How Netgen regained full control of finances and reduced the number of innacurate invoices to 0

Managing one company is a very challenging task; managing two company branches in two different countries can be close to impossible. To add to that, not many tools can reflect such a structure - and that’s why Netgen decided to use Primetric for both its finances, resource allocation and project portfolio management.

Resource Planning
industry
Web design & development
Resource Planning
Location
Switzerland and Croatia
Resource Planning
company size
0 - 50
Resource Planning
type of projects
Both Fixed Price and Time & Material
Resource Planning
used software
JIRA and Tempo Timesheets
I have been actively searching for a good solution for 3 years. [...] After some time it was really clear that Primetric doesn’t have the problems that others have.

Christian Paredes

CEO for Netgen's Swiss branch

If you want to know how Netgen overcomes such challenges as:

  • inaccurate financial estimations, 
  • reflecting different types of project budgets in a single tool, 
  • enormous budget burnout, 
  • lack of transparency and a single source of knowledge for the entire organization, 

…then read on! 

What is Netgen? 

Netgen is a web design and development company located in Switzerland and Croatia. It calls itself a boutique agency, which does not intend to attract lots of customers; instead, it chooses its customers to provide them with top-notch services. It mostly works with companies with over 500 employees. 

Over the years, Netgen developed both open source and enterprise software, but it also provides strategic consulting for businesses from different industries. Still, Netgen does not aim for a specific industry; instead, it caters to a number of businesses from different fields, i.e. banking, health, communication, and more.

We are not a company which just develops a website. Customers come to us because they want to develop their business and change something in the workflow. 
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Apart from that, Netgen is also a member of Swiss ACT Association. To add to that, it organizes Web Summer Camp - an annual event for employees and IT specialists willing to expand their knowledge. 

Insider’s look: meet the CEO

The person behind Netgen’s success is Christian Paredes - CEO of the Swiss branch of Netgen.

He specializes in internal and external business development, and, therefore, he was the one who decided to start seeking better project portfolio management tools for his business. Apart from that, he also searches for opportunities; he is also involved in consulting customers on digital transformation and providing them with growth components. 

Netgen’s structure

Netgen's structure

Netgen consists of headquarters located in Switzerland and a branch based in Croatia. Its responsibilities are also separated: specialists in Switzerland focus on project management, consulting, and UX services, as well as campaigning and content. The whole development team and some UX specialists, on the other hand, work from Croatia. 

This structure is, however, not a result of outsourcing, which is fairly common in the IT industry. The two branches act financially as separate companies. This division is still reflected in project accounting, in which employees from Croatia have to be included separately.

Planning processes in Netgen: what used to go wrong?

Project RFQ Phase - Initial estimations and demand forecasts

Each new project begins with a project request. It includes key features and specifications a customer wants to include in the project to serve a specific purpose. These features go on to become the base for costs and time estimations. 

At this point, Netgen divides its project into three categories. These are: 

  1. Time and material project. In this type of project, the customer pays for the real number of hours Netgen employees spend on project-related tasks. This model was usually chosen for projects that tend to derive from estimations. 
  2. Fixed-price projects. Projects with fixed costs are calculated at the beginning of the work. In the case of Netgen, the costs of such projects can be settled upfront, after the project is finished, or they can be divided into installments paid on a flexible schedule (for example, at the beginning and end of the project). 
  3. Application management and service contract. Retainer projects with a fixed price; the budget, however, is to be spent reasonably over a given period of time to maintain a solution and generate a healthy profit margin at the same time. 
Types of projects in Netgen

This variety was one of Netgen’s problems. Its project budget management software could only reflect one of these types of projects. To add to that, it did not contain any detailed information and could not be updated in real-time, leading to numerous misunderstandings. 

"For an agency like ours, we need to manage our budget wisely. There’s never only one project and one budget; there are many projects, budgets, change requests, maintenance, hosting, and many other things. In agency, you can only be successful when you track all of those factors."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Planning Phase - long-term allocations and budget forecasts

Then, the project had to be planned in the company's calendar. Unfortunately, that proved to be challenging, too, as Netgen had to use two different tools for the purpose: one for a long-term perspective, and another for a short-term view. Their inputs were combined in classic spreadsheets. However, these tools were not linked to the finances, forcing the managers to switch between solutions. 

"Logging hours in JIRA was cumbersome, so we started using Tempo. But there were a lot of things that have been missing there: managing employees, part-time, etc. Ten years later, they are still not solved, even though we contacted the support."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO
Processes in Netgen

In addition, the company also struggled to get a big picture of its finances. Just like in the case of resource allocation, it used two tools for the purpose: Tempo Budget for overseeing future costs, and Float, for combining long-term allocations with forecasts. However, this method of budgeting was time-consuming, complicated, and prone to numerous serious mistakes. 

