Best Practices

Strategies for maximizing billable utilization for your professional services firm

Learn more about billable utilization, the benchmark, and the strategies for maximizing billable utilization in professional services firms
August 11, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

Further reading

  1. Check out our guide to maximizing the ROI from a PSA software
  2. Retainer agreements are an important piece of profitability for professional services firms. We show you the best way to create and manage retainer agreements here
  3. Wondering what is the best billing model for your business? Check our guide to project billing

In a professional services firm, time and resources are key. We need to make sure we're not losing money, making more revenue, and boosting profits by maximizing billable utilization.

We have to optimize how our employees work while considering their well-being and the business's profitability.

This blog will cover billable utilization and share some strategies to maximize it in professional services firms. 

In this article

  1. What is billable utilization? Why is it important?
  2. How to calculate billable utilization
  3. Billable utilization benchmark for professional services firms
  4. What is the Goldilocks Zone in billable utilization?
  5. Strategies for maximizing billable utilization with PSA software
  6. Track billable utilization effortlessly with Rocketlane 

What is billable utilization? Why is it important?

Billable utilization refers to the number of hours employees spend on tasks that generate revenue from their total working hours. 

Employees do not spend all of their working hours doing billable work. They might have to attend to some projects, such as attending training and meetings, that are not billable but still critical for work. 

Tracking billable utilization gives businesses a clear picture of how well their resource management allows them to enhance their profitability. 

High billable utilization indicates that employees effectively utilize their time and generate revenue for the firm through billable work. It signifies that resources are allocated efficiently and that employees are working on client projects or tasks that can be billed to clients. 

How to calculate billable utilization

To calculate billable utilization, you must divide the total number of billable hours an employee works by the total available working hours within a given period. Here's the formula:

Billable Utilization = (Billable Hours / Total Available Hours) * 100

For example, if an employee worked 90 billable hours out of a total of 120 available working hours in a month, the billable utilization would be:

Billable Utilization = (90 / 120) * 100 = 75%

This means that the employee's billable utilization is 75% for that particular month.

Billable utilization benchmark for professional services firms

The billable utilization rate of services firms is a big deal for companies. It affects their future business strategies and decisions. Therefore, maximizing billable utilization means a higher ROI for the business.

But here's the thing - pushing your teams to their limits just to maximize billable utilization can backfire. They might get burnt out and even quit. So, it's important to find the right balance. You want to make sure your employees are working enough to be profitable for the company but not so much that they're miserable.

Now let's dive into the different ways that professional services firms measure and improve billable utilization.

External utilization benchmarks

External utilization benchmarks involve the analysis of industry data and benchmark studies to compare a professional services firm's performance, standards, and practices with those of its competitors in the market. 

By examining how they stack up against others in the industry, professional services firms gain valuable insights into their market positioning. This information helps them understand whether they are leading, following, or lagging behind the competition.

By identifying areas where they excel, professional services firms can capitalize on their strengths and use them as selling points to attract more clients and businesses. On the other hand, recognizing areas where they fall short allows them to focus on improvements and make strategic adjustments to stay competitive.

Internal utilization benchmarks

Internal utilization benchmarks involve evaluating a services firm's own operations, best practices, and organizational workflows. The firm assesses billable utilization across various departments, projects, and teams to gain a detailed understanding of how efficiently their internal resources are being utilized.

By analyzing internal utilization, professional services firms can identify departments or teams that may be over- or under-utilized. This knowledge allows them to reallocate resources to achieve optimal utilization and maximize revenue generation. They can also identify teams or individuals who consistently perform well and share their best practices throughout the organization, leading to improved overall efficiency.

Ideal utilization rate 

The ideal utilization rate is a key performance indicator that measures the portion of a consultant's available time that is devoted to billable work. It considers not only the direct resource costs associated with an employee but also factors in overhead costs and desired profit margins for the firm.

Maintaining an optimal ideal utilization rate is crucial for professional services firms as it directly impacts profitability. If the utilization rate is too low, it suggests that consultants are underutilized, leading to wasted resources and reduced revenue generation. On the other hand, an excessively high utilization rate may lead to employee burnout and reduced quality of work. Striking the right balance is essential to ensure sustainable growth and profitability.

