Sunday, December 16, 2007

We won't be popular!

One of the things that has taken a lot of time this last few weeks [in between everything else] is planning for the new year. That involves three things - budgeting, time budgeting and prioritizing activities. Cyprus changes from the Cyprus Pound to the Euro on January 1st, so one thing we had to do was change the way we budget from Sterling/Dollars to Sterling/Euro (and Dollars). With the dollar weakening by the day we had to look at how projects that work in dollars will affect our cash flow. Also meant that except with partners from the USA we will either work in Sterling or Euros, whereas we had worked in Sterling or Dollars.

In reviewing all the finances to produce a budget we found that the most significant cost in terms of labour was not the administration of all the services we provide to partners, but the ongoing development in terms of labour for the services. Ongoing development is the upgrades to the services we need to do each year to ensure that all the security etc is working and up to date. For instance, for email it takes more than 8 man weeks of labour to do the annual upgrades. So we have decided that as a result of this we will add in an extra line to our invoices to partners to show the cost of doing this so that get a truer idea of the costs of these services.

That overlaps with looking at our time budget. Our total labour cost in administrating services is nearly half a man year and our total labour cost in development/upgrades for services is over 1 man year. When you take into account organization admionistration, vacations etc, we reckoned it basically took Pete and me working full time to keep going. And we are not here to be a service organization!

We realised that if we continue on as we are, we have no time for the new projects that are coming up. These new projects are more important to our aims and objectives as an organization than some of the projects we had been providing services for for partners. We're not saying that some of our partner projects are unimportant, to them they are, and to other people they are, and if we had time we would help. It's just they are not core to our organization. So we took a long hard look at what we are doing in the service area. It was difficult, most of the services we provide to others we need for our own projects too.

There was only one thing we could find we could cut that would not adversely affect our own projects. Its quite a big service we have been providing to five of our partners. But if we can redeem any time for the projects that are critical to us then it has to be cut. We won't be popular!

So that looks like it just might work, especially if we can expand and take on a couple more workers this next year as apprentices so that by 2009 they are starting to carry more of the workload. In discussions with one partner it looks possible we shall have funding for this to happen...

But... this week I have a couple of colleagues over from the Middle East and they have brought with them a number of other projects they want us to help with. Groan. In Europe and North America you just 'Sorry, no way'. But in the Middle East, where relationships are key this is a big problem. So, they were expecting us to increase in what we could do with them and we are trying to decrease. What's more they are looking at some of our freelance staff to do more work for them, which will make them less available for us. Aieee... just when you think life is complicated enough, it gets more complicated.

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