Why true ‘professionals’ need Professional Services Automation (PSA)

25th March 2013

Professional services are set to surge in 2013 according to this year’s Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark report from Service Performance Insight (SPI Research).  Yet professionals such as surveyors, consulting engineers and management consultants can find themselves poorly served by software solutions.  But as Gary Simon, FSN’s managing editor reports, there are signs that new Cloud-based offerings for Professional Services Automation (PSA) are helping to turn the tide.




Professionals are by their very nature service oriented – most professionals want to spend their time delivering quality advice and services – it’s part of their DNA and the reason that many entered a profession in the first instance.  So every unnecessary minute devoted to administration is frustrating because it takes them away from what they want to do.  It’s a growing problem because service industries make up a growing part of developed economies.  But with this growth has come the challenge of recruiting and motivating high calibre talent, managing productivity and optimising resources across multiple projects with an increasingly mobile work force.

Historically, software solutions have focussed on the accounting entries, for example ‘job costing’ or ‘contract costing’, i.e. recording what has happened rather than allowing project managers to oversee the bid process, plan their resource allocation and prepare accurate project budgets.  As a result there is often a chasm between the experience of professionals at the ‘sharp end’ and what the accounting systems say.  All of this can lead to unexpected write-offs (unrecoverable time costs), project losses and under-utilization.  An undesirable by-product of inefficient and badly organized projects is that it can also lead to staff de-motivation and above average rates of staff attrition.

It is a challenge familiar to Perceptive Software a leading creator of enterprise content management (ECM) software products and solutions, with 700 employees straddling more than 30 countries worldwide.  Before implementing a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution from FinancialForce.com, it found itself facing the twin challenges of managing a rapidly growing roster of projects of increasing complexity.  Project managers were unable to effectively plan resources, the sales group was unable to see project status on demand and the organization had little or no information sharing across teams until they implemented PSA software from FinancialForce.com.

Modern applications such as FinancialForce PSA, created in the Cloud, provides the means to flexibly structure and manage individual projects and project portfolios, capture time and expenses, produce client billing and manage resources.  It also helps businesses manage a mixture of sales and services so that sales and service teams work in the same system, using the same information in a collaborative working environment allowing processes to flow naturally from one discipline to the other.

Since implementing FinancialForce PSA, Perceptive Software has seen a 2% increase in resource utilization, a 50% increase in value-added sales to existing customers and a 3% reduction in voluntary attrition across the Professional Services team. 

These impressive results have also been acknowledged externally with Perceptive Software rated among the top five percent best-of-the-best performing Professional Services (PS) organizations benchmarked against more than 230 leading firms in the 2013 Professional Services Maturity™ Best of Best report

But with the advent of the Cloud has also come innovative ways of collaborating across project teams and the wider professional services organization. NTT Centerstance is an example of a company that has benefited enormously from a move to Cloud-based PSA.  Ironically, it is itself a professional services organization that helps businesses move key business processes to the cloud yet its own move surpassed even its expectations. 

Before the moving to FinancialForce PSA the business was severely hampered by a lack of system integration.  It struggled to get a unified view of performance and projects were backlogged, understaffed and lacked the right resources. 

After the migration, real-time visibility of data made business decisions easy, approval cycles for time cards and project proposals were cut from days or weeks to minutes, resource allocation and staff hiring decisions could be made with confidence and visibility across departments had reduced inefficiencies and the quantity of emails.

For Centerstance, “Chatter”, the Force.com social media collaboration tool was a step forward. Chatter brought teams together to communicate in real time about client issues, future projects, and billing issues. In fact the transformation was so good that Centerstance was also rated in top five percent best-of-the-best performing Professional Services (PS) organizations in the 2013 Professional Services Maturity™ Best of Best report .

But in addition to the external accolades businesses like Perceptive Software and Centerstance benefit directly on the bottom line. For example, ‘Best of Best’ services organizations are likely to have five percent more of their workforce chargeable and only need to call on third parties to deliver services around half as much of the time as their competitors.  On average consultant utilization is around 7 percent higher.

PSA is perhaps less well known as a business software category but it has the potential to completely transform the way that professional services are delivered. It is also one of those rare situations when all stakeholders stand to benefit. Service organizations win through enhanced productivity, efficiency and profitability; client organizations benefit from enhanced levels of on-time and on-budget services and highly qualified consultants stand to benefit from greater job satisfaction with less time spent on administration and more time focussed on deploying their skills.