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Growth can strain the systems and processes that once worked well for your business. As your project volume grows, your people work across multiple projects, each with its own information management challenges; obtaining aggregate views of operational metrics and business outcomes is difficult, as tools like spreadsheets, Google Docs, and email fail to provide complete pictures of operations and project data.

Professional services firms are now relying on ERPs with integrated project management to run their businesses more efficiently, even as they grow.

This post outlines the basic functionality that all professional services need from an ERP system, including a brief discussion of the challenges driving that need.

 

The Everyday Challenges of Professional Services Firms

Firms typically face operational and strategic challenges. At the heart of operational challenges is project management, wherein project leaders struggle to answer these questions:

  • Are my project costs in line with my budget?
  • Which resources are available for how long and at what interval?

Knowing the answers to these questions enables project leaders to forecast project profitability and perform capacity planning. However, they often struggle with inaccurate and untimely expense reporting because employees have no easy way to input that data, especially when traveling; even if they could input time and expenses, Excel can’t provide real-time views into estimates versus actuals. Capacity planning is nearly impossible without views into other back-office systems showing team member availability, skills, experience, and more.

Strategically, management often has little visibility into profit and growth data, and they can’t answer the questions whose answers should drive future goals:

  • Which types of projects are most profitable? In which markets?
  • How is our cash flow based on project type and market?

Fortunately, today’s modern ERP systems provide the core functionality professional services firms need to grow efficiently and gain superior strategic insights.

 

Core Functionality Answered

Modern ERP fuses the separate tools firms once used to manage projects and their business information. They offer a unified system that incorporates and orchestrates all the core functions you need to make your growing firm more efficient, predictable, and profitable.

Modern ERP addresses the everyday operational challenges your project managers face. Employees and team members won’t struggle to input time and expenses – they can do so via PCs, tablets, and other mobile devices. Project managers can track actuals against forecasts, even while people are remote or traveling. And because SAP Business One’s project management module integrates with web-based CRM, Outlook, and MS Project, everyone knows the same information regarding client needs and project specifics; resourcing and purchasing information are also incorporated. Managers can perform capacity planning based on views into team members’ updated availability and launch project-specific purchase orders as needed. With a modern ERP, when a client requests additions or scope changes, project managers can easily and quickly set time and cost expectations.

ERP’s longstanding strength in financial tracking and reporting provides services firms with the data points and KPIs they need to make informed strategy decisions; with just a few mouse clicks, executives can view project-specific profitability and segmented profitability (e.g., by industry, customer size, project type, and geography).

 

Specific Features and Functions You Need

To boil it down to the basics, your ERP should offer these features to optimize your operational and strategic positions.

Operational

  • Web-based time & expense entry
  • Mobile data access
  • Service recording by touch
  • Web-based CRM
  • Integration with Outlook and MS Project
  • Integration with financials, resourcing, and purchasing
  • Customizable dashboard analytics

Strategic

  • Sales (CRM) integrations
  • Global financials capture and reporting
  • Pervasive analytics
  • Executive dashboard views (customizable)

 

Who Delivers Your ERP Matters

As you change how you run your business with ERP, you’ll want an experienced partner – a global ERP provider with industry-specific experience and a proven history of successful implementations. Their expertise should include both traditional and modern ERP capabilities, including project management integration, Cloud infrastructure, and business intelligence; such broad knowledge will enable your technology partner to offer the most flexible deployment with the features you need to run your business better.

For more information about utilizing a modern ERP to improve your services business, learn more about our product, SAP Business ByDesign for Professional Services, or contact us today.





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