The SAAS revolution in Professional Services

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It used to be called eating your own dog food. Now it would probably be called downing your own apps or more appropriately for the Professional Services world – automating your own processes.

Professional Services Automation has been around for a while but it has been restricted to use in large consultancies. The ticket price was just too high for smaller players.

That left a gap. As a sector Professional Services has traditionally been backward in looking at its internal data. So it is makes decisions on what happened in the last month, or three or six months in terms of utilisation, revenue and margin.

But for consultancies to survive, grow and capitalise on a market that’s expanding, they need to look at the demand that’s coming and resource up the correct skills based on market needs.

Professional Services Automation solutions can look forward and guide the business user in terms of the key things happening in their business and surface that data in a meaningful way through something called guided analytics.

It is able to put some interpretation on top of data and KPIs.

With markets such as Financial Services looking for analytics and other big data skills (see below) PS firms risk losing business if they don’t recognise in advance exactly where the market is going.

CBR asked Sean Hoban, CEO of Kimble Applications about the impact of SAAS on how Professional Services businesses are run?
SH: "Professional Services Automation (PSA) as a concept has existed for a decade or more but to date it has only been utilised by the larger firms. This is because pre SAAS the ticket price, the in perpetuity licence price, was prohibitive for anyone operating below the 300-man-plus size consultancy. It was only the elite who could afford it and they typically built a home grown solution because they felt that they were unique. The reality is that PS firms have a common set of processes. What they sell is unique but their processes are common," says Hoban, CEO of Kimble Apps which has built a PSA suite on the Salesforce Force platform.

CBR: What does PSA deliver?
SH: Diagnosing the trends, both future and historic to inform the actions people should be taking in a business.
So for example if a Professional Services firm can see a healthy pipeline in a certain area which for example means they will need particular technical architecture skills PSA will be able to see the evidence for that in their pipeline and alert them to any capacity shortfalls.
And over time, the intelligence in the system will work out the likelihood of them winning those deals so they’ll work out a weighting of the pipeline. For example should 70% of the pipeline land within a certain timeframe, then the system provides an action.

CBR: What are professional services missing without PSA?
SH: As with the SAAS based CRM revolution from ten years ago which brought enterprise level software to the mass of SMEs now the whole PS sector has access to a tool via SAAS model allowing them to have access to the vital data within their business. Professional Services firms internal systems are comparable to plumber’s taps – which we know are always dripping. PS firms have not necessarily focused on their own processes. They are more focused on the processes and systems within their clients. The access to the type of systems to provide that insight wasn’t readily available but it has been facilitated by the SAAS revolution which has allowed PS firms to understand that data. Progressive PS firms are looking inwards to ensure they are driving efficiency within their own operations to ensure margins are maintained.

CBR: Why does SAAS have something to offer in PS?
SH: What Kimble Apps has done is to understand the processes of professional services firms.

These are common whether you are a 20 person business or a 20,000 person business – not everything is relevant to both but if you build a configurable system then one set of software can support that range of business from the small to enterprise scale.

The 20 person business is now on a pay-to-use SAAS model. In the licence world the cost would have been just too prohibitive. Now they can get rid of silo’d systems such as spreadsheets which is typically what they were using to run the business and be more like a large consultancy.

And just like Salesforce did in the CRM world, PSA provides the forward visibility enabling consultancies to understand what they will be invoicing in six month time. It is hugely important at both ends of the spectrum.

The Demand Side
See next page for what is happening in financial services and in roles such as Chief Data Officer and Data Scientist

 

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