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Automation's impact on margin and efficiency in professional services

Organisations functioning in the professional services and technology space such as consulting firms, software companies, architectural and engineering businesses, staffing agencies, public relations firms, advertising and marketing agencies, and more have unique needs to achieve their profitability goals. Whether it’s improving revenue cycle, project tracking or resource allocation, professional services and technology firm leaders have a variety of complex systems and processes to manage. Taking an eye off one area or not maximising resources to the fullest extent in another can mean project delays, write-offs or even project failure. Leveraging the right professional services automation (PSA) solution is one way a business can optimise the many moving parts in all their various functions.

Game-changing benefits

PSA tools are catered to the specific traits of project planning and execution, including resource scheduling, task and activity management, time and expense management, multifaceted billing, and project collaboration. The benefits include automating processes and producing real time project health, margin reporting and forecasting to support informed decision-making. In addition, the end-to-end architecture of PSA can be integrated into other systems, like current customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, simplifying and providing better visibility into billing, accounts receivable and project tracking. Businesses should consider the PSA tier solution level that best meets their needs, from basic project management functionality up to a fully encompassing operational platform. The best solutions work holistically within an organisation and can deliver a number of game-changing benefits including improved margins and project scoping, higher utilisation, improved project collaboration and effective resource planning.

Important questions to consider

While PSA can deliver a variety of improvements to organisations, it is important for businesses to weigh key questions before getting started. Every professional services or technology firm has individual challenges and concerns, and taking a moment to be introspective in terms of your own business issues will point you in the right direction of the best PSA solution level for your needs. Important questions to consider include:

  • How well do you measure project margin, both in terms of accuracy and real-time access to data?
  • How do you currently measure project health (i.e., timing, budget trends and critical path items)?
  • Do you undergo a regular resource planning process even if it is manual? Do you have resources dedicated to scheduling project resources? Do you forecast resource needs for future hiring decisions?
  • Do you already have an off-the-shelf or custom project management tool in place, or are project operations primarily managed manually through Excel?
  • How complex are your billing requirements between services and hardware, and what is the impact on revenue recognition? How manual is the current billing process?
  • Do you already have a tool for expense management, or will this need to be solved by the PSA to integrate into invoices?
  • Will the ERP solution remain the system of record for invoicing projects?
  • How frequently do you require resources to enter time and at what increments?
  • Do you collaborate with external parties (clients, subcontractors) on projects?
  • Do you need to track skills, experience levels and certifications for managing project resources?

Weighing these questions will provide a foundation for assessing how PSA can improve efficiencies within your professional services firm. In addition, for a more thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of your technology strategy, consider a process and systems Rapid Assessment® to understand further how your organisation, business processes and technology systems can work more efficiently within a professional services organisation.  

Source: RSM International