Finding the Professional Services Automation tool that’s right for your business
Regardless of where you are on your growth journey, at some point your consulting business will hit a roadblock. You may even be there right now.
As a start-up you managed everything on spreadsheets and like all good consultancies do, these spreadsheets have grown. Covering everything from sales pipeline to billing to resourcing to holiday booking and all of your operations in between.
This works when you’re small but if you’re looking to scale – and particularly if you’re thinking about a sale in the future – then this approach is going to hold you back.
The solution, and something that we’ve helped many rapidly growing consulting businesses implement, is a PSA tool. Professional Services Automation.
In this article we explain why you should be thinking about this for your consultancy if you aren’t already, and what to think about when selecting the right partner to work with.
Why use a PSA tool?
A PSA tool brings together all the core operational processes of a consulting business like yours and lets you manage them in one place – the information that might once have been stored in lots of interconnected spreadsheets. It provides real-time knowledge about areas such as resource demand, skills availability, timesheets, expenses and billing so that you can operate more effectively and forecast more accurately.
Introducing PSA to your business has a whole host of benefits, including:
A single source of the truth – As long as everybody buys into working with the tool, nothing will be managed outside it. It connects previously disconnected sets of information and keeps it all up to date. That means everybody can access the same critical information about the business and use it to inform their decisions.
Greater efficiency – You can spot the white space between assignments where you aren’t utilising your resources fully. Once you know where you have extra capacity you can boost productivity. It’ll also speed up the billing process so you’ll be paid quicker. These two factors alone often justify the investment in PSA.
Transparency – Data can’t be hidden. You’ll be able to see who is working on what and how each project is progressing. You’ll know quickly if a project is falling behind schedule and who is available to bring it back on track.
Choosing your PSA partner
When it comes to choosing a PSA the key to success is making sure you’ve got the best for your business. This may sound obvious but it’s something that we’ve seen go wrong for so many consultancies.
There are certain things to look for when selecting your PSA provider. Firstly, always bear in mind this is a strategic decision and you want a long-term partner. You’re likely to need their support for years to come.
PSA software is a relatively new market, so you need to make sure the company you work with is set up for long-term success. That means looking closely at its viability, funding and the stage it’s at in its life cycle. Importantly, your provider needs to understand the professional services industry and the specific challenges of your company.
Secondly, don’t be blinded by the product’s features list. It may tick all the boxes but delve deeper. A feature rich PSA might be overkill or bury you with unnecessary complexity – it needs to fit your business and the way you want to work. Investigate how much support you’ll get from the company, how the tool integrates into your existing ecosystem, how secure the data it holds is and how easy it is to get the management information you need out of it. The PSA market is relatively new – new suppliers appear all the time and products are evolving rapidly, so if there is a must-have feature which is critical to your business, don’t just settle for a supplier’s promise. Make sure it is in writing that they will provide it.
Finally, what upgrades are planned? The digital world moves quickly and any software service will become obsolete if it doesn’t keep up. Dig a little to find out how often upgrades are released and whether these integrate seamlessly or result in an ongoing maintenance overhead for you. As well as questioning the company, it’s worth trying to find a user forum where people discuss the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the product and feed requirements into the product development roadmap.
Choosing your PSA tool is a big decision. Get it right and you’ll really feel the value as your business operates more smoothly and efficiently, you’ll also see it reflected in your bottom line.
If you want to find out more about what you need to think about when selecting the right PSA for your consulting business, then get in touch. We explore this topic in detail in our recent webinar ‘Turning information into insights’.