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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Kopnitsky

Guiding Principles for PSA Tool Implementation

Updated: Apr 5

Setting The Stage:

The best tool in the market won't make a difference without proper execution.

Technology is not a silver bullet. We live in an era where people are eager for the chance to hit the easy button. We are constantly consumed in our professional and personal lives with data processing overload. When we hear about the full capabilities of a software solution, we are quick to buy in and have the "magical software" solve all of our problems and improve our day-to-day lives. This sentiment is incredibly applicable when it comes to PSA (Professional Service Automation) tools. The ever-present promise from your software sales reps that the tool will "change the game" and "increase utilization by X%" is empty without a clear vision, strong leadership, effective change management, and most importantly, the constant reinforcement of the new data at your disposal to drive behavioral changes in the organization.


What are the deficiencies you are trying to overcome? Let's work from there.

During PSA software and vendor evaluation it is easy to get caught up in addressing only what we call "surface level" requests. You've probably heard them all before from, "All of our project managers need dashboards and BI tools", to "the user interface needs to be clean and intuitive", and more recently "the technology needs some degree of AI embedded." While all three of these items are valid, it is deeper value we should be aiming to unlock.

Improving utilization is the name of the game. You need to think about the enterprise-wide behaviors you want to drive before you pick a tool to get you there.

  1. Break down barriers across geographies, legal entities, service lines, etc. This is the most critical behavior we want to encourage when going through a PSA implementation or an ERP migration project. Leadership knows the synergies are there. In fact, if you are on the other side of an M&A transaction, it has likely been quantified in your deal economics. This magic doesn't happen overnight and it won't ever happen unless you incentivize your organization to act accordingly. Any guardrails, customizations, or exceptions you make for one corner of your business may cripple your ability to operate as one cohesive unit. Every unique requirement you build for that one vocal leader only brings more maintenance and risk to your data quality. One company, one standard.

  2. Open up visibility into the skills, demographics, and preferences of your workforce. "Why don't you explain this to me like I'm five". You have to realize that people across your organization will not understand the full scope or skills needed to deliver services across the entire organization. An incredibly valuable exercise is creating a standard service inventory for your company. You will find along the way that there may be different pockets of your organization that have been providing "one-off" services that may have been delivered more effectively by another part of the firm. Once your services are standardized, you can create a "baseline skill criteria" for each service. Every project in the real world may be different, but at least from here we have a consistent starting point. Once in place, you can define the skills you are going to need to collect and maintain across your workforce. Hierarchies and organization are your friend, consistency and simplicity maximizes collaboration.

  3. Set yourself up to identify risk before it materializes. Benchmarking, benchmarking, benchmarking. You need to see the storm coming before you are weathering it. It all starts with setting appropriate utilization targets at each level of your organization. That means, at the individual level, at the service line level, at the geographical level, etc. At an absolute minimum, you need to make sure that you set management targets for each person in charge of overseeing your regions, service offerings, departments, etc. This is going to be the key for your utilization alert system. You can cut through all of the "sandbagging" and "we hope" lip service if cold hard data is doing the talking. This is arguably the most powerful tool that will be at your disposal. No emotion, no "living on a prayer", just data points driving strategy and action.


Consistency, clear communication, and decisive decision making.

In the professional services industry you have people who make a living as experts in their field. This typically lends itself to a workforce of fantastic problem solvers and often strong personalities. Some of the best ideas, input, and requirements will come from your team in the field, however, it is up to your leadership team to make cohesive and decisive decisions along the way.

In order to align to this sentiment, you can follow some guiding principles:

  1. Define project leadership from the start. Assign and communicate who will own and sign off on the different project workstreams. Assemble a singular "steering committee" that will oversee the larger project and ensure that all project workstreams are coming together in harmony.

  2. Empower and encourage. Encourage workstream owners to collect requirements and input from the business, and empower them to make decisive design choices that will best align to the project vision.

  3. Consistent and clear communication. Nobody wants another status call. That being said, if your team can rely on a brief "need to know basis" touch point on a regular cadence, it will foster collaboration and buy in from the team. Cancel it if there's no need for a meeting in a given week, encourage the team to only bring information everyone needs to know.

  4. Be transparent. Not everyone will be happy. Each person at some point will undoubtedly get upset after not getting what they want. It is important that when controversial decisions are made, everyone is aware of why a decision was reached. The buck always stops with someone, own it and move on.

Effective Change Management:

Your tools are only as effective as the people who use them.

You have your new system designed, built, tested, and ready to deploy. Without proper change management and immediate reinforcement of your new processes, your efforts will have been for nothing. Get excited, don't lose steam, and be proud to welcome people into your solution.

Some of our battle tested change management techniques are:

  1. Don't give training too early. Training is not UAT (User Acceptance Testing). This should have already taken place and at this point in the game and you need to be confident of your solution and go-live date. Users will want training sooner rather than later as they get antsy about the new system. Deliver it 2-3 weeks before go-live, record your sessions, don't look back unless something critical has been identified.

  2. Make sure training is broad enough when presented, but detailed enough when distributed. Keep in mind that training should be streamlined enough to cover all material in a digestible timeframe. When delivering written material, write it like you would if you were to teach a fifth grader. Boil it down to click-by-click. You will have a tendency to oversimplify in your documentation at this point because you have lived and breathed the system. Don't get lazy now!

  3. Open up lines of communication. Everyone is going to have "what-if" questions for you. Open up a Teams or Slack thread, monitor it closely, give people the confidence that you aren't going to leave them out to dry.

Consistent Reinforcement:

Keep supporting, keep enforcing, keep encouraging.

Your solution will not be perfect on day one. You will have a good chunk of the population who are unsatisfied with the tool, the interface, the level of effort for data input, what color the home screen is, you name it. It is important that leadership is prepared for this and has a support team in place to sift through the good feedback from the bad. Make improvements, keep getting better, but don't let the poor feedback become a crutch. PSA tools require people to use them in their day-to-day management. If you don't have buy in and you don't enforce adoption, a partial dataset does you little good other than to identify your holdouts.

Some keys to driving adoption are:

  1. Use the system constantly and lead from the front. If your firm's executives are pointing to trends in the system (including missing inputs), their reports will buy in, and their reports will buy in, and their reports will buy in. Solidarity at the top goes a long way.

  2. Support the system, enhance the solution. Show people they are being heard. Collect the top requests for new functionality, decide what to develop in an "enhancement committee" and communicate "functionality rollouts" on a regular cadence.

  3. Align performance targets to system adoption. "Data hygiene" is increasingly becoming a performance metric for professional services firms. Late timesheets and poor project management hurt an organizations ability to manage backlog, labor levels, and cash. This should be taken into consideration.

  4. Celebrate the wins. Benchmarking, benchmarking, benchmarking (again). Track historical utilization trends, resource sharing trends, skill enhancement trends, etc. Continue to strive for optimization of your service business. The journey never ends, but make sure to celebrate your organic growth along the way.

We're Here To Help

If you are thinking about a PSA tool, our team at Equify Advisors has deep functional experience in this area. Equify Advisors is a NetSuite Alliance Partner and has technical experts to help you evaluate SuiteProjects and NetSuite OpenAir.

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