Why modern service businesses must unite services, sales and HR

Laura Castillo Profile picture for user Laura Castillo December 1, 2015
Employee satisfaction and competitive efficiency in modern service businesses both demand an integrated approach, writes FinancialForce's Laura Castillo

Laura Castillo GM of HCM FinancialForce.com 700px
Laura Castillo, FinancialForce

Every kind of organization today is challenged to do more with less. Unlike those who can gain operational efficiencies on an assembly line or through back-office automation, what is the solution for a services-centric organization, whose most valuable product is their people? They rely on their employees to staff client projects and they face a delicate balance:  to fully utilize workers without overstressing them, while avoiding the risk of underutilizing consultants and wasting their valuable skills. Either scenario leads to poor employee morale and attrition.

Automation to the rescue

To help, these service businesses often turn to automation apps to help measure utilization against projects – but these kinds of solutions only skim the surface of what is possible to track. If a business is monitoring its services, sales, finance and human resources separately, on different clouds, how do managers really know what’s going on? Do they even know if there are gaps in skills or gaps in pipeline that aren’t being addressed?

The experience of various services businesses shows that combining services and project data, sales pipeline insight and employee information allows services organizations to vastly extend their visibility beyond mere project tracking.

Alan Hall, SVP of Information Technology at Jacobus Consulting, a leading healthcare consulting firm, found that they were wasting time on manual processes in order to find the right people for a job:

Our executives didn’t have as much visibility as they needed so tying our services and HR together has greatly helped us become more efficient, while keeping our people and customers happy.

Right people, right job, right time

Integrating sales, services and HR solves the problem of effectively managing an organization's ’bench’ – the resource capacity available to staff projects. Without visibility into potential projects, current capacity and the future supply of candidates, managers find themselves short of the right skills and resources to meet customer requirements. Resource managers need to find a way to reduce the time it takes to recognize needs and staff projects in order to maximize revenue, profitability and customer satisfaction.

So, with insight into sales data, services leaders see the pipeline of upcoming projects to make sure they have available staff with the skills necessary to fulfill those jobs. Then, with a link to their human resources system, managers can request a new position to be filled via recruiting, or search the database of past applicants and even current employee skills to match the worker to the pending job.

The more visibility services executives have into all facets of their business – current and upcoming projects, consultant availability, skills, certifications, absences, project experience – the better they can proactively manage their operations. For example, they can recognize patterns of top performers by triangulating employee information with sales order data, project success and customer profitability. This will help companies make more strategic recruiting and management decisions, directly impacting their bottom line.

Integrated system approach

Through integration, services leaders have the opportunity to work even more closely with their company's HR team to expedite the processes of recruiting and onboarding new consultants. This is akin to just-in-time forecasting of resources. When employee records are linked to services, organizations can supply the right resources to billable projects at the right time – thereby maximizing profitability and increasing client satisfaction.

Market researcher Service Performance Insight (SPI) found in its 2015 Benchmark report that integration delivers multiple benefits to professional services organizations (PSOs):

PSA, integrated with CRM, enables PSOs to better schedule resources and projects to ensure they begin and end on time. With integrated HCM, human resources, recruiting and resource management all benefit from visibility into in-demand skills, consultant preferences and career aspirations.

While the evidence shows this to be an optimal solution, awareness and adoption of an integrated approach just isn’t there yet. SPI Research found that only 23% of the PSOs surveyed in its benchmark report integrated CRM with PSA. Even more telling, organizations without this integration reported lower performance than those who partially or fully integrate CRM and PSA.

IT consulting firm Summa Technologies, Inc., found that having its sales data, services and HR together on one platform allows it to hire and retain talent more quickly, effectively and efficiently. Mark Coy, CHRO at Summa, has said:

Having a 360 degree view via our PSA and HCM systems working together, tightly connected with Salesforce data, allows Summa to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. We now have the right insight to address a skills gap, whether that’s go out and recruit, or view the resource library to see who’s coming off an assignment we can utilize.

Where should a professional services company begin?

I recommend that a team should begin its consideration of an integrated solution by first performing a needs analysis. This begins with taking a hard, honest look at the current state of its technology and people and identify areas for improvement, as well as the key performance indicators that the company uses to measure success.

For some, it’s an increase in top-line growth, regardless of how well resource utilization is going.  For others, there may be a desire to maintain or reduce utilization levels from a currently busy state. Once an organization understands what its needs are, the next step is to shortlist the vendors who can deliver an integrated sales, services and HR solution on one cloud, with one set of data. There is great synergy to be achieved when all business applications reside on a single cloud platform.

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