With all the focus on client projects and billable hours, its easy to forget that we sometimes have to work on internal things, too. Marketing, human resources, or even administrationthese 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 dont make any money. Teams could be so concerned with their quota of billable hours that they start crediting hours when they shouldnt, 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 developers time?
What you could do instead is bill to value. Assign values to a task (as arbitrary as you wish), whether theyre administrative, marketing related, or for team or personal development. Show the team these non-billable hours still count for something, even if its not a client project.
Implement Transparent Reporting
One problem with non-billable hours is that nobody on the team can see what youre doing. Instead of helping them out with the looming deadline, youre sitting there doing low-priority work (or so they think). This can draw resentment from other team members, even if youre working on an important internal project.
Transparent reporting lets people know exactly what youre doing, and why its valuable enough to spend away from a project. Combine that with the bill to value system, and youre 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 its 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, youll be able to deliver better value to both your organization and the client.
Image credit, Flickr, William Warby