Making sure every cog in a transaction works efficiently is a necessity in every business. If one is out of place or slow, the whole chain can get disrupted, resulting in late payments and impacting customers. Customers should be the top priority; to be truly customer-centric, the whole business must work collaboratively together, though one way to improve this is through Professional Services Automation (PSA).
These are the views of Andy Campbell, Global Solution Evangelist at FinancialForce, whose work involves engaging with executive teams that are undertaking major business transformations and advising customers and partners on cloud adoption Prior to FinancialForce, Campbell worked at Oracle for over 20 years in a variety of roles, including latterly as Cloud Evangelist, where he led the HR research and thought leadership activity for EMEA.
Speaking to The Fintech Times, Campbell explains how projects’ efficiency and effectiveness can be improved with PSA:
We are at a point in time where a new business chapter is being written and the success of professional services organisations has become intertwined with how successful their customers are. Today’s businesses are recentring around their customers and developing arrangements that are mutually beneficial. Simply put, customer-centricity is vital for businesses to achieve growth in an era where provider-customer relationships are inseparable and symbiotic.
The facts speak for themselves. The highest performing professional services organisations generally have the most satisfied customers. The 2021 SPI Professional Services Benchmark Report confirms this situation. The best services businesses not only have higher levels of client referenceability (84.5 per cent compared with 69 per cent for their peers) but they also see improvement in other key metrics. Bid to win ratios are typically 19 per cent higher, service discounts are 36 per cent lower, resource utilisation rates are significantly better (79 per cent compared to 69 per cent for peers) and 89 per cent of projects are successfully delivered on time compared with the industry average of 77 per cent.
So, delivering projects effectively not only improves levels of customer satisfaction but significantly benefits the entire business. Interestingly the report also reveals that client referenceability correlates directly with an improvement in product margins. This might initially appear to be a contradiction, but it does show that effective delivery is mutually beneficial for both clients and the organisation itself.
However, not all companies have managed to find this balance and, too often, projects run late or are over budget. So, how do companies ensure that their projects are delivered on time? This is where technology plays a hand, specifically Professional Services Automation (PSA). PSA is a suite of tools that are designed to help organisations to overcome some of the biggest challenges they face in delivering on-budget and timely projects.
Prepare for project success
The best place to start is at the beginning, and a successful project starts with the best services estimate. This must accurately reflect the work that needs to be done, leveraging templates of best practise and previous work to ensure that the correct activities and resources are included. Errors and omissions that need to be corrected after the event not only irritate customers, but their resolution can cause project delays and compromise successful delivery. It is important to get it right from the outset.
If estimates are poor or inaccurate this can result in a poorly scoped project, which is likely to cause the project to overrun, ultimately negatively impacting client satisfaction. Any project will inevitably be subject to change requests, that is the very nature of the business, but minimising their number can more effectively mitigate their impact and reduce disruption. Automating the process means that sales teams can focus their efforts on modelling the best solution for their client, rather than being pressured into just getting the quote out of the door on time, which is so often the case.
The heart of the project
The SPI Benchmark report shows unequivocally that implementing a PSA solution delivers significant business impact. For this reason, they have consistently recommended that PSA is deployed for any organisation with over 20 billable consultants. The solutions lie at the heart of any professional services business and provide the basis for initiation, planning, resource management, scheduling, execution, close, and control of projects and services.
The tools provide team members such as project managers, resources, and consultants with all the information and functionality they require to successfully deliver projects. PSA is typically the system of record for resources and is used to ensure that the right person is deployed on the right project, optimising utilisation rates and ensuring that future capabilities are effectively forecast. They also support transactional activities such as managing tasks, resources, milestones, reporting, risk management, planning, time, and expense capture.
The tools are often deployed through personalised dashboards designed for the requirements of the individual’s role. Not only is this easier for users, but it also minimises the administrative burden that so often plagues project activity.
When PSA is combined with a CRM system on the same platform the benefits increase still further. Seamless, highly automated business processes and a common shared source of data, help to remove manual activity and data duplication, whilst reducing errors and time delays.
Collaborating for joint success
During the covid-19 pandemic, when so many organisations have been successfully delivering projects remotely, there has also been a marked change in the ways in which companies have engaged with customers. Many organisations now use community portals to share data and collaborate more effectively with customers, giving them visibility into activities, progress reports and invoices. Increased levels of transparency mean that issues are raised sooner and resolved more effectively, to the benefit of companies, customers, and partners.
This more open, agile, and collaborative approach to project delivery resonates with the modern digital world in which we operate. It has delivered higher levels of customer satisfaction and resulted in customers having a more active involvement in the project and greater ‘ownership’ of the delivered solution.
But that isn’t the whole story
One last point to consider, especially given the increasing focus on customer centricity, is that the delivery of a successful project is not actually the end of the process. For example, there may be issues with invoices being incorrect due to missed timesheets, or activities being delayed. This can manifest itself in payment disputes and higher levels of outstanding debt. Imagine the unfortunate situation where credit controllers are chasing the customer for payment of overdue bills, when at the same time the sales team are negotiating for a new piece of work.
The delivery of projects on time and on budget is critical to business success, and PSA tools can go a significant way to achieving this. However, being truly customer centric requires the whole business to work collaboratively together.