Most professional services organizations understand that they need a PSA – professional services automation – system. But there is a big difference between knowing that everyone else in your industry uses a tool so you should probably consider one, and really understanding the benefits it can bring to your business.
When you understand the core benefits of moving to or upgrading your PSA solution, you can convince others in the organization that the shift is worthwhile. The numbers do speak for themselves.
A recent report by Services Performance Insights (SPI) shows that
- Companies bill more time with PSA software: Employee billable utilization is 73.2% in companies using PSA tools and only 68.7% in those that do not.
- Projects take less time with PSA tools: Average project staffing time is 8.37 days where businesses use PSA solutions and 10.19 days in businesses that do not.
- Profit margin is higher in companies that use PSA tools: Project margin is 34% in organizations using PSA solutions and only 27.4% in organizations that do not.
In fact, companies that use professional services automation outperform businesses that don’t in every metric considered by the research. Numbers are powerful, but often managers need to hear what it means in practice for their part of the business. Let’s look more deeply at how professional services automation make a huge difference to your business, by diving into 7 benefits you can expect from adopting this kind of software.
1. You have a central database in the PSA application
Project revenue and cost data is stored centrally in one database. This makes it easier to see cost forecasts across the organization. There’s another core item also in the central database: deliverables. You know exactly what is required from each project. And because you can track that in the same system ad costs and expenses, you can measure productivity. This gives you access to powerful (and interesting) reports. For example, you can compare the lead manager on a project with others in similar roles, or compare productivity across clients, projects, accounts, and geography.
2. Working methods are standardized
When everyone is using the same tool, the ways of doing tasks are naturally standardized. Regardless of your role on a project, or who the client is, the user interface for entering your project data is consistent. This makes it easier for consultants to switch between projects, or to pick up a project from someone else who is out of the business for a while, perhaps due to sickness, for example.
3. PSA reporting is in real-time
One of the hardest things for managers is to make real-time decisions based on up-to-the-minute information. In fast-paced industries, it can be hard to find out what you need to make decisions in a timely way. That can lead to trying to do the right thing, but making a call on the next steps without having accurate information to hand. That’s stressful for your account managers and project managers, and not great service for clients.
PSA tools give you real-time reporting and analytics. The analytics and standard reports are embedded into the system. You can create your own versions of reports you use most frequently, tailoring reports to tell you what you need to know. Because all the data is in the same database, the reports are both real-time and fully comprehensive. Your decision makers have access to the information they need to take steps before concerns become full-blown problems.
4. PSA gives you an audit trail
When everything is documented within your professional services automation software, you can see exactly what happened when, and who was involved. This is useful if you ever need to go back and address a client complaint, for example, but there are other benefits to having this history too.
You can dig into what went on during a successful assignment, and see the exact steps that were taken. This is fantastic for learning from good practice and sharing process improvements amongst the team. Your team may currently do a lessons learned exercise or debrief at the end of each project engagement, but it is human nature to not be able to remember everything, in the precise order in which it happened. Being able to call up your work history in a PSA solution means you can quickly see what worked well on this project. Perhaps it was client engagement at the beginning, or dealing with a problem quickly, or something else. This tip works in reverse too! When projects don’t go to plan, or clients aren’t satisfied with what you have delivered for them, you can go back into the details of your PSA software and see accurately see what took place. There are huge lessons to be learned from analyzing your most and least successful pieces of work.
5. It is easier to work with overseas clients
If you work with overseas clients, or even local clients who want to bill from their head office abroad, then professional services automation will give you a head start. Market leading tools come with built in support for working internationally including the features you need to manage multiple currencies and local tax regimes. Some tools are also available in several languages, so if you have a multinational team, they can all access the software in their first language. That can cut down on miscommunication, and allow you to provide reports to your customers in their preferred language.
6. PSA tools mean lower admin costs
Something we see regularly in clients that migrate from spreadsheets and manual tracking is a decrease in their admin costs. Admin time for entering data, updating project plans, revising spreadsheets and unpicking errors could all be better used. Whether you have dedicated admin staff or expect your client-facing employees to do their own admin, most people have better things to do with their day than enter data in multiple systems!
The benefit of professional services automation is that you enter the data once. It can then replicate into other areas of the system, wherever it is needed. That frees up your resources to work more productively and on billable services. The central repository of data leads us on to the last benefit that we are talking about in this article.
7. There’s only one source of the truth
Professional services automation software gives you one source of the truth. The information is real-time. It’s updated daily or more frequently by people who are doing the work and who see firsthand what is changing on the ground. It is not possible to create multiple reports that each say something slightly different or present a slightly different take on what is going on. Everyone sees the same data and there is full transparency across all levels of the organization.
With this level of visibility, business leaders can truly understand the variations in performance. They are armed with the data and information they need to take decisions about client viability, project performance, and more. Overall, professional services automation provides the opportunity to work more productively and improve organizational performance. Combined with the powerful conclusions from industry research, that’s a story that is easy to explain to business leaders.
For additional tips and insights about professional services automation consider these additional resources:
- Webinar On-demand: Build a Client-Centric Services Organization – with SPI
- Video: Upland PSA: Software Innovation for Services Organizations