Making the Business Case for PSA in a Project-Centric Company

I’m often asked about PSA (Professional Services Automation) solutions by potential buyers. Is it critical to success?  Is it more of a luxury solution to make things easier?  Will it pay for itself in the long-run? Short-run?  What they’re really asking, in most cases, is: “How do I sell it to our executive team?”

For the longest time, I was confused by this.  In my experience, it is often the executive team that drives the pursuit of a PSA solution.  Their need for more accurate reporting, project profitability and overall visibility of operational effectiveness in a professional services firm leads right to PSA.  So why the sell? I’ve come to the conclusion that overselling features of other solutions by those in the software market are often the problem.  Overzealous sales and marketing people pitch every ERP, CRM, Office productivity and project management solution as the end-all, be-all answer for professional services.

While each of these application families can deliver tremendous value to a services company, it is often an over-reach.  However, a PSA solution not integrated with core ERP or CRM systems is never as effective as those which are.  That’s why we love working with Microsoft Dynamics, and especially the Dynamics 365 suite.  But…my appreciation for Microsoft Dynamics is not the focus of today’s post.  Rather, how to help you share the potential value of an enterprise PSA solution with your executive team.  Let’s get started.

dynamics-psa-dashboard

Understanding PSA (Professional Services Automation)

PSA solutions are designed to assist project-centric companies with project management and resource management for client projects. This is accomplished by developing metrics to quantify and qualify basic business processes that can then be used to streamline and improve those processes.  Typical PSA functions include project management and documentation, time recording, billing, reporting and labor utilization. These features are often integrated with accounting, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and payroll systems in order to improve the efficiency of overall operations. In addition to better managing client projects, the right PSA can prevent lost revenue and lagging billing cycles thereby improving cash flow.

Ultimately PSA software suites allow users to integrate industry-appropriate metrics in order to better understand operations and, in turn, improve efficiency and profitability. As businesses grow, the size and complexity of their projects tend to increase and with it, their investment in PSA software.

microsoft-dynamics-365-psa

Making the Business Case

Generalizations about the value of leveraging software to improve project and services delivery are enough to get started, but here are some more specific points you can add to your pitch.

Improving Collaboration, Reporting, and Visibility into Project Profitability

While PSA is best known for improving resource and project management, the most significant impact is providing real-time visibility into all aspects of delivery. Delivery resources can simultaneously see the status of current and forecasted projects, historical or projected costs and revenue, the supply and demand for key resources, and issues that could impact a successful project outcome. With real-time visibility, executives can more efficiently and effectively run the business.  Organizations with high levels of real-time visibility grow more rapidly and face less employee attrition and fewer projects go south.

Clearing the Bench and Improving Human Capital Contribution

Every services organization struggles with the almighty utilization target.  Keep everyone working 100% of the time and you print cash.  Keep them sitting on the bench and the business fails.  Finding a balance of resources that works for your customers as well as your business is the key to success.  A well-implemented PSA solution helps you identify and work towards that optimal service model as the business fluctuates.  It can help you determine the best mix between full-time and contract employees, training requirements needed, etc.  Most importantly, your entire management team will have a better understanding of backlog and ability to meet demand at any given point during the year.

Improving Billing Accuracy and Shortening Billing Cycles

Without a PSA solution in place, time and expense data is usually captured through standard payroll or financial systems.  This data is ultimately sent to the project team, but not in real time.  Sometimes, there is a considerable gap of days or weeks.  The extra processing time and the potential for mistakes can be a negative impact on the customer relationship and internal project management.

PSA systems allow time card information to be entered through apps or even calendar plugins to improve efficiency and cut down on errors.  Allocations, project success, cash-flow, and billing frequency are all positively impacted.

Compliance with ASC 606 and IFRS 2015 Guidelines

Ensuring that project doers and project planners stay aligned is extremely important.  How you bill, when you bill and how you recognize revenue are often tied to performance milestones, as outlined in ASC 606 and IFRS 2015 guidelines.

Many companies, even those with enterprise ERP and high-end forecasting tools, will need to build a plan to implement process updates and retool the development of complex contracts.  Firms relying entirely on Excel or outdated planning and project management solutions may find the need to purchase and implement new software even before other processes can be adapted.  It will take a comprehensive, collaborative effort to realign business planning and budgeting as your back office team adapts to these new accounting standards.

solution integration

Dynamics 365 Integration with Microsoft Office 365

SBS Group has deployed PSA solutions for hundreds of companies over the last 30 years.  Today, we focus on Microsoft solutions, including Dynamics 365.  Within the Dynamics Suite, there are different options available for companies of varying sizes and needs, but all benefit from the sweeping integration across the Microsoft stack.

