead is bill to value. Assign values to a task (as arbitrary as you wish), whether they′re administrative, marketing related, or for team or personal development. Show the team these non-billable hours still count for something, even if it′s not a client project.

Implement Transparent Reporting

One problem with non-billable hours is that nobody on the team can see what you′re doing. Instead of helping them out with the looming deadline, you′re sitting there doing low-priority work (or so they think). This can draw resentment from other team members, even if you′re working on an important internal project.

Transparent reporting lets people know exactly what you′re doing, and why it′s valuable enough to spend away from a project. Combine that with the “bill to value” system, and you′re elevating the status of non-billable hours to the same level as projects. Which brings us to our next point.

Give Non-Billable Hours Equal Priority

Non-billable hours tend to be shoved aside in favor of “real” project time. Project managers are just as guilty of this as the rest of the team. But if you want your team to take non-billable work seriously, you have to give it the same importance as billable work. This means no pushing things off unless it′s a life-or-death emergency (a real one), and treating your own non-billable deliverables as if they were client requests.

Keep the above strategies in mind the next time you assign non-billable work. Once your team starts taking internal tasks seriously, you′ll be able to deliver better value to both your organization and the client.

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