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their processes in place using an ERP system Enterprises that add value to customer businesses through knowledge based intangible offerings like design, research, consulting, implementation, etc. are classified as Professional Service Organisations (PSOs). Consulting firms, software services firms, creative agencies, law firms, government agencies and financial services organisations primarily constitute this market. Professionals from such organisations are mobile and highly client focused and do not prefer to invest time in unproductive administrative tasks like time and expense tracking. According to a survey by Epicor Software Corporation, professional services staff invests up to 18 hours per week on project administration and, in 38% of the cases, this time is invested by senior consultants. The overall revenue loss due to project administration, per consultant year, can run to an estimated US$ 72,000. Another observation is that in any given consultant week, about 11 hours are spent on "non-billable" activity. In today's competitive environment, PSOs need to manage these processes efficiently. A services life cycle begins with identifying prospects for an engagement, detailing the value proposition for the client through information exchange and formulating an engagement with a detailed scope if the former two processes conclude successfully. A virtual organisation is formed by allocating the necessary resources from either side to deliver the scope. This virtual organisation interacts with all business partners (internal as well as external) in order to conduct the engagement efficiently. Knowledge sharing and reporting workflows assume paramount importance. There are, however, several challenges during this life cycle: Sales pipeline data is often available only through informal communication channels due to limited or nonexistent tracking processes, leading to reduced visibility and ineffective resource planning. This can necessitate contracting third party recruitment agencies which are expensive and at times not up to quality standards Ad-hoc demand for staff to be assigned to projects might cause a mismatch between employee skills, interests, ability and the job requirement resulting in demotivated employees and dissatisfied customers. Manual time and expense tracking systems are error prone causing billing errors and delays. Integrated reporting is made difficult as data lies within individual departments. Data integrity errors result in time lost. Strategic information like past client history, supplier performance used for identifying business partners is not readily available with management. PSOs are constantly evolving and are now in the same situation as manufacturing firms were ten years ago. The difference is that PSOs can draw on software vendors' extensive experience in developing enterprise solutions. This makes it possible for
them to make a quick transition and reap the benefits sooner. The latest buzzword in the services industry over the last year or so has been, Professional Services Automation, PSA, or 'ERP for the services industry'. Services Automation addresses a broad range of needs beyond identifying the expenses of internal service providers. It contains tools for optimising the investment in intellectual capital and human resources, reducing costs, streamlining service delivery systems and improving responsiveness to both internal as well as external customers. PSA goes beyond the scope of traditional HR and PM software, amalgamating the two to get an integrated tool for managing people resources. According to The Aberdeen Group 'PSA software users can expect a 3 -8% increase in productivity.' PSA sets a logical, well-defined system for deciding which projects to accept or reject based on pre-defined parameters. The project manager can prioritise allocation of resources by doing a skill-requirement match, across projects to optimise their contribution to the bottom line as well as top line. Budgeting is the cornerstone on which this entire phase rests. Online time/ expense sheets record time and other costs of the team members. These can be filled in from any location and saved in a central repository facilitating online tracking of costs and revenues to ensure the primary objective of staying within the budgeted time and cost allocations. Online collaboration using e-workspaces/ whiteboards ensures that the project team is apprised of what is happening across the project at all times. Central repositories can store methodologies and facts that prevent duplication. The management can continuously evaluate which type of projects are contributing to or detracting from the organisation's profitability by simply monitoring the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) using user friendly reports. This type of Business Intelligence is recycled in the form of updated strategies and improved practices. Benefits include but are not restricted to: increased employee productivity through more focused work; ability to execute more assignments due to more effective resource management; reduced cost of doing business; increased client satisfaction due to quicker and more transparent billing and lower project costs; maximising billable revenues; improved pipeline planning and forecasting; improved reporting and tracking capabilities; and quicker declaration of results. All these combined ensure a corporate which is leaner, meaner and totally geared towards maximising profits.