First Annual Survey on Management Software used in Statistical Consulting

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Abstract: In a survey on software used to manage statistics consulting projects and billing, we received responses from 38 statistics and biostatistics departments. Of these, 31.2 % of departments reported no system for tracking projects and 34.2% reported no software in use for billing; 39.5% of departments used some combination of a REDCap/Google/Microsoft Form to capture client/project information; 8 organizations (21.1%) use enterprise billing software (defined as software capable of handling both project management and billing), including iLab, Replicon, Labvantage, and Stratocore, in declining order of popularity. While in-house developed software (21.6%) was relatively common, it was not always clear if these systems handled both project management and billing.

 

Methodology:

We conducted a brief survey via email, sent out to 92 statistics and biostatistics departments. We received responses from 38 departments (41.3% response rate). The survey asked two questions on statistical consulting practices: 1) What software does the department use to track projects and 2) what system does the department use for billing?

 

Results:

For billing, a surprising number of organizations reported that they either had no consulting unit (13.2%) or did not have a fee-for-service charge (34.2% ), instead relying on percent effort from grants. Similarly, 28.9% of respondents reported that they used their organization’s Office of Sponsored Projects/Grants Office to handle billing. Two respondents (5.3%) reported using an academic class staffed by grad students or a TA system to handle consulting and thus did not charge. Of those organizations with a consulting unit, thirteen (34.2%) reported no formal system for billing. Eight organizations (21.1%) use enterprise billing software, including iLab, Replicon, Labvantage, and Stratocore (in declining order of popularity). Most of those packages include software for tracking projects; however, it was not always clear if the organization in question makes use of that feature. Lastly, eight organizations have built in-house software to handle billing/and or project management.

 

For project tracking and capturing project requests, fifteen organizations (39.5%) reported using an online form/database. Microsoft Forms/Excel/Microsoft Access was the most popular software in use with a total of nine organizations, but six groups used either REDCap, Google Forms, ClickUp or Qualtrics to track projects. A surprising 36.4% of respondents with consulting units stated that they had no system for tracking projects and relied on individual consultants to track projects on their own.

 

Discussion:

It was surprising to us, how many respondents do not use a formal project tracking/billing system. We do understand that although enterprise software, which handles both billing and project tracking, provides an end-to-end solution, most of these packages have quite expensive annual license charges. While it may be enticing to build an in-house software solution, 25% of the groups that use such a system reported significant system failures. For our own organization, we are attempting to use Power Automate to handle project tracking/project startup and invoicing. We also posted on Reddit in r/statistics with the same questions and the most helpful response suggested Jira for project tracking and time entry.

 

Note: Close to 15% of survey recipients replied saying they forwarded our questions to another individual in their organization; but we did not hear back by the close of the study. This brings the overall response rate to over 50% (including non-answer responses).

 

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Dr. Rongshun Zhu and Trish Goedecke, MSc, for all your help and of course, thank you to all the respondents.