In a year that clearly belonged to ChatGPT, there were several scientific breakthroughs in 2022 that many probably didn’t hear about. The complete human genome sequence, discovery of ice volcanoes on Pluto, and the COVID-19 nasal vaccine are a few of them. Let’s take the impact of just the complete human genome sequence into perspective. When shared, the data from this discovery could be used by pharmaceuticals to enable personalized medicines, by geneticists to understand human diversity, and evolutionary biologists.

It’s essential that the data be singular, while the inferences and applications for different purposes vary depending on the different stakeholders that use it. This should be the case in IT and other corporate organizations too. But the reality is that data is stored across different systems, and decisions taken by individual functions are almost always based on their version of the truth. The result? Lack of cohesion which reflects in the bottom-line of the company.

Let’s take a look at why it’s become pivotal for organizations to integrate data across various systems to have a single source of truth, especially for project-based industries like CROs, IT services, consulting firms, and engineering businesses (also known as the professional services sector).

The problem with silos and the rising significance of PSA

Almost every project-based organization runs through the efforts of four key functions – Sales and Marketing, Service Delivery, Finance, and HR with IT powering all of them. In most cases, these key functions work in silos, taking decisions based on the data that’s accessible to them. In project-based businesses that are people-based and intellectual capital intensive, there is immense overlap in the KRAs for each function. They shouldn’t be operating in silos, and when they do, the business sees a fall in productivity, profits, and growth. So, how can they break out of this? First, let’s examine the key solutions that support these firms, enabling them to take data-driven decisions.

For such organizations, a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution has become important for overseeing the most business-critical processes. By tracking time spent on various tasks and projected profits, it can help manage resources and projects in a manner that enables greater utilization and margins. This is the backbone for the project managers and delivery teams, providing insights into resource planning, time and expenses for the project, and revenue recognition.

The growing need for integration with other systems

Although PSA could be considered as the fulcrum of operations for professional services businesses, they also need to connect with other systems of record, which includes a CRM to support sales and marketing, an ERP for finance, and an HCM solution for all people-related decisions.

Let’s go back to the example of the human genome sequence. What if all stakeholders operated on separate data, and reached conclusions on their versions of the truth? What if they had to wait for information to flow into their system from other stakeholders while operating on dated information? What if additional effort had to be invested to draw data from different systems into their own data pipelines? It’s clear that a single source of truth needs to be accessed by all to take calculated decisions.

Similarly, even within project-based businesses, there’s a pressing need to integrate the various solutions. This provides a more strategic view for what opportunities the business must pursue, how they should prepare for and manage the project, how they account for work, and how they manage the people who are associated with the projects.

Many organizations may integrate their PSA with CRM, for better project forecasting, sales, and planning so that there is greater transparency and collaboration to achieve joint KPIs. However, as the SPI Research’s The 2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report1 notes, the most mature organizations that yield over 30% margin have fully integrated financial, CRM, resource management, contracts and pricing systems, processes, and controls.

Benefits of integrating these systems

Let’s dive a little deeper into the host of benefits that can be expected by integrating PSA with your ERP, CRM, and HCM solutions.

Better visibility:

The smooth flow of data between different systems ensures that there is greater visibility for all functions about the financial viability of projects, resource planning, and milestone schedules. Without the need for manual entry and jumping between different spreadsheets or platforms, there’s greater accuracy associated to decisions. No requests need to be sent out by a user to receive data from another system – when it’s inputted in one system, it reflects across all for relevant stakeholders to use.

Greater efficiency across systems:

When data is integrated across systems, there is less time and effort involved in completing tasks, and work is more optimized. Take for example, when an employee is on leave, this information from the HCM is updated into the PSA. This enables project managers to quickly get the right insights into how many individuals with a specific skillset are available for the project and who can step in instead of the employee on leave. This boosts agility, billable utilization, and enhances workforce planning.

Improve employee and client experience:

When there is data from the PSA solution to forecast employees who are overburdened, the delivery team can take note to adjust workloads. This can enhance retention. Furthermore, with a holistic overview of all client interactions from the ERP and CRM, there can be targeted and personalized communication with clients to provide the right support or information they need along their client journey. Say a business has been a repeated, high-value client, this financial information from the ERP can be updated in the CRM, which enables sales to target this brand for personalized upselling or marketing efforts.

Helping you do more, faster

Many businesses reach a juncture wherein the flow of information between the systems becomes critical. Optimizing value from their various existing solutions or implementing software that helps them streamline operations within their project-based business become the only feasible options. On this journey, the right partnerships can make all the difference. It is critical to partner with a vendor that understands the needs of verticals like Architecture firms, IT services firms, Accounting and Management consulting businesses, legal firms, and Contract Research Organizations. It helps to have a business that can analyze the best way in which a firm can leverage their data.

In this context, consultants have specialized knowledge and experience from dealing with the professional services industry. Our focus will be on taking stock of your existing technology and recommending the integrations that would cater to your current and future business needs. We can anticipate issues that are commonly encountered during the implementation phase, resolve them early on, and build a sustainable, connected system. If you’d like to know more about us, and how we can help you, head here.