Tools for Effective Firm Management: Professional Services Automation

Professional services organizations have very specific software needs to effectively operate their businesses. Those needs often are not met by traditional product-based ERP systems, particularly when it comes to resource management, project management, project accounting and revenue recognition. In a broad sense the project-based organizations fall into two categories: standalone businesses and embedded departments/organizations inside product-focused companies. The solutions available to these organizations have a core set of functions that are centered around project acquisition, project staffing, project delivery and financial management and fall into two categories: project-based ERP and professional services automation (PSA).

Project-based ERP provides an end-to-end enterprise system for standalone firms, while PSA provides the core project-based functions and then is integrated to financial systems to provide the complete enterprise process. PSA systems are generally used by embedded services organizations but can also serve the standalone firms that have existing financial systems in place. Both systems are usually integrated into a CRM system on the front end of the process and often to core HR and talent or performance management systems for expanded personnel management capabilities.

PSA solutions originally developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The software category went through a period of explosive growth and then flattened out for several years, only to see a strong revival around 2008. Since then the category has grown rapidly, particularly due to the widespread adoption of SaaS and cloud as an important business enabler. In the Winter G2 Crowd Grid℠ Report for PSA, which was released last week, all 14 solutions on the Grid℠ are SaaS-based with only one, Unanet, continuing to offer an on-premises option as well. Organizations of all sizes use SaaS solutions, of course, but it is particularly attractive for mid-market companies and departments inside larger businesses. A great percentage of project-based organizations fall into this mid-sized segment.

Highest-Rated PSA Products by G2 Crowd Reviewers

There were a few solutions that fared well on the Satisfaction axis, with Krow PSA having the highest overall Satisfaction score based on 11 reviews. There was only one solution, FinancialForce PSA, that had sufficient Market Presence and Satisfaction scores to make it into the Leaders quadrant. This is even more impressive when you consider that FinancialForce had the highest number of reviews in the category at 108. FinancialForce scored high in the satisfaction metrics associated with vendor strategy and execution: product going in the right direction, 88 percent; ease of doing business, 87 percent; and quality of support, 85 percent. From the product perspective reviewers found it highly usable, with ease of use at 81 percent and meets requirements at 80 percent.

The scores only tell part of the story about a solution though. It’s also useful to look for trends in the review comments, particularly in recent reviews. Looking at FinancialForce PSA reviews, a few trends emerge. From a positive perspective, reviewers valued the deep integration between the PSA product and FinancialForce financial applications. They also appreciated its integration with Salesforce CRM, since it is built on the Salesforce App Cloud platform. Also because of the platform capabilities, the PSA app inherits all the platform features including Chatter as a collaboration tool. Resource management capabilities and features were often mentioned as robust and important in the review comments. Other important features included reporting and analysis, and project overview capabilities. One of the most frequently mentioned metrics that reviewers saw improve from using the system was resource utilizationOffline mode and forecasting were the lowest-rated product features.

Looking at the reviews for Kimble PSA, a High Performer on the Grid℠ and the No. 2 vendor in total score on the Grid℠, reviewers highlighted the impact that implementing the product had on financial forecasting accuracy, and the access to real-time business information to support better decision making across the customer lifecycle. Having a single integrated system across the business was also mentioned often as a strength and benefit. Forecasting and budget tracking were among the highest-rated features on the Kimble system, while offline mode and mobile support were the lowest-rated features.

Overall, the PSA reviewers valued the end-to-end nature of an integrated PSA tool, which provides the ability to manage resources and the business more effectively. Business visibility provided by a solution that covers the client lifecycle is critical for growing revenue and profit margin, and the deep analytic capabilities of the leading PSA solutions are highly valued. Everything from resource utilization to better business planning and forecasting were highlighted by the reviewers. PSA will continue to be a hot product category moving into 2017 and beyond.

PSA Products

To learn more about PSA products or to read real user reviews, visit the G2 Crowd PSA category page.