Discovering, comparing, evaluating, and choosing the right PSA system is critical for organizational success – and eventually, for survival. As Service Performance Insight points out in its 2022 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark report: “Professional Services Automation solutions continue to drive significant operational performance benefits, yielding higher revenue and profit for professional services organizations.”

However, in order to unleash the advantages and take the shortest path to value, organizations must master another essential aspect: integration.

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Customers and Financials connected on one centralized PSA system.
Customers and Financials connected on one centralized PSA system.

Indeed, your system integration is where the “rubber hits the road.” It is where the focus shifts from lofty expectations to measurable achievements, which ideally include the following:

  • Maximizing productivity to deliver results faster
  • Increasing visibility enables fast, accurate decision making
  • Proactively identifying and mitigating risks
  • Driving adaptability to pivot faster and retain alignment across the organization as new needs, challenges, and opportunities arise

In theory, integration should be seamless and straightforward. But in practice, it can be riddled with problems and setbacks on a major scale. In fact, a recent survey of IT decision makers found that integration challenges and failures cost enterprises a staggering $500,000 per year (all figures USD).

To help ensure that the integration journey in your organization is successful instead of stressful, this article explores:

  • Factors to consider when integrating PSA systems across teams
  • Implementation of CRP and ERM systems with professional services
  • Work management tools and alignment for your PSA solution
  • Keys to system adoption and implementation

Also, at the conclusion of this article we highlight a case study that takes a deeper look at a positive integration experience.

Factors to Consider When Integrating PSA Systems Across Teams

An inherent challenge that all large organizations face is that teams across the ecosystem are diverse instead of homogeneous. This does not mean that they have fundamentally conflicting goals, or work at cross purposes.

But they have different paradigms and mandates – and this variance must be taken into consideration when it comes to system integration. Otherwise, an approach that works for some teams will not work for others.

When this happens, the integration process will be difficult at best, and disastrous at worst. To avoid this pitfall, there are two core factors to consider when implementing across teams:

Targeting business outcomes

Many times, systems are integrated based on a set of functional requirements that are given to a team. While this level of detail may seem like it is the best way to go, these functional requirements should be identified insofar as they support clearly identified business goals and outcomes (e.g., reducing resource churn).

This approach may require integrating resource capacity planning, project level resource allocations, and more. Ensure that outcomes like this are top of mind so that you get what you need from your PSA systems – and not just what you ordered.

Enabling business models

There are some common professional services business models based on how clients are billed. You may be working with clients on a time and materials basis, fixed fee contracts, packaging services as subscriptions, or even based on outcomes achieved.

Each of these business models requires different configurations and templates. As such, it is important to ensure that you take these details into account during integration.

Integrating PSA Systems with CRM, ERP, AND HCM Systems

Engaging customers while increasing system connectivity is rooted in connecting services. This includes various points of the engagement lifecycle such as CRM systems for customers and opportunities, ERP, and financial systems to report and record revenue, and HCM systems for resource management:

Working with customers and opportunities in CRM

All professional services work begins in sales, which is governed by a CRM system (e.g., Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.). As described by Service Performance Insight: “CRM supports the management of client relationships and is designed to improve sales and marketing effectiveness.

CRM automates lead, contact and campaign management, sales pipeline, territory, and contract management. Many CRM applications also provide powerful call center functionality for issue management; call handling; trouble ticketing and problem resolution.

CRM allows PSOs to track clients through the engagement (bid to bill) lifecycle, and to specifically target customer segments and offers by understanding details of the relationship.

CRM supports analysis by client, geography, and portfolio. CRM is the system of record for client contacts, relationships, and contracts.”

Whether you plan on managing the entire opportunity pipeline in CRM and sending orders to the PSA systems, or only managing the later stage opportunities in these systems, establishing a seamless PSA-CRM connection is critical.

Read next: 10 Must-Have Professional Services Automation Features

A fully integrated PSA system reveals the financial results of the underlying work.
A fully integrated PSA system reveals the financial results of the underlying work.

Connecting financials to the ERP

Just as all sales information is captured by the CRM, all revenue and expenses end up in the ERP system. Some scenarios call for sending billing and expense info from the PSA to the ERP, while others may call for creating the billing and revenue recognition in the PSA and sending the financial results to ERP.

Connecting to HCM systems for resource management

Earlier, we pointed out that targeting business outcomes involves integrating resource capacity planning, project level resource allocations, and more. The ability to forecast capacity and demand enables resource managers to plan and mitigate resource swapping and support flexibility and agility. This is a critical factor in achieving the highest billable margins possible.

Integrating PSA Systems with Other Work Management Tools

Connecting PSA systems with other work management tools, apps, and platforms in the environment enables multiple ways of working and helps put the focus on managing the engagement vs. the work structure. Let us take a closer look at these:

Enabling multiple ways of working

Gone are the days when the only methodology in the professional services department toolbox was waterfall. Of course, waterfall projects are still quite common and have their place. But there are other valid – and in some scenarios far superior – approaches such as lean and agile work management; especially for subscription-based services.

Many PSA systems do an excellent job of supporting one or two ways of working. However, it is nevertheless important to connect with other systems that are used for work delivery (or that may be added to the approach/methodology roster in the future).