Dynamics 365 unifies the best of Microsoft’s customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions into one fully integrated cloud service.  It offers deep integration with Office 365 and allows you to tailor your implementation with sophisticated productivity apps to support crucial business processes, including sales, customer service, finance, field service, operations, marketing and project service automation.  It utilizes one common set of data across CRM, ERP and Office 365, simplifying data management and allowing for seamless integration across apps and business processes.  Tools like PowerBI, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps and Cortana Business Intelligence work seamlessly with Dynamics 365 operations and PSA to create one of the most comprehensive solutions for professional services companies in the market today.

Sometimes Seeing is Believing

If they’re not connecting the value of the right PSA to business results, you may need to show them.  I know that most CFOs and CEOs either don’t have the time or interest in sitting through a software demonstration.  However, a focused discussion on business value can be much more impactful when the software solution is used as a backdrop to the conversation.  Discuss the benefits you’re expecting and follow with a 5-minute peek into how the system works.

register for webcast

Also, remember that there is more than one way to deploy a PSA solution.  Obvious questions, like in the cloud or on-premises will always come up for discussion.  Be ready to discuss cost, risk and operational pros and cons of each.  Grounding your solution in the up-front bid process and WBS vs an ERP-based PSA solution to manage project accounting will factor heavily into product selection.  Many questions, but all should result in a solution that drives genuine bottom-line benefits to the company.

If you would like to explore this further, please feel free to reach out to me directly at rmorrison@sbsgroupusa.com.

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
Chief Solution Strategist, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and products helps SBS Group customers maximize ROI on technology investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Chief Solution Strategist where he provides thought leadership and manages the development of B2B solutions.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

When is Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation (PSA) the right fit?

SBS Group is well known for expertise in helping project-oriented companies to leverage Microsoft and other technologies to operate more efficiently and profitably.  Solutions like AXIO Professional Services enhance Dynamics 365 for Operations and Progressus for Professional Services provide PSA and ERP for Dynamics NAV.

Another solution, Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation (PSA), is available to project-oriented companies who wish to dive into the Dynamics 365 platform.  Instead of an ERP-based project management solution, Dynamics 365 PSA offers a more client centric based solution.

Each of these solutions provide customers with comprehensive feature sets nested in a full Microsoft customer experience.  The trick is understanding the short-term and long-term benefits of each solution to understand which best fits a specific customer environment.  In this post, we will explore Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation (PSA) to better understand what types of companies it would serve the best.

Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation

Key Features of Dynamics 365 Professional Services Automation (PSA)

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation Enables project-based organizations to deliver every customer engagement on-time and within-budget through an end-to-end solution for sales, planning, resourcing, delivery, and billing.

OPPORTUNITY MANAGEMENT

Provide integrated sales dashboard with project-based opportunities to help forecast profitability and feasibility. Streamline sales manager experience to quickly create project contracts, track labor rates and generate SOWs. Collaborate real-time with customers on the quotes, project scope and resource requirements through customer portals.

PROJECT PLANNING

Make it easy for sales manager to visualize cost, effort, and sales value with project managers to estimate and define the work using standard project templates. Use robust project scheduling and management capabilities of Microsoft Project to complement the collaborative sales planning process.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Optimize resource assignment through a consolidated scheduling engine across all modes of service to ensure right people on the right projects. Simplify engagement across project managers, resource managers and sub-contractors to forecast demand, talent management and resource allocation. Empower consultants to apply directly for relevant project roles, and update skills through mobile devices.

TEAM COLLABORATION

Provide powerful, easy-to-use, mobile-ready O365 productivity tools for project teams, customers, and partners to communicate and collaborate on project deliverables and tasks. Empower project managers by providing real-time status and performance indicators to mitigate project risks.

TIME AND EXPENSE MANAGEMENT

Simplify management, tracking and submission of estimated and billed project time by integrating the tasks and deliverables within calendars. Track all project and non-project schedules on their device or app of choice through integration between exchange and project calendars.

CUSTOMER BILLING

Provide project managers and customers a one-stop-shop dashboard to review, override, track overruns and approve all costs and time impacting their projects. Automate generation, approval, and distribution of accurate invoices in email and on the web. Enable integration with best-in-class back-office applications for financial accounting.

SERVICE ANALYTICS

Anticipate business opportunities, optimize solution offerings, and improve business performance through robust analytics, interactive dashboards, role-base templates, and data visualization for 360 visibility to project and portfolio metrics like resource utilization and practice profitability.