Netgen’s challenges

Netgen's challenges

Separate plans and finances. Netgen was flooded with numerous tools it chose to try to combine finances with project plans. It also struggled with getting a big picture of its operations; instead, managers were stuck in an endless list of solutions that were not compatible with each other. 

"Especially when budgets are tight, we cannot wait till the end of the project to see the profit. If you work with employees, contractors, or third parties, budgeting becomes very tricky, because the inputs are entered separately. This has been a challenge for us for the last 20 years."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Budget burnout. As the cost estimations were not correct right away, the company was constantly struggling with monitoring its finances. To add to that, the business also struggled with keeping track of irregular transactions. In some cases, Christian discovered unprofitable projects after they were finished! 

Other tools were lacking. While some other tools provided Netgen with suitable tracking features, they could not provide the company with resource and finance management solutions. To add to that, they could not show the data in real-time, and implementing any changes in them was close to impossible - and if it was possible, it caused unforeseen problems. 

"You could enter a lot of data into the other tools, i.e. rates, individual hours, etc., but you had to do that on every project manually. Then, the historical data of the employee changed as well, causing enormous chaos."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Lack of transparency. Christian was trying to track roles, rates, and costs for all the employees, projects, and actions. Unfortunately, with the resource management tools he used to work with, he could not sort the information by filters he really needed. It was also really hard for him to manually update all the information. As a result, he was left with just partial data - or an incorrect one. 

Inability to reflect the structure of the company in other tools. With two branches in two different countries. Netgen struggled to keep up with the finances for both locations. The connections between them were also unclear. 

Critical mistakes in finances. Tools that were previously used by Netgen did not reflect the operations the company intended to keep track of. For example, it could not add invoices with past dates. In some cases, the software also introduced unexpected changes in the past projects whenever the details of new operations were changed. That caused the documents to get lost, omitted, or just edited in an unintended manner, and resulted in numerous accounting issues, as well as wasted resources. This was not a matter of just a few cases - according to Christian, over 20% of invoices were inaccurate due to software issues! 

"If someone forgot to add his hours, or changed hours in the past, or added costs in the past, they were never invoiced in our old tools - and no one could spot it. You had to investigate what happened each time!"
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Lack of a comprehensive, flexible, and accurate database. The tools previously used by Netget were not intuitive enough - and they often offered very confusing or exhausting solutions. One of the most common problems was entering the changes in wages into the resource & skill management system. The information was not assigned to an employee; instead, it had to be changed in every project the employee worked in. In the case of other tools, the changes in wages were also seen in past projects, drastically reducing the accuracy of their budgeting. 

"Employees could only have one rate, and that’s it, and you could only change that by account, not by project."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

No integrations or lack of support for them. The company based its operations on JIRA. However, the tools Netgen used previously failed to support the system correctly or demanded an enormous amount of money for the feature, leaving Christian with no alternatives but to look for other software. 

What caused Netgen to look for a new tool? 

Sometimes frustrations and mistakes are the sources of good ideas - and that was exactly the case for Christian and Netgen. 

"It was insane: people invested over 20% of their time trying to update all the tools. This was not efficient; we could be invoicing that 20%. We could not continue like this."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

After using ineffective processes for years, managers were tired of working with numerous tools at the same time. Unfortunately, these perspectives could not be combined to provide them with a bigger picture. Consequently, leaders and managers were constantly rummaging through different tools, losing their precious time.

"All project managers said they found the way we were working cumbersome. We also saw that many mistakes were made, and you could only find them if you take a really close look at our operations."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

In addition, they also constantly encountered numerous mistakes caused by different views provided to them by other tools. Some of them could not even notify Christian about mistakes visible within one tool. As a result, he often spotted the problems when it was too late to solve them. 

The support from different tools did not make this situation better. Customer service was very often unresponsive. It took them months to answer, and the problems reported by Christian were often left unsolved for years. The tools simply seemed not to grow with Netget - and that’s why the company decided to look for greener pastures somewhere else. 

"I found a couple of things that needed to be fixed in the tools. In the end, the suggestions [from many companies] were put to the vote. Some won - and, about 7 years later, they are still there. Tickets with thousands of votes!"
Chrisitan Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

That is when Primetric takes over!

How does Primetric help Netgen? 

Lightning-fast implementation and seamless Jira integration

Implementation is a key part of using Primetric - still, in the case of Netgen, it was also one of the quickest processes of its type we have had the pleasure to perform. 

