Professional Services Automation (PSA) software can help with the effectiveness of operations by providing professional services organisations with real-time access to critical information throughout the entire duration of a services project. Professional services automation software improves both employee value and management visibility by streamlining operations and keeping on top of administration duties for you.
Since there are so many professional services automation software solutions on the market today, we wanted to provide you with this buyers’ guide to give you further information on what you might want and need from PSA software. This guide is intended to help professional services organisations to assess their options across a wide range of industries.
In this guide, we will cover what professional services automation software is and some of the common features that are included by most manufacturers, as well as market trends you need to understand, the benefits of and potential issues with using PSA software and some recent news events you should know about.
What Is Professional Services Automation Software?
Professional services automation software is designed for professional service organisations that need to streamline their operations and automate certain processes, including new-business generation, service delivery and administration. PSA software is essentially an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for a service-oriented firm, so as such it focuses mainly on managing services delivered by human resources rather than the tangible assets other types of company might use.
Fully integrated PSA software can help firms improve intangibles that are more difficult to measure and quantify, such as vendor efficiency, employee turnover or customer satisfaction. Professional services software generally includes features which allow the user to manage projects, resources, time-sheets and financial accounting.
Some industries that may benefit from the implementation of professional services automation software include: construction, marketing services, architecture, computer software services, engineering, accountancy, management consultancy, audit and advertising.
Common Features of Professional Services Automation Software
This feature supports managers in creating and tracking schedules, budgeting for costs and collaborating with clients and employees. Managers can schedule projects and employees, implement budget and project cost tools, manage project tasks and much more. Examples of this kind of tool include Microsoft Dynamics GP, Deltek Vision and Netsuite OpenAir.
This tool tracks expenses and revenues by project and by client while also keeping a close eye on profitability. A few of the key functions in this area include billing and measuring accounts payable and receivable. Products that provide this feature include Sage Accpac (now known as Sage 300 ERP), Intacct Project Accounting and Microsoft Dynamics SL for Professional Services.
Time and Expense Tracking
This tool allows you to monitor employee work time and expenses. This application can detail each employee’s availability, utilisation and billing status while also producing web-based time-sheets which can be accessed from anywhere remotely. Examples of products that provide this service are SAP Business ByDesign, Sage Peachtree Quantum (now known as Sage 50 Quantum) and Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
Billing and Invoicing
This can be used to streamline and automate the cycle of expense management and reimbursement, allowing businesses to produce timely and accurate invoices. The billing and invoices applications can make financial reports and process submissions. Programs that can be used for these purposes includeSage Peachtree Accounting (now known as Sage 50c), BillQuick and Lawson S3 Financial Management (now under Infor).
This can improve service support for customers with urgent queries which may need your attention. Help-desk functions involve tracking and managing inquiries to create quick and accurate responses, along with the option to produce a FAQ section so that clients can easily find answers to their questions. Products which can provide this application include Epicor Professional Services, Microsoft Dynamics SL for Professional Services and SAP for Professional Services.
Knowledge and Document Management
This application can be used to share and maintain information across company networks and ensure that knowledge or documents aren’t lost when changes are made to time, location or personnel. This kind of tool can collate different types of document and create a centralised storehouse of information which can be accessed where necessary for future development. Example products include Deltek Vision, SAP for Professional Services and Epicor Professional Services.
Resource management tools give companies the ability to track human resources and assign individuals to projects that fit most appropriately with their skills and knowledge. This can be in the form of helping managers to streamline employee allocation by use of highly customisable databases and creating in-depth profiles of professionals, showing both their qualifications and their availability for projects. Examples of products with this feature are Microsoft Dynamics AX, Lawson S3 Financial Management and BillQuick.
Procurement and Inventory
These tools ensure that supplies are procured in compliance with regulations, have been safeguarded against loss and are readily available for use. By using these applications, you can identify the best products at the lowest price and automate the whole process of managing sellers, commodities and contracts. Examples of programs which can do this for you include Sage Accpac, Microsoft Dynamics GP and SAP Business ByDesign.
Sales and Account Management
With this feature, companies are able to maintain a high-quality service by keeping track of past transactions and customer and client information. Buying trends can be analysed and customer information stored, allowing businesses to generate leads and personalise their marketing for different customers. These features are present in Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Sage Peachtree Quantum and Netsuite OpenAir, among others.
Market Trends to Understand
Interest-based Resource Utilisation
Employee turnover costs are vital to improving profit margins but are also incredibly difficult to quantify. Many service firms are currently looking for software solutions that allow them to consider employees’ needs and interests when scheduling them to projects to make sure they are motivated and focused. The best employees get to work on the projects they are most excited about, meaning better work for clients and more satisfied workers in the firm.
Integrated Accounting and Project Management
Nowadays, firms are more aware that using totally separate systems for project management and accounting can waste significant amounts of time and potentially lead to errors. Bringing accounting and project management together in one integrated package can eliminate the possibility of errors and save time while allowing management to see where each project is in real time, and this can make a huge difference to an organisation’s ability to respond to uninformed decisions, mistakes or discrepancies in plenty of time.
Since service firms are now so numerous globally, but most still have fewer than 100 employees, there are plenty of businesses seeking cost-effective technological solutions to their daily problems. These firms generally don’t invest heavily in on-site equipment, so remote cloud-based professional services solutions lift the huge financial and logistical burden of IT from their organisation and allow them to access work documents from anywhere.
Some service firms have found success by using PSA software to work collaboratively with their customers. Clients get direct access to data such as vendor schedules, project timelines and invoices - from there, they can approve and review invoices remotely and have immediate access to any changes in project information that might occur.
Benefits and Potential Issues
PSA software has many benefits, and ultimately it is concerned with helping firms achieve immediate results by streamlining, integrating and automating processes. PSA software can improve project and resource management, accuracy of invoices and time-keeping as well as revenue recognition, overall performance and profitability. With real-time actionable insights, PSA software can reduce errors and save you time by performing many administrative functions automatically. It can also be used to improve and elevate customer relationships, leading to return clients and higher levels of communication and collaboration.
However, some firms do not manage to achieve these benefits. Problems may arise as a result of the restructuring required to implement professional services automation software into an organisation’s structure: business processes may need re-engineering, and workarounds that employees have become accustomed to will need to be scrapped. Staff may be reluctant to shift from their existing software and might be resistant to the re-training necessary to help PSA software run smoothly. On the other hand, the resistance may come from senior management instead, as they may not appreciate the benefits of a fully integrated software solution.
Recent Events You Should Know About
Mavenlink Named 2015 “Cool Vendor” by Gartner
Mavenlink was one of the names on Gartner’s 2015 list for Cool Vendors in Program and Portfolio Management (PPM), thanks to their SaaS solution, which is designed to assist professional service organisations of any size, and provides features such as time tracking of billable hours against non-billable hours, basic task management and advanced financial analytics, all in one fully integrated package.
Tigerpaw Announces First-Ever SaaS-Based Offering
Tigerpaw Software, a leading name in the PSA market, announced the release of their first ever SaaS program, Tigerpaw One, in October 2015. This marks a noteworthy industry shift towards cloud-based software, as Tigerpaw One is the company’s first offering in their 30-year history to not be hosted by their on-premise licensing.
Vorex Integrates with Continuum
September 2015 saw a significant merger between Vorex, a top cloud-based PSA software provider, andContinuum, a provider of IT services solutions specialising in remote monitoring and management. By integrating the two platforms, Vorex users will now be able to access streamlined ticketing and workflows, which could save valuable business time while also increasing productivity.