Best Practices in Professional Services Project Visibility

Highlights

  • Making project performance visible is itself a professional service best practice.
  • Increased performance visibility is highly correlated with successful projects and satisfied clients.
  • Real-time project visibility is achieved from a combination of business processes and analytics technology.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Here are some of the top techniques to make project performance management more visible.

Start with project governance. Good governance is all about inspection, transparency, adaptation and accountability. Governance defines project success and is therefore essential to define the performance measures that show demonstrable progress toward that success.

Governance Tower

Giving clients what they want requires information transparency. Clients want continuous communication, collaboration and project visibility. Periodic status reports and interim checkpoints are no longer enough for many clients. They want to stay apprised of the design, development, testing and deployment. Many want to want to co-create and contribute to the result. They want to know when the project is behind as soon as it is behind.

Bad news does not get better with age.

This can sound like a threat to some professional service organizations. But the reality is real-time communication and co-creation highly correlate with successful projects and longer-term customer relationships. Here are some methods to capitalize on this best practice.

Use CRM or PSA software online portals to grant real-time access to project information, the RAID (risk, assumptions, issues and dependencies) log, progress measurements and other key performance indicators (KPI).

Professional Services Automation (PSA) systems empower clients with online project viewing and drill-down to supporting transactions or content. They can display time sequenced views of project status and next steps in the project life cycle. Some support real-time or asynchronous project collaboration using enterprise social networks such as Microsoft Teams or Salesforce Slack.

Several PSA software systems support customer self-service functions such as milestone signoffs or initiating change requests. When integrated with the ERP system they may further support online quote requests, sale orders, invoicing receipts and payment processing. When integrated with the CRM system, they can support online trouble ticket entry.

Many PSA systems are part of a larger professional service tech stack that uses artificial intelligence to display project health monitors and detect or predict negative customer sentiment. Early detection of project issues permits early intervention. Automated project health monitors improve project visibility with frequent measurements that enable faster course corrections and remediation plans when needed.

PSA systems can use workflow alerts to deliver real-time notifications based on project variances or threshold values. We've found these notifications to be most helpful when they provide a link to project views or supporting explanation. Some of the views we routinely create and link to include:

  • Projects at Risk; measured by variances in Time, Budget, Cost or Value
  • Projects at Future Risk; measured by variance to date + forecast
  • Resource slippage; we use this to display any correlations of project issues associated with the same people

Taking it a step further, the machine learning algorithms in PSA software systems can apply predictive modeling to forecast project deviations. These tools can be used to detect conditions that lead to variances or identify anomalies that correlate with negative scenarios.

Finally, a practice we have made routine is to include the top customer KPIs in the project health monitor. Demonstrating client value should not be an infrequent event or something that is delivered at the end of the project. By reviewing customer KPIs along the journey, you are reaffirming progress toward agreed upon objectives and your value as a service provider.

A related visibility tool is the customer health monitor. CRM and PSA systems are capable of flagging customers in decline or at risk of churn. They apply AI algorithms to detect patterns of activities, or the absence of activities, that lead to troubled projects or client churn.

These algorithms measure things like change orders, change in (client or service provider) staffing, project (time or budget) overruns or increased time durations for deliverable signoff or payment of invoices (i.e., Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)). Like the project health monitor, a customer health monitor grants early detection for early response.

Professional service project dashboards surface the most salient information by role. We have found them to be most helpful when they prioritize data in a way that makes the information actionable. For example, a professional services dashboard should display information in a prioritized order, so the recipient can tackle what's most important first and then proceed down the list. Below are dashboard KPIs that we use repeatedly for our professional service engagements.

Operational Performance

Client Performance

Financial Performance

  • Project variances relative to scope, time, budget and quality
  • Project variance at forecast to complete
  • Staff utilization; under or over utilization
  • Staff planning and forecasting
  • Progress deviations with alerts
  • NPV or CSAT scores and trend by client and project type
  • Repeat customer volume and trend
  • Repeat project volume and trend
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) by customer type and project type
  • Customer referrals by customer and project type
  • Project portfolio ranking
  • Projects at Risk
  • Actual to Budget variance analysis
  • Unbillable services
  • Accumulation of unbilled work
  • Missing time and expense reports
  • Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)
  • Least profitable projects and services
  • Assets used repeatedly

CRM and PSA software dashboards enable those responsible for project and customer performance to measure and manage service delivery at scale. Below is a sample PSA dashboard.

Professional Services Dashboard

See the best practices in professional services project performance visibility.

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