The entire implementation process took less than 3 weeks and it included all the use cases. Christian was helped by Primetric support, he clearly communicated his priorities and his request was responded to immediately. Primetric’s team, on the other hand, instantly addressed all the issues he reported and adjusted them accordingly.

The implementation was also powered by quick and smooth integrations. In the case of Netgen, the company was focused on integration with JIRA. Fortunately for it, such a feature was not only available in Primetric, but also it just involved a few simple steps. As a result, Netgen could browse its data in Prietric in just a few minutes. 

To add to that, Netgen’s employees also welcomed Primetric with their arms wide open. Thanks to an intuitive interface, they were able to quickly familiarize themselves with the tool and use it to their advantage. Importantly, this opinion was shared by both managers and specialists. 

"It takes minutes to configure the project and see the data to make better decisions."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

How does Netgen benefit from using Primetric? 

"I have been actively searching for a good solution for 3 years. [...] After some time it was really clear that Primetric doesn’t have the problems that others have."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Custom filters and comprehensive reports. With Primetric, Christian could adjust charts and tables in the tool to fit his needs better than ever before. He could sort the data just like he needed to and create custom reports tailored to his needs. 

Cutstom reports for profitability displayed in Primetric

Advanced, yet intuitive integration with Jira.

Primetric can be - and was - integrated with JIRA in just a few clicks. It constantly communicates with the system to provide managers with real-time information on their employees’ undertakings. To add to that, it also provides users with JQL that allows for importing worklogs from one JIRA project to many projects in Primetric, improving the precision of billing in many financial models at once. 

Total flexibility in finances taking into account different billing models.

Primetric is capable of covering all the business scenarios Netgen was typically used to provide its services to its customers. Whether it is a time and material project or a fixed price project, the solution can reflect its characteristics to adjust its calculations and provide Christian with accurate and up-to-date financial data. 

"You have all the cases that are possible [in the system]. That was the eye opener, that’s when we said “This tool is really good!”. I remember showing it to my friends in Croatia. They said: “If that’s the case, we need it as well!”. 
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

Detailed financial information. In contrast to other tools, Primetric offered Christian an in-depth approach to its finances. Financial calculation in the tool included many small, but crucial factors, such as change requests, maintenance, hosting, etc. - and they could be changed at any time. With that feature, no comma or number could escape Christian’s mind. 

Estimations and actuals for one of the projects in Primetric

Variety of projects - Time and material, fixed price, caps, and other types of budgets - they are all available for Netgen in Primetric. As a result, the company can reflect its structure in the tool and manage it efficiently based on detailed and accurate data on spending and incomes. 

"To be honest, Primetric is one of the very few solutions that can manage such a wide scope [of scenarios]. With past tools, we always put some kind of margin on top. With Primetric, you see the calculation, you see the profits, you see the margin, and that’s all you need."
Christian Paredes - Netgen Switzerland CEO

The ability to include budgets for both branches. With advanced financial options, Netgen could finally see all of its costs in a single tool. In this case, the company has decided that finances from its Croatian branch will be included in the overheads. The change has drastically improved budgeting across the organization. 

Adding overheads to a project in Primetric

Results

  1. Flexible changes with automatic updates for all the projects. 
  2. No incorrect or misleading invoices in the system. 
  3. Comprehensive financial view of every project and all the projects at once. 
  4. Reduced time spend on updating other tools and increased billable time for key managers and specialists. 
  5. Detailed information on all the projects, including small, but crucial overheads, i.e. hosting, wages, overheads etc. 
  6. The ability to track costs from both branches of the business with overhead options. 
  7. Flexible billing models reflecting the characteristics of Netgen’s projects. 
  8. Detailed project budget descriptions with additional information on overheads, additional costs, etc. 

The future looks bright with Primetric! 

Even though the implementation of Primetric in Netgen was a huge success for both parties involved, our common journey does not end here. In the months to come, Christian is planning to expand our system in his company to in

Moving leaves and absences to Primetric. So far, Netgen has focused on the financial side of Primetric. Soon enough, the company will also use the system for monitoring leaves, absences, and holidays to get a bigger picture of the available resources in the company. 

Absences in Primetric

Estimates and forecasts. Netgen will soon try out a new side of Primetric - forecasts, and estimates. The company hopes to move all its financial operations to the system, and soon it will have a chance to do so. 

Ability to generate PDF reports. Primetric is going to prepare a custom feature of PDF reports for Netgen only in order to provide them with the resources the company needs to make better decisions. 

Short-term planning. Right now, Netgen is preparing to create short-term, detailed task plans for two-week-long sprints. The company has already discovered a potential for such schedules in Primetric and soon it will use it to the fullest. 

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