Adoption of professional service automation (PSA) is on the rise, and it can make a big difference to your operational success. According to TSIA PS benchmark reports, companies that incorporate PSA see higher billable utilization, better rate utilization, fewer days to staff projects, increased project margins, and lower field costs when compared to their industry peers.
Unfortunately, there continues to be a few misconceptions and outdated ideas about how beneficial PSA is for professional services organizations, which is keeping companies from realizing their full potential through automation. In this webinar, I joined Steve Beaumont, services market manager of TSIA partner Planview, to address common questions and dispel some of the myths about professional services automation.
When I surveyed TSIA’s members what they were using for PS automation, I discovered that a large percentage of companies are using only basic project management systems or homegrown tools based on Excel, which essentially are just complicated spreadsheets.
An ideal PSA solution should cover these three modules:
- Resource Management – Manage your consultants and staff projects effectively
- Project Management – View charts and project dashboards
- Project Accounting – Capture details, signature approval, and milestone accomplishments
People often think that Excel is all they need to organize their processes; meanwhile they struggle to run their business with spreadsheets and basic project management tools.
One significant benefit to using a "best of breed" PSA platform is that you have combined access to both the project management as well as the resource management side of your process. You can see not only what people are working on in terms of the tasks for their project, but also see their availability relative to other projects.
Mobile optimization is also a great feature to look for when choosing the right tool for you. Planview, for example, supports HTML 5, which allows your people in the field to keep track of progress and next steps from any mobile device.
If you really want to improve utilization rates, you need to introduce analytics into resource scheduling. Effectively staffing projects is more than just managing resource availability; it’s balancing your team’s skills, experience, and certifications, as well as utilization and billing rates.
If you’re incorporating analytics, you’ll be able to balance all of your project resources across different assignments, avoiding putting the same people on new projects while others remain underutilized. You can also leverage remote workers who otherwise might get lost in the shuffle when scheduling.
Analytics can also help you find interesting trends. Many companies have reported that with the move to the cloud, there are many new skills required and they don’t always have someone available to meet that need. By factoring in trending information and analytics, you can see new and emerging skills that you should be recruiting for, or even uncover gaps in certain skillsets or product knowledge that need filling.
Because of the influence of the cloud, more companies are moving away from pay-as-you-go projects based on time and materials, and are instead developing fixed-price repeatables. Rather than customized quotes, customers are offered a menu of possible implementation efforts where they can choose the best-fit solution. PSA platforms can assist you with any type of consulting engagement, project work, or highly defined repeatable project by enforcing process steps and making sure they’re in proper alignment and sequence.
Because of these capabilities, we also see PSA being used outside of professional services by converged service organizations, including managed services and field services. Education services, for example, use PSA to manage a group of trainers and organize who will be available for a distance-learning project, or who will be flying to another city to give an on-site class.
Traditional scheduling tools don’t factor in cost margins revenue, and that’s an important component of PSA that appeals to not only professional services, but outside markets as well. If you have multiple customer engagements you need to organize while simultaneously keeping an eye on resource availability and cost margins, PSA can help you manage them.
At conferences, I frequently hear consultants enamored with mobile tools and the promise of higher utilization rates say, “My manager will never go for it.” And executives, often from the same company, wanting project insight and real-time dashboards say, “My consultants will never adopt it.” Unlike sales force automation (SFA), which sales management loves and sales reps tend to hate, PSA has value for everyone.
What can be an issue is getting them to spend time operating the tool. One thing that Planview offers is to have the results delivered to executives through Outlook. That way, when they check their email every morning, they can see exactly how projects are progressing and can react accordingly. This is a win-win situation for both the consultant and the executives.
By tailoring the outputs of your solution to specific roles within your organization, everyone can all see what they need, thereby enabling them to do their job more efficiently, effectively, and, ultimately, more successfully.
Watch the rest of this webinar where I share additional tips on ensuring adoption of PSA, as well as PS benchmark data showing how adopting PSA can improve project margins, lower field costs, and improve billable rates.
About the Author
John Ragsdale is vice president of research, Technology and Social, for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. Ragsdale drives TSIA's highly regarded technology research agenda, delivering insightful, thought-leadership research and analysis on the most pressing business issues facing services leaders to enable them to better plan and execute their service strategies. He is also author of the book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry.