West Marine Products, which operates a chain of retail stores across the United States specializing in boating…
In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in how companies operate and manage their workforces. In the past, organizations typically resisted adopting remote and hybrid workplace models for varying reasons, ranging from the perceived lack of IT and technology infrastructure to manage remote staffs, to the lack of tools that enable collaboration and resource management with real-time access to data.
However, COVID-19 has catalyzed the mainstreaming of hybrid and remote offices, transforming the workplace ecosystem immensely. The fast-paced pivot toward new ways of working demonstrates that technology can help overcome real and perceived bottlenecks, as envisaged by decision-makers.
Data from reputed sources indicates that organizations have doubled down on hiring hybrid and remote resources, suggesting that the change may be a more permanent transition than a stop-gap arrangement to tide over the pandemic-induced crisis.
Mckinsey & Company’s research says that close to 20% of the modern workforce may work remotely three to five times per week, registering the usual efficiency levels as working from offices. This finding partly explains the 145 million daily Microsoft Teams users and upward of 12 million daily active users of Slack. Thus, well-rounded growth in tech adoption to circumvent the challenges arising from abandoning traditional bricks-and-mortar setups is undoubtedly underway.
Digitization and automation through the use of Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools are helping organizations take to hybrid and remote workplaces. There is evidence to suggest that PSA tools and automation are taking center stage. International Data Corporation (IDC) findings reveal that companies globally spent upward of US$ 342 billion on AI-based solutions in 2021 and are committed to further leveraging tech-based platforms. The quantum of investment in AI will cross the half-a-trillion-dollar mark by 2024.
Companies are investing such sizable sums because they wish to become more data-driven and analyze data faster; the ability to acquire and crunch data quickly will lead to more agility and enhanced decision-making abilities, helping businesses grow. They understand that continuous adaptability and agility are crucial for success in remote and hybrid setups.
Despite these heady findings and generally positive sentiments for the road ahead, organizations need to address some challenges to ensure sustained and unhindered growth. They must consider the attributes below, and assess whether their PSA tools can solve these challenges.
Six Things to Consider Before Choosing the Right PSA Tool
1. Automated Employee Time Tracking
Traditional office setups allowed employers to use a punch card system, where employees punch “in” and “out” using biometrics. But, companies cannot use such a system when their staff is dispersed and operating from their homes, so they have come up with timesheets that their workforce can fill in remotely.
But even timesheets have pitfalls, like draining billable hours for non-productive activities and requiring disengaged and burnt out employees to complete another monotonous and repetitive task.
Automation time tracking through use of PSA software has many advantages beyond calculating remuneration. It can help organizations track and monitor tasks, projects, and resources, and helps them determine their teams’ existing workflows to better understand efficiency gaps.
2. Robust Resource Management and Utilization Capabilities
Resource management issues resulting from new workplace models present a challenge on par with the finance issues caused by the global recession of 2008, or the IT issues resulting from the dot-com crisis of the late 1990s. COVID‐19 has amplified the need for prudent resource management to safeguard finances and to ensure heightened productivity. The pandemic has become an inflection point with serious implications for companies, and has forced many organizations to revisit their workforce management strategies. Daily updates and catch-ups allowed managers and leaders to better understand their teams’ bandwidths and task allocations. Remote and hybrid workplaces have reduced visibility into resourcing for decision-makers, heightening the risk of over-burdening or under-utilizing resources; while under-utilization can cause revenue leakages, over-utilization can create bandwidth issues, further lowering employee engagement and adding to the ongoing Great Resignation.
A company’s chosen PSA tool must enable robust resource management, with the built-in capability to allocate resources optimally. Automation is critical because it provides up to date information on resource availability, allowing managers to make sound resourcing decisions, which in turn improves workforce productivity and project profitability.
An advanced PSA can provide business leaders with a solution that can do the heavy lifting, analyze real-time data, and deliver live recommendations on the best possible resource allocations. Such a tool can optimize resource allocation by assessing resource engagements, skills, and aptitudes to determine the best fit for a project. This approach also ensures higher productivity and engagement levels, which works well for both companies and resources.
3. Seamless Project Management Capabilities
COVID-19 has had a catastrophic effect on operations and, by extension, on project managers. Remote working has dented the collaborative approach that traditional team environments offered, complicating managers’ tasks. The challenges this shift to new ways of working has created, combined with a nebulous business environment and supply chain disruptions, have skyrocketed the risks associated with operating a business and managing projects. While sobering, the problems provide a much-needed reality check, outlining issues and common inefficiencies that exist in day-to-day functioning. Thus, this crisis allows companies to recognize and understand what they can do better and how they can solve pain points, leading to more efficient project management strategies.
A well-thought-out project management roadmap is the key to success for businesses. Therefore, any successful project management strategy must include unambiguous communication and collaboration, data centralization, and efficient monitoring. Companies can achieve all this by using intelligent PSA software.
