If my last post, 4 ways to tell if your business systems are at tipping point, has you thinking that your current management systems are keeping your firm from higher profits and faster growth, perhaps you're ready for something better. But among hundreds of business management systems, what’s the best fit for your firm? You don’t manufacture engines or sell retail electronics – Professional Services success means more capacity from your people, and higher profits from their work. So what should you look for in the perfect business system for a Professional Services firm?
3 keys to the finding the perfect fit
Keep in mind these ideal attributes to help guide you to the best business system for your firm.
1. Complete & Connected
You don’t want more gaps among “best-of-breed” departmental solutions. Consider a firm-wide solution that connects front-office business development, resource planning and project-management with back-office time-capture, billing, and financial reporting. With efficiency and insight for everyone, users in every department will quickly adopt a completely connected system. Avoid confusing data conflicts – bring everything together so everyone has the same set of trusted information. Gain efficiency from workflow streamlined across the firm – accurate proposals are quickly transformed to projects, and billable Work In Progress is quickly invoiced. Completely integrated financials mean anticipated project margins are immediately updated and always current – so everyone can see how each decision impacts expected profits. You’ll drive accountability at all levels, and expose ways to improve results.
2. Architected for Professional Services
Many enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integrate financials and departmental tools into a single system – but few are built specifically to help Professional Services firms maximise billable capacity, drive project profitability, and boost realisation. Lacking the essentials – poorly designed to break projects into tasks, manage resources, or track crucial KPIs – you’ll spend lots of time building these capabilities before your firm sees any value. Don’t fall prey to customisation traps that pile on cost and jeopardise support – look for a system architected especially for Professional Services firms. Make sure it’s designed to manage projects and maximise capacity – with an appropriate task-level work breakdown that can be easily shown in proposals, able to quickly record and bill hours at any level, and with pre-built reports or dashboards that measure crucial KPIs like utilisation, realisation, or net multiplier. A ready-to-run ERP system for Professional Services firms that avoids complex and costly customisation will have your firm quickly up-and-running, gaining immediate value.
3. Easy to Own
Along with staff efficiency and management insight, why not reduce your firm’s IT burden and administrative expense? A completely connected solution puts you on the right path – care for just one system instead of several, and eliminate any brittle interfaces to maintain among them. To go even further, look for cloud-based options of software-as-a-service (SaaS) – give your people anytime, anywhere internet access, and leave maintenance, upgrades, and security to a vendor solely focused on an impenetrable data centre. While you want a comprehensive solution, look for tightly integrated solutions still priced and packaged as modules, so you can deploy incrementally based on your priorities – don’t take on more than your firm can handle. Finally, you might need something special now, or perhaps in the future as your firm grows. Look for a proven Professional Services model that’s still easy to adapt –to personalise views, create your own reports, or even add new workflows when you need them. Today’s advanced solutions can provide this without risky customisation that jeopardises future support or migration.