The Top Benefits from Professional Services Automation Software
- Professional Services Automation software is the flagship business application for professional service firms.
- Professional Services Automation (PSA) software improves project solutioning, facilitates consistent project execution and delivers real-time visibility into project performance and profitability.
- PSA software streamlines and automates the entire bid to bill project lifecycle which accelerates the sales process, improves resource utilization, captures time and expense, automates invoicing and billing, and most importantly improves on-time and on-quality project delivery and profitability.
Professional Services Automation (PSA) software, sometimes called Services Resource Planning (SRP), is a purpose-built service management application.
It manages and automates service processes such as project planning, financial estimating, staff scheduling, resource management, project management, collaboration, time and expense capture, invoicing, revenue recognition and project-based analytics. It's the core business software system of a services firm and the system of record for projects. Just as your CRM software delivers a 360-degree customer view, PSA software delivers the 360-degree project view.
The Core Business Application for the Services Industry
PSA technology is commonly used by consultants, accountants, architects, engineers, lawyers and pretty much anybody that bills for their time on a project or contract basis. Consultants and service professionals use PSA systems for three overarching objectives.
- Improve resource management. The PSA application aligns client or project requirements with resources that have the needed skills and competencies. Resource optimization, including scheduling, onboarding, collaboration and performance management, is proven to increase staff performance and utilization.
- Improve project outcomes. PSA systems give project managers more control and visibility with information reporting that flags or forecasts deviations in scope, time, cost, quality or business outcomes. PSA software promotes process consistency and repeatability. It streamlines and automates business processes and facilitates a standardized approach to the services delivery lifecycle.
- Improve financial margins. Better planning, tighter resource management, process automation and real-time visibility to project progress or variances collectively drive increased resource utilization, fewer missteps and non-billable time, adherence to schedule and the delivery of forecasted objectives.
PSA Software Benefits
PSA technology provides many business benefits. Based on our experience in implementing these systems for over two decades, we've learned those benefits fall into one of two categories — strategic and tactical — based largely on their financial impact.
Tactical PSA benefits deliver incremental value, but collectively that value adds up. Below are several tactical benefits.
- Risk management, including risk strategies and mitigating plans, may be integrated with project execution and automation. This enables project managers and stakeholders to use the PSA dashboards, alerts and information reporting as an early warning system to expose risks and advise when intervention is needed.
- Collaboration. Most PSA applications use collaboration tools to promote communication and information sharing. These tools include online communities, asynchronous chat and Enterprise Social Networks that are embedded in the project portal. For example, Salesforce Slack or Microsoft Teams are integrated within online projects to promote collaboration among consultants and client project team members regardless of distance or time of day. These tools also increase relevance by using a subscription-based, pull versus push delivery, and topic-based conversations.
- Knowledge management is achieved with tools such as a knowledgebase or Content Management System (CMS). These tools integrate with the project to centralize documents, artifacts and collective project-based knowledge in a shared repository with easy search and retrieval. An alternative approach used by some applications is to integrate to popular systems such as SharePoint or Box. When these systems are used to capture more project information from more sources, every project becomes a knowledgebase.
- Digital transformation is aided by shifting from physical to digital processes such as virtual project management, digital transaction processing (electronic POs, invoices, payments, credit memos, customer statements) and e-signatures for contracts and change orders.
- Voice of the Customer (VOC) tools, such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys, can be manually or automatically delivered at project-based life cycle milestones to measure CSAT and get customer input to improve project delivery or services innovation. We get the best response rate when surveys are simple and fast, such as "On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with the completion of the design phase?"
Escalation rules can automatically route responses with low scores and create follow-up actions. We then tabulate the information across projects to understand which services deliver as expected and which may need improvement or innovation.
Being customer-centric begins by understanding what your customers want from your staff, your services and your company. The best way to gain that understanding is to ask them.
- Time and expense capture is improved because entries can be recorded down to the task level if desired and consultants will enter their time and expense on their mobile devices while on the road and before they get home. Their time will be captured more timely.
