The Swiss Army Knife for Small Business
Sherpadesk is the all-in-one solution that combines the tools you need to run your business more effectively.
Think… a Swiss Army Knife for Service Pros, except automated.
A Help Desk That Will
Delight Your Customers
When your clients face a roadblock, they feel like the walls are caving in. Give them an easy way to report the issue with ongoing updates about how your team is solving it.
This will reduce their stress and reinforce your status as the go-to support team.
Easily Capture Time & Billable Hours
Discover freedom and flexibility in your day with easy time tracking on every device.
Integrate your hours directly to your projects or accounts and seamlessly bill them straight into your accounting solution.
Keeping things organized and easy to bill.
Invoicing That Blows Your Mind
Time entries can be automatically invoiced and sent to customers. Streamlined solutions allow for unique payment arrangements.
Out-of-the-box integrations with accounting systems like Freshbooks, QuickBooks Online, and QuickBooks Premier. But we don’t help you spend the extra money you collect.
Project Management That Makes
You Feel Warm and Fuzzy
SherpaDesk project management is a home for all things necessary to run a strong operation.
Create a client profile, organize projects under profiles, communicate inside of projects to your team or customers, attach assets, create project or client To-Do lists, track time and invoice directly to your accounting software.
Know Where and Who is
in Charge of Assets
World-class customer support begins with having control of your business parts.
Asset management is made easy within SherpaDesk. Log devices, attach them to projects and agents, see who used what last and where it went. Even keep track of service history. Hot dayam!
Smarter Insights That Drive Business
A customizable reporting engine allows you to generate data-rich reports giving you the key insights to manage resources effectively.
Decisions about staffing become data-driven and you can easily offer visibility to your customers, which ensures rapid payment for services provided.
“We have used SherpaDesk for a few years now and the transition has been seamless. The company holds itself to a high standard that they continuously achieve. They continues to make us happy with our decision to go with them.”
Tier One Technician at Chattanooga Times Free Press
Professional Services Automation is a term used to reference software designed to reduce the pains felt by individuals and businesses within the professional services sector. Professional Services Automation Software is generally referred to by its popular acronym of “PSA” and competes for a position traditionally championed only by ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planners). Professional Services Automation introduces a generation of software designed to make professional services operations more efficient and their resources more productive specifically in firms whose main deliverables are not tangible products.
As defined by SPI Research in the 2007 PSA-End User Survey;
“Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the underlying business process infrastructure providing a structured and standardized approach to the services delivery lifecycle. PSA enables owners to examine every detail of their business processes and potentially improve or eliminate the way in which people work. The benefits uncovered in this survey show that aPSA software can easily pay for itself within one year — significantly improving margins.”
Most common PSA software solutions include the functions of project management and documentation, time tracking, billing and reporting, and labor utilization. These features are often integrated with accounting solutions like QuickBooks Online, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems like Zoho, and payroll systems in order to the improve efficiency of overall operations. As a result, in addition to better managing client projects, independent contractors find themselves capturing more time and billing more quickly lessening the number of slow billing cycles and lost revenue.
Ultimately, PSA software suites allow users to integrate industry-appropriate metrics in order to better understand operations and, in turn, improve efficiency and profitability. As businesses grow, the size and complexity of their projects tend to increase as well. PSA software is used to provide visibility into mid-project profitability and generally has the capability to scale alongside a customer.
Those familiar with ERP software may like to think of PSA as an ERP system for service organizations.
The functions of each PSA tool will vary as they are specifically designed to optimize all of the core components necessary to run your business. For example; The tools of an enterprise will likely be far heavier and complex as opposed to tools for small businesses which tend to be nimble and efficient. Selecting a PSA solution is a delicate process and requires reviewing many aspects of both your business and the solution. Benefits and pricing are important decision metrics but should never be the only aspects of a tool measured,
Below are features commonly found within PSA software, but as stated, this will vary tool by tool depending on what size business it is made for.
