Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Example Timesheet Template using Excel

Deploying timesheets with your staff can have a variety of benefits from controlling hours worked to more complicated activities such as recording what tasks are worked on, even down to supporting tasks such as job cost billing.

Creating a timesheet isn’t overly difficult and can be achieved with Microsoft Excel fairly easily.

Before starting – consider the information you want to record for example

• Employee Name
• What period the work reates to e.g. Week Number/Commence date
• What hours have been worked on which day
o What time rate (e.g. overtime standard)
o Total Hours worked
• Does it require authorization
• Do you need to capture hours not worked?

The timesheet template is divided into four main parts

1/ Titles – what the template is about

2/ Employee details – details such as a name, payroll number

3/ Hours Worked details – The hours worked and the remuneration

4/ Hours worked summary/totals – total of hours worked and a sign off element.

Example Timesheet Excel template video

Check out our video below that takes you through the steps in how to build a excel timesheet template:

Training Matrix Template

Staff competency is a key factor in all businesses – the ability to carry out the job in the right way and produce the right result is paramount whether your organization’s producing widgets or selling services. Skill levels of staff can have a significant impact on both your productivity and the quality of the product produced. A workforce that lacks training can contribute significant cost through excessive production practices and rework requirements.

Maintaining the appropriate skill levels within the company is therefore a key task. This is often achieved through developing and deploying a skills matrix coupled with a training matrix. The skills matrix will typically cover job roles and the associated skills. The training matrix will then provide a mechanism for analyzing the staff against the skill requirement and then tracking their training plan to achieve full competency.

Purpose of a training matrix

The main purpose of a training matrix is to plan the alignment of staff skills against the job requirements – producing a template for a training matrix isn’t complicated (check out the video below) there are a few basic steps and principles to follow (also you don’t need any special software Microsoft Excel will do fine!).

Producing a training matrix template

A training matrix template can be produced easily using Microsoft Excel –

1/ Gather a list of the employees that you’ll track (note you could choose to do this grouped by department or trade)

2/ List the requirements against the roles

3/ use the matrix to annotate against the individuals where skill levels are adequate or where training is required

4/ Establish a training plan to “fill in the gaps”.

5/ Review regularly to keep the matrix up-to-date regarding training undertaken and staff changes.

Watch the video

Drawbacks of Benchmarking with other organizations

While Benchmarking is undoubtedly an important tool in facilitating “best practice” into your organization (for more information on the background to the process check out our article on Introduction to Benchmarking) there are plenty of pitfalls which if your not careful can result in your benchmarking activity being unsuccessful.

In this article we’ll look at 5 common problems with benchmarking with other organizations.

1 – Comparing like for like

One of the major problems for benchmarking across multiple organizations is ensuring that you compare like for like. It’s important that you remove any subjectivity and look to compare processes and metrics that are easily measurable and with quantifiable data and results at both ends.

2 – Open book review

Unsurprisingly benchmarking organizations within your own business sector can be complex due to the unwillingness to share data for fear of impacting competitiveness. This is a very real issue and can often lead to benchmarking activities underperforming as there is an unwillingness to share best practice. This is one of the prime reasons why many organizations opt to either utilize industry organizations/associations or benchmark outside of the industry.

3 – How best practice is best practice

Remembering the primary reason for benchmarking is to facilitate the movement of best practice into your organization it goes without saying that you need to be really sure that best practice is best practice – a smaller sample group, incorrect measures, an inability to capture the process enabler can all result in a failure to either incorrectly establish best practice

4 – Single Business or industrial sector Benchmarking

Too many companies fail to establish the correct organization to benchmark with – remember it’s all about best practice – selecting any old company simply wont do – one consideration is whether to benchmarking against a single business or an industrial association or group. The latter may offer a better approach as they are more likely to provide an industry sector understanding of best practice and most likely have established benchmarking initiatives.

