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Professional services companies have faced pressures and changes due to the pandemic that is having ripple effects today. Firms must adapt and, in many cases, adjust their operations, services, offerings and client interactions.
They’re asking themselves, “Are my current offerings still relevant? And how can I make them more relevant – or pivot?”
Enter business intelligence and analytics solutions, trying to claim their spot as the answer to today’s and tomorrow’s concerns.
With actionable data analytics tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, professional services firms can better understand the information collected and what it’s telling them about their businesses to make better-informed decisions.
In professional services, prioritizing data-driven decision-making has been a journey.
Analytics gives professional services companies critical insights to understand new market dynamics and trends, evaluate current company operations against demand and adjust their approach to the market – and tools like Power BI make these insights accessible without requiring data expertise. Companies can monitor trends over time, play out “what-if” scenarios and measure the success of new endeavors in real-time.
“Maybe the products they sold previously aren’t going to be as valuable to their customers going forward. They have to figure out how they can change their offerings.” – Melissa Grover, Business Intelligence and Analytics Practice Leader at Enavate.
Using business intelligence and analytics tools, professional services firms will know sooner than later if an initiative isn’t catching on. If a project is gaining traction, but the margin is too slim, they can improve profitability right away.
For example, event management companies had to adjust how they worked to comply with pandemic restrictions, such as running virtual events online instead of in person. From now on, potential clients will have new and varied expectations for event offerings. Finding new “sweet spots” will be unique to each business based on variables like venue, format (online, in person or a combination of both) and demand.
Without showing performance, an event company could continue spending on marketing and tools for virtual events their clients don’t want. Or they experienced a high demand for virtual events but realized they priced services too low to realize a profit. Seeing their data in real-time enables them to act quickly to resolve issues and adapt, whether that’s reducing expenses or adjusting margin.
“The pandemic has caused many customers to change the way they do business. To explore the options and their viability, you need better visibility into your data.” – Melissa Grover
When manually generating reports, you have less control over the “now.” Manual data gathering and reporting come with setbacks that get lumped in as “necessary evils.” These include siloed data, reduced data accuracy, more time to generate reports and poor real-time visibility.
Data analytics tools will render such evils practically obsolete.
“By the time you’re done, you’ve spent all this time on the report, and it’s already two weeks old.” – Melissa Grover
“Companies that leverage data will make more informed decisions. The data can tell them what’s working, what’s not working, where to focus their improvements.” – Melissa Grover
With mature data analytics, your data is easy to access. You waste less time searching for and adjusting it, and you can find it from whatever systems you use, from resource management to payroll and ERP.
“Power BI will service any industry. The tool doesn’t care what the data has.” – Melissa Grover
The right business intelligence tools help design reports to meet your key performance indicators (KPIs). Take these steps to prepare for, design and implement a data analytics program at your professional services organization.1. Identify the Data You Want to Track
Select KPIs relevant to your industry, business and clients. You’ll use these to monitor your operations and make meaningful changes toward your business goals. Most firms will track accounts receivable, accounts payable, sales, revenue and profitability. Other useful professional services analytics you can leverage include:
Not identifying KPIs and having ambiguous goals are common mistakes for companies implementing business intelligence and analytics for the first time. If you’re not sure which KPIs to focus on, start with your ongoing reports. What data is most important? What are you already measuring?
“Most reports just tell you what happened. Analytics can tell you the cause and effect between the KPIs and the overall performances so that you can predict your future more accurately.” – Melissa Grover
For example, you want to improve your budget versus actual per project by a specific percentage quarter over quarter. You can:
To collect and unify data from multiple systems, you must map out where your information currently resides. For instance, financials live in your ERP system while client data is in your CRM.3. Find and Solve for Uncaptured Data
If valuable data exists outside your systems, capture it. For example, if you aren’t considering administrative time as a reason for going over budget, determine the best solution to capture that data and include it in your database for your reporting.4. Determine the Best Tool to Aggregate Your Data
Your business needs and the complexity of your data play significant roles when determining the right analytics solution. A complex dataset might warrant a data warehouse. However, many professional services companies do well with Power BI on its own, Power BI with a data warehouse, or expanding to other solutions such as Power BI with Solver.5. Design and Implement Your System
System design has the most extended timeline, and it’s imperative to design beyond your current needs. Companies tend to discover many other uses for business intelligence and analytics after deploying the first round of visualizations. You want to be sure a solution can grow with you.
“Many companies start with, ‘This is the thing I want to track.’ And as soon as they get that done and they’re tracking it, they realize 20 other things they’d like to track. You want to design the solution so that when you add those 20 other things, it doesn’t overwhelm it.” – Melissa Grover6. What Will Your Training Program Entail?
Training is a vital component of a successful analytics program. Limited end-user training is a common downfall for implementations and leads to slow adoption. Teach employees to be self-sufficient with analytics and visualizations so that individuals and departments can easily create their reports and track their own KPIs.
Business intelligence tools unify data from various systems and give you a tabular and visual representation. What’s the value here?
Example: What’s Happening With Your Cash Flow?
In professional services firms, cash flow is how you fuel your upcoming projects and ensure business continuity. Analytics can help you identify where you might be missing payments on projects, so you can solve the issue faster and get back to business. Here’s an example of how it works:
If that $500,000 was 2 percent of your outstanding AR, it probably wouldn’t be as big of a deal. However, having 80 percent of your AR in 90-plus days unpaid in professional services is no small concern.
The above example illustrates the difference between looking at your data – how much each client owes relative to the overall percentage of the total. You’re looking at the same information differently and can make decisions with a more holistic perspective.
“The number itself doesn’t tell a story. It’s how that number relates to other numbers, then how it relates to itself over time, that tells a story.” – Melissa Grover
With business intelligence and analytics, you can review trends and make correlations to improve your service and customer satisfaction. For instance, you can learn your average project completion, how many projects are finished on time and within budget, etc. Reporting on this data and visualizing it will help you make connections and understand trends.
“Don’t be tied to old ways of doing things just because they have worked in the past. With all the exciting changes in the industry, companies need a better view into their data so they can quickly and accurately determine which changes are successful and which need improvement.” – Melissa Grover
Professional services firms have had to become increasingly agile in response to uncertainty. Some have found themselves investing in business-enhancing initiatives, such as business intelligence and analytics to stay competitive.
Business intelligence and analytics can be transformative. And you’re missing out on a wealth of opportunity if it’s not a priority. Consider the two industry challenges below.
With these challenges on the horizon, being nimble is essential. At Enavate, we specialize in implementing business intelligence and analytics tools for the professional services industry. Here are a few insider tips.
Talk to one of our experts to learn more about your options with business intelligence and analytics for professional services.