June 23, 2021

    Tech's Impact on Professional Services: Operational Efficiencies

    Are you leveraging the technology that can help you achieve greater efficiency in the professional services industry and capture more value from your resources? 

    Professional services companies are recognizing that staying on an old, difficult-to-integrate system means reduced operational efficiency compared to a newer solution. Modern solutions have tight integrations and broader capabilities that provide a holistic view of operations so companies can better manage their resources and improve margins.  

    How, you ask? With a professional services solution, you can manage and allocate your resources to serve clients faster and deliver more projects on time. You can also bill faster, accelerating your cash flow. It has been said that “nothing loses value faster than services already delivered!” 

    Before you invest in new technology, evaluate your technology stack. Take advantage of hidden capabilities in your existing solution. Or consider moving from an on-premises software infrastructure to the Cloud. 

    How Technology Helps Boost Efficiency 

    Top-performing professional services companies can use tightly integrated solutions to leverage real-time data from across their operations and pursue continual improvement, according to the Service Performance Insight, LLC 2021 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark. They capture higher project margins because they’re more efficient, with more on-time deliveries and the capacity to deliver more projects overall.  

     With a more tightly integrated infrastructure, companies gain better visibility over every aspect of their business and operations to make better decisions. You can manage everything from utilization to process improvement to finance. And you can improve your quote-to-cash process, a desired benefit of any optimization effort. 

    Cloud-based software, like a Cloud ERP system from Microsoft or NetSuite, can greatly improve opportunities for efficiency, particularly considering that employees in professional services are projected to remain working remotely part of the time after the coronavirus pandemic.  

    In virtual settings, professional services organizations can achieve cost savings they’ll want to maintain moving forward. Additionally, having a Cloud environment means you can hire the best candidates for your company, rather than limiting yourself to a specific area or region.  

    Key business applications for professional services companies to consider integrating with their ERP include: 

    • Professional Services Automation (PSA): Most top performers have a PSA tool, which supports activities such as estimating a project’s cost to scheduling, capturing time and expenses, and invoicing. Both Microsoft Dynamics and NetSuite empower companies to improve their resource management for better utilization, including matching skills to projects, simplifying time and expense tracking, as well as managing finances and accounting. With these, you gain visibility over your data and control of your processes – all in one place. 
    • Business Intelligence (BI): With a business intelligence solution, professional services companies can monitor trends and use insights to make better decisions on future projects. They can easily see what works, what is profitable, how they might better allocate resources, and which projects are more worth their time.  

    Where to Focus: Your People Resources 

    In professional services, people are your resource. How you manage and allocate them can affect your company’s operational efficiency and margins. Anything you can do to be more efficient with your team members’ time and utilization, thereby reducing downtime between projects, increases your bottom line.  

    When you improve resource management, you increase your utilization rate. A higher utilization rate means you’re getting more value out of existing resources and you can bill for more of their time.  

    Because your resources are your people, managing them is more complex than just making a few adjustments here and there.  

    Good resource management involves: 

    • Attracting and retaining employees by providing a desirable, supportive work culture. 
    • Removing barriers to success, such as lack of clarity on projects, poorly matched projects, busy work and tedious time and expense tracking. 
    • Providing adequate training, clear processes and competitive compensation. 
    • Managing their time in such a way that avoids burnout and also ensures they’re not “benched” for long periods of time. 

    Ultimately, your goal is to improve utilization and decrease non-billable time. Your tech stack can automate processes that would normally keep your team stuck tackling non-billable work, so they can focus on delivering projects and putting their skills to use.

    It can also help you allocate resources appropriately, putting the right people on the right projects to improve efficiency and delivery. Having the wrong resource on a project has many consequences, and newer tools have resource planning capabilities that will help you match resources by skill. 

    Additionally, today’s tools can help you improve time capture, which is critical to better operational efficiency and value. The hours in the day for your resources are your inventory. If you make it easier for your resources to enter time, they’ll spend less of their day capturing it and you’ll be able to capture it more accurately.  

    More Than One Way to Greater Efficiency 

    You don’t have to do a complete overhaul to get results. 

    • Assess your current system for opportunities and capabilities you aren’t taking advantage of or to re-implement according to your current needs. 
    • Integrate one or more supportive solutions, such as a PSA, BI or Customer Relationship Management (CRM). 
    • Host your existing infrastructure in the Cloud.  
    • Consider enhancement solutions tailored to your industry.  
    • Consider migrating to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central or NetSuite. 

    When you reevaluate your technology stack and improve resource management, you improve utilization, tighten your quote-to-cash process, complete more on-time and on-budget deliveries, earn better margins on projects, and more. And today’s modern solutions often help small to midsized companies compete better than their bigger adversaries – blowing the doors off the competition.  

    Choosing the Right Technology Partner for Your Organization 

    Professional services organizations may seek a technology partner for a variety of reasons, including the need to: 

    • Provide better remote access for staff. 
    • Support growth as their team gets bigger. 
    • Experience better integration with Excel and other tools. 
    • Work with technology experts that understand their industry-specific needs. 
    • Move to the Cloud to reduce risks, such as cybersecurity incidents and disasters. 

    Many professional services firms use legacy on-premises solutions with servers housed in closets and basements. While they can be integrated with new software solutions, many organizations aren’t aware of their integration options or that any integrations will be easier with modern tools.  

    Enavate helps clients evaluate their options from all angles so they can make the best investments for their specific circumstances. What you do depends on many facets, including expectations in your industry and your digital maturity level.  

    If you’re considering which path is best for your professional services organization, reach out to an Enavate expert and request a free whiteboard session.

    Steve Fetters

    Steve Fetters is a senior Solution Architect for Enavate. He has more than 30 years’ experience in accounting and ERP software design, development, and implementation for small and midsized organizations. This ranges from serving as Controller in a professional services firm to being part of the original development team for MS Dynamics SL. Steve holds MBA and BS degrees from Bowling Green State University and a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt. When not helping clients chart their path to the Cloud, Steve enjoys woodworking, serving in his church and exploring all the history in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he and his wife are fortunate to live.

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