One thing is certain—change will continue at an ever-increasing pace. The information highway is gone; it’s now an information cloud that enables multiple concurrent users and has resulted in greater expectations from business consumers for value, quality, pricing transparency, and product or service delivery.

In order to deliver what the marketplace demands, service industry providers have to adapt their business and delivery models. To meet this growing need, an increasing use of Professional Service Automation (PSA) software to manage processes is trending in the marketplace.

The use of this software makes sense for any organization that must deliver billable work. It enables the business to better manage projects as well as optimize resources and level management of personnel (better utilization of talent) throughout a project in order to meet service delivery goals. PSA software is quickly becoming to the professional services industry what Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is to the manufacturing or process industries.

By using PSA software, professional service organizations gain control over their projects, financials, timelines, and data management. It helps practitioners stay out of the “in the weeds” details and manage with a more top-down view. Ultimately, it should also facilitate data collection and timely billing on an engagement.

Who might benefit from the use of PSA software? Currently, the best fits appear to be IT and consulting enterprises, marketing and communications companies, architects, engineers, and construction management companies, as well as any general consulting organization that has a defined goal to achieve and a timeline to manage.

There are some potential downsides. As with any system, the software is purchased off-the-shelf and may need to be modified or tailored to your company’s specific metrics. Or, it can be developed internally, which can be expensive and time consuming. As is typical with system implementations, it requires training and ongoing maintenance. And, there must be a commitment on the part of all team members to effectively and consistently use it.

In addition, in their off-the-shelf form, PSAs do not contain modules that allow those working on projects to share data relevant to the project or job. These so-called Collaborative Work Management (CWM) modules create the ability to exchange ideas among workers and improve communication between offices and across work silos, but right now they must be bolted on to your PSA software.

Consumers of services are setting a tone and will increasingly demand efficiencies and pricing controls. PSA software can help your organization meet these demands and move your business into a stronger competitive position. But since there are a number of systems on the market, make sure you begin the procurement process with a thorough needs analysis.

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