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.
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?
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.
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.