Believe it or not, the conception of Professional Services Automation dates back to the earliest of days during the dot-com boom where first on the scene was one of the grandfathers to technology, Netsuite. Netsuite first created the tool targeted towards the North American Market specifically IT Professional Service Providers.
This was a much needed product at the time as IT Professional Service providers had long since been using technology to help other firms become more efficient and more profitable but, ironically, had never invested in themselves.
At the time, IT Professional Services were running ragtag operations that were convoluted with archaic processes that incorporated lots of mundane paper pushing and systems that frequently would breakdown. The internal business processes of the IT Professional Service provider was akin to a nightmare and for veterans who remember how things were, they happily employ a short memory.
Companies were keeping track of tools, employees, resources, contracts and partnerships completely by paper, fax and hefty computer software that hardly did its job. It was a difficult time. Interestingly enough, despite being made for IT Professional Service Providers, in as early as the 2000s, Netsuite and others quickly found success in this space and began to capitalize on the major opportunity.
Quickly saturating the niche of large ISPs, Netsuite and others began marketing towards the internal IT Professional Service teams of large companies in 2000. Soon to come, these helpful solutions reached began to reach out even further as it found itself applicable to all facets of professional services.
Through the mid to late 2000’s Professional Services Automation began to meet difficulties, however, as they have shifted almost entirely into large enterprise solutions which, with their complexity, met troubles integrating with pre-established tools and processes of big enterprises.
Additionally, PSA vendors were growing their suite of features via acquisition, rather than creating them in-house, which created solutions that were a hodgepodge of functionality and lacked the seamless, efficient communication that was the whole basis of the industry when it was conceived in 1998.
These companies began to face great hurdles as they found low sales and customers began to file for bankruptcy near the 2008 crises of which some even pointing blame to the large PSA vendors for creating tools that were way too complicated and destroyed their efficiency.
Around this time as PSAs faced difficulty with industry-wide growth, the large enterprise companies began to pivot their focus towards ERP’s, Help Desks, CRMs and Project Management solutions which have risen in great popularity since their conception.
For a short while, PSA tools had meager growth. However, all the while there have been mid-sized teams who have stayed focused on the original mission of the PSA solution and reaped the benefits as they have delivered to IT Shops the functionality they need. Since 2010 there has been a slight resurgence as professional service companies will always face difficulty in growth periods simply due to their business model. For Professional Services, the business model of wild uncertainty and profitability becomes an unending risk to balance. PSA tools have played that role helping these teams find a way to produce more streamlined business processes with added profitability and efficiency.
The newest PSA vendors are now pushing themselves to avoid the issues of previous years and produce solutions that are simple and easy to adopt that still deliver on the original vision of the tool in 1998, making business more efficient and profitable in a short period of time.
Despite the impressive development in this space, if a company is reviewing new PSA tools, they should always be actively reviewing what their internal needs and what is out there to ensure they find what tool most perfectly fits their needs.
Later, we will discuss risks, benefits and how to make a selection for your tool.
As described above, Professional Services Automation is a software for professional services that was originally specced for Information Technology Professionals to run and operate their business through one consolidated tool.
The greatest difference between the first PSA tools that were created in 1998 and the PSA software of late is primarily that the newest software is developed and made to exist in the cloud.
If you are unfamiliar with the cloud, what this really means is that the tool, your data, and all other information your business places within the tool will be stored in off-site, secure servers around the world that allow you to log in and access everything directly on the web. How the cloud system is set up, if at all, is going to vary by who you work with. Cloud solutions are essentially just off-site servers. The company you work with could be hosting or it could be through a third-party. Third-party systems, while sounding intimidating, tend to be the best solution for all parties as they are hosted by companies like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, Google Cloud and much more.
By adopting the norm of cloud solutions, PSA tools have found many benefits including more storage, easier set-up, automatic product updates, reduced cost and of course worldwide access to name just a few.
