- 20 July 2016
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The professional services industry includes lawyers, architects, marketers, accountants, financial advisers, engineers, consultants, and many others. These organizations offer customized and highly knowledgeable services to their clients. Historically combining project and finance management solutions, this industry still faces the challenges of costly software combinations that are not well tailored or refined to suit their needs and the needs of their customers. Because professional services do not work on generalities, one-size-fits-all solutions often result in poor suitability. This industry functions on catering to specific verticals and meeting the needs of unique niche industries.
An ERP system can help streamline operations by developing a tailored and malleable solution that can mold to the specific needs of each professional services organization. Although unique, there are still commonalities between professional service firms and the organizations of other industries. They still need to manage projects, allocate resources, track supplies, communicate with customers, and handle vendors.
Customer Engagement and System Cohesion
Professional services often operate on a project-by-project or engagement-by-engagement basis. This means that they must have a system that can create uniformity between communications across multiple projects in multiple locations. An ERP system can improve visibility across the organization and improve the lines of communication between various personnel, departments, and vendors by providing a single system that offers faster and more accurate access to a customer’s history and vital information. By putting everyone on the same system, including the customers themselves, collaboration is easily achieved and can help teams match the right client with the right service and staff member, improving the quality, speed, and accuracy of service. An ERP system can expedite this matchmaking by providing a record of staff skills and availability to refer to when recruiting the appropriate service provider.
Instead of relying on a handful of separate software programs and utilizing a small portion of each, which can amount to a large financial burden, an integrated ERP system can provide only the tools a professional services organization needs. An organization can add and remove components as necessary to ensure a perfect fit. In addition to total software costs, an ERP system can reduce the costs incurred by using systems that require redundant data entry and result in data silos. The administrative burden of systems is lowered by creating automatic workflows that transfer critical data from one department to another, helping to reduce manual errors and maintain a consistent flow of data that is properly tracked and kept up-to-date.
Professional services also bill clients on varying terms, and billing rates require careful tracking and management to make sure that services rendered are invoiced correctly based on the time spent and level of service provided. Billing activities must be able to be quickly processed and assessed to provide the organization with a quick picture of profitability along with key clients and engagements to support cost-effective decision making.
Increased access to real-time data on a cohesive system increases staff’s ability to acquire and transmit the information necessary to keep key individuals apprised of engagements and project statuses. It also allows staff to easily identify and communicate bottlenecks, resolve issues, and change direction quickly. With service providers handling varying clients in widespread locations, the ability to communicate progress and availability swiftly is vital to a smoothly running operation. With a unified reporting system, statistics and statuses can be analyzed and communicated seamlessly across the organization; allowing a company to respond and adjust quickly without relying on other departments to procure and produce vital data.
Professional services organizations require software systems that can help them stay consistently up-to-date with their engagements, service providers, and clients. An effective ERP system can help these organizations increase service provider performance, automate processes, communicate effectively, increase their visibility, quickly identify issues, improve their time-to-resolution, and improve cost-effectiveness throughout their operation.