4. Access to Real-time Data and Analytics
The need for granular, accessible, actionable real-time data and analytics has never been more apparent than in the past two years. Remote and hybrid teams have made it difficult for companies to gain access to data in real-time. Plus, organizations now realize that they need such insights to make decisions so they can share the right information with the right stakeholders to manage their businesses efficiently. So, it is no surprise that 87% of the respondents to the recently conducted EY fourth global corporate reporting survey plan to increase their investment in these technologies over the next two years.
An organization’s ability to analyze data quickly and accurately, then act on it in real-time can help managers and teams respond nimbly to business challenges and better manage uncertainties and risks. More than ever, project managers need to know in real-time how their projects are progressing, to identify potential areas of concern before they escalate. Thus, companies must focus on acquiring a PSA tool that can help them transform vast tracts of structured and unstructured data into insights upon which they can base their decision-making.
5. Client Management
Businesses were not the only casualty of the pandemic. Tenets like customer optimism, loyalty, trust, and confidence are equally under the scanner. This is because the ‘human’ factor is central to the idea of client connections. That ‘human’ element is missing as teams now base their outreach on Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls. Thus, companies have difficulty managing customers, vendors, and service partners.
Working in silos has imperiled client management, forcing organizations globally to seek alternative ways to foster client relationships. Companies need to reposition their customer management methods to remain relevant, while keeping an eye on longer-term shifts in consumer behavior that the pandemic has ushered in. They need to understand evolving customer preferences in real-time and formulate strategies on the go to ensure seamless client management. A PSA tool can help with the requirements and challenges listed above.
6. Integration and Interoperability Features
Organizations have long used ERP software packages to manage their operations, projects, and resources. However, COVID-19 created a unique challenge in the established modus operandi. Companies simply could not move to the cloud swiftly enough, leading to bottlenecks around integration and interoperability. Thus, companies struggled to integrate their ERPs with other business-critical software and new technologies. Also, companies worldwide had to turn to remote and hybrid ecosystems for operational continuity, without the opportunity to tweak processes or acquire new tools. This resulted in issues with data accuracy, user experience, and analytics.
That’s not all. Legacy ERP software packages have undergone massive customizations over the years, making them increasingly complex. These long-drawn customizations, in turn, have diminished their speed of deployment, which is a major red flag for companies desiring agility. Likewise, data crunching to gain real-time business insights is equally a bottleneck.
Companies, therefore, realize that they lack a single source of truth for project management. In the absence of such a source, harnessing and managing data is a tedious process that escalates costs. Therefore, companies must choose a PSA tool that leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to offer real-time visibility into crucial business metrics, streamline resourcing, financials, and project information, and give an up-to-date live view of the business. Their PSA tool must also leverage historical and real-time data to adapt quickly to changes and help managers make informed decisions.
How Polaris Can Help
Polaris is the world’s first self-driving PSA. It employs advanced AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning) technology to analyze real-time data and deliver actionable recommendations that keep projects, resources, and finances on track. It offers a single source of truth for all projects, resources, and billing information. Some of its key features are listed below.
1. Intelligent Resource Management
Organizations can leverage Polaris’ AI/ML-based advanced technologies to manage resources in autopilot mode and optimize business growth. Polaris’ ‘Smartmatch’ automatically weighs resources’ ongoing engagements, their skill sets, and provides intelligent recommendations on the best fit for a project’s requirements. In addition, its resourcing workflows enable seamless collaboration between resource managers and project managers. Polaris also offers complex and customized selection criteria, enabling leaders and managers to prioritize specific skill sets when requesting resources, so they can allocate the best resources to each project.
2. Cost Optimized Resource Allocation
Polaris allows organizations to account for user schedules, time off, and other details when distributing allocated hours to days, allowing for more optimized resource allocation. This feature offers managers and team leaders long-term visibility into their resources’ availability and reduces the likelihood of project delays.
3. Powerful Dashboarding
Polaris offers a powerful and integrated dashboard that brings a project’s scope and margin to the forefront. In addition, Polaris focuses on the scope of work, giving detailed insights into project budget and scope variances.
MissionControl provides leaders with a comprehensive and real-time view of how their business is unfolding. Also, the dashboard is tailored to individuals’ needs. However, teams can access all the data in one place.
4. Effortless Time Capture with SmartBeats
Organizations can lead with the combined power of Polaris PSA and time intelligence. Organizations can track their employees’ time spent on projects, assign tasks, and use their mobiles’ GPS to map their activities. These functionalities also help bill clients for time spent on projects.
5. Smart Task Management and Powerful Financial Management
Organizations can experience greater clarity and ease of use while managing project tasks by leveraging the industry-leading, intuitive project interface. Polaris also helps eliminate revenue leakage and increases profitability with real-time visibility into project budgets. It is an intelligent tool that considers direct and indirect variables like utilization and margins. It helps organizations assess compatible rates for all project resources. Companies can use this information to bid for projects, ensuring profitability from the onset.