Professional services teams have a lot on their plates.
On any given day, they might be processing contract renewals, creating invoices, tracking their time and expenses in a spreadsheet, or balancing team availability during busy seasons or holidays — all of which take valuable time away from client work.
Unfortunately, these tasks are an inextricable part of running a successful MSP business. But there’s a better way to get them done: implement professional services automation (PSA) software.
In this guide, we’ll explain what PSA software is, how it can benefit your organization, and what to look for in an ideal PSA solution.
What Is Professional Services Automation?
Professional services automation software controls the back-end operations of a professional services firm or internal team, streamlining project management, tracking billable hours, and monitoring resource constraints.
Combining these activities into one platform gives consulting firm leaders a comprehensive view of their organization’s health. At a more granular level, they can also use PSA systems to:
- Reduce accounting errors and speed up revenue recognition with financial system integrations
- Create better revenue and resource forecasts with real-time data
- Serve their clients more effectively and efficiently with well-designed, organized projects
Components of a PSA Tool
PSA tools often come with multiple modules, each with a specific purpose. Most commonly, professional services automation platforms come with three core components:
- Project management to deliver projects on time and within budget — inclusive of other daily work commitments.
- Resource management to allocate employees’ time and talents appropriately and forecast future hiring needs.
- Time and expense management to track budgets throughout the course of a project or engagement and facilitate invoicing.
Some PSA platforms may include customer relationship management (CRM), helpdesk, reporting and analytics, and even remote monitoring and management modules as well.
Because professional services automation products cover such a broad scope, they tend to require integrations with other tools, such as a company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution, or identity and access management (IAM) platform.
Benefits of Professional Services Automation
PSA tools confer several benefits for MSPs and internal IT teams alike. Below, we list just a few ways professional services automation can streamline your current business processes and accelerate time to value.
PSA platforms give you a bird’s-eye view into what’s working and what’s not, helping you spot and fix inefficiencies before they start impacting your operations. Knowing your team’s availability and utilization in real time helps you allocate resources more effectively while increasing your chances of retaining them.
Tracking your team’s hours also helps you keep project costs under control and flag possible scope creep to your clients in advance. You can also use PSA tools to model out your revenue, pinpointing times in the year when you can reasonably take on more projects to hit your annual targets.
Project Management and Planning
Some IT-related projects take months, even years, to complete. Professional services automation ensures things run smoothly, from requirements gathering to implementation to testing to Go Live.
PSA software typically comes with a task management module to show who is working on what and when, giving delivery managers insight into any time, resource, or budget-related blockers to get ahead of. Managing the end-to-end project lifecycle in one tool can improve communication, account for a project’s impact on other day-to-day work, and keep everyone on track.
Time and Expense Tracking
For professional services organizations and IT employees on hourly pay, recording accurate time and expenses is paramount. In a PSA tool, everyone enters their hours, managers review and approve them, and then they’re sent straight to billing. Centralizing and integrating this information with financial systems eliminates manual invoicing and helps teams get paid faster.
Client and Contract Management
You may work with hundreds of clients if you’re part of a sizable professional services firm. And after a while, manually overseeing their contracts can become a hassle. A PSA system acts as a repository for client information and contracts, reminding you to follow up on invoices, recognize revenue, or reach out to clients with upselling opportunities before a current project concludes.
Reporting and Analytics
The best way to optimize your workflow is to look at your historical data. A professional services automation platform collects all kinds of valuable data — billing, client satisfaction, client pipeline, resource capacity — you can leverage in strategic planning sessions. This data is also useful for compliance audits and end-of-year team performance reviews.
Professional Services Automation Implementation Challenges
As with any software, pulling off a stellar PSA implementation takes careful planning. Without it, you risk rework and poor adoption.
Here are two ways to set your team up for success:
- Know what systems your PSA must integrate with. Having this top of mind will help you narrow down vendors during your evaluation period. Knowing that a specific platform needs a custom integration will help you plan for that extra work ahead of time.
- Providing user training. People won’t use a platform if they don’t know what it’s for or how to optimize it. Creating training materials gets users onboarded quickly and increases the likelihood of long-term adoption.
Best Practices for Successful PSA Implementation
There are several other ways to ensure a successful PSA implementation beyond understanding what tools you need to integrate with and preparing in-depth training materials. Read on to find out what else you need to prioritize before taking the leap.
Define Clear Objectives and Requirements
The first step in any project is to determine exactly what you want to accomplish.
Ask yourself what your main goals are related to your new PSA tool. Are you most concerned about project management? Or is billing something you struggle with the most?
Nailing down what you want to get out of a PSA tool will help you select one that best suits your needs. You should also try to put together a rough timeline based on when you want to be fully up and running with your PSA. Perhaps one or two of the modules aren’t as important, and you can add those in subsequent implementation phases to conserve your team’s time and energy.
Find the Right PSA Software
With your objectives and requirements in mind, find a few vendors that could work for your organization.
Ask each vendor for a demo of their product. On the call, ask them questions based on your requirements, such as:
- Does your platform integrate with [insert tool(s) you use here]?
- What is the typical time frame for implementing your software?
- What is in your base plan, and what’s the cost of each add-on module?
- Can your tool support [insert specific feature or KPI here]?
By asking the right questions, you should be able to hone in on the ideal tool for your company.
Involve Key Stakeholders
Client-facing people who will be using and overseeing the PSA tool need to be involved in your implementation. So get them on board early. Include them in the vendor evaluation, invite them to requirements-gathering sessions, and ask them directly for their feedback. Incorporating their input will make them more likely to participate in the rollout and subsequent usage.
Provide Comprehensive Training and Support
As we mentioned, training and support are crucial in a PSA implementation. Remember that people learn differently, so consider using different formats (written, audio, visual content) and delivering the information in different ways (in All-Hands meetings, team meetings, via Teams or Slack).
You should also provide an easy way for users to contact admins or consultants helping with the implementation to report and troubleshoot any bugs or enhancements.
Your PSA should be one of the main tools your team uses daily. Keeping an eye on adoption metrics will help you identify parts of the tool that people may not understand how to use or don’t even know exist. Conducting refresher trainings when you see any dips in usage can encourage people to continue using a PSA system in their everyday work.
JumpCloud and PSA Integrations
PSA solutions are the heartbeat of an MSP and can be a critical piece of internal IT infrastructure as well. And because employees spend so much time using its features, the data within it needs to be up to date.
At JumpCloud, we know how important it is to have the data you need at your fingertips. As such, we’ve integrated with several of the top solutions on the market: Autotask PSA, ConnectWise Manage, and SyncroMSP.
Out-of-the-box integrations will save you significant time and effort in standing up your PSA solution, tracking clients’ JumpCloud consumption, and closing client tickets. JumpCloud alerts flow directly to your PSA, empowering your users to spend less time looking for alerts in disparate dashboards and more time resolving problems. JumpCloud consumption data also flows directly into your PSA, ensuring your clients’ invoices are correct and your profitability projections are accurate.
Overall, JumpCloud helps MSPs improve consistency, security, and the client experience. And if you’re in the market for a new multi-tenant portal, sign up for JumpCloud Free to experience the benefits of JumpCloud yourself.