Professional services automation (PSA) solutions are essential to running you business, but as a general rule, they aren’t glamorous. However, sizzle is what gets a product noticed, and a PSA tools vendor wants to be sure its product stands out from the crowed. Unfortunately, being lured in by the sizzle more often than not results in paying for high-profile features you may not need now — or ever.
Hence, when it comes to choosing a PSA solution, the cardinal rule is sometimes less is more.
Whether it’s your target market, your geographic location, or your staffing expertise and a combination of myriad other factors, your business, and its needs, are unique. Thus, too are your PSA requirements. Despite PSA tools vendors’ claims, shopping for “the best” PSA on the market is likely to be a futile and costly approach. Instead, search for the PSA solution on the market that is the best fit for you.
Finding the solution with the best fit likely means a longer and more circuitous search. But the payoff —in both measureable and less tangible benefits — is well worth the extra investment.
First, you must gain an understanding of what you have: Take a hard look your business. One of the main purposes of a PSA is to keep your business running. Thus, consider what your essential functions are. Is CRM extremely critical or something you hope to adopt? Do you rely on project management? If so, a dashboard is more important for you than for a business that pushes the occasional project through on an ad-hoc basics.
Once you have an understanding of your needs based on how your business operates, it is time to begin reviewing PSA solutions. Have a requirements list that aligns with your business needs. Throughout the evaluation process, focus on solutions that provide the functionality your business really needs, not features that are cutting-edge or cool. Don't let yourself be guided by stuff you're unlikely to ever use.
You also don’t need a PSA solution that has every single possible feature. While a feature-rich product that scales with your business is ideal, they have to be the right features. The more feature-laden the product, the more customization most likely required.
On that same note, be sure the functionality you need is actually in the product. If you need to invest significant resources to get a PSA solution to work with your business, it’s not the right product for your organization.
Five Must-Have PSA Attributes
With that said, there are five must-have attributes that should be part of any PSA solution on your short list.
- Usability: A PSA solution is used a lot, often by end users who are not IT pros. The user experience matters, especially for a tool that will be used over and over again, day in and day out. No matter how powerful or feature-rich it is, it won’t deliver value if users are constantly looking for a workaround to avoid using it.
- Billing and Invoicing Capabilities: Billing and invoicing are universal needs for an MSP. Thus, nearly all PSA tools offer some kind of billing and invoicing functionality. But how complex and adaptable that functionality is varies. How much of that complexity you will need depends on your business. On the one hand, you must make sure your PSA solution can handle whatever type of billing or invoicing your company requires, but at the same time if your billing needs are simple, the billing piece of your PSA doesn’t need to be laden with complexity.
- Integration: Each individual component of your organization’s software ecosystem is only as strong as its ability to interact with your entire workflow. While many PSA tool providers offer integration with commonly used business software, integration is of no value if the software doesn’t mesh easily with your organization’s existing systems or integrate with future solutions seamlessly.
- Visibility: An effective PSA solution provides unparalleled visibility into the flow of resources across your organization to better facilitate resource allocation and planning. It should also offer easy to understand visual resource management for resource tracking.
- Ongoing Support: Your PSA solution should not be viewed as a set-it-and-forget-it operation. Questions arise, glitches occur. Reliable ongoing support from the PSA vendor ensures your PSA tool stays up and running to keep your business fully operational. Make sure your vendor is willing to be there when questions arise. This is a key piece to developing and maintaining an enduring and productive working relationship.
Ultimately, knowing the features your business requires and finding a solution that addresses these needs ensures you are getting what you need and not paying for things you’ll never use. With an understanding of your requirements and a focus on functionality that aligns with your business goals and priorities, you are far less likely to fall victim to feature creep.