By Alyson Gallant, PMP, Project Administrator, LogicsOne
Choosing a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool can be an arduous task. There are a number of options out there, and everyone’s business and workflows are unique. Also, the potential cost and time of evaluating a number of tools and running a proof of concept can be overwhelming.
Why do you need a PSA tool? A PSA tool is crucial to understanding where your resources are spending their time and the profitability of projects. A suitable PSA tool should allow your organization to continuously evaluate performance in order to improve and scale.
Like any Professional Services organization (or any organization looking to track time and budget on large internal projects), we’ve evaluated and used a number of different PSA tools. During the implementation of our current PSA tool, the Project Management Office (PMO) was lucky enough to have significant input into our PSA tool selection as well as the rollout to our Professional Services organization.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to a PSA tool, and there are many methods of evaluation, which we won’t get into here. However, here’s some food for thought based on our experiences for anyone preparing to search for a new PSA tool:
1) Can you consolidate your applications?
Do you have a lot of applications? Will your new PSA tool be an additional application for your users to use? Are your users experiencing application overload?? If so, have you investigated what your current CRM application already offers? A number of PSA applications are part of a larger suite, and the more modules you use, the better your data flows through.
2) Are you trying too hard to reinvent the wheel? Customization vs. integration.
One of the potential cons of going to a tool that you cannot customize is that you may have to change your workflow to fit the tool rather than having a tool that works with your existing workflow. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Using an application that hundreds or thousands of other customers are using can help provide a baseline for what your organization should be doing if your current workflow has a number of inefficiencies. Also, if you customize your tool, how does that affect future upgrades? Be open to revaluating your workflow. Look for a tool that is open to integrations with your other applications as an alternative to customization.
3) Is there an active community of users?
A great feature of a PSA tool is the energy and enthusiasm of the community of users. We did not have this with our first PSA tool, and it wasn’t until our second PSA tool that we recognized the value of this. Through an online community, users actively discuss new releases and provide feedback on forums open to all users. Users are encouraged to enter “New Feature Requests” and vote on them. We all know our time is highly prized during the workday, but sometimes it can be a good gut check when you’re running into an issue or workflow conundrum to take a look at what others are seeing or experiencing to see if you’re on the right track.
4) Are you able to roll out your tool in a staged approach?
If you have the luxury of rolling out a PSA in a staged fashion, this may be an easier way to encourage adoption of your users, as well as ensure you’re getting accurate data entered by your users. As we all know, change can be difficult, and when users are overwhelmed and unsure of a new process, it may not be the best setting for the most accurate information to be entered. If you have the ability to roll out a single module of your new PSA at a time, your users can focus on getting each process down correctly before moving onto the next new process. A staged approach may not always work for your rollout, but it is worth considering to ensure you have “good data”.
5) Are you willing to perform constant evaluation on the new tool and provide recurring training?
As rollouts can take time, there can be quite a gap between inputting your data into your new PSA tool and evaluating the data that you extract. What happens when you extract data that isn’t useful? What if the information is incorrect? You’ll need to constantly gauge how well your workflow is providing your management with information, and changing that workflow can require new training. Make sure to factor this in with the rollout of your PSA tool – the work is never done.
Are you in the market for a new tool to track your projects? What do you use currently, and what are your pain points?
If you do have any questions, this is something we can help with as part of our On Demand Project Management Offering, so feel free to reach out!