- Services innovation. We live in an era of the social customer. Many clients want to contribute and make their voice known, and if automated and harnessed this information can be extremely valuable. Customers are the single greatest source of services improvement and innovation. Customers will tell you want they want if you give them the forum and make it easy. These applications can leverage an online project portal for staff and client project team members to share comments, complaints, ideas and other feedback during the course of the project.
A best practice is to create an online ideation forum or community to proactively solicit ideas and recommendations from customers. This data can be automatically captured, ranked, tabulated and displayed in dashboards. We have worked several client projects where this data created new revenue streams such as ancillary services, concierge services, premium services, and elevated fee-based customer services backed with Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
- Business Intelligence helps staff make better decisions that aid project performance. That means delivering actionable information to staff (i.e., priority-based dashboards), real-time deviation reporting (i.e., notification alerts), project performance reporting (with trends and benchmarks), and professional services analytics that drive continuous project improvement. It also means routing the right information to the right team member at the right time.
Pretty much all PSA out of the box reporting is static and historical. However, these systems leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and model data into forward-looking and predictive analytics that flag contract deviations, identify at-risk projects and project pro-forma financial forecasts. Shifting from historical reporting to predictive analytics elevates project-based information reporting from hindsight to foresight.
The most powerful BI figures out how to convert a large amount of project data into actionable information. Data is the source to show when projects are in trouble – well before end of period reporting or when a client raises a complaint. Data is the source to create predictive models that can be manipulated for what-if scenarios or dynamic business goals.
Other PSA benefits include streamlined invoicing to accelerate cash flow, improved services repeatability to drive increased quality, automated project accounting (i.e., allocations, burden, overhead) for cost accounting purposes, automated revenue recognition for more timely financial statement reporting, and centralized information reporting that delivers a single source of truth for all project and services delivery.
The Most Strategic PSA Benefits
Strategic PSA benefits deliver the most impactful and sustained benefits, and include the following:
- Improved customer relationships
Customer relationships are the foundation for services growth. Successful relationships keep competitors at bay and margins higher. PSA systems integrate with CRM software to aid customer relationship management by capturing customer behaviors, customer insights and voice of the customer (VOC). It can convert these subjective data into objective measures such as Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and customer health scores.
PSA apps can supply customer and project-based information to deliver engagement that is more relevant, personalized and contextual. When highly specific customer data is used with nurture marketing campaigns it improves both communication relevance and frequency – and keeps your services firm top of mind between visits.
It’s no secret that increased personalized engagement leads to improved customer relationships. When CRM and PSA are implemented as a customer-centric system, and not the all too common transaction-based system, you will capture both transactional and behavioral data. This allows service firms to not just satisfy stated customer business goals, but unstated emotional goals, which is far, far more powerful in building strong customer relationships.
- Increased customer share
Customer and project demographics are the most common data captured by CRM and PSA systems. Unfortunately, they are relatively stagnant and do not provide the information and insights to help grow customer share and customer lifetime value (CLV). Better methods to understand customer top priorities, decision criteria and what it takes to grow customer share include customer behaviors and activities.
Customer behavior can be acquired during project delivery by harvesting digital footprints, reviewing customer actions in the self-service knowledgebase, performing sentiment analysis (data mining of text rich sources such as emails and customer service cases), building customer intelligence (including segmentation, personas, insights and a 360-degree customer view), asking customers what they want with online tools such as voice of the customer or communities, and engaging customers in their preferred channels.
Customer activities include meetings, contact center cases, purchase history (RFM), satisfaction measurement (NPS or CSAT surveys), willingness to be a reference or customer case study, and many more. If your CRM or PSA software isn't designed to capture and harvest customer behaviors and activities in a way that these insights can be easily applied for relevant and personalized customer engagement, then it's not going to contribute to increasing customer share.
- Increased customer retention
CRM systems for service companies can calculate customer health scores and use this data to predict customer churn. PSA systems can calculate project health scores to detect and predict projects at risk. Customer attrition or troubled project models are built with machine learning that identifies behaviors or activities indicative of troubled projects and customer defection. Early identification of projects and customers at risk provides a powerful capability to intervene and stave off unsuccessful projects and customer churn.