What makes Professional Service Automation Software Unique

January 31, 2024


Globally, any discussion on professional services business is incomplete without project management.  A conversation on project management leads automatically to Professional Service Automation Software.  Unfortunately, the usual tendency is to review (favorably / unfavorably) all the available Online Professional Service Automation Software solutions under a common umbrella of project management software.  What starts off as a discussion ends up being a fight of ‘who is right’!

Why did the conversation on professional services automation software go awry?

While there is a consensus on the foundation principles and stages of project management (initiate – plan – execute – monitor & control – close), they are applied uniquely to products and services from diverse industries. 

It should strike every project professional the stark differences in the products and services from different industry domains – implying that the project management focus areas are quite different dependent on the nature of the industry in which the project is undertaken.

The project management focus areas depend on the nature of the industry and their products & services.  So is the choice of the project management software!

So, what makes Professional Services Automation Software unique?
Pursue ‘Right’ Opportunities.

Professional services organizations (be it in Consulting, or the IT industry) can pursue only a limited number of opportunities at any given point in time as they are driven by constraints of resources, both people and financial.  Gone are the days when potential customers could wait.  Today, competitors are armed with better processes and tools.  Businesses must act at top speed to evaluate and pursue ‘right’ market opportunities that are more complex than ever. 
It is interesting to observe that generic project management software vendors do not consider opportunity pursuit as part of the overall project management cycle.

Professional Services Automation Software Uniqueness #1

Offer the ability to not just capture opportunities, but also qualify them based on ‘configurable parameters’ so that the pre-sales/sales teams focus their energy on deals that really matter!

Swift Proposal Development
Unlike others, the scope of professional services projects includes management consulting, engineering design services, software design & development, architecture design, and others.  Professional services or IT industry projects are centered around ‘knowledge workers’ and very rarely include ‘physical deliverables’ as in EPC, Pharma, Automotive, FMCG, Solar, etc. 

Professional services firms must get their proposal estimates of revenue, resources, costs, and profit margins as accurately as possible.  The proposal team needs quick access to resources from multiple geographies including skills, competencies, experience, and cost profiles.  Any estimating error has the potential to wipe out project profitability.  The intense competition makes it vital to develop winnable proposals and yet guard the project profitability.

Professional Services Automation Software Uniqueness #2

Ability to swiftly estimate costs, resources, and margins and generate comprehensive and configurable project proposals – through automated proposal builder!  Further, depending on the deal progress, proposal teams must be able to quickly modify proposals as driven by competition and customer needs.

Diversity of Contracts
Professional services involve work with varying levels of clarity and amenable to change as the project progresses.  In this backdrop, firms opt for different types of contract types based on the scope clarity.  It is not uncommon to find a single project with a combination of fixed price, time & material, and cost-plus dimensions of contracting – for different elements of project scope.  Some projects in the IT industry also have similar characteristics.

The situation becomes ‘interesting’ when the customer opts for POs/Contracts as: ‘One PO-One Project’, One PO-Many Projects’, or Many Projects-One PO.’

Professional Services Automation Software Uniqueness #3

Ability to manage the diversity of contract types in a seamless manner.

Diversity of Project Management Approaches
In line with the scope clarity and stability of customer requirements, organizations approach project management in a predictive, agile, or hybrid manner (including IT industry).  The style of project management is as contrasting as chalk and cheese – from developing project phases, WBS (work breakdown structure), estimates, resources, tracking, reporting, etc.  Additionally, project teams need to work with configurable project templates (charter, WBS, resources, estimates, risks, etc.) aligned with project complexity, size, and value.

Professional Services Automation Software Uniqueness #4

Offers the capability to switch to ‘templates’ that are associated with predictive, agile, or hybrid project management approaches.

Revenue Recognition, Customer Billing, and Cashflow Management
While delivering customer value is vital, project managers in the professional services industry must also focus on the financials – revenue recognition, payment milestones, customer billing, and cashflow. 
Different projects recognize revenue based on parameters that are specific to customer deliverables.  For example, design approval could drive 15% revenue recognition, prototype acceptance could be 5%, user acceptance could be 25%, and so on.  Additionally, customers may also insist using EVM (Earned Value Management) with associated conditions to trigger revenue recognition.  Another aspect is integrating work completion with payment milestones and customer billing. 

Online PSA Software Uniqueness #5

Synchronize deliverable completion with planned/actual effort, payment milestones, and customer invoicing.

Resource Timesheets and Expenses Tracking
Being largely ‘people resource-driven,’ professional services project managers must guard project profitability for which, tracking actual effort and costs becomes pivotal.  In many cases, customers insist on records of effort and time spent by project team members before payments are released.  Project managers need to closely track the planned and actual effort put in by every team member – sometimes, even on an hourly basis.  Even a few hours of an ‘expensive resource’ may push the project profitability in the red.

Online PSA Software Uniqueness #6

Offer a holistic approach to define resource pools (including skills, competencies, experience, and cost profiles) manage resource allocation and levelling (up to the lowest level of the WBS), incorporate general and planned holidays, track actual effort (standard, overtime, etc.), and actual expenses, if any.  Further, an Online PSA Software is designed to alert (rule-based) managers for under/over-utilization of resources.

Collaboration across the Project Life Cycle
Professional services projects experience high levels of dynamism – from opportunity evaluation to proposal creation to negotiations & contracting and then to project execution. 

Different cross-functional teams must interact in a collaborative manner to ensure –

  • flawless execution
  • customer satisfaction
  • uncompromised project profitability

Online PSA Software Uniqueness #7

Professional Service Automation Software come equipped with social media-like platform to facilitate collaboration, be it one-on-one or one-to-many.

Integrate data across Systems
Project managers leading professional services projects need access to multiple sets of data that may be residing on different IT systems.  For example, customer data on CRM systems, resources data on HRMS/ERP systems, financials on Accounting/ERP systems.  Project teams will experience inefficiency as well as deal with questionable data if they must extract them from multiple applications.

Online PSA Software Uniqueness #8

They can seamlessly integrate data coming from different applications and ensure that data is entered once and that too in one application.  With a ‘single source of project management truth’, PSA Software drives decisions that are rock-solid!

Closing Comments
When chosen right, a best-in-class Online PSA Software for IT companies can –

  1. Lay a strong foundation for a 100% digitized professional services landscape.
  2. Enable ‘a single version of professional services truth.’
  3. Drive data-driven and resilient decisions.
  4. Foster customers & vendors delight.
  5. Allow professional services firms to pursue 1.5x to 2x business opportunities.

TouchBase Online PSA Software is designed on the above principles so that as business leaders, your energy is spent where it matters!

Want to say ‘hello’ to the future of Online Professional Services Automation Software?

Srikanth PV


Srikanth PV comes with two decades of global corporate and consulting background across industries with diverse roles including Strategy, Leadership, and Management. Currently, Srikanth is Head, PPM Content Management at Kytes focused on content management strategy aimed to empower customers create and enhance value through its flagship digital solution - Kytes PSA. Srikanth is also a former member of the Board of Directors of PMI Bangalore Chapter.