Ashley Miller looks at how Professional Services businesses can boost profits by switching to an integrated business management system
Faced with ever-increasing client demands and ever-squeezed margins, professional services businesses are under intense pressure to deliver more for less. Many in the industry have worked hard to develop a valued set of services supported by a strong team, which, when combined with a forward-thinking strategy, has meant that these businesses have successfully expanded into new markets. However, this hasn’t always translated into increased profits, with some professional services businesses at a loss to see how and why their businesses aren’t reaping the financial rewards you would expect.
In spite of having all these strong aspects to their businesses, where many professional services firms are missing out is by not bringing all these elements together, making the mistake of sticking to the traditional professional services model of departmental silos, disconnected business processes and project-based systems. For some, they’re seeking to address this issue by investing in an integrated business management solution to establish a new inter-disciplinary, collaborative way of working, connecting the entire organisation and providing access to accurate, real-time data right across the business.
Perhaps most importantly, the right solution pulls together all of your key business functions within a single system. By amalgamating processes such as finance, HR, CRM, supply chain and payroll within one business-wide solution, a solution which not only collates information but analyses it too, what results is accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date business information on which to base timely, robust decisions. There’s no longer any need to manually bring together information from across disparate departments, a time consuming and error-prone process. Instead, users have direct access to all key business information in one place, providing one clear view of business, while highlighting any problems or opportunities so the business can respond quickly and effectively.
The best solutions on the market are quick to implement and easy-to-use, seamlessly combining front and back office processes, with the increased automation and efficiencies that such solutions bring freeing up staff to focus on more value-add aspects of the business. For example, when it comes to HR, it’s possible to enable role-based access to manage timesheets and expenses in a self-service manner, empowering users in the process and lightening the admin burden on the HR function. This means HR has more time to focus on resource deployment, for instance, a task that has much more of an impact on the bottom-line.
Professional services organisations need systems that will grow alongside their businesses. Too many companies have invested in software only to find it actually restricts their growth potential. With cloud-based solutions, you have the ability to scale your solution without huge complexity or at great cost, with any new features and updates incorporated into the system painlessly and with minimal disruption to the business. In a similar vein, the best solutions recognise that many professional services businesses are expanding internationally and make it possible to reconfigure processes as the business grows. As such, the right system will adapt effortlessly to different tax regulations, languages and currencies as the business enters new markets, facilitating further growth and increased profitability.
With more than 50% of all projects not delivered as planned, bringing projects in on time and on budget can be a major challenge for professional services providers. Business management solutions that are designed to meet the specific needs of the professional services industry come with project management tools as standard. Not only does the software have the ability to control projects, contract financials and resource utilisation, but the holistic nature of the solution enables the business to oversee projects in real-time, pulling together information from all departments at the click of a mouse. This collaborative way of working delivers more effective, profitable projects in a timely and cost-effective manner, making it a win-win for both customers and the professional services business concerned.
Touching on all areas of the business, the finance function is a key area where both efficiency and cost savings are possible with the right solution in place. Automated revenue recognition enables the business to streamline accounting processes, avoiding revenue leakage and late or inaccurate billing, all while managing cash flow and benefiting from a real-time view of the organisation’s cash position. With a procurement module as well, users can manage suppliers, sources and contracting with the same system, keeping costs under control and helping to bring in projects on budget.
The overarching aim of implementing a centralised business management system is to unite the very different parts of the business, and it’s no different when it comes to enfranchising those who work in the field. Accessible on mobile devices, the most effective solutions enable approvals on-the-go, providing mobile access to the central solution, which makes project tracking, as well as time and expense tracking all the more reliable, as well as improving the real-time project updates that the solution can provide. Professional services businesses aren’t one and the same, with every project different to the next, and a solution which enables this variety is a must-have for optimum efficiency levels.
Many professional services businesses already have the necessary tools at their disposal to take their business to the next level, it’s just knowing how to unite these strengths and capabilities that’s the key. By investing in an integrated business management solution, connecting all business processes, procedures and departments, professional services organisations can unlock their true potential, maximising cost and efficiency savings and reaping the profitable rewards that their businesses truly deserve.
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