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Tips for Selecting the Right PSA Software

PUBLISHED: APRIL 2019

Modern business applications, built on disruptive technologies including cloud, mobile and social, have quickly replaced more traditional legacy software due to their increased speed of deployment and an ability to quickly adapt and grow in line with the changing needs of a business. Similarly, the methods used to evaluate new business applications must also change to reflect these essential capabilities.  

In the past, software selection processes built around requests for proposals (RFPs) and extensive feature and function checklists have created a bias for inflexible, old technologies, undervaluing the application agility and flexibility required to succeed in today’s rapidly changing business environments.

This article provides our top tips for conducting an effective evaluation of modern professional services automation applications and a practical guide to PSA in hopes of helping you find the right platform for service delivery success.  

Eight Tips for Selecting PSA Software

1
FOCUS ON YOUR KEY REQUIREMENTS

Rather than an exhaustive feature and function review, focus your evaluation on high priority requirements and force vendors to concentrate their demonstrations on business process scenarios directly related to those requirements.  Left to their own devices, vendors will want to demonstrate their favorite slick product features and steer clear of their weaknesses. Create demonstration scripts for your own use cases including end-to-end business processes and provide sample data so that product demonstrations are relevant and quickly understood by your evaluation team. Include anticipated future requirements in the scripts to ensure presentations cover both current and future state scenarios.

Some examples of key processes to evaluate could include:

  • How will the operations team manage recurring period close tasks to ensure timely billing and accurate forecasting?  What tools are available to guide the operations team on outstanding tasks and follow-ups?
  • How are change orders tracked and approved and how is their impact on project margin and delivery timescales measured?
  • How easily can new business models be managed (e.g. can fixed price work, annuities, time & materials and outcome-based models be combined into a single customer engagement)?
  • How can third parties and subcontractors work seamlessly alongside your in-house team to deliver projects?  What tools are available for subcontractors to view and to update project status, track time, record expenses and collaborate with the client and the project team?
2
UNDERSTAND THE COST OF CHANGE

Take care not to fixate purely on the initial costs of onboarding and implementing a new solution.  The completeness of your evaluation demonstrations will not only show how well the application can handle your requirements out of the box but will also provide excellent insight into how easily the application can be configured to handle your future needs.  If the vendor can make changes to key processes “before your very eyes” then the live implementation is likely to be an agile configuration exercise rather than a lengthy custom build that will be expensive to maintain and difficult to change in the future. Also make sure you understand the frequency of new software releases and how those upgrades are delivered.  Ask you vendor how many of their customers are currently running on the latest release. If it’s not the majority then that’s an indication their upgrades are either too time-consuming to perform, are likely to break integrations, or simply don’t provide clear business value.

3
CONNECTING TO THE FRONT AND BACK OFFICE

To create a forward-looking business, you need to connect your services sales process to PSA (visit our What is PSA page for a complete guide).  Forecasting demand for services must include your sales pipeline together with your current portfolio of in-flight projects. In the demonstration make sure you understand how the solution will provide a single consistent view of all demand as well as how your sales, scoping and delivery teams will collaborate in preparing deal proposals.  Consider PSA applications that run on the same platform as your sales organization is using; this will ensure one version of the truth and the highest levels of collaboration between your sales and services organizations.

4
LOOK FOR STANDARD CONNECTORS AND ADAPTORS

Ask for detailed information on pre-built connectors to your ERP or accounting system. This shouldn’t be a surprise to your vendors. Beware if integration to back office systems requires extensive custom work in your implementation project.  Ask for a detailed explanation of the connectors, how they are configured and by who, and be sure you understand how they will be maintained in the future. Make sure you are not on the hook for the cost of development work caused when systems are upgraded.

5
ADDING A NEW CLOUD ADDS COST AND COMPLEXITY

The leading PSA systems are cloud based, but be aware not all clouds are created equal. Adding a new cloud to your systems landscape comes with a cost. You’ll need to perform due diligence around security, trust, availability and scale and understand the additional overhead and complexity of maintaining a new business application cloud platform. If you choose a solution running on a platform shared with other key business apps such as CRM, you not only simplify maintenance but will also realize the benefits of shared data, centralized security administration and joined up business processes across departments.

6
CHECK SCOPE OF IMPLEMENTATION INCLUDES EVERYTHING YOU SAW IN DEMO

Ensure all your key requirements are included in the scope of the implementation proposal. Ask for references regarding the implementation process and look for reviews that describe how the implementation was managed.  Understand what reports and dashboards are provided as standard. Vendors may have built an array of reports, analytics, approval processes and extensions in their demonstration systems but which of those are actually delivered as standard product?  Your team will have enough on their plate during an implementation, so you’ll want to avoid having to self-build reports or create custom approval rules that you saw demonstrated but that were not part of the delivered product. A pre-built, ready-to-run set of reports, dashboards, and recommended best practice approval processes will keep your team focused on the key outcomes during your implementation project.

7
UNDERSTAND THE DAY-TO-DAY USER ADMINISTRATION EFFORT

During initial system setup you’ll need assistance from your IT team to ensure user accounts and security profiles adhere to your in-house policies.  However, you should also assess what level of in-house assistance you’ll need to handle recurring maintenance tasks such as adding new users, managing community access, and updating approval hierarchies. Can the business manage these tasks independently or will you be constantly relying on your IT team, creating overhead and bottlenecks?

8
TRAINING IS IMPORTANT FOR NOW AND THE FUTURE

Once you’ve established a shortlist of potential solutions, foundation product training should be considered for key members of your evaluation team. This is not only a great way to quickly learn key concepts and terminology but also to assess the availability and quality of training materials, which is an important consideration for the future.  PSA systems are at risk when the original implementation team moves on and you are instead relying on the vendors on-demand training materials to get new team members up to speed and to keep your company knowledgeable on the capabilities of the latest product features.