Automate To Succeed: Step Away From The Spreadsheets

Software Automation

In today’s service-based economy companies are increasingly turning to service-led strategies to competitively differentiate, drive more value to the customer, and generate increased revenue. The services business component is increasingly strategic – especially in the technology industry where companies are leading with expertise and constructing whole product solution offerings.

However growing a services business within your technology organisation can be a challenge. Services delivery is highly resource intensive with many moving parts. Technology companies struggle with basic things, such as managing a distributed consultant pool, accurate revenue forecasting and project profitability.

To remedy these challenges, services providers are increasingly turning to software automation to streamline processes and workflows service providers frequently use; from the most simple to the most complex procedures. People, processes and technology remain the holy trinity for businesses, and professional service organisations are no exception; automation software can help service providers ensure that these three areas are run as efficiently as possible, and give them the visibility and control of their operations.

People Power

It’s been said many times that ‘Your people are your greatest asset.’ Nowhere is this more true than in a services organisation where the product is the people. Get the management of critical resources right, and effective management of projects and portfolios will more naturally follow.

Automation software offers a more efficient way for services organisations to managing their human capital, including contractors, allowing service providers to deploy the right person with the right skills at the right time, while exposing areas for skillset improvement or where you may need to hire.

Another set of stakeholders that need to be considered are customers, and services automation facilitates the full customer lifecycle. Through a connection to customer relationship management (CRM), services software automation can help manage customer interactions from first inquiry through to end of life; going beyond manual processes which often leave information gaps, running the risk of customers slipping through the cracks.

Through better connection to CRM, professional services businesses can forecast effectively, assign and track resources from initial customer contact, facilitate on-going support, assist in knowledge sharing between teams, all the way through to capturing customer feedback.

Step Away From The Spreadsheets

Like many other parts of the business, services teams have come to rely heavily on the much-beloved spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are used to inventory the entire services portfolio, track financial project health, manage resources and so on. Yet, trying to collate data from far-flung spreadsheets from across a distributed services business to manage a portfolio of projects is a thankless task.

Spreadsheets bloat in size, leave significant room for human error, and frequently suffer from incorrect, inaccurate or out of date data. The chances of missed deadlines, scheduling conflicts and spiralling costs are too great for this to continue to be the case. Frankly, having a multitude of spreadsheets in place of proper processes is a business liability.

Automation reduces the reliance on spreadsheets. It improves financial control by allowing visibility into project profitability at any given stage allowing time to react; rather than a costly mistake being allowed to continue unseen. It also sets basic metrics and KPIs which quantify and measure business processes, improving the overall efficiency and capability of operations, and the accuracy of data. By drawing data into a single, company-wide tool rather than a sea of spreadsheets, planning and financial reporting is greatly simplified.

An Embarrassment Of Riches

There’s no shortage of tools on offer to help services organisations manage projects, timescales and costs; and those businesses struggling to keep track of their portfolio of projects may gratefully embrace them. But too often, services teams end up with a disparate set of tools which lack connectivity, create silos of information and fail to solve the larger problem of end to end customer lifecycle management.

Through automation and the standardisation of service-related processes, service providers can achieve a scalable management structure that can be replicated across regions and sectors to support rapid growth and expansion into new markets. Services automation software can also give organisations the ability to analyse, track and forecast opportunity and risk to better manage the contribution the services team are making to the overall growth and health of the business.

Being able to track projects from beginning to end and repeatedly deliver a successful and financially viable outcome is most certain way to ensure that customer satisfaction remains high. Crucially, it also gives companies a winning formula to ensure future projects match the success.

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option

As more companies tap into value added services as a competitor differentiator and embrace services as an engine for growth, they need to think about implementing solutions that deliver end-to-end visibility and control.

Accepting the status quo is a risky option in today’s rapidly changing business and technology world, and leaves success to mere chance. Automation takes the guesswork out of services delivery and supports the business’ growth through robust and proven processes which run to time and budget. Proactive services businesses that want to grow their revenue and keep their customers happy are the ones who will look to automation to differentiate themselves.

Lori Ellsworth

Lori Ellsworth is Senior Vice President and General Manager for Changepoint. She is responsible for managing the strategic direction of all activities surrounding the industry-leading Changepoint solution and all activities of the Business Unit, including global operational responsibility for sales, marketing, R&D and customer services and support. With more than 25 years of experience in the delivery of software solutions to companies worldwide, her extensive expertise spans strategy & product management, product development, sales & marketing, and customer service within the software sector. A frequent presenter at industry conferences, Lori is a recognised thought leader in the fields of Professional Services Automation (PSA) and Project and Portfolio Management (PPM).