5 – Finding the “best practice driver”

Finding the activity that results in best practice can be difficult – from initially establishing – through use of metrics – better performance the next step is to find out (through a process/system etc) what is causing it. This can be more difficult than it sounds and can require thorough analysis of the process – getting it wrong can lead to two specific problems – the cause of the best practice is incorrectly established and secondly if transferred into the organization will fail to deliver the expected improvements.

Pricing Strategies for business

One of the fundamental concepts for any business is the selling of its products or services – this will in most cases involve the customer exchanging money in return for the product. The level at which this money is set is termed the price. Prices are not fixed and can be subjected to strategies and influenced by market conditions.

Pricing Strategies

Pricing strategies usually fall into two camps –

Firstly New Product Pricing strategies exist to support the introduction of products into the marketplace – these strategies usually support marketing from a market awareness perspective and also to get a foothold with consumers – examples of these pricing strategies include introductory discounts or where the product offers some unique qualities which can exert a premium – the price may be set to represent this.

Existing product pricing strategies – Pricing strategies for existing products will typically mitigate market conditions – this could include tracking the market rate for a given product (e.g. suppliers of fuel for example follow the market) – price reductions to secure market share.

Once a strategy is established – a business may deploy short term tactics to react to the market – this could be in the form of promotional offers (buy one get one free) to discounts.

Introduction to Business pricing

Example SWOT analysis and follow up action sheet built using Word & Excel

As we said in our article on SWOT analysis – The SWOT is a great tool for capturing information and issues relating to your business (in particular it can be used during strategic planning) – we also think it makes a great addition to a standard monthly management reporting pack.

Luckily you don’t need any special tools or software to produce a SWOT and the simple 4 box template is easy to setup in MS Word.

Due to the nature of a SWOT analysis capturing pieces of information that often require follow up actions we like to pair our SWOT with a simple action list which you can build in Excel – this takes the items captured within your SWOT and turns them into a simple plan with owners and review dates. Why do this? Well all too often you’ll construct a SWOT analysis and use it in a presentation or report but there is a tendency to forget all about it and move on to the next business issue – this simple action plan allows you to record those issues you need to follow up on in a simple straightforward way.


SWOTS can be easily constructed using MS Word – go for a 4 box (one for each element) or as we like to do a 3 x 3 this enables you to articulate which elements are internal/external and which are positive/negative attributes – this may not mean much to you but if your going to be communicating your SWOT to anyone unfamiliar with the tool it can be really helpful. The other thing to remember is when you add your inputs into the SWOT remember to number them so that you can refer to the numbers in your action tracker.

The Action Plan

We like to couple our SWOT tool with a simple action plan tracker that captures the inputs from the SWOT and turns them into a list that can be used to track activity and attribute owners. We’ve chosen to do this in Excel (but you could easily create a list in MS Word to do it).

Example SWOT video

What’s included in a project charter

A project charter is a common Project Management tool used to convey key information around the Project and its deliverables. It is produced early on in the project process and is often used to gain approval from key stakeholders for the project to proceed.

When new projects are being proposed its important to collate and share key information amongst decision makers – the project charter provides a vehicle for that activity and in doing so provides a snapshot of the project at approval stage and what led to decisions being made.

Using a project charter infers a certain discipline in project management as a robust charter will include determining objectives, risks and issues and helps mitigate ambiguity about the project approach and targets. This final point is important – for a project to be approved stakeholders need to know beyond reasonable doubt what’s it about and how it will achieve. As such the power of a project charter as a communication tool should not be ignored.

The project charter will usually be authored by a mix of the Project Manager and the Project Sponsor – the actual mix will vary from project to project (and also organization to organization).

What to include in your charter?

While there’s no set template for your charter you’ll want to consider the following:

1/ Objectives
2/ Scope
3/ Stakeholder assessments
4/ Risks
5/ Assumptions and Constraints
6/ Approvals
7/ Cost Appraisal
8/ Initial Timeline

Once signed off by relevant stakeholders the Project Charter acts as the Project Managers authority to proceed and certain elements of the charter can be transferred into a Project Initiation Document if required.

