At first glance the job he'd done on the pet-themed Web site seemed a job well done to Todd Jones. His Internet consulting company, Semtor Inc., had built the site efficiently -- or so he thought. But when it came time to bid on the next job, Jones took a closer look. It turned out that his company had invested 1,724 person-hours in the pet site, 124 more than it had figured into the price. "That cost us about $6,000," Jones says.
Jones knew the exact numbers because Semtor, based in Weston, Fla., uses professional services automation (PSA) software from Toronto-based Changepoint Corp. (www.changepoint.com). Invented by techies for techies, it helps consultants figure out what to charge before a job begins and how to track their services once a project is under way. The software is licensed for a one-time fee of $500 to $2,000 per user. Customers can also rent it from Changepoint over the Internet for $70 and up per user per month.
Companies are also using Changepoint to help their own technology departments track their costs -- and justify their budgets. For instance, at Integris Health Inc., a health care network based in Oklahoma City, the 160-person IT division is planning to use the software to send dummy bills to other departments to chart how it's spending its time. "When the VP of a different division says, 'I don't get anything out of IT," explains Integris IT director Cynthia Hilterbrand, "we can say, 'That's interesting. We gave you 2,000 man-hours."
PSA's ultimate value may be as a management tool for projecting costs for future work. Jones says that the detailed information that Changepoint provided on the pet site job allowed Semtor to bid for its next job more accurately. Integris, too, plans to use its new knowledge about IT work demands to budget IT staff time.