Professional Services Automation Blog

Driving Professional Services Success: How Marginal Improvements Payoff Big

Bar ChartOver the years we’ve noticed that the top performing professional services firms are always tinkering with their processes. Their growth strategy is a combination of selling more on the front end, and adjusting delivery operations on the back end. Seasoned managers are constantly evaluating incremental costs and benefits, and making a chorus of small changes that effect dramatic improvements in bottom line results.

For professional services organizations (PSOs) that have limited visibility into their staffing and delivery operations, focusing on incremental improvements may seem trivial. Who has time to focus on leveling resource demand to increase utilization rates by 0.5% when it might take a whole week just to understand current performance? Sure improvements in resource utilization translates into profitability, but doesn’t winning a new project do the same thing? Well…only sort of. Continue reading »

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Predicting Professional Services Variability with PSA Software

One of the reasons I love doing what I do is that it gives me the opportunity to work with a huge variety of professional services firms—from startups employing just a couple of founders to larger organizations with thousands of consultants scattered around the globe. No matter where they sit along the maturity curve, each organization faces unique challenges. Forecast-Variance-Thumb2They may range from the very basics of tracking and invoicing for time and expenses to estimating revenue based on backlog to balancing the supply and demand for resources. To address these challenges, we built Projector, a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution, and what’s fun about my job is watching organizations take Projector to solve those problems. What’s even more fun is when an organization starts to push the boundaries of what we originally designed Projector for and we discover together that the system can handle that need and more.

I happened to be talking with one such organization about how they could solve the problem of understanding how variability affected their revenue projections. They were already using a disciplined approach of using scheduled hours, bill rates, and resources in Projector to project utilization, revenue, and profitability, but wanted to take things to the next level. They knew that their projections for next month typically were more accurate than projections for six months into the future and that they were likely to win additional work that tended to drive projections that were further out higher rather than lower. They also wanted to understand whether they were getting better or worse at projecting revenue as their processes matured and their team gained experience. Turns out that Projector has all the information needed to provide this perspective as well as the ability to visualize the data concisely enough to make it understandable…as long as you think about things right. Continue reading »

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Moneyball and PSA Software: The Art of Winning the Professional Services Game

Moneyball-PSA-SoftwareIn 2004, Michael Lewis published Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, a story that chronicled the Oakland A’s quest to turn themselves into one of Major League Baseball’s most successful franchises—despite having the second lowest payroll in the game. They competed successfully against teams who spent three times as much on superstars as the A’s by finding players who were undervalued by the market. The A’s defied convention by taking a very quantitative, numbers-driven approach called sabermetrics to evaluate a player’s performance. Rather than relying on the generally accepted wisdom of baseball insiders of what contributed to the success of a team, they crunched the numbers to identify the metrics that actually mattered. And, they figured out that winning in baseball was more a matter of the cumulative effect of many small actions than of singular sweeping gestures. It is a game won by walks and singles rather than towering home runs.

As I read this year’s Professional Services Benchmark, I was struck by the parallels between what the team at SPI are doing in the professional services industry with what the early sabermetricians did for America’s national pastime. Continue reading »

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Performance Dashboards for the Professional Services Organization

Performance-DashboardAs an executive of a professional services firm, what do you care about? Are we doing better this year than last? How is revenue tracking this year versus target? Who’s busy and who’s not? Do we need to hire? What clients or projects are in trouble? Is the pipeline healthy? Are we overly dependent on one key client? Do we have a healthy backlog of committed work? Is that backlog too big? Is some work more profitable than other work? Are our European operations healthier than the US? Are our estimates getting better over time?

For most executives I talk to, the answer generally is all of the above…and more. Continue reading »

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Is a Professional Services Automation Solution in Your Plans for the Coming Year?

Early September here in New England always represents a wonderful time of transition. The lazy days of summer yield reluctantly to the crisp crackle of autumn air. Majestic maples and oaks ready themselves for one final ostentatious display before settling in for a long, grey winter. Home gardens burst with the last of the summer’s bounteous harvest. Kids don shiny new backpacks and head back to the world of musty textbooks, swirling chalk dust, and sharpened #2 pencils.

This is also the time of year that professional services executives both here in New England and elsewhere ‘round the world turn their attention to planning for the coming year. It’s a time to start nailing down strategic goals and figuring out what people, processes, and systems need to be set in place to achieve those goals. It’s a time to measure progress to date and to figure out how to improve upon that progress in the coming year. For some, it’s a time to consider upgrading their old professional services automation solution to one that better works for their business. For many, it’s a time to consider implementing a PSA for the first time to support anticipated growth.

