How to Choose an ERP Software for a Professional Services Industry
How is professional service industry different from others? Is there anything we are missing when we are trying to choose the right software? Let’s try to answer those questions.
When we narrow it down, professional services industry is very customer-oriented, much flexible and too unpredictable compared to other sectors. Each client receives different products, you need to build, design, consult, engineer, etc. Comparing to manufacturing and production industries, where you have predefined known set of workflow or tasks, professional services industry tasks and workflow is unknown from the outset. Moreover, the services you are selling might require a long-term relationship and continuous support from you.
Clearly, as a professional services company, you may need something more than just tracking scope, quality and time. You need to predict demand, allocate budgets and resources, manage different cost centers, and bill your customers. At the same time, you need a system for troubleshooting, controlling your customer issues on an ongoing basis. You will have your own supply chain including activities in sales, planning, delivery, and customer service.
The ERP software you are going to choose has to be integrated. Since all your data is focused among the customers, you will need a software which will help you to analyze how we got that customer, what projects we did for this customer, what kind of invoices are there, etc. All information regarding that customer has to be in one place. There are some must-have tools for ERP software for the professional services industry.
Look for robust project management module in an ERP product. It should have the ability to manage different projects in multiple different locations. A project manager needs to have the ability to view the overall picture of the project on various dashboards. Also, most importantly the project management module should be integrated with accounting module for proper invoicing. There should be an ability to assign different cost centers to different projects. If your employees are paid hourly, there should be an ability for employees to fill a timesheet and connect it to their payroll. Also, don’t forget about Gantt chart and budgeting capabilities.
Accounting and Payroll
This is the single most important part you need to be paying attention to when buying an ERP package. Your billing process can be per client or even per any engagement, project implementation or customer service. Services you are providing may be provided on a fixed fee (quotation) basis, or expense basis or percentage of completion basis. Billing rates can also be different depending on who is performing the task – the senior consultant or a junior assistant.
Besides, if your company collects and applies different invoices to different activities, the system should have capabilities of matching those amounts. There should be expense claims regarding staff assignments or travel arrangements made. Moreover, all those standards should be connected with project management activities.
Staff management is as essential of ERP software. Choose a product which will enhance employee productivity. Your system must be able to track time and encourage users to work efficiently. Also, there should be a proper mechanism to manage leave requests and performance appraisals.
Sales, Marketing and Support
Look for an integrated CRM software with emailing capabilities. As a professional service provider in a digital age, you will most probably receive all your customer correspondence and complaints through email. Look for issue management or ticket management capabilities. The CRM part should be customizable, as different companies have different sales funnels, workflows and processes of gaining and managing clients.
Depending on a type of your organization, you need to pay careful attention to choosing the right tools, including integrated project management, accounting and payroll, staff management, and CRM.