In the professional service industry, time and resources are often exhausted on uncoordinated efforts. Keeping a workforce motivated on an established goal is easier said than done, especially when the end product and related milestones are not visible to all project members.
Your business revolves around the successful completion of projects so it’s important that you have complete control of each project to ensure you’re delivering on time and on budget.
What does it mean to have control of your project?
At any point in time, you need visibility into the big picture of the project with the ability to drill down into the minute details.
You must also have the flexibility to make adjustments to timelines, scheduling and invoicing as the work progresses, staff need time off and delays arise.
It’s important to have a system that supports the agility of your business and minimizes your overhead time spent on hour entry and administration.
Have you noticed that project control goes beyond managing the project itself?
The core of your business is your people and the work they produce. Because of this, your business environment is dynamic and relies on communication and collaboration in addition to the mechanics of project controls and the tracking of hours.
The typical technology environment of professional services firms
Typically, an organization will rely heavily on Microsoft Outlook to manage their tasks, contacts and communication. The challenge becomes real when a colleague is absent and important client/project information is locked away in their Inbox.
Some organizations will begin to use small, targeted applications to assist with management and collaboration on projects but with no integration between these tools, the process often becomes cumbersome and time consuming to maintain.
The ideal technology environment for project-based businesses
In order to manage projects efficiently, all information must be stored in one application so that customer data is linked to the appropriate projects and projects details such as rates, budgets, scope of work, drawings, and hours are all available to project members.
One such example is Exact’s solution for Professional Services Automation (Exact PSA):
“Implementing Exact’s solution has improved the collaboration between departments, optimized the management of our processes and daily operations and enabled us to manage the information we handle in a more structured, efficient way”
– Jon Rodriguez, Operations Director, Smartel
Human Resources Management (HRM)
An ideal software solution for professional services will include an HRM component. After all, your employees are your most important asset! The ability to track employee type, disciplines, levels, skillsets, certifications and rates is key to optimal budgeting and capacity planning for your projects.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
It’s also important to have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) component so that prospect, customer and supplier details can be maintained for ongoing communications, history and future opportunities.
Sales and Prospecting/ Sales Force Automation (SFA)
You have limited resources for sales prospecting and keeping track of those efforts should be easy with clear steps and the ability to keep track of communications, proposals and follow-ups. When your efforts turn into a new project, the transition from a prospect account to a customer account for administration should be seamless.
Once a new job comes in, setting up the project rates, scope (milestones, deliverables, work breakdown structure), budget, and scheduling should be easy to do and promote project efficiency. Deadlines can then be set and monitored at the level of detail you’ve defined.
Cutting your staff loose from administrative busywork is essential to maximizing your billable time. Having a tool that’s accessible from web browser or mobile app enables fast and easy hour entry which also prevents billable time from being forgotten and inaccurate entries weeks after the work is done. The faster time is entered, the faster it can be invoiced and the more visibility you have into true project work status. Time is not only saved in the process but spent optimally.
Another key function is document management. Whether it’s AutoCAD drawings or product documentation, documents should be controlled with check-in/out and appropriate versioning. A system that gives you the flexibility to define your own structure and parameters for the various document types you use will help you enforce document policies.
The benefits of ERP software for Project Management
As each member of your organization contributes the greater whole of your business, so too should your information system. By bringing all of your business data together into one place, you can streamline your processes, reduce overhead administration and promote visibility and collaboration across your business.