Realization rate

The realization rate is a metric that assesses the efficiency of a professional services firm in converting billable hours worked by consultants into actual revenue. It is calculated by dividing the total number of billed hours by the total number of billable hours available.

A high realization rate indicates that the firm effectively captures revenue for the work performed, which implies an efficient billing and invoicing process. On the other hand, a lower realization rate may indicate inefficiencies in the billing process, potentially leading to missed revenue opportunities.

Improving the realization rate often involves streamlining billing procedures, improving time-tracking accuracy, and addressing any client-related issues that may hinder timely invoicing.

Agency utilization rate

The agency utilization rate measures the overall utilization rate for all billable staff within the professional services firm. It provides a broader view of the firm's collective efficiency in generating revenue through billable client work.

By analyzing the agency utilization rate, professional services firms can assess the overall health and performance of their organization. It helps identify trends or patterns in resource allocation and efficiency across the entire firm. For instance, it might reveal whether certain departments consistently underperform or if there are peak periods of utilization that need to be managed more effectively.

Improving the agency utilization rate involves optimizing resource allocation, ensuring that all teams work efficiently, and making strategic decisions based on utilization trends and patterns.

What is the Goldilocks Zone?

The Goldilocks Zone in billable utilization refers to the sweet spot where the ideal billable utilization rate falls. It balances maximizing revenue through billable hours and ensuring sustainable workload and employee well-being.

If the billable utilization rate is too low, it may indicate underutilization of resources and missed revenue opportunities. Firms may struggle to cover costs and achieve desired profitability in such cases.

On the other hand, if the billable utilization rate is too high, it can lead to consultant burnout, reduced productivity, and a potential decline in the quality of work delivered. Additionally, it may limit the capacity for business development, training, and non-billable activities necessary for long-term growth and success.

The Goldilocks Zone represents the range where billable utilization is neither too low nor too high but optimized to achieve the right balance. This ensures efficient resource management, maximized revenue, and a sustainable workload for employees that can enable them to deliver high-quality work. 

Strategies for maximizing billable utilization using PSA software

Now that we have understood the importance of striking a balance between employee well-being and business profitability, let's take a deeper look into strategies to maximize billable utilization with professional services automation. 

Set utilization targets

Establish clear utilization targets for both internal employees and on-demand consultants. These targets should be challenging yet achievable, considering factors like industry standards, employee skill levels, and project requirements. Regularly track and analyze progress towards these targets, and provide incentives for employees who consistently meet or exceed them.

Foster multiskilling

Encourage employees to acquire and develop diverse skills that align with the firm's service offerings. Multiskilled consultants can be deployed on a wider range of projects, making allocating resources efficiently and maximizing billable hours easier. Offer opportunities for professional development to enhance the skill sets of your workforce.

Invest in time tracking tools

Utilize user-friendly and accurate time-tracking tools that streamline the process of logging billable hours. These tools should integrate seamlessly with project management systems and provide real-time visibility into resource allocation, project progress, and time utilization. This helps minimize administrative burden and ensures accurate billing for client work.

Rocketlane’s time tracking feature helps you assess and manage your team’s bandwidth efficiently, and get detailed reports on the projects your team is working on. The time-tracking tool also helps you identify project delays and tasks that are taking longer than expected, letting you create better strategies to speed up the task progress. 

Empower your team with visibility into projects

Provide your team with access to project and resource data, enabling them to make informed decisions and respond quickly to changing project demands. Transparency in resource allocation and project status helps consultants plan their work efficiently, reducing downtime between projects and increasing billable hours. 

Centralize your talent pool and skills database

Create a centralized database of employee skills, experience, and availability. This resource repository allows project managers to quickly identify suitable consultants for new projects, reducing the time spent on resource allocation and ensuring that the right people are assigned to billable work promptly.

Monitor and reduce non-billable hours

Regularly monitor non-billable hours, such as administrative tasks, internal meetings, or unallocated downtime. Identify areas where non-billable time can be minimized without compromising the quality of work or employee well-being. Streamlining internal processes and automating repetitive tasks can free up more time for billable work.

You can track your employees’ billable hours without a hassle with Rocketlane’s free timesheet calculator. Using the timesheet calculator will help you calculate the utilization of resources and the overall ROI of your projects.

