Real-time availability is critical for PSO success | Unit4
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Real-time availability is critical for PSO success

from  December 5, 2022 | 4 min read

Real-time availability

A critical component for success within an organization is real-time availability. It is important from both a resource management and project management perspective. Even if an organization has all the right talent in place, they need to be available when needed. Knowing real-time availability means informed decisions can be made about which projects to take on. Resource managers and project managers need to reach their end goals of customer satisfaction and revenue generation, but this will not be possible if managers are working in silos.

Next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) is used to surface the data needed and clearly shows the real-time availability of people. It’s easy to use, allows scenario planning, and avoids over-committing people.

The Friday Dash

Or “The Friday Shuffle” is what professional services organizations call the crazy dash on a Friday afternoon that employees perform to finish their tasks before the weekend – including getting all their expenses and timesheets entered.

Using manual processes for this is not only time-consuming and tedious, but it can make Friday afternoons a chaotic rush, and inevitably, things get missed. Inaccurate tracking of time and expenses means lower revenue per consultant, lower billable utilization, revenue leakage, and a negative impact on project margin.

This is a challenge that all PSOs face, but what can be done to solve the problem?

Professional service organizations have a specific business model that relies on accurate billing of any work carried out for each client to ensure profitability. Despite this, many PSOs don’t put enough importance on real-time tracking of time per client. Even those organizations that work on a fixed-fee project fee basis should understand the amount of time spent on each client, so they can effectively price future contracts.

Time tracking and the tech tools available

Accurate time tracking allows organizations to make more intelligent decisions about pricing, delivering projects, and scheduling resources. As well as their usual paid time, consultants need to be reimbursed for any expenses incurred while working on client projects. Keeping a clean, legal trail of how many hours your people work each day, week, or month is essential to ensure you stay compliant with working time laws and regulations.

Professional services teams should be focused on delivering high-quality work and meeting your client’s expectations. Unit4 Time Management eliminates duplicative work and the constant worry about time-tracking working hours.

Unit4 Expense Management has complete self-driving expense entry capabilities that help to reduce admin time and increase the accuracy of expense management. It automatically creates expenses from receipt images and can match credit card transactions with those expenses. Consultants can complete, submit, and approval can be given for full expense reports from any device.

The Unit4 Expense Management software provides rapid, simple implementation with flexible, adaptable workflows that need no training to manage, and firms can validate regulations and expense policies all in one place.

Professional services automation (PSA) is software designed to assist PSOs with project management and resource management for client projects and utilization rate management for billable staff. It develops metrics to quantify and qualify basic business processes that can then be used to streamline and improve those processes. It allows you to fully optimize your operations, manage less, and produce more through process automation, templates, and integrated business insights. Giving you the power to track all communications, spend, expenses, and billable time associated with each project to ensure timely responses, higher rates of utilization, and proactively identify and capitalize on new opportunities for projects as they arise. PSA also provides you with visibility into performance across the whole business, with the ability to more accurately and flexibly forecast for the future.

Typical PSA functions include project management and documentation, time recording, billing, reporting, and resource utilization. And all these features can be integrated with accounting, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and payroll systems to improve the efficiency of overall operations. As a result, while managing client projects more effectively, PSOs can also prevent lost revenue and slow billing cycles.

PSA software solutions allow users to integrate industry-appropriate metrics to understand operations better and improve efficiency and profitability. As businesses grow, the size and complexity of their projects tend to increase, and PSA software is used to provide visibility into mid-project profitability.

How can Unit4 Solutions help?

The most significant advantage of integrated time-tracking tools is increased productivity. But let’s not forget the practical side of it – less stress, less human error, and less time needed than manually filling in forms. Accurate time tracking can help prevent wasting money and resources. And for each consultant, it means being able to record their time and any other project details on the go on any device – and time is money, so happier, less stressed consultants will equal greater productivity.

According to leading professional service industry analysts Service Performance Insight (SPI) in their 2022 Professional Services Maturity Benchmark report, “Integrated PSA enables organizations to operate at higher levels of efficiency. Perhaps most notable … is the fact that organizations using PSA reported almost double the headcount growth of non-users because they were far more successful throughout the challenging year of 2021.

Organizations with a fully integrated PSA solution experienced a 20% boost in revenue growth, a 16.6% boost in their win-to-bid ratio, and a 17% boost to project margin. The advantages an integrated PSA system brings are so great that SPI now recommends their use to all service-based businesses.

“Because the delivery of services is where PSOs make their money, and because PSA is the primary application used by project managers and others responsible for services delivery, it is easy to understand why the operational and financial benefits are so significant. SPI Research has always recommended that organizations with more than 20 employees utilize PSA.”

Tracking productivity helps to identify bottlenecks in processes. Removing these problems means happier, less stressed, and less frustrated consultants and an overall increase in production efficiency.

The Benefits

  • Connected systems

PSA integrates your client, project, and resource data, including your people’s availability and skill sets, making tracking and optimizing utilization easy. And the expense management capabilities remove the misery of expense reports and cumbersome manual entry, replacing it with a system that simplifies following expense policies and regulatory guidelines.

A fully integrated ecosystem removes the silos that keep teams struggling to share data and agree on expectations. Especially when remote and hybrid working are likely to be prevalent for the foreseeable future. PSA creates a unified home for data on all projects from the prospect stage onwards, giving you real-time visibility and the ability to access customer, project, resource, and financial data in one application.

  • Single source of truth

PSA effectively becomes a single point for data entry in your business creating the foundation of a “funnel-to-cash” approach to the management of projects. This unified data visibility makes project automation realistic, allowing you to streamline approval flows across projects, easily visualize performance, and expedite and rationalize project kick-off via preconfigured templates.

  • Instant integrations

With this level of integration increasingly becoming a matter of operational necessity, one of the greatest strengths of PSA truly comes to the fore. The right PSA solution will allow you to complete missing or incomplete timesheet data through existing information within your people’s Outlook calendars, automatically flag outstanding invoices, and keep running WIP tallies without any manual intervention. Helping you cleanly track and wrap up projects so you can focus on winning new business.

How can Unit4 help your organization?

We have deep knowledge of PSOs and their processes. With the right technology supporting you, your PSO can focus on People Experience to help free your professionals to do more of what matters: attracting, supporting, and retaining clients.

Our PSA solution is an integrated practice management solution built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM that helps you win, execute, and bill your projects as accurately and efficiently as possible.

And our people-centric, project-focused solutions are purpose-built. Firms can better manage their businesses with industry-leading software for Enterprise Resource Planning, Human Capital Management, and Financial Planning and Analysis.

Our solutions support all types of PSOs globally, offering unbeatable functionality. You can check out Unit4's People Experience suite here.

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Bryce Wolf

Bryce Wolf

Senior Manager, Industry Solutions

Bryce Wolf is a Senior Manager of Industry Solutions at Unit4 and is responsible for the delivery of Unit4’s product strategy for our strategic verticals. He is responsible for the delivery of Unit4’s PSO Industry Models and MESH, and works closely with Product Directors to ensure a complete end to end solution for Professional Services Organizations. Bryce has experience in consulting and product strategy at Oracle+NetSuite, JDA Software, FinancialForce, and management consulting firms prior to joining Unit4 in 2021.