Universal access for customers across any device, anywhere in the world has enhanced the much-needed flexibility of the professional services industry. For those unfamiliar, it is as easy as typing it into your tool into the search bar. Agents/technicians anywhere in the world are able to access their secure information on any type of device giving a great amount of freedom.
Let's get more into the details of how it really works for you. Let's suppose you have outlined a tool that best fits your needs (we will cover how to do this) and have already finished with your new software implementation (which we will also talk about below).
Once your company is through implementation you will find your business to be much more streamlined and connected.
To begin, the process truly begins when a professional services firm will generally sign up for a new tool on a free trial. Within this trial, the professional services firm will be able to test out the functionality of the PSA software before committing big dollars and time. If the team is feeling comfortable, depending on the company they signed up with, they can start payment immediately or will need to contact support of the tool. This is variation usually in size of the tool. Small business tools like Sherpadesk are generally pay as you go whereas Connectwise will tend to be on a contract.
At this point, the professional services firm's data is migrated onto their new tool. Data is uploaded in three ways.
This all just depends on who you are working with and what they have created for you in in advance.
From this point on, PSAs streamline core business components and processes of professional service organizations by mechanization (Rudolf Melik). Basically, things are automated and are able to be done in fewer clicks. Tools may be customized and set to produce data reports when they are most needed, calling upon information without your manual effort. Things become simpler, and measuring resources to be deployed is just clicks away.
Below is an excerpt from Rudolf Melik’s book, PSAs Optimizing Project & Service Oriented Organization, that outlines all of the core components one can expect a PSA to tackle. Do keep in mind, specifics will vary by the tool.
Components PSAs manage include; (originally outlined for enterprise level)
As you have probably already identified for yourself, a PSA software tool is a big step for a business to adopt as the dynamics of your everyday business will change for good. Usually for the better. Generally one of the questions that comes along at this stage in the product inspection timeline is a person deciding whether or not the tool is for them. Considering there really is a solution for companies of all sizes, there is something applicable so your business, but the timing is essential.
With that said, how do you know if Professional Services Automation Software is for you?
Determining if you actually have the need for a new tool starts with reviewing your most immediate business goals and pains. While every company has pains and struggles, evaluating processes is critical to better understanding where the problem lies. If you can find yourself solving your growing pains by making a quick change in your operations then that could save lots of stress. But the general outlook is that a company who commonly finds the most use of a PSA software have the feeling as if their processes are complicated and wired. There will be an anxious feeling of confusion and missing information. Goals will look fuzzy and there will be knots in your back imagining the fragmented existence of your business.
Owners of the company will feel a lack of data and reporting, wondering if they are missing out on contracts or opportunity.
Company managers will feel the pain the most as they have their hand in on the both the day to day operations as well as the reporting and analytics. Managers will be stressed by complicated processes and lost information. They will feel as if their team is wasting time and wasting resources. They will be upset about profitability, convinced they can do better.
Lastly, will be the agents and technicians of a company. Agents will be able to affirm any theories or hypotheses from managers and owners about lost resources. Field agents feel deep pains about their daily routine of checking boxes over and over for tasks that could easily be automated. The simplicity of their many tasks will be discouraging. They will know their time is being wasted and are driven to find work with more meaning packed into their day, whether that be within your company or not.
The core idea behind PSA software is to deliver remedies and solutions to all of the pains listed above. The software is made to track and allocate the major resources of service companies or service departments within large companies.
As an additional resource, we have compiled the ultimate resource for identifiers below from various online sources, Rudolf Melik's book (PSAs Optimizing Project & Service Oriented Organization) and our own experience. With this list, you should be able to sit down, review your company, your pains and your goals then be able to actively make a determination based on what is listed below.