SWOT Analysis Example

Following on from our article on the SWOT business tool we thought we should put theory into practice with an example swot analysis

For this example we we’ll take a look at a SWOT analysis from the perspective of a small manufacturing company.  Their looking to develop themselves and develop thier strategy to understand their issues and exploit their marketplace – well make some assumptions that it’s a niche provider and that it’s customers key drivers are cost and quality.

So jets get too it!

Brainstorming your SWOT Analysis

Firstly when brainstorming your SWOT it’s helpful to have some data around you – SWOT’s can sometimes be subjective which can lead to personal opinion getting in the way of fact.  But what should you consider?  We often like to think of four variables when building our SWOT.

People, processes, systems and Market

However you might want to also include key issues that affect your business (the above should give you a start!).

So let’s take a look at the SWOT




  • Loyal staff with low turnover
  • Existing long term order book
  • Established high quality product line
  • Strong design ties with customer product



  • Old inefficient capital equipment
  • High rate of yield
  • Bottlenecks in some production cells
  • Knowledge not shared evenly across workforce
  • Inefficiencies due to legacy IT system


  • Introduce effective IT system
  • Introduce new, more efficient, capital equipment
  • Expand customer base
  • Introduce training plan for all staff



·         Long term customer strategies to move to lower cost providers

·         Capabilities not aligned with market needs

·         Poor cash flow


What next

The SWOT should be seen as a planning tool and help in the strategic process and therefore the end result of your SWOT analysis should not be the SWOT by itself but coupled with an action plan that capitalizes on your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses and threats.


This last point is crucial without a plan to correct key issues your business could suffer as a consequence.


Finally consider the frequency you’ll review your SWOT this shouldn’t be a onetime only process regular SWOT assessments will help capture new issues and ensure appropriate action plans are delivering the changes required to keep our organization efficient and competitive.

Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 2

Part one of the article can be found here Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 1

4/ Build project plan

Your project Plan is a roadmap of how you will deliver your project – it contains the activities, milestones and deliverables and gate reviews that will be required.

There are various ways of producing a project plan from using software such as Microsoft Project through to simply writing it out as a list of tasks – the method you use is really upto you but the more complex the project (and the more resources you need to manage to help deliver it) the more likely you are to need suitable project management software.

You may benefit from building your plan in work packages i.e. certain activity that has a definitive deliverable – the reason for this is varied but it helps you monitor achievement and allocate owners for specific areas of the overall project – for example a package of work could be “deliver training” – this may be constructed from various stages including building training material, allocating resources such as rooms and “training staff”, obtaining test software etc.

Ultimately your plan should contain

1/ Activities
2/ Resources or activity owners
3/ Timescales
4/ Dependencies
5/ Deliverables

You should also consider including “gate reviews”. Gate reviews are stages of a project that allow you to formally review progress of a project before moving on– they allow you to review progress against costs and timescales – review your risks, issues and assumptions and appraise your steering board of any key deliverables or challenges that requires support.

5/ Implement your plan

Once you have your team and your project plan your ready to go (assuming you have the any tools you need!). As discussed above – implementation is often carried out in stages and you’ll need to have regular reviews with your project team and key stakeholders to ensure your meeting your cost and timescale objectives – breaking your project into work-packages will allow you to easily assess progress – using resource tracking software (again take a look at Microsoft Project)will allow you to produce reports of activity that needs to be done and provide your team important updates regarding their schedule.

It’s important to foster open communication during project delivery – ensure that if anything goes wrong or where timescales aren’t met the Project Manager is informed – this will allow you to remain in control and iterate plans or update risk and issue management where required. Place a close eye on any dependencies you have – this one area that can make a project turn sour fast!

6/ Complete plan and measure the benefits

Once you’ve completed the project you’ll want to ensure that your project has delivered what it set out to achieve – if you stated that by implementing your project you’d save 40% of your company’s costs – you’ll probably want to follow that up – ensuring your assumptions were right and that your project deliverable is functioning as planned!

