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Social Media and Professional Services Automation

I am among the Facebook-challenged, an outsider amidst the Twitterati. My G+ is more like an F-, and for Pinterest I can’t muster a shred of interest. In short, my media is perhaps less social than the typical bright-eyed twentysomething fresh out of college.

I was talking with one of those bright-eyed twentysomethings today about his perspectives around social media. I’ll call him Greg Smith for the purposes of this blog post, mostly because that’s his real name. Greg and I talked about how he typically contributed to and drew from the vast pool of random bits of information swirling through the social media landscape. We talked re-tweets and hash tags and follows and likes. Most of all, we talked about how one could possibly make sense of this tremendous fire hose of noise, this onslaught of inane trivia. As sometimes happens, after ricocheting around in my warped brain for some time, this conversation started to coalesce into something that I started to realize that we here at Projector PSA have been doing for over a decade.

I remember that in some of the first professional services firms that I worked at, organizational structures and processes were, shall we say, skewed to the left of the proverbial maturity curve. We communicated by turning around in our office chairs and (often literally) just shouting at each other. We planned projects on the back of cocktail napkins. We tracked time by scribbling on sticky notes affixed to our phones. We billed clients when we delivered work, but only if we happened to remember to cut an invoice.

It was informal. It was chaotic. It was unstructured. It was great. It was Twitter. What it wasn’t—was scalable.

When we realized this, we set out to find something, anything, that would help us to run the business with a little more discipline in a more repeatable, scalable manner. There was a lot of process, a lot of people, a lot of training that we put in place, to be sure. When it came to finding an operational management system, however, we came up short. So we built our own—a little application that eventually grew into a full-fledged, productized, professional services automation solution we today call Projector.

What Projector does is something remarkably simple at the surface, but also something incredibly complex. It creates order from chaos. It brings structure to the unstructured. It provides perspective from the noise.

That request to extend Jimmy one more week on that critical project. That all-nighter Sally pulled last week to finish up her presentation. The bagel that Sue grabbed on the way to her client meeting. That review we need to remember to do before we publish that final document. That invoice that we need to send with an additional discount if we finish early. That reserve we need remember to take on revenue to make sure our CFO stays out of jail.

Projector takes this furious onslaught of random bits of disconnected information, lets it ricochet around in its electronic brain for a little while, and lets it coalesce into a story that can actually be used to make real-life decisions around running the business. A story that may say we need to hire more copywriters. A story that might say we’re in trouble on this project, in good shape on all the others. A story that could tell us we’ve improved a lot on delivering projects under budget, but have a ways to go. A story that could say we’re projecting to have the best quarter we’ve ever had. Your story may be different from our story…the important thing is that PSAs like Projector makes the story easy to read, easy to tell, and above all, crystal clear.

Maybe there’s something like Projector out there to make sense of the social media fire hose. What I do know is that there’s something like Projector out there for professional services organizations. Given that I find designing software to run services businesses much less obtuse than trying to make sense of the social media tidal wave, I think I’ll leave Twitter to those bright-eyed twentysomethings like Greg.

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