The Ultimate List of PSA Identifiers
One easy way to identify if PSA software is for you is to review industries the tool has been developed for. If you are in one of these industries, you are on the right path. If you're are not in one of these industries, there may be other tools out there made specifically for you. And do keep in mind, small business PSAs will be different than enterprise PSAs, so keep your eyes peeled which features you need most and which companies support what.
Industries Professional Services Automation Software was made for:
PSA Software is made for businesses who feel pains like:
PSA Software is made for businesses who want to improve on things like:
PSA Software is made for businesses who ask questions like:
PSA Software is made for businesses who have company goals like
“The whole purpose of Professional Services Automation Software is to improve the workflow surrounding the management and delivery of project-based services. The ultimate benefit of a PSA solution is going to be increased productivity and profitability within a short period of time. The ability to achieve such benefits is based on the productivity of the company’s resources and the technology used in order to perform projects or services more effectively.” (Rudolf Melik)
Are you familiar with the story of a Professional Services Shop having to look up all of the pieces of one accounts relationship, logging into one tool, clicking around finding a piece of information then having to go to that other tool? Kind of like that time you had to look up that Customer John, so you clicked through your calendar to find the date you met with him, then had to go to Quick Books to find how much it was, then had to go to your email to find out what it was about and then finally got on to do what you wanted.
The unfortunate part is that this usually is more often than 'that one time.'
In the book, PSAs Optimizing Project & Service Oriented Organization by Rudolf Melik, the authors outline what it feels like to be working in a professional services organization without a PSA software. Inspired via the imagery shown in the book, we have recreated the feelings of working in this type of organization.
If you are reading this, you may know exactly what this feels like.
The image emphasizes the pains of companies at an enterprise level, but can certainly be felt by companies of all sizes. Before a Professional Services Automation tool is implemented, things can be quite complicated, messy and painful to track down. Information is fragmented all about, billing hours are lost, data is lost and business feels like, as portrayed, an array of wires with no systematic reason.
A second image shown inspired by Rudolf Melik portrays the intended effect a PSA software tool will have on a company and how things will be different. It is a fantastic visual representation of the simplicity and effectiveness of the tool.
Professional Services Automation engages the core components of a business and consolidates them into one allowing all of the most essential operations to be run through on central system. As shown in the image above, a PSA tool becomes the heart and the engine of your business, in a good way. It becomes the single resource for all key operational items. Not only does it organize, but it will consolidate processes.
Calling upon the story we shared above where someone would have to click through three different tools to get all of the necessary information on an account, instead, a PSA will change your business this process as easy as typing in the name of who you are looking for.Then you are done. Additionally, many PSA tools have quick integrations into accounting software like QuickBooks. Not only does this create an easy trail allowing you to follow an account but the full process. You can see what they were billed, why they were billed and when they were billed. Information is much more accessible.
For example; Within SherpaDesk, you are able to open an account, click ‘bill’, all of the information is populated for that account in a new QuickBooks invoice and then you just hit ‘send.’ Done.
A great analogy is to think of a hardware company that makes all of their parts in-house vs. outsources many small components. A PSA tool is the equivalent of having everything done in-house. By having a single tool made by one team, all of the most essential pieces of a business are made to seamlessly mesh with each other. Processes stack on top of the other, not just with great user experience and design but also through advanced reporting that is called and communicated to the right people without stress.
As has been discussed, PSA tools are a major commitment for a business. It becomes ‘the’ solution a company will run almost all of their major operations through. As we have emphasized greatly throughout all of this, much of your experience with your solution is going to be based on who your provider is.
Misgauging your needs or their features can lead to an incongruent experience that is uncomfortable for everyone. With this in mind, choosing the right provider is one of the biggest payoffs and potential mistakes you can make. Choose wrong, and you could be locked into a contract for years with a solution that does nothing but eat away at your productivity and morale.
Common PSA Risks and how to tackle them
Really, minimizing risks comes back to knowing your needs and what your providers offer. We will cover more on this in the next section, but for now, onto the good and the better about PSAs.
