In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were over 116 million U.S. jobs in the service sector, making it hands-down the largest portion of the job market, with a 79 percent share. By 2022, that number is expected to reach 130 million.1 As the service economy grows, it’s important for these companies to have the right tools to manage client lifecycles while staying profitable on the back end.
This negotiation involves thousands of moving parts for each industry, which spawn a commensurate number of business applications for processes automation, from the basic spreadsheet to the full-scale ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. This guide will examine professional services automation (PSA) software and how it can give project and service organizations a competitive edge, before comparing four leading PSA software solutions.
Professional services automation software is an end-to-end solution for running a service-based business and managing the data generated by various business processes, which is why some have referred to it as the ERP of the service industry. Despite the parallel, PSA can be difficult to define and understand because of its comprehensive scope.
PSA is designed to automate and manage common business tasks. The goal is to ensure that customer projects are delivered on time, under budget, and according to the customer’s needs and specifications. The software manifestation of this can be as simple as timesheets and project management, or as robust as an enterprise suite with integrations for CRM, help desk, and accounting.
Most PSA systems include a set of common features, including:
Resource management (skill management, capacity planning, and forecasting)
Reporting and business intelligence
More robust solutions may also include global functionality (multiple currencies, languages, and regulatory compliance) and industry-specific installations for a system that requires less upfront customization.
As the name suggests, PSA systems are used mostly by service-based companies - i.e. companies that produce something other than physical goods, such as utilities or consulting firms. A service company’s challenge is to balance front-end service delivery and customer satisfaction with back-end operations (resource planning, for example). Any industry that is project-focused and client-accountable will likely be a good fit for PSA.
Companies that do implement PSA have proven track records of beating out their competition. Research from Aberdeen Group found that service companies described as “Best-in-Class” are almost 80 percent more likely to have used PSA software than all other service companies.2
That being said, not every company needs to automate processes on such a large scale. Some smaller businesses are content with homegrown methods paired with, say, a cloud-based app for project management. There are a number of indicators organizations can use to determine whether or not they may be ready for a PSA solution:
Changes in the market: This could include globalization, enlarged client base, or increased demand for services.
PSA can accommodate this kind of growth and help anticipate future growth.
83 percent of organizations with PSA software are able to assess potential
revenue before accepting or approving projects.2
Changes in service offering: service offering has expanded to new areas or become more variegated.
Changes in resource availability: company has hired more employees or contractors, or is targeting a new set of skills.
Seeking to become more profitable: company has numerous simultaneous projects and wants to optimize investments, work more efficiently, and track metrics to yield the highest possible ROI.
Average User Rating: 3.8/5
FinancialForce specializes in cloud-based solutions for project and service-focused organizations. Most of their products - including the psa software system - are built on the Salesforce platform, which means native compatibility with one of the world’s most popular CRMs. Their PSA solution focuses on providing businesses with better visibility and intelligence across sales, service delivery, and finance. This keeps customers happy and allows businesses to make strategic decisions.
The features package is divided into five categories: resource management, project management, time and expense management, project accounting, and “services resource planning,” or SRP. The SRP function is unique in that it seeks to eliminate silos among sales, service, and finance departments in order to boost productivity and revenue.
According to SPI Research, FinancialForce PSA has achieved utilization rates as high as 86 percent, which is 25 percent higher than average, as well as $85,000 more revenue per billable employee than the industry average.3
Case Study: Crown Partners
TCrown is a global eBusiness firm that specializes in driving web experience (demand, conversion, retention, advocacy) for enterprises. Working with both B2B
and B2C clients, Crown bolsters digital engagement through content, customer experience, and digital messaging. They sought out FinanicalForce PSA as a solution for longstanding issues with siloed data, unanswered information requests, wasted time, and an unwieldy backlog of projects.
• Defined 80 percent of business processes
• Decreased time spent on revenue forecasting from 40 hours per week to 4 hours per week
• Ability to forecast 10 scenarios per week instead of only one
• Reduced email chains
• Increased visibility into profit margins
• Increased project capacity without increasing operations management staff
Average User Rating: 4/5
OpenAir, by NetSuite, is one of the most widely-used PSA systems. It services over 1,500 clients worldwide and has the highest market share of leading PSA providers (21 percent).5 This web- based solution provides the automation and intelligence tools that service-based businesses need to manage operations and the customer lifecycle.