Features included with Dynamcs 365 for Project Service Automation

For additional insight into the features and capabilities of Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation, you might want to read this post written by Sandeep Chaudhury on the Dynamic Community blog.

What Companies are the Best Fit for Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation (PSA)?

This solution helps companies manage the entire project sales and delivery cycle, but shines more in earlier, front office, stages of the client engagement like sales and quoting.

Because it is based on a CRM platform, the solution is fairly flexible and many per-company customizations can be created without back-end programming.  Integration with Office 365 and other Microsoft tools is robust as well.  However, this flexibility comes with a price. While the solution provides strong collaboration benefits between sales and delivery resources, it is most effective for companies with smaller delivery teams and less complex projects.

For instance, the solution provides a very user-friendly scheduling function with Outlook calendar integrations that makes managing resources against a project work quite well.  But, for larger companies with hundreds or thousands of delivery resources, the solution is lacking the strong skills based scheduling that is available in AXIO for Professional Services.

When the team size is small and scheduling resources are familiar with individual skill-sets, this is less of a problem.  When teams get larger and projects become more complex, or when the scheduler is assigning resources across the globe having never meet or assessed the resources being scheduled, this can be a show-stopper.

Examples of companies that might benefit from Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation are marketing and media firms, light management/consulting firms, smaller IT services firms, and many other white-collar consulting firms.  Although I’m calling out smaller companies, it could be a great fit for large companies as long as their project delivery is still fairly simple.  Think about a company that provides creative design for television ads vs. a consultancy that deploys large, integrated ERP systems.  The latter may take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years and require multiple milestones, different skill-sets and formal call-center or on-site support. Other business that may struggle with CRM-based PSA are Architecture and Engineering, Construction, Software Publishers or even specialty manufacturers.

Here are some example questions you might ask yourself when selecting a CRM-based vs ERP-based Dynamics 365 solution for a project-oriented firm:

  1. Do we manage inventory? 
  2. Do we require advanced revenue recognition processing?
  3. Are our projects complex or simple?  In other words, do you have multiple clauses? Do you bill based on Performance Milestones (ASC 606 and IFRS 2015)
  4. Do we need project accounting to be auditable?
  5. Do we require union payroll?
  6. Do we require T&E reporting audits for DCAA compliance?
  7. Do we need to staff/manage projects across multiple entities?
  8. Do we manage subscription revenue along with or post project completion?

In each of these cases, an ERP-Based PSA solution is likely the better option.  Some of these  issues can be dealt with in Dynamics CRM PSA, but it is unlikely that the amount of development or process configuration required to do so would be worth the effort when systems already exist that meet these challenges.

You only need to ask.

If you are researching your next solution, please feel free to reach out and we’ll help you dig into the details.  After all, selection of this nature can be one of the most important decisions your company will make.

Thanks,

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
VP Enterprise Solutions and Services, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem helps SBS Group customers maximize benefits from the ERP investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Vice President, Enterprise Group where he provides thought leadership and manages the enterprise delivery team.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

A Business System Platform for Professional Services Firms and Project-based Businesses

Professional services firms and project-based businesses invest in technology to improve employee productivity, streamline operations, improve sales, marketing, and customer engagement. Additionally, these firms invest in order to get better insights into their businesses to drive continued improvements. Over time, most organizations have invested in a number of stand-alone point solutions addressing different areas of need. However, the largest and most successful companies, go beyond point solutions by creating a unified solution, either through an extensive integration of best-of-breed technologies, or standardization on a technology platform such as Oracle or SAP.

Until recently, the cost and complexity of implementing such a comprehensive solution was beyond the reach of all but the largest global organizations. That is no longer the case! With the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 — joining Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Power BI, and Microsoft Office 365 — any size professional services firm or project-based business can deploy a truly unified platform solution providing robust functionality for every business function and employee role.

microsoft dynamics 365 applications

Traditionally, enterprises achieved technology automation through the implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). ERP is generally defined as an expanded effort to standardize record keeping to permit information sharing among different areas of an organization in an effort to manage the business more effectively and efficiently. A successful ERP implementation formalizes and integrates business processes across the organization, leveraging a single, integrated information system platform.

In the manufacturing sector, ERP has been the primary focus of business technology investment. However, professional services firms and project-based businesses have significant technology needs beyond the back office. The customer focus of services firms and the fluid, dynamic nature of services businesses has made Customer Relationship Management (CRM) an equally important part of the technology equation. CRM assists the sales, marketing and customer services departments in your firm by focusing their efforts on bringing the customer the best value possible.

erp crm success

Ideally, a firm’s ERP and CRM system would work hand-in-hand – creating a unified system. ERP puts the product at the center of the interaction while CRM focuses on the customer and their needs. With Microsoft Dynamics 365, professional services firms and project-based businesses can have both ERP and CRM in one unified platform. Even better, Dynamics 365 is built in the Microsoft Cloud giving users access to the data they need anywhere, at any time and costs less than deploying an on-premise ERP and CRM solution.


