Low-to-zero-touch invoicing, part 1: billing time

    Written by HarmonyPSA on 2018-03-26 Last updated 2020-02-03 - 4 minute read

You could say that the primary purpose of PSA software is to get the right invoice out on time.

Which makes it surprising when we speak to companies that don’t use their PSA tool for invoicing. “Too inflexible” is the normal response to the question, “Why not?”

How many companies do you think take timesheet data out of a PSA tool, dump it into a spreadsheet, pass it round for review/edit, then manually type their invoices and review them again before release? Based upon 100s of conversations, we reckon this is actually the majority of services business, seriously. This is really an indictment on the industry as a whole….

Common feature requests we get with enquiries are:

“How do I review and approve invoices before release?”

or worse:

“Can I edit released invoices?”

When you stop to think about this, these are really shocking questions given how much time, money and effort companies put into PSA systems. It says that:

  1. I don’t trust my staff to care about their time bookings; or
  2. I don’t trust my line managers to approve time correctly; or worse
  3. I don’t trust the process to set up budgets and rates correctly (do companies still employ admin staff?)

In other words, my business is out of control and the only way I can keep customers happy is for senior and expensive staff to spend their valuable time editing the answer!

Really, from an invoicing standpoint, the whole thought-process around these systems is wrong. Capturing data without consistent controls, followed by review, edit and second review stages is just not the way to bill time. It adds delays, wastes expensive people’s time and still manages to create errors.

It is also as far away from automated invoicing as you can get.

So, what is the answer to embedding quality in the process so that the right number arrives ready to be invoiced and can be released without review, edit, manual build or extra work?

How do you ensure that invoices go out the day they should, every day they can, with low-to-zero-touch processing?

The answer depends on the nature of the agreement; so let’s break the problem down a little and start with what is apparently the hardest area: billing time.

Timesheet approval is generally a two-dimensional problem. Someone is responsible for time and attendance while often other people are responsible for agreeing project-based time charges. This matrix can be further complicated with people working on many different projects needing multiple sign-offs to agree a timesheet. The lack of matrix approval in some timesheet systems is a common cause of invoicing errors.

Harmony solves this in a novel manner. Timesheets are approved by line managers covering their time and attendance responsibility, then any billable time has to be released for invoicing by each Project Manager impacted. Both of these tasks can be performed by people with the right Finance permissions as well.

Accuracy is ensured by viewing of billable time (and cost as rates have now been applied) as a consolidated list by project, in a form that can be edited without impacting the originating timesheet. This provides an upstream quality check before the invoice record is created, building quality into the process and eliminating the need to edit invoice lines or worse still, invoices themselves.

Once the invoice lines are created (following this two-stage check) they can easily be grouped onto an invoice, inheriting the invoice and backing sheet pattern saved for that customer and released. There should be no need to review the completed invoice if the configuration for that client has been set up correctly.

Because this process is fully contained within Harmony and nothing is being rekeyed, the two-stage upstream check should only create accurate billing elements.

This core end-to-end process now provides multiple opportunities for automation:

  • If you trust your staff to be accurate with their bookings, switch on-self approval. If your PMs trust timesheet approval, switch on auto-release. If some trust and some don’t switch this by person or project so that checks can be focused on error-generating staff only, making the checks more effective and saving pointless work
  • If you are using prepayment funds and booking against those, switch on auto-fund settlement to generate usage invoices and/or overage charges
  • Released time can then be bulk-invoiced from the invoice line queue. This works by selecting all the billing lines available, clicking on bulk-invoice and Harmony will raise the invoices, add the lines, apply the invoice patterns and time backing sheet patterns, email the invoices and post them to your accounting interface, with just two clicks!
  • Now select “pay by Bluesnap” to the invoice queue and all that cash can be collected and placed in your account

Note, throughout this process, no data has been entered after the timesheet entry, nothing downloaded or circulated. An entire month’s services time, invoiced and cash collected with a handful of clicks only - can your company do that?

As we add more automation, we will shortly get to the point where, assuming you have switched on all automation options, a tech could book time against a fund and with auto-approval, auto-release, auto-fund settlement, auto-batch invoicing and auto-cash collection you could go from timesheet submission to cash receipt without any intervention at all. The first zero-touch work-to-cash cycle in the industry.

We don’t think anyone will actually operate that way, but making it possible allows you to decide at which point you want to check and/or intervene.

Placing you in charge of the work you do, not the system.

This is the point of Harmony.

Read More

4 advantages of B2B online invoicing
The benefits of automation 
Why we're aiming for a touch-free work to cash cycle

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About the Author: Harmony Business Systems Ltd (HBS) is the company behind HarmonyPSA, the most complete cloud PSA software on the market. Developed with functionality to cater for even the most complex needs of MSPs, VARs, ISVs and Professional Services organisations, HarmonyPSA truly is the next generation of PSA systems. Follow HarmonyPSA on , LinkedIn or Website

Tags: billing time, Business, invoicing


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