by Matthew Stibbe
Published on 13 February 2013
"Projector is a powerful, flexible and pragmatic tool for professional services automation. Built on real-world experience in the industry, it gives firms a cost-effective approach for project management, resource scheduling and project accounting without the upfront cost of on-premise hardware and software."
Behind every super-smart consultant there is a frazzled project manager, an impatient accountant and an ambitious executive. Projector is a software tool that helps these professionals do their jobs more efficiently and, as a result, improves the overall performance and productivity of the firm.
Built by a team of professional services experts who founded a company called Projector PSA, Projector is a professional services automation application. It has three main capabilities that address business needs in professional services firms.
The system has two main interfaces:
Projector PSA's clients can choose different combinations of modules at different price points. They pay for the system, which is a web-hosted, software-as-a-service application, on a monthly per-user basis. Prices start at $15 per user per month, making Projector as cost-effective as it is flexible.
The system aims to provide 'best of breed' professional services automation without the complexity (and expense) of adding modules for accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM). It does, however, interface directly with applications like Salesforce.com, QuickBooks, Microsoft Great Plains, Excel, Project, and Access. Projector PSA also provides an open API for custom integration.
Professional services automation tools, such as Projector, have become the price of entry into an increasingly competitive marketplace. They help companies improve their operational efficiency, increase utilization and enhance profitability. Used properly, the right professional services automation tool can be a competitive advantage.
A study by the National Computing Centre revealed the top reasons services organizations wanted to implement professional services automation were to:
For smaller or less mature companies, these automation tools often replace whiteboards with hand-scrawled information or ad-hoc spreadsheets. In larger companies or growing firms with ambitions to look beyond just 'getting the job done' to 'improving the way we work', they provide a compass and a map.
They also provide an ongoing insight into project profitability and costs, helping companies spot problems early and take swift remedial action. This is increasingly important as a growing proportion of projects are now delivered on a fixed-price basis. Since this trend shifts more of the risk onto the service provider, fixed price work needs to be monitored much more closely than traditional projects.
There is also the human dimension. People are the stock in trade for professional services firms. While project managers need to deploy them efficiently to maximize revenue, they cannot afford to burn them out or ignore them. Good staff need a variety of challenges, new stimuli and training to thrive. Companies need to balance workloads and predict peaks and troughs to ensure that there are enough staff and contractors to cope with both current and future demands.
Projector PSA targets companies with 50-500 fee-earners with average revenues of around $20 million per year. However, they have clients ranging from just two employees (but a strong focus on best practice) to over 4,000 users. Projector is used by tens of thousands of users in hundreds of companies around the world.
With this positioning, it offers a roadmap for smaller firms to upgrade from ad-hoc spreadsheets, basic project management tools and accounting software and a way for larger firms to avoid the cost of bespoke solutions or high-end ERP systems.
The company's client base includes professional services organizations in management consulting, software development, IT systems integration, and digital marketing as well as consulting teams embedded in larger product vendors.
Growing companies often approach Projector PSA on the rebound from a failed project. For example, a fixed-price assignment with cost overruns or a large project where the team suffered from burnout and delays. Typically, these problems are a sign that the company has outgrown its existing systems. They may not know that they need a 'professional services automation' tool-they just need a better way to allocate resources and track costs and time invested.
At the other end of the target customer base, large firms switch to Projector after making a decision to table bespoke in-house software or to upgrade from a less-flexible competitor product. They are looking for tools to help them achieve business goals such as enhancing resource utilization or improving profitability.
In both cases, an increasingly competitive economy and a switch to fixed price projects mean that every services organization needs to get smarter about the way it operates. Projector gives them the tools to do exactly that.
For a list of reference customers see: www.projectorpsa.com/customers.html.
Projector's competitors include:
Projector is both broad and deep in its functionality. However, a number of features stand out and differentiate it from its competition.
Projector includes three functional modules: resource scheduling, project accounting and enhanced project management. The company's pricing model lets customers choose the functionality they need and pay for it on a per-user, per-month basis (with a minimum monthly subscription).
There are no activation or termination fees and no minimum contract terms. The company offers a 30-day free trial to let potential clients see if the product is appropriate for their needs.