Allocate resources proactively

Start planning resource allocation before contracts are signed. Anticipate project demands and align available resources accordingly. Proactive resource management reduces idle time between projects and enables the firm to take on new work promptly, maximizing billable hours.

Optimize project management

Implement efficient project management practices to reduce project delays, scope creep, and unproductive time. Well-structured projects with clear objectives and timelines enable consultants to focus on billable tasks and avoid unnecessary delays or rework.

Maximize billable utilization effortlessly with Rocketlane

Rocketlane's time-tracking feature helps you track billable and non-billable hours on the go and maximize billable utilization.

Time tracking reports

With Rocketlane, you can view time-tracking reports and analyze what tasks your team spends most of their time on. You can also export the report and share it with your stakeholders with ease.

Billable vs. non-billable tasks

Tasks and projects can be marked as billable or non-billable. This helps you monitor your financials efficiently. It also enables you to plan and balance employee workloads resourcefully.

Track billable utilization at a granular level

With Rocketlane's PSA platform, you can track billable utilization based on people, projects, or categories. This gives you a deeper understanding of your revenue streams. You can also track what areas of the resources are underutilized and optimize resource utilization accordingly.

Rocketlane: The resource management and billable utilization specialist

An ideal resource planning tool helps you track and allocate your resources efficiently. Rocketlane's powerful PSA tool helps you maximize billable utilization in professional services firms.

With its intuitive interface and robust features, Rocketlane enables your firm to streamline resource allocation, track billable hours accurately, and optimize project management practices.

Rocketlane empowers teams with visibility into projects and resource data. Consultants can plan their work more efficiently, reducing downtime between projects and increasing billable hours by providing access to real-time project and resource information.

With Rocketlane, you can not only enhance their billable utilization but also improve your overall operational efficiency and profitability.

Streamline your resource planning processes and maximize your billable utilization like a pro. Sign up for a free trial with Rocketlane today!


1. What is the KPI for billable utilization?

The KPI for billable utilization is often calculated by dividing the total number of billable hours worked by the total number of available hours within a given period.

The KPI for billable utilization helps businesses assess the productivity and profitability of their employees and teams. It provides insight into how effectively resources are being allocated and utilized, identifying areas of improvement, and ensuring that clients are being billed for the appropriate amount of time spent on their projects.

Some common KPIs to track for billable utilization could be billable utilization rate, average daily billable hours, and billability by project/customer.

2. What is the difference between utilization and billable utilization?

Utilization refers to the overall amount of time that a resource or employee spends on work-related activities. It is typically measured as a percentage and includes both billable and non-billable time.

On the other hand, billable utilization specifically measures the percentage of time that a resource spends on billable client work. It excludes non-billable time such as internal meetings, administrative tasks, training, and vacation. Billable utilization is a more focused metric that helps measure the profitability and efficiency of client-facing activities.

3. What is the target billable utilization rate?

The target billable utilization rate is a specific goal or benchmark that professional services firms aim to achieve for their resources or employees. It represents the percentage of billable hours out of the total available hours during a specific period, typically a year.

The actual target billable utilization rate can vary depending on the industry, the type of services provided, and the specific goals of the firm. However, a common industry benchmark for billable utilization rate in professional services firms is around 70-75%.

It is important to note that a higher billable utilization rate generally indicates better resource management, improved profitability, and efficiency. However, it is crucial to ensure a balanced workload that considers employees' well-being, professional development, and time for non-billable activities like training and internal meetings.

4. What is the industry standard for billable utilization?

The industry standard for billable utilization in professional services firms can vary depending on factors such as the type of services provided, the size of the firm, and the specific industry.

That being said, a common benchmark for billable utilization is around 70-75%. This means that resources or employees are expected to spend about 70-75% of their working hours on billable client work.

However, it is important to note that the ideal billable utilization rate can vary for different firms and industries. Some professional services firms with more complex or consultative services may have lower billable utilization targets, while firms with more standardized services or high demand may have higher targets.

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Madhushree Menon
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Madhushree Menon is a content marketer at Rocketlane. She mainly focuses on SEO blogs, but also dabbles in other forms of content. A true Hufflepuff at heart, she loves to binge-watch anime, explore new cuisines, and learn new languages.

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