Guest Column | June 12, 2014

Why Your Existing Business Tools Can't Compare To A True PSA

By Geoff McQueen, CEO, AffinityLive

PSA Superior To Your Business Tools

With the recovering economy, service businesses are no longer struggling to survive, but rather struggling to manage their own growth. The professional and business service sector alone was responsible for almost a quarter of all new jobs last month. While this is great news, quick growth rates and a rise of clients can be a challenge to small businesses that have yet to learn how to handle an influx of tasks, deadlines, and billing cycles. Existing processes and tools that were once in place to manage growth are now obsolete, and can quickly become life threatening to a business.

While we’re all familiar with tools that do a specific job — like project management, time tracking, or even a CRM (customer relationship management) for keeping track of clients and sales — having a cocktail of tools can actually make it harder to run the business since you need to tie them all together in order to operate. The more the business is growing, the bigger the risk of “flying blind” since one big project going sideways can be enough to sink a fast growing professional services business.

The solution is a type of technology known as a “PSA.” It stands for “professional service automation,” and you can think of it is as a combination of various, disparate tools like CRM, project management, time tracking and billing molded together into a single, integrated system displays how the business is really performing in one place. In addition to saving you from having to try and tie together reports and insights from different systems, a good PSA allows you start managing the business looking forward — like team workload and financial forecasts — instead of always managing by looking in the rear view mirror of your financial statements.

There are many different benefits to having a true PSA aside from tying together different business tools. Here are the three main benefits we've seen across our thousands of clients over the last few years.

  1. PSAs Track The Business. While individual tools can track one job function or series of tasks, only a PSA can track what's going on in the business as a whole. Knowing in real time whether you're profitable on individual or even groups of projects, and whether you have enough work in the sales pipeline to keep your professional teams fully utilized next month are the sorts of things only true PSAs can do. They're critical to managing growth and cash flow, determining when to hire or what to promise clients.
  2. PSAs Systemize the Business. Most professional businesses grow organically, starting with their principals who are great at what they do. Unfortunately, this means they're often light on processes and systems, which makes them much harder to grow, and makes them too dependent on individuals (which is why so few principals can take vacations). A PSA, however, can give the business the systemization it needs. Sales can follow a common process, and then hand over into projects, implementation, and retainer teams effortlessly. Account managers can see where things are up to without needing to call meetings, and the projects and ongoing work the company does can be templated and standardized, while still retaining flexibility around the edges.
  3. PSAs Update In Real Time And Predict The Future. By combining the tools people use to do their job with the platform used to track progress and performance, a PSA can give you real-time insights of what's going on in the business, and also help you predict the future. This information isn't just useful for the business managers, but can also help project managers keep on top of deadlines and risk, help account managers see what's happening with key accounts and even help your professionals capture all their work and eliminate revenue leakage.

At one point or another, any successful professional services business will need to move from simple, disparate tools to a system to run their business. The good news is that there are new, cloud-based PSA solutions that are easy to use and won't cost you an arm and a leg. Find out which PSA is best suited for your business and get a head start.

Geoff McQueen is the founder and CEO of AffinityLive, a company that creates cloud-based CRM, project management, service, and billing software for the professional service sector.