Typically your customer will want to get involved in this and you may find that your project’s not over until your customer says it is! Best practice would be to ensure at the start of the project your deliverable is clearly delineated and benefits are accurately articulated to ensure there’s no ambiguity.

7/ Lessons learnt

The project’s over – you’ve delivered what you set out to – and your customers very please. Your final task should be to produce a lessons learnt report – this is your opportunity to critically assess what did and didn’t go well with the project – and how you could have done things differently – the reason for doing this is that this information can be invaluable as a teaching aide for other project managers in your organization – don’t overlook this step as this can really make a big difference!

Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 1

One of the challenges that new project managers face is that they are often daunted by knowing what activities and stages should take place within their project timeline. While formal methodologies such as Prince 2 & PMP can provide a basic framework novice Project Managers often find such tools complex and bureaucratic and be put off from the benefits that they can provide an so initiate their project without an understanding of those steps that will facilitate success.

For most projects there are some common steps and activities – these can be adapted into most plans in some guise and while the detail may depend on your deliverable you may wish to include those steps shown below.

Project steps: the essential project elements

1. Project initiation

Project initiation refers to the steps involved in getting your project off the ground and typically this will include:

• Defining the deliverable and it’s benefits (i.e. the reason for undertaking the project)
• Defining the project scope
• Producing some form of cost benefit
• An initial risk assessment and assumptions
• A Stakeholder assessment – who will your project impact – include customers and suppliers to the project consider who will support your project and who may sabotage it!
• Appointment of a steering board
• Project Approval

Depending on the complexity and cost of your project, Project Initiation can take various forms. Often a project charter is produced which summarizes the benefits, costs, risks and high level timeline that the project will take. This can then be presented to appropriate decision makers who allow the project to go ahead.

Formal Project approval is usually required and is especially needed where costs and resources are used. Budget can then be granted, usually with a certain tolerance that once (or if likely to be) exhausted will be referred back to the steering board for review.

2 Risk management

Risk Management is a key Project step – effectively this is the process that captures and manages potential pit falls (for example a failure of hardware to be ready on time in a IT deployment). Risk Management has a number of key attributes namely.

Risk Capture
Risk assessment
Risk avoidance & mitigation
Risk monitoring

For more information check out the following article on Project Risk Management

3 Project Team formation / Project Organization

Once your project is approved you’ll need to form a team to help implement it. Again its size and shape will be dependant on the skills required but most project teams have a number of project related functions that they undertake:

• Help produce and co-ordinate Project Plans
• Undertake Work Packages
• Report on risks and issues
• Communicate to stakeholders

Part 2 of the article can be found here Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 2

Benchmarking strategy

The process of Benchmarking refers to identifying processes, procedures and systems assessing your performance among a peer group, identifying best practice and then incorporating it into your organization.

Benchmarking can be used when undertaking strategic planning as it directly relates to the execution of strategy through processes, systems and policies. Benchmarking can help in the assessment of organizational goals and whether they can be met.

Perhaps crucially through selecting the appropriate peer group benchmarking can directly feed back into organizational planning as key activities and initiatives within the marketplace can be incorporated into goals and targets. This is especially true when the peer group is a trade association or trade group. The challenge here is visibility of performance and methods – and while “Best practice” can be subjective capturing it statistically in a competitive market environment can be difficult.

The actual process for benchmarking isn’t overtly complicated in that it requires a series of steps to be completed and some upfront decision making in what will be assessed.

The key steps are:

1/ Being clear in what you’re benchmarking – backed up with data and metrics
3/ You select the right peer group to benchmark from – you are able to back up best practice with data and choose the right partner(s) to benchmark with
4/ You follow up your benchmarking with an improvement activity to bridge the gap between current status and best practice
5/ You regularly undertake benchmarking to ensure that you keep abreast with your peers.

The key to using benchmarking for strategy is appropriate ties between the benchmarking team and strategic planning – used correctly benchmarking can support strategy assumptions and drive decision making to target improvements and initiatives that will support strategic goals.