There are three basic price points:
The Team edition includes the full project accounting module that includes time and expense tracking through invoicing functionality. The Professional edition includes all three modules and the ability to add optional services and integrations as required. The Enterprise edition includes all the system's capabilities plus enhanced support and the option to host Projector on your own servers. Volume discounts are available.
Projector PSA's clear, public pricing stands in contrast with the 'call us for a quotation' approach of some of its competitors. The different price points and the ability add or subtract users at will lets clients adopt Projector at their own pace and in response to their changing needs. Projector PSA's approach is the polar opposite of the typical strategy of locking clients into multi-year contracts and forcing them to plan (and pay) for peak staffing levels. As such, this actual usage-based pricing structure often proves to be a more cost effective approach in practice than more restrictive contracts.
For full details of the company's pricing see: www.projectorpsa.com/pricing.html.
This section introduces some of Projector's key features. There are two main interfaces for the system: a web-based employee interface ("Projector Web") and an installed application that gives managers and finance staff access to project setup, management and reporting tools (the "Management Portal").
| Feature and benefits | Screenshot | | The dashboard provides a user-centric overview of current projects and individual performance as well as shortcuts to activities like filing a timesheet or expense report. | | | Detailed, individual stats give users a view of their personal contribution over time. | | | A simplified project view gives users clear goals and priorities - 'what should I be doing next?' | | | Projector Web makes it quick and easy for employees to log hours against different projects and tasks. It also provides a feedback mechanism from the employee to the project manager about progress and task completion. | | | It's the same with expense reports. It takes a few minutes to fill in expenses incurred and drag and drop receipts onto the expense report. Once submitted, users can track the approval status of the expenses all the way through reimbursement. | | | An easy-to-use collaboration workspace lets users store key project information and track documents and issues online. | |
| Feature and benefits | Screenshot | | The project dashboard gives managers a quick overview of all the company's projects, highlighting variances and problems. Access controls restrict visibility based on company policies, if required. | | | Projector lets you customize this display, set alerts and track KPIs. This dashboard features real-time data, dynamic revenue allocation and the ability to drill down into the data if required. | | | Projector constantly projects forward from the present day to the end of the project, dynamically allocating revenue to give a rolling estimate of the project's profitability. There's no need to wait for the month or quarter end for this information. | | | The resources tab lets managers see how much work individuals have and allocate staff to tasks. The system permits 'lumpy scheduling' so that people's time can be allocated in different proportions for different time periods, not evenly (and unrealistically) spread out. | | | Projector users typically have 6% better utilization than other professional services firms thanks to features like 'lumpy scheduling' and 'rolling wave planning' where managers can add more detail to the near-future schedule while leaving the longer-term plans less granular. | |
Although they are part of the management portal and share the same user interface, it is helpful to think of system and project configuration as a separate functional module of Projector.
| Feature and benefits | Screenshot | | The system lets firms choose from a range of charging models for each project. | | | It also lets you define 'roles' which are like placeholder slots on a project, for example a 'business analyst' or 'developer'. Managers can then populate a project plan with roles and allocate actual people to fill them later. | | | Projector comes with 50 pre-defined report templates but the system makes it easy to define your own. No coding skills, extra costs or consultants required. | | | You can also create Excel PivotTable and graph reports to help you analyze project information in more detail. | |
Web browsers requirements:
Operating system requirements:
APIs and integration:
Security and availability:
For companies that either need more than ad-hoc software to manage professional service projects or that have sophisticated requirements but don't want the cost or complexity of an all-embracing suite, Projector is a compelling choice. Its feature set delivers the advanced functionality needed for project forecasting, planning and management. Its simple interface makes it easy to use, not only for individual end users but also for people in finance, management and the executive suite.
After a careful analysis of the software, several points stand out:
The results speak for themselves. Companies that use Projector have better utilization rates than people who use competing professional services automation tools (76% versus 72%) and much better results than companies who don't use anything (and manage to achieve just 66% utilization). This is worth an extra 1.3 months a year of billability for every resource, easily justifying the cost of a system like Projector.
Given Projector's competitive price, companies can achieve a rapid and substantial return on their investment and address the most pressing business issues facing professional services firms. In short, the critical path to success runs through Projector.