What does our pipeline look like? Can we fulfill new sales wins with our current resources? What percentage of our time was billable last month? Are we making a profit? These are all common questions in professional services and ones we should not only be asking but monitoring regularly. If finding the answers to these questions isn’t simple in your business, then it might be time to consider Professional Services Automation (PSA). In the below article we answer some of these questions and take a look at why and how good PSA software can transform your business.
What is PSA?
Whatever the professional services industry, be it accounting, legal services, software development or marketing, the universal service being sold is time, knowledge and expertise. PSA is software that allows you to track and monitor this through establishing integrated processes from planning through to delivery and measurement. By centralizing these processes with business data, projects can be delivered with greater predictability, efficiency and ultimately profitability. The key metrics that a professional services business should be capturing are:
We delve into more detail on this in our eBook – 10 Solutions Your PSA Solution Must Have. So how do you know if your business is ready for PSA? Here are 5 key reasons we find our PSA clients seek out a software solution.
1. You’re using multiple platforms
There’s an array of specialist software out there, from time tracking to accounting. In their own right, they do exactly what they promise to…and often they do it very well. We come across many businesses at Mission Control, who have experienced rapid growth, and added in new systems as business requirements change and develop. The issue with bolting on systems, however, can be the lack of integration between them. For example, does the time tracking feed straight into invoicing, e.g. raising an invoice once an hours bank is reached? With a professional services business, they really should be. Not only does this save time (that could be being billed out to a client), it also creates one source of truth. This is business critical for truly understanding how your business is performing, identifying areas of improvement and planning strategic growth.
2. Resource planning is challenging
Ever found your team run off their feet one week and then twiddling their thumbs the next? The very nature of professional services is that it’s project-based, which means the work can, and does, ebb and flow. But paying resource to sit idle is neither good for morale or cashflow. A good PSA platform will allow you to manage resources efficiently when planning current and future projects. At Mission Control, our Scheduler feature is one of our most valued resource planning tools, providing instant visibility on real-time bandwidth, resource capacity and bottlenecks. When scoping for upcoming projects, a tool that allows you to identify the most suitable resource in terms of skillset and availability will save time and unnecessary brain power. Mission Control’s Resource Assignment Wizard instantly lets you know who is most suitable and what, if any current commitments they have. If there isn’t resource available due to current commitments, it’s best to know this upfront to scope and plan accordingly.
3. There’s a lack of synergy between sales and execution teams
Whilst not an issue isolated to professional services, it is one that comes up often in the consulting space. Once an opportunity is won, information flow from the CRM system used to track the leads and prospects, might not filter to the project management team’s platform. This can lead to frustration from all parties – including the client. Integrated PSA software will add significant efficiencies here by feeding all information across, meaning the project team is fully informed so they hit the deck running. And perhaps most importantly, the client has a seamless experience. Mission Control is native to Salesforce meaning a business’ pipeline is captured within Salesforce and when opportunities are won, they then feed straight into Mission Control. Whatever CRM platform your business uses, make sure it integrates with your project management software. Added bonus, it can also enhance cross-team relationships and workplace culture.
4. You wish you had more hours in the day
If only you had a few more hours, right? Well PSA will provide just that. At Mission Control, we’ve had clients report up to 30% time savings, simply by putting automation in place. When your time is your currency, you need that being spent where profit will be greatest and for most project resources, that means billable hours. Simple tools allow small time savings that add up: Everyone going to the same meeting? Let the Meeting Manager function automatically record everyone’s time for the duration of the meeting. No admin and no discrepancies. Hit a project milestone so need to raise an invoice? Allow your PSA system do this with automated billing. Need to plan out a project? Clone a previous project’s plan to save valuable time. Team struggling to prioritize? How about a daily to-do list delivered to their inbox each morning? There’s a range of PSA tools out there to ensure your team is working smarter, not harder.
5. Revenue is up but profit isn’t
Being busy doesn’t necessarily correlate with making a profit. Perhaps projects are being under quoted or perhaps the project team is caught up in administrative (i.e. non-billable) tasks that don’t add anything to the bottom line. Whatever the reason, it’s imperative a business understands where profit is being made (and where it’s not), right down to project tasks and even at an individual resource level. This will inform business decisions and future focus areas. If website builds are particularly profitable to a marketing agency but rebrands aren’t, then perhaps this is where new business efforts need to focus. Equally if a rebrand project isn’t profitable, why? Perhaps key components are being outsourced to subcontractors, which means there might be a business case for an in-house resource. These are all vital insights when running a professional services business. A PSA platform should enable you to track billable vs. non-billable hours – in all important real-time. There’s little benefit to finding out a project has blown out when it’s too late to intervene. At Mission Control, we created the Resource Utilisation feature for exactly this reason. The simple traffic light system shows which projects are at risk of blowing out and need attention. Being able to safeguard against the peaks and troughs of consulting and put in place a strategy to rectify any variances is essential for a professional services business to remain viable.
Taking a step back to compare overall performance of projects across the business is also important. Again, this data should be at your fingertips. At Mission Control we use the PMO Dashboard to evaluate a project’s KPIs and the Retrospective Board for continual business improvement. Both of which would be a whole lot harder if we weren’t capturing the right metrics upfront and using an automated and integrated system to compare them.
So, whatever the size of your professional services business and whatever the challenges it’s facing, we’re pretty confident there’s some PSA tools that can help gain efficiencies, provide greater visibility and prepare your business for growth. Chat to our Mission Control team today to discuss how PSA could benefit your professional services business.