Is implementing a professional services automation solution in your plans for the coming year? If not, perhaps it should be. Continue reading »

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The Projector e3 Community – A Year in Review

Projecto e3 LogoIt was around this time in 2013 that we formally launched the Projector e3 program, a community initiative designed to help educate, engage, and empower users of Projector’s PSA software. Before we actually launched the program we spent a great deal of time brainstorming the best way to implement a community group that would appeal to a broad spectrum of Projector users. Knowing the “build it and they will come” strategy will only take us so far, we settled on an approach that was organic, scalable, and, most importantly, value driven. With a plan in hand, some lofty aspirations, and a desire to build a stronger connection between our clients, our users, and us, we launched the e3 program not knowing exactly what to expect.

In chatting with a few colleagues recently I was reminded that an entire year has passed since we embarked on this journey. Just like the continuous development cycle that we help so many of our clients implement, I thought it might be a good time to take a step back and reflect. So here is a quick recap of the first year of our e3 program’s success, a few of the lessons we’ve learned, and a preview of what is coming next. Continue reading »

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What to do When a Project Starts to Run Over Budget

Budget StatusWe’ve spent a lot of time on this blog discussing how professional services automation (PSA) software can help run a more successful services firm. From delivering projects more efficiently to increasing the utilization of your resources, PSA software provides a slew of tools that services firms can use to avoid project overruns and consistently deliver within budget. It is an unavoidable fact, however, that even the best professional services organization will sink a project every once and a while.

So if somewhere along the way your project lost its way, here are a few strategies that you can use to try and get things back on track. Remember, an over-budget project doesn’t necessarily mean it’s failed, yet. There may still be time to right its course. Continue reading »

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A Note of Thanks to our Customers—Projector Turns 10

Birthday-CakeIt was ten years ago, to the day, that the first version of Projector was released. And although version 1.0 of Projector looked nothing like the robust PSA solution it is today, the vision we had of designing a solution that solves real-world problems for professional services firms is as important to us now as it was day one.

We wanted to use this milestone as an opportunity to thank all of our customers for their support over the last ten years. Without your commitment, guidance, and sometimes patience, we wouldn’t be here today, nor would we be positioned so well for future.

Our success is a direct result of you. Every release of Projector contains features requested by you. Every new program we launch is designed to help you do more with Projector. And every time you call us, the person who picks up the phone is able to get you the answers you need. Continue reading »

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The True Cost of PSA Software – PSA Infographic Deconstructed: Part Five

PSA Software Price MazeOver the past few blog posts we have been examining the different aspects of how professional services automation (PSA) software can benefit a service organization. From enhancing utilization to streamlining the delivery process and ultimately improving profitability, PSA software is an essential tool for service firms. We’ve spent a significant amount of time demonstrating the effect service automation software can have on your bottom line, but we have yet to examine PSA software’s own bottom line. Let’s talk turkey.

Like many enterprise software solutions, it can be challenging to get a full understanding of the costs associated with implementing a PSA solution until you have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing a tool—prices aren’t openly published, different types of users often come with different fees, and implementation costs are hard to quantify. Today we will take a look at average subscription and implementation costs for leading PSA tools. Continue reading »

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A Close-up Portrait of the Professional Services Industry

SPI ResearchLooking at 2013 through the lens of broad, macroeconomic indicators here in the US, one might be tempted to take at least a cautiously optimistic view of the state of the world. Unemployment continued to fall to its lowest level since the financial crisis, the stock market performed better than it had since the late 90’s, and growth in developed economies finally started to catch up with emerging markets. While this broad, wide-angle view may be sufficient for some, if you’re reading this, you’re probably more interested a close-up picture of what this all means for the professional services market. This report provides that closer view and much more.

SPI’s 2014 Professional Services Benchmark Report paints a portrait of the professional services landscape—a picture much less idyllic, punctuated by remnants of battles past and portents of challenges ahead. The professional services industry saw revenue growth slow to its lowest level in five years, and nearly 15% of firms contracted rather than experiencing any growth at all. This slowing growth, driven in part by commoditization and rate erosion, was accompanied by a sharp decline in billable utilization, a spike in attrition, overcapacity in both billable staff and non-billable overhead, and a precipitous falloff in profitability. In fact, most of the key professional services metrics deteriorated—suggesting that in order to survive in 2014, professional services firms will need to reconsider strategies and refocus on efficiency and productivity. Continue reading »

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