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Knowledge is power - the need for certainty in today’s service businesses

Scott Brown Profile picture for user Scott Brown May 23, 2023
Scott Brown of Certinia argues for a single source of certainty - and details the power of knowledge from running Services-as-a-Business.

Human and technology concept. AI (Artificial Intelligence). Communication network. © metamorworks - Shutterstock
(© metamorworks - Shutterstock)

There was a time when the center of the business universe was the product. Not anymore. For today’s service businesses, the center of the universe is the people.

Human capital is precious. If you get the right people on a project, to the customer it's magic. That’s why services businesses are people businesses. And those people need to be enabled in order to excel. They need to have data at their fingertips to make the right decisions, so customers can feel valued and trust the company.

This is why it’s important to think about employees as people, not products. Enabling your people to succeed can help create great customer experiences. When you can get your resource management right — the right people with the right skills, available for the right projects at the right time — you can create a great customer experience.

Where it’s been, where it’s going

Achieving the optimal mix of people’s skills and availability has long been a challenge for services businesses. In fact, for many companies, it takes multiple days to even get a project set up and running. They’re plagued with inconsistent, time-consuming, manual processes associated with milestones in project delivery, revenue recognition, billing, and planning the next project.

For many, it involves custom systems and spreadsheets, 30-year-old MRP/ERP tools, and work and rework — not an efficient way to manage hundreds or thousands of in-house resources. The unfortunate results are low resource utilization, low margins, haphazard project delivery and low customer NPS.

Finally, though, businesses are waking up to the realities of what’s required in 2023. And they’re realizing that they can no longer continue to do business in this way. They want better profitability, better resource utilization, better project management and ultimately, a better experience for the customer, because a great customer experience drives revenue and margins.

To do so, services businesses are seeking and implementing customer-focused technology — a Services-as-a-Business (SaaB) platform that’s purpose-built around people to help them better deliver projects for their customers.

A single source of certainty

Even today, project management solutions usually mean a bevy of vertical, siloed applications.

Integration of those functions is left up to IT, with spotty results at best. Every time an upgrade is needed, multiple different versions of business truth emerge. And so, companies plod through difficult implementations using disparate systems that don't work together. The customer experience suffers, and thus, business performance is sub-optimal.

What’s needed is a single source of certainty, provided by a unified SaaB technology platform.

With such a platform integrating all customer data, everyone works off of a single, common set of numbers, customers, and opportunities.

From opportunity to renewal

With a powerful SaaB platform, instead of having multiple disparate API-centric ERP systems — with a dozen or more customer masters and inventory masters — a service business gains a single end-to-end process that works together. The system is the integrator, so IT doesn’t have to be. Everything is connected in real time, so from the time a customer interaction is initiated, a project can be quoted all the way through to the delivery process.

A successful SaaB technology platform is grounded in an innovative customer experience.

It enables business outcomes from opportunity to renewal, bringing all activities into alignment. The certainty created by such a platform gives management a longitudinal view of the customer, via a platform where everything works together. Everything from opportunity to renewal is integrated into one platform, and businesses can deliver for their customers with certainty.

As-quoted vs as-delivered

One of services businesses’ most vexing challenges is the frequent disconnect between what’s quoted and what’s delivered. See if this sounds familiar. In a pre-sales process, you quote an engagement, presenting all the great things you're going to do for your customer. In actuality, though, you haven't assessed your team to determine their skillsets, appropriateness and availability, so you can’t credibly build against project milestones. You don’t know billing rates, so you can’t calculate profit margin.

With so much uncertainty, how can you expect to deliver a great experience for the customer?

With a single source of certainty, delivered by an integrated SaaB platform, you can quote a service experience that you can actually deliver. The as-quoted and as-delivered are in sync, so you have certainty in your margin profile, resource utilization, and delivery outcomes for the customer. It's powerful stuff for creating a great customer experience!

The ROI of running Services-as-a-Business

Services businesses are built on the efficiency of their resource utilization. Even a one- or two-point improvement in that efficiency, when dealing with tens of thousands of consultants, can significantly enhance profit margins.

Asking the right questions is key to improvement — do you know what your resource utilization percentage is? Do you know what you want it to be? Do you know what your margin per project is? Do you know what you want it to be? With only those rudimentary numbers, you can do a little bar napkin math to calculate ROI on any single project … or on an entire year of them.

Let’s say a company has 4,000 people and seeks a three-point improvement in resource utilization. Let’s say that company wants an X% margin improvement on X number of projects.

With those numbers, it’s easy to compute the total ROI improvement that an integrated SaaB platform can achieve.

Reconciling resource utilization and profit margin can pay for itself in mere months, even weeks, because it enables you to deliver tangible results in resource utilization, project milestones, and better margins for projects.

Cases in point

The successes delivered by SaaB-based project management are not hypothetical. Service businesses worldwide are making this work today.

Automated sales tax solutions provider Avalara, for example, had a great product, but its post-sale customer service experience was hurting its business. It installed a SaaB solution that immediately boosted NPS and delighted customers.

When technology giant Phillips pivoted its entire business to healthcare, it knew that machines and devices would be only part of their customer experience success. It needed to surround those products with services — and built a SaaB platform to do so.

Three years ago, Australia’s Cyber CX was founded. Today, it’s the country’s leading cyber security consulting firm, with 4,500 consultants and 22 acquisitions. To ensure this meteoric growth did not harm the customer experience, it built a foundational SaaB platform. Its growth continues unimpeded, thanks to an intelligent, agile platform.

Projects, people and performance

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, the business world is moving from products to projects. Today’s service businesses know this all too well, and it’s why they’re building architectures and systems to better manage projects and the people who drive project success.

When they do that, the customer experience is elevated … and so is business performance.

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