Learn more about the Microsoft Cloud by download our white paper.

In the white paper, we will detail the business value of platform adoption, examine the specific needs of professional services firms and project-based business, review the elements of the Microsoft Cloud, and demonstrate why the Microsoft Cloud is the superior solution for the services sector.

We also included a general Primer on Cloud Computing for those who need a grounding or refresher on cloud concepts, as well as a review of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Office 365 components and benefits.

SBS Group to Host Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations Webcast for Professional Services Firms

The webcast will discuss the integration of SBS Group’s AXIO for Professional Services solution with Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations.

SBS Group, a leading information technology services and consulting firm, has announced they will be hosting a webcast focused on Microsoft’s new enterprise business solution, Dynamics 365 for Operations. The webcast will occur on Thursday, March 16 at 1 p.m. ET.

The webcast, entitled “Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Professional Services Firms,” will be centered on Dynamics 365 for Operations and its capabilities for professional services firms. SBS Group’s enterprise solution, AXIO for Professional Services, will be featured and demoed throughout the webcast. Attendees will learn about how SBS Group’s unique combination of industry experience and solution development makes them an ideal partner for professional services firms.

The presenters for the webcast are Robbie Morrison and Sandeep Chaudhury. Morrison is the recently named Chief Solution Strategist at SBS Group after previously leading the enterprise division. Chaudhury is a well-respected Senior Solutions Architect and Lead Functional Consultant for Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 for Operations. Both presenters bring vast experience in ERP implementation and solution development as well as expertise in the professional services industry.

Registration for the webcast is free. To register, visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8589357729067166465.

About SBS Group
SBS Group is a national Microsoft master VAR (Value Added Reseller) with Gold level competency in enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM). Over the past 30 years, they have been recognized as Microsoft Partner of the Year, Inner Circle Member and Microsoft President’s Club member multiple times. The company is headquartered in Edison, New Jersey and operates offices across North America. For more information, please visit SBS Group’s website at http://www.sbsgroupusa.com. Follow us on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/sbs-group, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sbsgroup and find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SBSGroupUSA.


To read the full release, click here.

SBS Group’s AXIO for Professional Services Now Available for Dynamics 365 for Operations on Microsoft AppSource

AXIO for Professional Services is one of the first solutions available specifically for professional services firms on AppSource for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations.

axio-pro-servInformation technology innovator and leader, SBS Group, announced the availability of AXIO for Professional Services on Microsoft AppSource. This announcement comes after the release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations on November 1, 2016.

“Enterprise-level professional services firms have unique needs when searching for an ERP solution,” explains Robbie Morrison, Chief Solution Strategist. “Optimized for cloud deployment and mobile use, SBS Group’s AXIO for Professional Services addresses the needs of those firms while embracing Microsoft’s new vision for ERP.”

AXIO for Professional Services is a business software solution specifically built for companies with global needs such as multi-entity, multi-currency, multi-taxation and multi-language requirements. AXIO for Professional Services specifically focuses on the needs of professional services firms including revenue recognition, resource management, project management, marketing, human capital management and financial management. The solution provides global scalability and compliance with all GAAP, IFRS, Sarbanes-Oxley and DCAA requirements including the new ASC 606 and IFRS 15 revenue recognition standards.

AXIO for Professional Services is built on the flexible and comprehensive Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations platform, bringing enterprise-class extensibility and built-in intelligence. The user adoption process is smooth, and return on investment (ROI) is accelerated due to the rapid implementation approach and its native integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365. – Microsoft’s new approach to intelligent business applications.

To view AXIO for Professional Services on Microsoft AppSource, visit: https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/product/dynamics-365-for-operations/sbs-group.1aae5b60-0d79-4feb-b819-4adfbe17672f?tab=Overview.

About SBS Group
SBS Group is a national Microsoft master VAR (Value Added Reseller) with Gold level competency in enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM). Over the past 30 years, they have been recognized as Microsoft Partner of the Year, Inner Circle Member and Microsoft President’s Club member multiple times. The company is headquartered in Edison, New Jersey and operates offices across North America. For more information, please visit SBS Group’s website at http://www.sbsgroupusa.com. Follow us on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/sbs-group, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sbsgroup and find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SBSGroupUSA.


To read the full release, click here.

%d bloggers like this: