How Professional Services Automation Can Streamline Your Business Operations

How Professional Services Automation Can Streamline Your Business Operations

For Professional Services firms, automation may be a key part of both the success of your customer, as well as your company. When delivering services is a core function of your business, you’re trying to find the answer to a lot of questions like,

  • What is our services backlog? Should I be hiring?
  • What is my services revenue forecast? What is coming down the pike from sales?
  • Are we making the gross margin we planned on this project?
  • Why are our projects delayed?
  • Why are we spending more time on them?
  • What skill shortages do we have?


What makes these questions even more challenging are the changes in customer behavior. With the presence of monthly subscription pricing models, customers have less appetite for big-budget services deals, putting more pressure on your services team, and running this team profitably. Couple that with a tech skills shortage. You need to ramp up new team members as quickly as possible.  You can’t rely on ‘hero’ resources because they are expensive and impossible to find.  You need projects that are prescriptive so that you can onboard much easier.


Customers also want more cost predictability and have less appetite for hourly-based billing.  They want fixed outcomes, fixed-priced projects.  This shifts the project risk directly onto the side of the software company providing the services. As your business grows, finding the answers to these questions is going to become an even more complex process, and a chart in a spreadsheet is going out to outlive its usefulness very soon. This is where Professional Services Automation (PSA) becomes essential, putting in place reliable systems to give you the visibility and control they need.


So, what exactly is PSA?


Professional Services Automation is software that helps you

  • Manage projects
  • Schedule resources, and
  • Manage revenue efficiently.

It can be integrated upstream with sales and sales quoting and downstream with accounting for billing.  It allows the organization to collaborate as a team, instead of functioning in silos.


Project Management Tools v. Professional Services Automation


It’s important to note that PSA should not be confused for Project Management tools like Asana and These are fantastic tools, but project management tools put emphasis on the projects themselves. Think of them as a joint to-do list, allowing team members to share and collaborate. PSA tools do this plus more. They include job costing capabilities, the ability to schedule resources, manage utilization, track financial implications of change requests, time entry, revenue forecasting, revenue recognition, invoicing & billing.


Professional Services Automation vs Project Management

Features PSA Project Management
Gantt Visualization
Task tracking and assignment
Time entry
Revenue recognition
Team utilization tracking
Resource scheduling
Expense tracking
Oversee entire project lifecycle



Why is it important?


Companies using PSA software tend to have a higher rate of on-time project delivery – but why is this the case? Let’s explore some of the reasons:


Project Planning

PSA tools allow you to implement repeatable project delivery processes, quickly move project teams to higher levels of efficiency, and ensure that they can take the pulse of their projects at any stage throughout the project lifecycle.

The absence of tracking change requests is ultimately the downfall of a project. Whether the change comes by request of the customer, or because of an internal issue; any time a project requires more effort than was estimated, that request needs to be tracked and approved. PSA tools provide an approval process and allow project managers to track variance at a detailed level.

PSA software also lets you dump your T&M metrics and start thinking in terms of project metrics that the team can actually control.  The people that are doing the work can’t control revenue, but they can control effort and time, so measure the effort in hours, not days!  At a task level, they need to see the budget, actual, estimate at completion, and variance, all information that should be easily accessible to resources and project managers at all times.


Revenue Recognition

For either time-based or fixed-price projects, you can capture the total revenue of the project, including the labor costs that are attached to a resource, or a resource’s role.  From this information, you can retrieve data such as Budgeted Gross Margin, Actual Gross Margin, and Estimated Gross Margin at project’s completion, all invaluable in identifying which projects are hitting a gross margin threshold, and which are not.


Resource utilization

In addition to managing projects perfectly, you also need to make sure you are getting the most from your team. PSA tools let you know what work is scheduled, what they actually did, and what their availability is. Their roles and skills are important to track so that you can assign the right work and maximize their utilization, and answer any lack of utilization questions by identifying easily whether they were not assigned work, or because they didn’t do the work assigned? Changing project timelines can also be available pockets, or can drag on other projects. You want this information at your fingertips so you can slip in smaller assignments or reallocate accordingly.

You can track to a project level where the gaps are, and drill down into the granular level of any project to know exactly how it is performing, how profitable it is, and if there are any potential issues that can affect it.


Reporting & Analysis

In fixed-price worlds, you need to know the actual effort, but also need to know if anything is at risk of completing within the budgeted amount.  And you need that feedback early.  50% through the budget but only 10% complete?  That’s a red flag. PSA tools give you a live holistic view of services forecasts, time entry, project profitability (actual vs budget), and customer sentiment for projects and clients’ projects, making it easier to develop forecasts for your business.



I’m sold, what’s my next step?

If you’re ready to get the most out of your existing team, improve your customer’s project delivery and onboarding experience, and look for a solution that has you ready and going out of the box, then talk to us to schedule a demo!


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Steve’s been with SMB Suite since 1998 and has been involved with nearly every aspects of the Company’s business as a strategist, professional services executive, cloud solutions architect, and senior consultant. In his current role, Steve is responsible for SMB Suite’s revenue and oversees the execution of ERP, CRM and BI projects for customers across a broad range of industries. Steve combines his expertise in MS Dynamics GP, CRM and other Microsoft products with a strong foundation in accounting and business to identify gaps and streamline customers’ processes. Prior to co-founding SMB Suite, Steve was previously Corporate Controller for MEHLE Behr and, prior to that, Audit Senior for Ernst & Young. Steve holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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Monty is responsible for SMB Suite’s day-to-day operation and, most importantly, its customers. As a leader, motivator and mentor, Monty creates loyal high performance teams willing to “walk through walls” to accomplish their goals. Prior to SMB Suite, Monty served as President of The Bradshaw Group (TBG), a global distributor, manufacturer, and repair facility for digital printers. In this role, he was the Company’s ambassador to its most important domestic, European and Latin American customers and TBG achieved a best-in-class Net Promoter Score of 74 for its superb customer satisfaction. Prior to TBG, Monty served as the General Manager of Sam’s Clubs three highest grossing U.S. stores and was named Regional Operator of the Year in 1999. Monty holds a BBA in Marketing from Texas Tech University and is an active member of Business Navigators. He has been active in Vistage International, Executives in Action, the Dallas/Fort Worth Retail Executives Association, as well as, A.P.I.C.S., the leading professional association for supply chain and operations management. Monty also volunteers with Hunger Busters and ManeGait, a therapeutic horsemanship organization.

David is a proven financial and information technology professional with expertise in providing business accounting software and computing solutions. He began his career by starting and managing a successful independent consulting practice for several years. He then launched the local systems consulting unit of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Services Group, leading the office into the hi-tech consulting arena. After successfully developing the unit for Ernst & Young, David founded NextCorp (which became SMB Suite in 2013) to serve the business software needs of clients throughout the US. David has made SMB Suite one of the best cloud ERP providers in the industry. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur and leader, he is a software and technology specialist, holding certifications in various Microsoft and other technologies.