It is common knowledge to most professional services organizations (PSO) that they can benefit greatly from the use of a professional services automation (PSA) system. A recent study by SPI Research shows that organizations that use PSA software tend to have a higher rate of on-time project delivery, more accurate project estimates, and increased personnel productivity through more efficient scheduling and communication. This benchmark study also demonstrated that embedded services organizations, product development companies and other non-traditional PSOs have been the fastest growing sectors of the professional services industry. As these companies grow in size and complexity, it becomes more and more essential for them to have reliable systems in place that give them the visibility and control they need. Most professional services automation solutions are able to meet those needs for both traditional PSOs and project-centric organizations alike.
Project-centric organizations and traditional PSOs have many similarities that allow them to benefit from PSA software. Both of these organizational types are highly dependent on the success of their projects, and the ability to efficiently spool up a project team and empower project managers is essential to that success. These types of organizations need to be able to implement repeatable project delivery processes, quickly move project teams to higher levels of efficiency, and ensure that they can take the pulse of their projects at any stage throughout the project lifecycle. In this article, we will examine five of the fundamental reasons why any project-centric organization should consider using professional services automation software.
1. Simplify Project Planning and Execution
At the foundation of any good PSA system is the ability to efficiently plan, manage and execute projects. Using PSA software gives project-centric organizations a 360 degree view of their projects. Executives can easily see what projects are in the pipeline and forecast their resource requirements to get a solid understanding of the supply and demand of their resources. Project managers can build detailed project plans, match the right people within the organization up with the right projects, and have all of the mission-critical data they need right at their fingertips.
In addition to helping plan projects, PSA software can also give organizations a closed-loop communication tool between resources, managers and the entire project team. Resources can quickly communicate to project managers on the status of their tasks, and managers can assess the impact on overall project schedules, budgets and staffing to proactively resolve issues as they arise.
2. Measure and Control Project Costs
Because professional services automation software acts as the project accounting sub-ledger for services firms, it needs to have robust project accounting capabilities. PSA software has the ability to track project costs at a very granular level. Every hour on every project can be easily tracked, and any ancillary costs on a project, like travel or subcontractor expenses, can be accounted for to give a holistic representation of investment.
These tools can become even more valuable when planning and executing a project with a tight budget. Managers can plan their projects out at cost and know exactly where they stand at any point throughout the project. Because all of the project-centric information is managed within the PSA system, project managers can even analyze the productivity of their resources to ensure that each person’s contribution is maximized.
3. Streamline the Project Lifecycle
Robust PSA applications are able to manage projects throughout every step of the project lifecycle. Doing so gives services organizations the ability to focus on what is truly important – delivering great services to their clients – instead of wasting time on mundane administrative tasks. This focus on efficiency can quickly translate into more time to spend on productive hours and can have a direct effect on the bottom line.
To further streamline this process, most professional services automation solutions can easily integrate with CRM systems and accounting packages to reduce, or even eliminate, the need for any manual project setup or configuration. These types of systems will help organizations run like a well-oiled machine focusing chiefly on the tasks that drive growth.
4. Improve Resource Productivity
Many PSA solutions also include powerful resource scheduling tools that help organizations balance the supply and demand of their resources. Teams that effectively leverage resource scheduling tools can get a clear picture of who is busy and who is not and efficiently level workloads. It is a well-known fact within services organizations that very small changes to employee utilization yield dramatic results on the company’s bottom line. Using PSA software to understand when resources with key skillsets are available will allow for real-time optimization of resource productivity.
In addition to running more efficient projects, resource scheduling also gives organizations the tools needed to ensure proper workloads across all of their employees. Even with the US unemployment rate still hovering around 8.3%, businesses are finding it extremely difficult to hire for key specialized roles. Minimizing burnout, balancing workloads and identifying professional development opportunities are all critical issues for organizations that want to retain their top talent. Without excellent visibility into resource allocation and historical utilization, key resources may quickly become dissatisfied with their current situation and start wondering if the grass is greener elsewhere.
5. Make Real-Time Decisions
Having a consolidated view of the business is critical when making management decisions. Because all of the project-centric information that organizations need resides directly within their PSA software, management can easily get the insight that they need to grow their business. Information on resource, project and organizational productivity is a simple mouse click away, and managers can know what the current status of each project is with up-to-date information.
PSA tools replace the worn-out spreadsheets that get circulated around the office every Monday morning with last week’s project totals. They eliminate all the guesswork involved with trying to predict if a project will run over budget or not. If used smartly, they are not just another part of the systems infrastructure used to run the business. Rather, PSA systems can become a competitive advantage that acts as a foundation for higher client satisfaction rates, improved profitability and sustainable long term growth.
Many times when project-centric organizations are looking for new systems to help manage their workloads, they simply write off PSA software because they think it’s not for them. Think again. Professional services automation is a project driven platform that any project team can take advantage of. PSA software is designed with a focus on project success and goes further than just a standalone project management system. PSA solutions encompass all of the aspects of a project like finding the right team members to do the work, monitoring the project budgets and schedule, communicating what needs to be done, and benchmarking performance.
Regardless of if you run a traditional professional services organization, a product development company, an embedded services division, or just a project-focused team, take a look at how a PSA tool can help your organization. You will find these tools to be refreshingly robust in their ability to give you the visibility and control you need to let you focus on what is most important – achieving results by delivering successful projects.