Project Management & Planning Articles

Professional Services Automation – Beyond Timesheet Basics

by Hadley Jones
Published on 4 June 2014

Payroll-Service-Sacramento_524_348Is your professional services organization experiencing growing pains? When you move to a broader customer base or range of services, your job tracking and accounting system has to move with you. Just jotting down hours worked on a piece of paper is a recipe for revenue leaks and customer churn.

It could be time to rethink your level of PSA ( professional service automation)…

This is especially true if any of the following look familiar:

  • Difficulty in growing services revenue
  • Increased demand for your services when you sell products
  • To sell more products, you need to sell more services
  • Your services offering has increased in variety and scope
  • Your services business is moving from a local to a global market
  • You have significantly increased your resource base
  • Subcontractors with specific skill sets are increasingly part of your offering
  • Your employees are working further and further afield
  • With bigger projects, mid-project profit visibility is becoming crucial
  • You have more deadlines to manage and you're missing more
  • You spend more time managing 'stuff' than you do getting projects done
  • You no longer know if any one project is profitable at a given moment

When Simple Timesheets Run Out of Steam

Some companies try a spreadsheet approach to professional services automation. That means either having one big spreadsheet or having employees self-manage with their own spreadsheets. The first way is labor-intensive and takes attention away from clients and their projects. The second leads to inconsistency and information silos.

Here's where these approaches hurt companies trying to expand their services offering:

  • Fragmented timesheets lead to billable hours being lost
  • Client billing is delayed instead of being done the same day
  • Project goals are missed, customers go elsewhere, and churn rates climb.
  • Data transfer to accounting software, customer relationship management software (CRM) and payroll software is manual, slow and prone to error.
  • There is no single, up-to-date view of customers across the enterprise. Customer focus suffers.
  • There is no single, up-to-date view of resources, which are then double-booked or under-utilized.
  • Partners grow impatient as payment times for sub-contracting services lengthen.

Choosing a Professional Services Automation Solution

A "next-level" professional services automation (PSA) software can be a much better way to track time, money and resources. It lets you account for expenditure and detect revenue leakage. Your choice will depend on the nature of your enterprise and the services you offer.

Here are some questions you are likely to want to ask:

  • Does the PSA application offer metrics appropriate to my industry?
  • How do my staff and my contractors access the PSA application?
  • Is mobile access available? And access via a social network? What about security?
  • Does the PSA app link automatically to my applications and databases? For instance, accounting, billing, customer relationship management and apps for opportunity or knowledge management?
  • Does the app make me work in a specific way or is there flexibility to allow me to continue with my current way of working?
  • What can I track using the PSA application? Budgets, quotes, deposits, invoices, milestones, resource utilization, performance of actual-to-objective?
  • How granular or comprehensive is the information - by individual project, by group, by industry sector and by region, for example?
  • How is the PSA information displayed, and how easy is it to understand and see trends?

Top Professional Services Automation Solutions

FinancialForce PSA

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FinancialForce Professional Services Automation brings your tools to manage resources, time and expenses, project management and accounting, and services resource planning across the enterprise. It uses Salesforce CRM and Force.com to create an integrated services management application. A cloud-based application, it also offers social tools ('Chatter') to tap into the knowledge of the whole workforce for better professional services management.

NetSuite OpenAir

800x800-ns-logo_400x400NetSuite OpenAir provides a comprehensive solution for PSA and services resource planning (SRP). Functional modules include time tracking, reporting, dashboards, resource management, expense tracking and invoicing. With OpenAir Connect, users can take advantage of prebuilt integration between NetSuite OpenAir and common customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation (SFA), human resources (HR), financial/enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

Projector PSA

cfGdB8mr_400x400Projector PSA is organized into three modules, integrated to help you to better professional services automation. The project accounting module tracks the time and expenses invested in projects so far. It also manages client billing and can integrate into your general ledger accounting system. The resource scheduling module matches resources to projects. It also helps you to handle possible resource conflicts and make optimal project tradeoffs. The project management module is for planning, tracking and executing projects, with project workspaces for team communication and collaboration.

Mavenlink

N8zEP8GR_400x400Mavenlink offers project, financial, timeline and resource management in one solution. It also has analytics and reporting to help grow your business. Mavenlink provides 24/7 support for its users and well-known PSA and project management tools such as Gantt charts. In addition, the application can be functionally integrated with a range of popular cloud services. The Google applications are one example, for interworking with Gmail, Google Drive, Google Contacts, Google Calendar and Tasks. Further direct interworking is possible with Salesforce.

AtTask

ubgMgz4l_400x400AtTask focuses on enterprise work management, both by project and by portfolio. Functionality includes time and resource management, helpdesk and issue tracking, governance and auditing. Reports and dashboards for services-based projects are customizable, using drag-and-drop. Additional features include multi-currency support for global projects, social collaboration on projects and mobile working. AtTask also integrates with products like Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce and SAP.

Clarizen

e4a1bf8b7e3c65d63190203fa80f97e7_400x400Clarizen aims its solution at project management needs for professional services, as well as IT teams, agile development and marketing teams. Functionality includes high-level implementation planning, resource management, timesheet tracking, budget and expense management, and change request and issue management. Users benefit from mobile connectivity and social collaboration. Clarizen also integrates with accounting systems such as Intacct and QuickBooks, CRM systems such as Salesforce and other applications including Jira, Google Drive and SharePoint.

iBE.net

plnZs1h8_400x400iBE.net offers professional services automation in the context of an ERP package for smaller businesses. It provides integrated end-to-end business management. In particular, it offers project and service delivery control functions to capture time spent on projects, automatically update project and task data, bill customers and create invoices for different commercial contracts. Integrated process management in iBE.net tracks items from creation to billing to reduce errors and ensure all billable hours are charged for.

With these different solutions available, you too can have a professional services automation solution for your professional activities, and optimize customer satisfaction and billing. Check out the PSA category in GetApp now to see which app suits you best.


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