Despite the name, professional service providers don’t actually get to spend that much time providing services. Instead, they’re bogged down by administrative tasks. In fact, a recent Legal Trends Report found that lawyers only spend 29 percent of the day on billable work and a whopping 48 percent on administrative tasks. Thankfully, PSA software can solve many of the issues that cause this imbalance. But do you know what features to look for to streamline the inefficiencies within your business? To assist you in your professional services automation software selection, we’ve compiled a checklist of popular PSA software requirements and features. Use it to determine which ones you’ll need as you shop for your next system.
Project management software provides users with the visibility necessary to manage projects efficiently. First, it bridges the gap between sales and the rest of your business functions by offering a bidding and contract management tool. Additionally, this module supplies project templates, spaces for collaboration and automated resource allocation for robust project planning. Gantt charts let users see project timelines in relation to one another to best understand where resources are spent.
PSA accounting can vary from system to system in terms of how much functionality is offered. Some vendors offer comprehensive accounting suites while others offer no capability at all. The most comprehensive accounting solutions provide accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll processing, budgeting and forecasting. These components work together to give users a snapshot of the project’s financial health and future finances.
Even more robust systems support multiple currencies and various tax requirements for companies that conduct business in several different countries.
Budgeting and Forecasting
Scheduling is an important feature for professional service providers that have to often meet with clients. Scheduling tools allow users to manage attendance, appointments and vacation time. Many solutions offer automated email alerts when a schedule is updated in real-time as well, keeping all members of a project updated. Scheduling may also incorporate Gantt charts to manage timelines and resources.
Quotes and Proposal Management
Quotes and proposals are more important in professional services than in most industries, due to the nature of the work involved. This is often the sole document that outlines the work your company is obligated to provide for the agreed-upon cost.
Having a system that can manage and create proposals alongside where you do the rest of your work is highly beneficial. PSA software automates the quote generation process, using pre-built templates that can be customized to individual project needs.
Billing and Invoicing
Billing solutions first and foremost provide the means to collect due payment. Users can process transactions and generate bills using trackable hours. You’ll want to make sure your system can handle the methods of billing you intend to use as well as multiple currencies and tax requirements.
On top of processing payment, billing and invoicing modules provide forecasting and revenue impact analysis. They allow users to see reports that include revenue from all streams for easy auditing and accurate forecasting. You can also integrate your eCommerce software for precise customer billing.
Credit Card Processing
Time and Expense Tracking
Having strong time and expense tracking tools is especially important for professional service providers. The time your employees spend is often directly related to the revenue your company brings in. Choose a system that can track time in a way that makes sense to your business. Many tools include the ability to track both billable and non-billable hours, overtime hours, and time unrelated to a specific project.
Users can approve timesheets and expenses in a simplified and centralized way. PSA software allows you to see hours and expenses associated with a certain project for greater visibility into your resource allocation.
Multiple Time Trackers
When you can’t say you sold however many units of a tangible product, you need other ways of understanding performance. Reporting tools allow users to track key metrics and KPIs related to your business, like sales and resource usage. Customizable reports and visual data representations ensure that your team gets the insight they need, regardless of learning style. Accurate and easy-to-understand reporting allows your company’s leaders to make decisions with confidence.
After reading the sections above, you’re already well aware of how essential resource management is to professional services. Solutions can either provide a specialized resource management module or they can provide this functionality through separate modules. For instance, a system that doesn’t have a specific resource management component may still provide some capability through timecards.
Other systems have a resource allocation suite, where users can handle related tasks across multiple projects in one place. These centralized tools provide visibility into where resources are in demand now and in the future using forecasts. Increased awareness of how your company is spending its resources allows you to make better decisions for more efficient work and higher customer satisfaction.
Allocate Resources by Skill Set
Cross-Project Resource Allocation
Forecast Resource Needs
Marketing is a key function for all service-based organizations. Unlike companies that produce goods, your business’ work isn’t easily seen or shared. You have to rely more heavily on your brand and image. Having tools to help manage these aspects built into your PSA software is convenient for tracking leads, proposals and sales.
The most robust systems also offer campaign and web platform management. However, many leading vendors don’t offer marketing management as an inbuilt feature and require CRM integration, or a separate system altogether.
Sales and CRM Integration
Managing your customers using spreadsheets, or even filing cabinets, can get hard to maintain as your business grows. Having a system where users can access customer data all in one place is incredibly useful. Customer management tools keep track of client histories, profiles and queries. Clients also enjoy their own portal where they can participate in surveys and building product roadmaps.
In addition to managing customer information, this feature also provides alerts when milestones or issues arise so you can address them in a timely manner. Like marketing management, customer management sometimes requires CRM integration to work with your PSA solution, but not as often.
Different Rates for Different Customers
More Questions to Ask
Choosing a software solution involves more than finding a solution with the PSA features you need most. You should consider a number of other factors as well to ensure your next system is a perfect fit.
What Industries Does This Vendor Specialize In?
Service-based companies exist in a multitude of industries. To cater to the diverse needs of professional service providers, vendors may specialize in one trade over another. There are PSA systems for law firms, marketing agencies, accounting firms, IT consultancies and more. While there are plenty of excellent systems with the flexibility to serve multiple professions, it’s worth a look to see if there’s a product uniquely made for your type of business.
What Contract Length Can I Expect?
If you’ve been using low-cost or free software to manage your business so far, you might not have given contract length much thought. Before you buy, make sure the vendor you’re considering offers a contract length you’re comfortable with. Some PSA software vendors require buyers to sign five-year contracts. If you’re looking for a solution with less commitment, be sure to ask your vendor what length you can expect from them.
What Deployment Method Does My Business Require?
Many large PSA software systems offer both deployments, but small vendors whose role is more niche typically offer cloud solutions only. Cloud-based products have a number of advantages over on-premise solutions, so it’s not usually an issue for most businesses. However, if your business lacks adequate internet connection or you want maximum control over your system, on-premise may be for you.
Now that you have a better idea of what features your business requires from PSA software, you can begin comparing systems. Our in-depth comparison report allows buyers to compare leading vendors based on the requirements above. See our analyst team’s ratings and comments on how well each vendor provides the features your business needs most.
If you’re not quite ready to jump into looking at vendors, not to worry. We also have a customizable requirements template for you to use if you’re still in the gathering stage. You can include the requirements from above that your business needs, and leave out the ones you don’t. For instance, you might be happy with how you currently handle email marketing so there’s no reason to include it on your personalized list of requirements.
Which PSA software requirements will you be using for your business? Are there any features you need that we didn’t include? Let us know by leaving a message down below.