Whether you are big or small, the challenges faced when growing your professional services business are similar. These challenges come from both inside and outside the organisation.
Inside, two common technology issues put the brakes on growth. The first is an overreliance on spreadsheets; the second is the use of standalone software systems that were developed in-house or introduced to fix a defined business problem.
Outside the organisation, growth can be affected by availability and the ability to retain talent – a challenge which is common in several business sectors. Increased regulations and compliance obligations also place an additional burden on professional services with changes often requiring changes to business systems and processes.
In professional services, technology and people are the keys to success.
When it comes to managing a growing professional services business, the overuse of spreadsheets is a common problem. Don’t get us wrong, spreadsheets are great, and they do their job – to a degree. However, when finance, operations, sales and HR teams all use different systems, different reporting processes and standalone software, business leaders become frustrated that they are unable to view the business as a whole because of the lack of synergy between systems. This is where a unified system like NetSuite has the advantage.
What is the key to growing a professional services business?
If you are looking to grow your professional services business, you need a clear plan and goal in mind. And you need to look beyond the spreadsheets.
First, you must identify its strategic goal and aims, along with risks and weaknesses. Staffing, technology and focus are the keys to success. Your strategic focus starts with a vision. To begin with, it is better to focus on one or two things that will achieve the vision, rather than diluting the efforts of the business to attempt several objectives.
Today, organisations need partnerships to be successful in achieving their vision. Technology can assist professional services organisations in cementing those partnerships, either through collaboration tools or even sharing of resources. The ability to share information and seamlessly integrate processes between organisations will become more and more useful as the complexity and depth of those partnerships grow.
This integration cannot be achieved by using disparate systems and spreadsheets. A unified view of the business is required and the ability to share and integrate that information with potential partners.
Enabling growth through existing and new customer acquisition
Growth is achieved by increasing your customer base and identifying new opportunities with existing customers. This might sound obvious, but what tools are in place to help account managers identify new opportunities? What visibility do sales staff have over the marketing funnel and what information do they receive to identify opportunities?
Let’s take a look at this process in more detail: consider the customer journey; it starts with an email marketing campaign that is tracked through the sales process using CRM. This then becomes an opportunity, and more information is added to it. This customer information then becomes fundamental in delivering the project. Finally, it ends up with a customer referral for a new opportunity that feeds the marketing engine. With NetSuite, the customer journey can be tracked from the beginning to the end of the engagement giving sales staff a clear view of any new sales opportunities.
It’s true that smaller organisations can run their projects and resources on a single spreadsheet; however, as they grow, this strategy is no longer viable. A modern professional services business needs to look forward, not just for sales and marketing but for resource and talent planning.
Finally, long-term growth comes down to having the right people. Skills need to be balanced with personality. Marcus Buckingham coined the phrase “Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess.” He explained that in checkers, players use pieces that are uniform in nature, in chess, each piece is different, and you need to know how to use each piece to play. It is similar to human management. The former treats people as mere entries on a ledger, the latter as having different skills that will help complete projects. Having managers that understand this and systems to track and complement that knowledge is a must for a growing professional services company.
Having the right people is also part of understanding the project pipeline and its resource requirements.
- What is in the sales pipeline?
- What projects are about to be signed off?
- What resources are required?
The further ahead resourcing managers can see requirements, the more accurate their hiring decisions are. Adopting NetSuite can help bring that information to the managers that need it.
Of course, another growth opportunity is considering entering international markets, but this is difficult unless a degree of preparation has been undertaken. Some of the challenges you will face include cultural differences, language barriers and legal or financial compliance. Localised tax and international and local accounting regulations also need to be met.
A modern cloud-based ERP like NetSuite enables organisations to use a single system across all companies and territories. Consolidation is no longer achieved through spreadsheets and emails, but finance professionals can see across all financial data from countries and see the true cost of delivering multinational projects.
Naturally, technology can’t solve everything, but it can certainly help. As a business, you need to ask continuously: will our current systems and processes cope with our growth? Will they scale—both in size and complexity? An organisation that has its processes defined by spreadsheets will reach a point where processes start to fail. It will need to implement a solution like NetSuite that can automate processes to enable further growth.
How can NetSuite and DWR help?
Implementing new software to support a professional services business is a complex decision. Not all companies are the same and important consideration needs to be given to a businesses specific requirements and NetSuite should be configured to suit those requirements.
One thing is for sure, heavy reliance on spreadsheets for both reporting and management of projects will stifle growth. The benefits of implementing a unified system such as NetSuite will set a platform to allow professional services businesses to both identify and leverage opportunities in the future.