Professional services are a rewarding career path, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the industry is working alongside talented staff with unique skillsets. Account managers, designers, consultants, and developers collaborate to produce exceptional work for clients and stakeholders, often with shifting goals and challenges. Navigating this work on a daily basis is an ongoing achievement that requires extraordinary ability and motivation, and can produce tremendous professional pride.
However, a service organization’s talent and potential is ultimately wasted if not properly harnessed, and a service-driven resource scheduling system is essential to allocating a services team’s talent efficiently. Unfortunately, resource management is an element of professional services that many firms struggle to master, which often leads to revenue leakage. Our own Steve Chong explains that mastering resource management is difficult because “It can’t be solved with systems alone. It also can’t be solved — at least not efficiently — with people in isolation. It requires a combination of the right professional services resource management system that’s able to support the right team, all wrapped together with the right process.”
TSIA, the premier professional organization for the technology services industry, noted in 2018 that “only 59% of services organizations actually have a dedicated resource management function,” and “at the root, often processes and infrastructure are out of date and the identification, assignment, and scheduling of resources are handled using primitive and limiting methods, via email and spreadsheets.”
The consensus among technology leaders is that surface-level point solutions are insufficient to meet professional services organizations’ needs, particularly since firms need to adapt to sudden spikes in project volume, shifting project priorities, and extensive communications with multiple internal and external parties. A simple conversational and/or project tracking platform will not adequately assist teams with navigating the nuances of complex, time-sensitive deliverables.
Resource management software needs to embrace the complex challenges faced by professional services organizations, and provide features that facilitate the optimal use of a team’s talents. Essential features include:
- Clear role assignments and insightful talent matching
- Flexible resource requesting and scheduling (by day and by week)
- Fluid insight into all types of utilization targets
- Streamlined time and expense reporting
Put Your Team on the Same Page
Many PSA applications offer real-time communications channels, including social media-style posting hubs, and integrations with popular media channels such as Slack. However, staff are not necessarily communicating in the most productive manner despite intuitive access to communication. Confusion can easily arise, if comments are misinterpreted and/or the channels are overwhelmed with discussion, making critical information lost in the noise.
Viewable role assignments are a valuable tool for ensuring all staff are on the same page during all stages of project delivery. Service leaders and team members can view theirs and each other’s specific responsibilities for all projects, ensuring both accountability for their tasks and understanding of their colleagues’ roles. Services teams thus have complete context for their interactions on all projects, and speak to each other from a fully informed perspective.
The “automation” aspect is also critical for ensuring that service leaders don’t get bogged down managing minute details. Teams can set up emails and online alerts to ensure project managers, schedulers, and other team members stay informed about requests and schedule changes .
Establish the Ideal Team for All Projects
Projects in the professional services industry have many moving parts and can require significant specialization, but the perfect match for these complex deliverables is not always readily apparent. Resource booking software should enable service leaders to quickly review the skill sets, location, seniority, and other critical traits of all personnel, and compare them against the specific requirements of ongoing projects. Intuitive role matching is paramount for maximizing a services team’s utilization.
Success is Secured through Details
Customer satisfaction rests in the details. Services teams need to perform multiple rounds of quality assurance to ensure that all objectives are met, and in many cases, ensure compliance with external regulations. Concurrent client satisfaction and profitability ultimately rests on optimal utilization, which requires the same attention to detail provided to clients’ needs.
Industry-focused PSA software provides multiple tools for quickly adapting to specific, constantly shifting project needs and budget conditions. Configurable dashboards are a valuable tool for retrieving a holistic view of all resource requests and ensuring all needs are properly fulfilled. Another benefit of a dedicated, full-service PSA system is the ability to drill down to a team’s specific capacity on an hour-by-hour basis rather than a more generalized timeframe. This granular utilization tracking provides the complete context for team members’ bandwidth, and can help identify inefficiencies in project delivery. A flexible budget management application that can drill down into different time phases is a valuable resource for accurately forecasting project completion and developing sustainable project management practices, empowering managers to properly assess priorities and set realistic and fully actionable goals for project progress .
Utilization tracking should adapt to all management strategies, including separate targets for billable and productive utilization. An industry-focused PSA solution should be adaptable to any resource utilization strategy that can catalyze employee engagement.
Ignite Your Team with Fully Integrated Resource Management and Time Tracking
Elite professional services teams thrive on clarity, and best-of-breed resource scheduling software can clearly define how project time is to be utilized, at all phases of a project. These industry-focused scheduling applications provide an established, closed-loop conduit for task management expectations. Once the project is underway, service leaders have direct insight into the reality of task challenges against initial expectations, and adjust their workflow accordingly. Service teams, through pre-set alerts, can also immediately know when critical time needs to be reported.
Fluid time tracking capabilities provide a holistic picture of budgets at user-determined milestones, providing project managers with essential context for staffing and utilization decisions. The budget and utilization metrics go hand-in-hand with profitability, as the real-time insight into the metrics enable leaders to set a strategy for ensuring a profitable delivery.
Service Leaders Rely on Powerful Resource Schedling
SPI Research’s latest Professional Services Benchmark emphasizes that, “every leader relies on a PSA application [to] reinforce project delivery standards which result in precision execution and high levels of quality, productivity and profitability. They credit their PSA with improving resource [and] project management…leading to higher levels of billable utilization and on-time project completion.” Every professional service organization has the potential to become a leader, because the talent is always present. A dedicated PSA application with deep resource management capabilities is a key that can be used to unlock that talent and place a firm on the path to sustainable industry leadership .