It has been found on numerous occasions and can be cited quite liberally that PSA tools pay for themselves within months. This has been mentioned by SPI Research as well as in Rudolf Melik’s book PSAs Optimizing Project & Service Oriented Organization.
To further understand the value of a PSA Solution, we have pulled a graph from a SPI (service performance insight) research study published in August 2012. The study conducted by SPI surveyed over 1000 mature professional service organizations. The data found that 70% of the organizations that had adopted PSA tools and uses this split in data to create a comparison of various KPI’s (key performance indicators) to measure the impact of the software vs. companies that do not have the software.
Using this graph and few calculations we look to investigate the potential rewards of a Professional Services Automation Software.
In the graph above, it may be noted that the benefits of companies are quite vast. While it can certainly be noted that the graph speaks for itself, we have listed out a few things can be taken away from this data.
So while the ROI is shown quite well above, we have presented an equation of a potential company below for reference based on the data above -- specifically the increase in employee utilization rate of 7%.
If you are curious, Rudolf Melik signs us off of this section explaining the quick ROI.
“The quick ROI is primarily due to the tailored nature of the solution, quick implementation of full featured relevant functionality, modern user interface demanding minimal user training and lower purchasing and ongoing maintenance.”
If you have come all of this way you are likely wondering how to find and select the right PSA tool for you and your firm. Throughout this piece, you will notice we have placed a great emphasis on the selection process. We have mentioned this before but this is mainly because of how imperative the tool to be an equal match to your core business needs. This should give you all the resources to ensure you vet your company and your solution to the best of your abilities. In Rudolf Melik's book, he emphasizes this point;
"The true measurement of the effectiveness of your tool should be noting whether or not it is reducing costs or your increasing services revenue on a per project basis. To gain full benefit from installation, it is likely that a PSorg will have to evaluate its internal processes.”
What this quote is saying is that through one way or another, the ultimate bottom line benchmark for the success of this tool should be a measurement of how effective it is at growing profitability or reducing costs and the best way to determine if your business processes has space for either of those two benchmarks to move in your favor is to evaluate your processes to identify weak links.
Where to begin on this is going to vary with the size of your team. Most commonly, the best thing to do is to map out the communication structure to your organization and interview key members. If you are a small business under 10 employees, this usually isn't too complicated but still worth doing. For solo professional service ventures, there is still some value to gain from the questions in this section that you can ask yourself.\
Once you have reviewed your processes, if a PSA seems right for you, it is time to evaluate your tools. If you are still unsure, if you have pains such as this, a PSA is probably for you.
Evaluation of a PSA solution should not be focused on features and functionality will not yield the most effective solution for any organization; nor will choosing solely on the basis of price or ROI. Which solution with be most effective depends on various factors. Thus, basing a decision on any one or two factors will lead to a less than optimal result.
Consider these specific factors
Evaluate the company making your tool.
Ask questions like this:
Each PSA tool has its own strengths and weaknesses. It is all about evaluating what is more important to you when measuring costs, benefits, risks etc. Careful evaluation of the technology must be performed prior to any investment in such applications. Many businesses make claims that their technology will satisfy businesses’ long-term needs; however, there is no silver bullet.
If you have any difficulties, certainly reach out, if not, let's move onto the final segment.
How to implement your software.
Implementing a new software within your business is always a big step. Hopes are high that better time are to come. However, this time can be stressful as all things routine are disrupted. A well-thought out implementation plan executed by your team is a determining factor in the successful adoption of your software for attaining goals and objectives set for the project.
The three most common issues noted of difficulty during a new software implementation are:
Additionally, here are the eight top considerations to avoid other issues:
And that is it. We hope your selection of a PSA goes well. If you have any further questions, certainly feel free to reach out to our team here at SherpaDesk, we know PSA’s.
And if you are convinced PSAs is the tool for you. Give us a call. We make a really great PSA.