By Glenn Saunders – Project and resource management software can create efficient and repeatable business processes for service companies. There are various levels of maturity in service organizations as outlined in the Professional Services Maturity Benchmark Study from SPI Research. Project management software should allow for visibility into the project status, enable ease of communications both internally and externally, as well as track performance metrics. Effective toolsets help companies achieve higher service maturity levels as outlined in this Professional Services Maturity Benchmark Study from SPI. Here at KES, we have many years of experience working with service companies and helping our clients improve project management capabilities at varying levels of maturity.
For most service companies, the evolution towards repeatable and optimized business processes can be a challenge as it requires more adherence to a standard operating policy. This can be a challenge for some service professionals who have worked for years under their own control. The general nature of many problem solving consultants is to jump right into action and start solving the problem. However, this approach can create an inconsistent customer experience, without company wide standards. As such, change must occur. Of course, change management is a challenge for all organizations and service organizations are no exception to the rule. A busy consultant or project manager will generally put the customer’s need above any internal process. The key to adherence is to make the process easy and build it into the company’s core methodology so that it quickly and automatically adds value to the project.
Many consulting companies like to articulate their differences and what make them special. While that is a critical factor that I will elaborate on later, it is important that the governing approach with the project be consistent with the organization. Differences in customer experience can lead to an erosion in confidence of the service organization’s ability to deliver.
A project manager will need to build a high level project plan with tasks and roles as they prepare a statement of work for a customer. With a streamlined project management application such as NetSuite, the PM can create the work breakdown structure with the various dependent predecessor tasks and use the Gantt chart as a part of the presentation. This also helps the finance team, who then can help review, update and edit any expected cost and billing budgets. By providing an integrated project planning application, NetSuite allows both the service execution and finance arms of a service organization visibility into a project.
Additionally, as a project progresses, resource constraints can cause project delays. A built in resource scheduling and allocation application can help alleviate bottlenecks in project delivery by providing visibility into scheduling conflicts. Another key feature in scheduling is the ability to search for potential replacements based on skill and expertise level. Usability is a huge factor in making an effective scheduling toolset as well as integration to general office productivity applications such as Google and Microsoft Office. NetSuite provides a visual drag and drop calendar that can integrate to Outlook or Google calendars for schedule management.
The Strategic Advantage:
By providing a standard set of tools for project management, service companies can ensure consistent engagements with its team. Consistency is a considerable advantage when engaging professional service firms as each consultant may have different toolsets and methodologies to address particular areas for customers. The consistent approach from an overall engagement cycle will help align the value proposition for repurchase of services from customers as well as help generate new business via referrals and case studies