The right reporting and analytics tools offer better insights of historical data, allowing Professional Services firms to identify patterns, make forecasts, and make better plans.
When the reporting and analytics processes are manual, your consultants spend more time collecting, organizing, and cleaning data. A lot of time is also needlessly spent on number crunching, which could otherwise be used to analyze the data and gain meaningful insights.
After all the time spent collecting data from siloed systems, there is scope for errors since each system will have its own data peculiarities and the human element can lead to missed information, double entries, or mistakes.
When you have better systems to support your team, you can ensure that they get the information handed to them to spend more time on working out strategy and planning. You will, for instance, know when projects are going off timelines, beyond budget, or becoming less profitable. You can use this information to get projects back on track instead of waiting for the end of the project to perform the analysis, by which time it may be too late.
There are plenty of tools available to help you achieve your goals, but it is important to first understand the difference between reporting and analytics.
What is the difference between reporting and analytics?
Reporting tools help you understand the performance of the business across different functions. The process involves pooling the data from different sources and presenting it to you in a way that makes it easy to understand the current state of the business.
Analytics, on the other hand, is using the data to draw inferences about what’s going right and what needs to improve. The process involves slicing and dicing the data and looking at it from different perspectives. The analysis at the end of this process should guide you towards making better business decisions, make your processes more efficient, and prepare your organization for future growth.
Reporting and analytics tools are particularly important for Professional Services firms since the processes require constant checks and finetuning, based on changing client needs, increasing complexities of bigger projects, and changing business models.
Reporting and analytics in Professional Services
Professional Services firms have unique needs. While it is important to have reporting and analytics software that consolidates financial and project information., there is also a need for other reports like understanding progress across different projects, work allocation, profitability, billable and non-billable hours, revenue per consultant, and so on.
There are several tools that offer Professional Services firms the reports they need to make strategic decisions. However, before exploring the options, it is important to understand what kind of reports you need.
What kind of reports should Professional Services firms ask for
Operations and finance reports
There are many operations-related reports that Professional Services firms will need. Perhaps the most significant is the consolidated dashboard of all active projects across the business. This dashboard could include a click-through option to get granular details about each project and related information list of consultants involved, cost of the project, profit margins, cost per consultant, etc.
Growing Professional Services businesses find it hard to keep track of billable resource availability. Smaller organizations are able to manage resources through weekly stand-up calls or by sending a group message to check for availability. However, as the company grows, such methods are not feasible. A clear report that shows which resource has been allocated to which project, for how long, and how much of that consultant’s time is available for use on other projects, will be a crucial piece of information for the business to remain profitable.
While it is good to have a good understanding about the efficiency of the business, it is also necessary to gain a good understanding about the clients and their paying habits. The financial reports of Professional Services firms should not only show which clients have paid at what time, but you should also be able to forecast which clients will pay on time, who will delay, and which clients have a tendency to reject invoices often. These insights will help you manage cashflows and budgets more efficiently.
The standard reports can be a good start for Professional Services firms to manage their business efficiently. However, there will come a time when managers will start asking for specific information to add more value to the business. There are unique needs of different departments and the various senior leaders that standard reports will not be able to meet. You should have the flexibility to create ad-hoc reports based on needs and your team should be able to customize existing reports to make their work faster and easier.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 and sa.global for Professional Services
One of the challenges Professional Services firms face is bringing together data from different systems that don’t necessarily talk to each other. The concept of choosing “best of breed” solutions for each requirement has come with a cost. While individual solutions for tracking time and expenses, etc. work well, they don’t offer business leaders the overall visibility across the business. That is why an increasing number of businesses are choosing a connected solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 helps you connect your data across sales, resourcing, delivery, and billing. You can now break down silos across Human Resources, Finance, and Client Relationship Management.
sa.global has been helping Professional Services firms move to the cloud and gain the benefits of a connected system and do much more. With our suite of empower applications we extend the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and offer you the analytics you need to make sense of the data on your terms and make better decisions.
Learn more about the different empower applications how they can help you prepare your business for the next cycle of growth.