Three Ways to Improve Data Quality and Maximize PSA Benefits
Professional Services Automation (PSA) solutions play a key role in helping services organizations streamline their day-to-day operations and make the most of their highly valuable resources. By automating important but non-billable processes, PSA solutions free up countless hours for profitable project work with clients.
PSA solutions are designed to enable professional services organizations to boost profits, support growth, and ultimately transform the way they operate. But PSA technology isn’t sentient and can’t simply transform businesses on its own. A PSA solution is only as good as the data you feed it, and it can only provide transformative insights if it has high quality, accurate, up-to-date, and reliable data to work with.
Cleansing and auditing project data may seem overwhelming at first, but there are a few strategies to consider when trying to improve the integrity of the information in your PSA – these strategies apply to any operational system that is automating and augmenting parts of the quote-to-cash cycle for services businesses. This blog breaks down why it is so important to feed your PSA quality data, and provides three steps to maximizing the benefits of your PSA.
1. Empower Employees to Improve Data Quality
It’s crucial that when you adopt a new PSA solution, you have a framework in place for consistently collecting accurate updates on all relevant operational and project data. This includes current and precise information on incoming project demand, project timelines and tasks, milestones, dependencies, due dates, and resource availability — any data that is pertinent in the completion of projects. Many related processes can be effectively automated and optimized with PSA when project data is detailed, accurate, and consistently updated, with the software ensuring that tasks are completed correctly, on time, and with finalized work exported to the right parties. But when data becomes inaccurate or misaligned with reality, a PSA solution can’t help but enforce unrealistic plans and processes.
One of the biggest things standing in the way of data integrity at most businesses is that essential information never leaves team members’ heads, meaning it doesn’t contribute to the efficacy of the big picture that a PSA solution is creating. This is why it is so important to enforce 100% data compliance across the organization.
- all timesheets and expenses submitted in an accurate and timely manner
- thorough updates on project progress provided on a regular cadence by project managers
- up-to-date information on projects in the sales pipeline, with current expectations on probability, close date, budget, timeline, scope, and resource needs.
Easier said than done, certainly. These are goals pretty much every organization sets and struggles to attain. The key to overcoming the challenges that stand in the way of data compliance is understanding what obstacles are truly keeping people from providing key project updates. Often, this is attributed to laziness, but businesses need to evaluate what behaviors and processes are keeping information locked away in people’s heads and out of the PSA.
Some common obstacles we see are:
- People are asked for too much information, much of which doesn’t end up being tracked or monitored – don’t ask sales people to fill out 30 fields, for example, when 6 will suffice.
- Team members don’t understand how the data they provide impacts the bigger picture, or perceive that it never gets used for anything – many people filling out timesheets don’t understand how the updates they provide inform project plans and believe they are just conducting a weekly box-checking exercise.
- Users of data collection systems are rightly frustrated by the friction that exists when inputting information – if processes and technology used for entering and submitting data aren’t simple and streamlined, users will stop prioritizing those activities.
- Lack of governance makes it too easy for resources to enter invalid data without meaning to – this means the back office needs to spend unnecessary time chasing and correcting information that would have never been wrong in the first place in a more prescriptive system.
Data compliance will not improve unless all teams are enabled and empowered with the right tools. Teams need to understand how their data impacts the bigger picture and they need a frictionless way to input that data. The right PSA solution can enable teams to input data with ease, reducing time spent on repetitive, manual tasks.
2. Build a Culture That Isn’t Afraid of Data
There’s one other common obstacle to data integrity that it’s worth exploring in a bit more depth, and that’s the tendency to keep important updates out of the system of record for fear of being blamed or penalized for unfavorable outcomes. This is why so many close dates in the pipeline only move after the most recently listed close date in the system has already passed; and why many projects trend green on status reports for weeks before suddenly veering off a cliff and appearing as red towards the end of a project.
Data has a way of showing how far perception has shifted from reality — and sometimes this can be a scary thing. No one likes bad news. But that sense that business leaders would rather have no information than unfavorable information, and that those who surface problems will be blamed for those problems, leads to a fire-fighting culture where the business is always reacting to issues.
Often, businesses incentivize behaviors that keep the truth hidden without meaning to, leading to individual contributors trying to solve problems on their own before surfacing them to the wider team. Bonus schemes, commissions and awards inadvertently reward people who deflate the severity or impact of problems before they happen, and who are best at reacting to crises and pulling deals and projects out of the proverbial fire. People who put in the work to accurately report what they think is going to happen, update plans accordingly, and then deliver to those plans without fuss rarely receive the same plaudits or financial incentives.
Often, PSAs run on poor quality data because people are reluctant or scared to share real insights on how deals and projects are tracking. It’s key to flip that paradigm and empower employees to share the truth through data. PSA makes this easier — employees can depend and rely on PSA to support the truth — making some difficult conversations easier.
Empowering employees and improving data compliance will improve forecast accuracy, reducing the chances of surprises, and providing a real-time snapshot of the future health of the business. No one has to play a guessing game because the data is right there to tell the story. It’s key to show your employees why exactly you are advocating for truth in data at your organization.
Sharing the truth may seem difficult when deadlines have passed or budgets have been overrun, but the cost of tackling these roadblocks alone are much more detrimental to profitability and scalability. PSA allows decision-makers to analyze data and use it to fix problems before they have too severe of an impact, or to learn from the mistake and not let it happen on the next project. Not all quality data has to be positive or show profits — it just has to be accurate and reflective of the real status of the project or deal.
3. Reduce Friction of Integrations
Even if everyone across an organization believes in the importance of data compliance and does their part to provide timely updates, having the wrong technology strategies in place can make it impossible to create an up-to-date big picture that is so essential to running a forward-looking business. A PSA solution is not an island. PSA software needs to be able to converse with other key solutions in the professional services tech stack, like customer relationship management (CRM) or human capital management (HCM) systems.
When selecting PSA software, consider how capable the solution is of integrating with other key systems. You want it to be simple to pass data from one system to another – if it’s not, and integrations are difficult to maintain or involve a lot of manual intervention, the risk is high that data sharing processes will lag and the quality and timeliness of data will decrease.
When considering what systems to integrate with PSA, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it require a third party integration solution to connect through in order to pull the data necessary for its operations?
- Does it function on an OpenAPI basis that allows for compatibility with most every software available today?
The answer will determine the investment necessary to make your PSA solution work to its full potential, as well as how complex the integration process may be for your implementation team. Ideally, you will have someone on your team that is experienced in integrations, as well as a software that has a dedicated customer success team that will work with you during the process. While some PSA solutions simply leave their customers to their own devices after purchase when it comes to integration support, dedicated technology providers will have a team on hand to help you far past the time of purchase. When done right, good data plus strong integrations is the secret to maximizing the benefits of PSA software.
Realizing the Benefits of PSA
A PSA solution is only as good as the data it relies on, so when data is complete, reliable, and accurate, the results can transform an organization and deliver long-lasting benefits for not only your delivery team, but your clients as well. Pairing PSA with trusted data can streamline operations, maximize efficiency, and ultimately improve profitability and customer satisfaction.
Looking for a solution specifically designed to tackle the unique challenges faced by services businesses? Click here to learn how Kimble PSA improves data compliance and data accuracy, surfacing risks before they become issues and suggesting proactive interventions that accelerate value for your customers.