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How accurate is your project backlog?

Getting a handle on your MSP’s unscheduled projects can help you make smarter business decisions 

Accurate project backlog. Getting a handle on your MSP’s unscheduled projects can help you make smarter business decisions 

The phone rings. One of your managed service clients has made an acquisition and will require a number of projects. You collect the details about the projects, which is outside the scope of their contract, and give them a heads up that you currently have a four-week project backlog. They are disappointed but understanding and tell you they will plan around that schedule.  

Is that four-week estimate correct, though? How often does a client you have given this warning to call four weeks later, wondering when the work will start, only to be told it will be another two weeks? Many MSPs guess at how many weeks or months of work they have in their backlog, based on a rough estimate or a feeling. Using that number as a script when clients ask has downsides for your business. 

Inaccurate backlog estimates make it hard for your clients to schedule around your services. It’s also hard on your staff: They are constantly faced with irritated clients and working long hours to keep promises. It also means that you aren’t planning for the work you have or making business decisions based on your real workload.  

Estimating your backlog is a math problem. But it requires that you first manage your projects with smart tools that help you gather the data.  

Here’s how to get a handle on this important metric. 

Better portfolio management 

With Perfect Project’s portfolio management tools, calculating a precise number of hours for your backlog is easy.  

After that call comes from the client and those opportunities are won, you create all those projects from your templates in Perfect Project, classify it as backlogged or intake, and put it in the queue to be scheduled.  

You do the same with every type of project.  

Whenever a client signs a quote on an opportunity, you follow your conversion process and apply the appropriate project template and put the work in your queue. Once you are off and running with Perfect Project, you will have a template built out for every common project. The template knows the dependencies, labor hours, type of necessary labor (what level engineer, how much project management time, etc.), and the duration of each project. 

This way, your backlog is more than a list of projects, it is an accurate estimate of the labor hours and overall timeline each project that is waiting to be scheduled.


If you operate like this, you can tap into that data to make all sorts of intelligent business decisions. 

How many projects are in the backlog? That’s easy. 

How many hours of engineering labor will those projects entail? You can glance to find this answer. 

How much money does my backlog represent? Again, easy. 

You can also compare your backlog data in hours – specific to each skillset – to your capacity. And that’s when you start get into some predictive intelligence around projects. 

Once you know how many hours of projects you have backlogged, you can use that number to plan. Do you need to hire? Do you need to outsource work? When? What? And how much? Your backlog, if you calculate it precisely, can give you accurate answers to these important business questions. 

You can also give accurate estimates to clients, which will prevent those angry calls that are burning out your team, help you manage customer expectations, and improve your customer satisfaction. 

Schedule your backlog 

The next step, once Perfect Project’s intelligent project planning tools are part of your process, is to establish a firm timeline and resource assignments for each all projects in the queue.  

Since each project template has the historical data needed and Perfect Project’s resource management tools let you see every team member’s capacity at a glance, this is easy. It knows everyone’s capacity and allows you to add work. So, you can start planning work you won’t get to for weeks or potentially months. This will give you – and your team – a look into the future.  

This is so fast and easy, once you have the necessary templates built, that you could do it while on the phone with your sales or account management team, or even the client.   

That might go like this: You discuss the project with the client, decide which templates this work will require, open that template, and look for resources who have the skills and capacity to do the work. 

“It looks like we are nine weeks out on this kind of work,” you tell the client when you see – realistically – that your engineers start to free up then. “I know that’s longer than expected, and we are working on hiring to remedy this. Can I book you for that time? I will let you know if we can get to it sooner.” 

You schedule the work to occur in nine weeks. The client is now able to plan their own team around an accurate estimate. And your team won’t get an angry call from this client in four weeks. 

As you do this with every project in your backlog, you will quickly begin to see what skills you need to hire for and when you will need them. You will have insight into the types of work that represent an ongoing demand and projects that would be better handled through outsourcing. 

High-speed flexible timeline adjustments 

Each project in your backlog represents work you can’t bill for yet. You want to complete that work and invoice for it. But if you don’t have the capacity to do it, all you can do is work toward fixing that. But with Perfect Project’s fast and flexible tools, you might discover you have more capacity than you are aware of. 

Let’s say a client calls to postpone a project that’s scheduled to happen next week. With inadequate planning tools, this might mean a frustrating idle period for an expensive engineer or a big chore for whoever does your planning.

With Perfect Project, you pull up your project backlog and do a quick search for a project that can be accomplished in the same timeframe with the same team. You need work that’s about 40 hours, that uses a remote team, and that requires these specific skills.  

There are six or seven projects in your backlog that meet these criteria. So, you hunt for the one that’s been in the backlog longest or has the highest price tag. A few minutes after the cancellation, you’re able to call another client and offer an earlier start to their work. They are thrilled. Your team is not idle. And you can bill for an that job sooner. 

Managing a portfolio of projects requires intelligent tools that can help you get work scheduled and accomplished and that gives you the insights you need to help grow your business – including helping prioritize your backlog.  

There are many other ways Moovila’s intelligent, automated project management tools can help your MSP thrive and stay ahead of the competition. Learn more about our project management offering for MSPs by taking a click-by-click tour or exploring our IT Services resource section 




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