Digital connection has brought significant change to how professional services are delivered in the technology industry, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. Being forced to deliver services remotely rather than on-site accelerated the adoption of new ways of working that were probably long overdue, but had not previously taken hold through force of habit. But after seeing the impact on resource utilization and customer experience, few companies are going back to their old ways. Sean Cashin, Senior Vice President, Customer Success and Services at cybersecurity company BeyondTrust, says:
We were able to really improve our availability and utilization numbers, because there was less time being spent on aeroplanes.
Now that an implementation doesn't have to be done in the course of a single engineer visit, the work can be spread over a period of time, which gives customers more space to reflect on all the information they have to absorb. He explains:
If I'm flying somebody [to the customer site], they're there with them all day, every day, for days, and it could be like drinking from a firehose. There's a lot of decisions, a lot of information to digest and everything.
Now, if we're able to do half days, instead of being with them for five full days, I'm with them for 10 half days. Or maybe it's five half days, a two week break, and another five half days.
The customer has longer exposure to professional services, greater chance to get comfortable with what it is that they're doing, what it is that they're trying to accomplish. [They can ask] more questions and [have] more quality time with the engineer, rather than it just being an info dump-and-digest.
That's important for the type of implementation BeyondTrust is delivering. With 20,000 customers worldwide, the company is a leading provider of Privileged Access Management, which adds extra protection around user accounts with high levels of access to digital assets, such as network administrators and other key roles. Typically privilege management is installed as part of a suite of products that also encompass identity management and vulnerability management. Many customers are in regulated industries where such precautions are mandatory, such as banking and other financial institutions, insurance, manufacturing, and so on.
While the implementation projects are not long — typically less than a day a week spread over at most a four- to five-month period — much of the work is consultative rather than simply setting up the technology. He says:
There's a certain amount of implementation, setting up whatever needs to be set up from a software perspective. But the majority of my engineers' time is spent helping the customer understand what they're being presented with, what decisions are the right decisions for them.
Security is an ongoing journey that never ends, but it's also a series of balancing choices between security and ability to function. It's very easy to completely lock down an environment so that nobody can do anything wrong. The challenge there is that it frequently makes it impossible to do anything right. You're just kneecapping the entire company's productivity. So our primary value as a professional services organization is helping customers understand those choices and what they need to do in order to continue to march down that journey of security maturity.
Shortly after Cashin joined the company in 2018, acquisitions and mergers brought four separate professional services organizations together under the BeyondTrust name. While two were already using the Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution from Certinia — then known as FinancialForce PSA — another was using a homegrown system and the fourth was still working off spreadsheets. Even the existing Certinia instances were not using it to its full potential, he adds. But the product's ability to provide a detailed view of schedules across a variety of different delivery channels, from video calls to on-site visits, was clearly what the organization was looking for. He goes on:
We have to know not only what a proserv engineer has to have done by what date. It becomes a matter of, we have to know, Tuesday morning from 10am till noon, Central Standard Time, engineer X and project manager Y are with customer Z. We had to have that level of granularity and accuracy and agility within our scheduling. And it had to be something we could easily view.
After standardizing on the Certinia PS Cloud product across the entire proserv organization, BeyondTrust saw a 20% increase in resource utilization. As Cashin points out, that's good news both for the company and for its customers:
To make maximal use of billable hours and utilization is every proserv organization's north star. If there's one KPI we're all going to have in common, it's billable utilization. We needed to be able to say, 'Oh, we just had a cancelation with this person. We can move them over to this project.' Or, 'Things aren't moving quite as quickly in the UK as they are in the East Coast of the US. We're going to start using the UK engineers, their afternoons, US mornings. That way, we're maximizing utilization and minimizing our customer's time to value — one and the same, really, when it comes down to it.
Adapting the Certinia application to BeyondTrust's needs was made easier because it's built on the Salesforce platform, which means that the company's developers already have the necessary skills to make adjustments. Cashin says:
I can take advantage of the internal Salesforce development team to continue to add fields here, do automations there, to be able to make sure that we were making maximal use of it. The way that I described it to the Certinia people is that I like how plastic it is. We can reformat it into whatever it is that we might need ... It gives me the opportunity to take advantage of internal talent and development to shape it into my unique interests.
This also helped speed the project to move everyone onto a unified system. This included adding appointment types to the scheduling system to differentiate between, say, a kick-off meeting, an architecture or implementation meeting. He goes on:
Because of the fact that it was within the Salesforce world, we really needed minimal services from them in order to stand this up. Within nine months after the acquisition, we were solidly within PSA, all of the other tools had been retired, the project managers were no longer siloed into the legacy company world, they were able to manage all the projects of all the different product types. And we were able to really see a pretty significant upswing in utilization in legacy organizations and to be honest, in some cases for the very first time, see what utilization levels look like.
The scheduling system also takes engineer skillsets into account when allocating resources to projects. This is particularly useful given the range of products in the BeyondTrust portfolio. He explains:
My proserv organization is around 120 people, right now. We have about five core products, but say, seven or eight that are out there, in varying degrees of support. Not all of our engineers can possibly know all of our products, they just wouldn't have the subject matter expertise I would demand that we have in front of our customers. So they remain specialized in, say, three or four of the products. And I don't expect the project managers to know all of the skills of all of the engineers.
The ability to go into the resource planner and say, 'I need an engineer in the Middle East who has an advanced knowledge of privileged remote access and Password Safe filter,' it gets rid of all of the chaff. It gives you a clean view of the only engineers that are going to be able to do the work that you need done. And it shows what the next 12-16 weeks of their time is going to look like, so you can find that common ground and get it booked pretty quickly.
A recent addition to the system has been integration to Calendly, which has made it much simpler to set up engineer appointments. Previously this was done via phone calls or email threads. Now the process is automated. Cashin says:
We're able just to send a link to the customer, the customer is presented with real-time information that's based on Certinia availability data in Calendly, so that they can pick a time with an appropriately skilled engineer that matches their needs for their timeline and their availability. It's a one and done. It creates the assignment in PSA, it creates the calendar entry in the engineer's Outlook and the project manager's Outlook. So it's been a huge effort saving for us.
Another integration automatically sends a Gainsight survey to the customer once a project successfully closes, and the customer satisfaction scores are written back to the project record in PS Cloud and Salesforce. Anything less than a nine or ten sentiment score creates a call to action for the regional manager to follow up with the customer and find out what the company could have done better or what was the reason for the dissatisfaction. The Calendly initiative is one example of a project that was prompted by that feedback. Cashin says:
Although I'm big on effort saving and everything else, really what prompted us to that was, we were getting consistent feedback on, it takes too much effort to land on a time with your engineers, can we make this simpler?
Greater flexibility in how services are delivered and supported goes hand-in-hand with greater complexity in managing resources. It's no surprise that BeyondTrust found the need for a reliable and sophisticated resource scheduling engine that could adapt to its needs. The integration with Calendly illustrates how end-to-end processes continue to be improved as a result of listening to customer feedback — all crucial ingredients in keeping pace with the ongoing evolution of professional services.