OpenAir helps streamline expense-management, organize timesheet management (including
offline expense reporting), plan and deliver projects within budget, and forecast future staffing and financial needs. Data is kept up-to-date and accessible from any location, thanks to OpenAir’s native mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Need to connect to other enterprise apps? Not a problem. OpenAir “Connect” gives you prebuilt integrations for CRM, human resources, ERP, financial software, etc. from leading providers such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, Oracle, Epicor, and QuickBooks.
Case Study: Siemens AG
Siemens AG is one of the largest engineering companies in the world for energy, power, and infrastructure, and has over 343,000 employees. Siemens also works in medical imaging technology and in-vitro diagnostics. Before NetSuite, Siemens was using more than 15 separate PSA applications and having a difficult time utilizing resources on a global scale. When they implemented OpenAir, Siemens started with the resource management module and gave workshops to help users make the transition. The rollout took approximately nine months for all of their global centers.
• OpenAir automation now supports over 3,000 projects in 15 countries
• Complete visibility into 2,700 resources and 1,500 skillsets
• Successful global resource utilization allows for better service revenue forecasting
• Streamlined financial reporting for mobile service teams, using multi-currency/lingual capabilities
Average User Rating: 3/5
Deltek is a Virginia-based enterprise software company, and the leading provider of business IT solutions for professional services and government contractors.
Unlike modular PSAs or PSAs that are compatible with third-party applications, Deltek's PSA offerings are fully integrated, which means it includes CRM and accounting features. It also has standard features such as project management, time and expense management, resource planning, and analytics. This fully integrated approach helps large organizations collaborate across departments so sales opportunities are connected directly to new projects, which are connected to budget creation and analytical tools.
Whether you’re an account executive in the U.K., a project manager in Mumbai, or a CFO in San Jose, CA, Deltek for Professional Services adapts to your business processes, giving you flexible access controls and multi-lingual, multi-currency support.
Case Study: COWI
COWI is an 80-year-old international consulting group that specializes in engineering, environmental science, and economics. Based in Denmark, they have over 6,200 employees working on over 17,000 projects at any given moment. Their rapid growth in recent years highlighted a series of problems with their disconnected systems and workflows between offices. Before Deltek, COWI was using 15 different financial systems globally. Keld Sørensen, CFO, came to Deltek looking for a professional services solution to make COWI “one company” by connecting client-facing decisions with financial results and back-office operations.
After successful implementation of Deltek, COWI reported a number of strategic benefits:
• EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) margin increased by 1.5 percent
• Better visibility between project delivery and financial management
• Increased billability and global resource utilization
• Return on investment fully recouped within two to three years
Average User Rating: 3.6/5
Tenrox is a professional services automation software solution provided by Upland, a Texas-based software company that specializes in cloud-based work management applications. Since its debut in 1995, Tenrox has serviced over 800 organizations in 50 countries and all industries. Notable clients such as GE, SAP, Estee Lauder, and the University of Michigan.
Their PSA is a modular solution that gives decision-makers and dispersed teams visibility into the entire service lifecycle, from bid to billing. This is accomplished through time tracking, resource management, project management, and project financials, with the option to configure a custom product suite. If out-of-the-box PSA isn’t enough for your enterprise, Tenrox integrates with leading third-party applications for CRM, accounting, payroll, and project planning applications through its “Quick Connect Integration Platform.”
Tenrox PSA modules are primarily packaged as cloud-based solutions, but they do offer on-premise installation for businesses that can’t, or don’t want to move to the cloud.
Case Study: Airbiz Aviation Strategies
Airbiz Aviation is a consulting firm that ser- vices airport owners, operators, and investors, as well as airlines and global government agencies. In their 30 years of experience, Airbiz Aviation has completed over 2,000 studies and projects in 43 countries.
Before their most recent Tenrox update, Airbiz was relying on an on-site legacy system for PSA workflows, which required their teams to log on to VPN lines from satellite offices. This often prevented timely reporting and forced teams to rely on inaccurate or out-of-sync information and waste time reformatting inconsistencies. Furthermore, the administrative staff was still manually updating currency exchange rates when traveling. Airbiz Aviation switched to the latest version of Tenrox Cloud PSA and finished implementation in under two weeks, listing a number of key operational advantages:
• Eliminated issues with satellite offices obtaining system access
• Greater flexibility and detailed results; expenses can be allocated not only to projects, but also to specific tasks
• Minimized support and down time issues
• Able to handle the real-time complexities of multiple international currencies
• Enthusiasm for more process and project management improvements