Managing the engagement vs. work structure

The professional services space has been guilty of attempting to make work breakdown structures (WBSs) serve two masters: the engagement/financial structure dictated by contracts, and the structure for how work gets done. We have all heard of the best practices. Well, this approach unfortunately belongs in the “worst practice” category.

For example: a fixed-fee contract calls for billing to occur at specific milestones. However, the work being done either has a detailed WBS (work breakdown structures) that may be executed using Kanban and other non-waterfall tools. It is important to consider the differences when integrating PSA systems, so that information does not get merged. If this happens, it invariably causes confusion for both the delivery team and the management team.

Keys to Adoption and Implementation

There is no generic, one-size-fits-all template or checklist that automatically leads to a successful integration experience. However, there are some fundamental keys to adoption that if embraced, applied, and supported effectively, go a long way towards achieving a positive outcome. These keys to adoption include phased rollouts by department or functionality, change management, and gaining executive buy-in.

Phased rollouts by groups or functionality

The era of big bang implementations is over because they create too much risk. It is far better to roll out your PSA systems in phases, so that you can learn and adjust as you go. There are two main methods: by groups and by functionality.

Groups

You can roll out the PSA functionality to select groups (department, practice, team, etc.), and let them use the complete set of capabilities. Then, you can learn and roll out to the next group.

Functionality

You can roll out specific functionality such as project management, and then move into other functions such as resource management, opportunity planning, and so on. If you choose this approach, then consider whether you want to start at the beginning of the professional services lifecycle with opportunities and work through the lifecycle phases, or if you want to solve your most urgent problems first (e.g., rolling out capacity planning first to relieve resource overload pain).

Regardless of whether you choose groups or functionality for your phased roll-out, ensure that you establish realistic timeframes, and that you support your efforts with change management initiatives, executive buy-in, and help from your vendor. All of these are discussed below:

Change management

The more powerful, influential and complex technology becomes, the more important it is to remember that people are not computers! They cannot simply be given new instructions and be expected to instantly follow them (and flawlessly, as well).

People are used to certain workflows and tools.

And even if the PSA systems that are being introduced are far superior to what is being replaced, there is invariably going to be learning curve – one that will be steeper and longer for some individuals and/or groups than others.

Ensure that you follow organizational change management (OCM) best practices to help your workforce transition from the old ways of working to the new. These include:

  • Preparation: Prepare your organization by helping employees recognize, understand, and accept the need to add (or replace) PSA systems.
  • Planning: Build a vision and plan for change by identifying strategic goals, key performance indicators, project stakeholders and team, and project scope.
  • Empowering: Implement changes, while at the same time empower your people throughout the process. Effective and consistent communication is critically important, especially when it comes to reminding employees why change is happening.
  • Culture: Embed changes within your organization’s culture and practices. This makes the change “stickier,” and helps prevent a reversion to old processes and patterns.
  • Lessons Learned: Review progress and analyze results, in order to support future change management initiatives.

Keep in mind that change at work – even the positive kind – is inherently stressful for most people. However, once people start to realize the practical day-to-day benefits, hesitation rapidly transforms into enthusiasm.

Gaining executive buy-in

We have just finished pointing out that supporting employees – operationally and emotionally – is vital for a successful integration. However, it is just as important to generate and sustain executive buy-in. Otherwise, there is the possibility that high-level support for the PSA systems can wane; a reality that is more likely if integration runs into some challenges and obstacles.

Tips for getting executives interested and engaged include:

  • Be Clear. When making the business case, avoid jargon and speak a language that everyone can understand.
  • Be Honest. Communicate both the benefits and the risks – not just the former. PSA systems are not magic wands that will instantly and automatically solve challenges and achieve goals. Be enthusiastic, but realistic.
  • Be Collaborative. Canvas ideas from colleagues to foster interest and create a larger sense of ownership.
  • Be Prepared. Do not be surprised or sidetracked by objections and criticisms. Counter them with reliable data and robust contingency plans.

Vendor support

The vendor behind your PSA systems should play an active role in supporting your integration. This support can take various forms, such as:

  • Knowledge Sharing: providing you with insights and lessons learned from other implementation experiences (while of course respecting client confidentiality).
  • Resources: helping you develop resources, communications, and materials to help your employees immerse themselves in the new PSA systems as quickly and easily as possible.

PSA Integration Success with Planview’s Professional Services

The head of SMO for Bell Integrations, Shoib Khan, understood that to outpace the abounding potential risks prevalent to a rapidly advancing IT services organization.

The priority was to address their lack of visibility across the enterprise. Bell needed a solution to help connect information partitioned off within a labyrinth of contrasting data sources.

Planview’s Professional Services Automation solution gave Bell the tools they needed to connect and engage their workforce across the entire global enterprise, gain real-time visibility and improve efficiency to deliver greater business impact in one highly adaptable, intuitive system.

Read Next: Planview PSA: Enhancing Governance within a Growing IT Organization

The Final Word

Leveraging PSA systems to drive visibility, agility, and profitability is no longer an optional nice-to-have. It is now an essential requirement as the speed of business accelerates, customer expectations grow, and teams adjust to a hybrid/remote configuration.

The insights and advice in this article will go a long way to helping your organization experience a rewarding integration journey – and avoid a regrettable one.

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