Why the professional services industry needs to automate - Intelligent CIO Africa
Why the professional services industry needs to automate
Bernard Ford, CEO, One Channel

Why the professional services industry needs to automate

The professional services industry is changing rapidly and to remain competitive, firms need to change their working models and automate all back-end services to eliminate paper-driven processes. This will help them reduce operational costs and customer requests service time.

According to a recent report, Professional Services Market Global Report 2017, by The Business Research Company, the professional services market is forecast to grow to about $5-trillion by 2020.

As a professional services firm that specialises in long-term, complex projects or a business services company that performs smaller jobs, the common goal is to acquire and maintain clients whilst still ensuring profitability.

One Channel CEO Bernard Ford says clients are the lifeblood of the services industry. “It all starts with managing relationships, from first interactions with leads to repeat business. Competing on value is necessary, but the real challenge is to be better than the competition at ongoing relationship management.”

He points to back-end services automation as the solution to eliminate paper-driven processes. “Professional service companies such as accounting and legal services are automating back-end processes to match front-end services. Companies are increasingly shifting to electronic check records from old processes of scanning and filing paper checks.”

Automation enables companies to reduce operational costs and time to service customer requests. For instance, according to a report by McKinsey, a leading bank automated about 900 of its back-end operations to relieve about 50% of its full-time employees from their back-end tasks.

A services industry company has no future without increasing customer demands for ever-growing service offerings, ensuring repeat business and referrals by delivering on time and on budget, and offering competitive prices while maintaining a decent margin for one’s own business overhead.

Furthermore, to tackle the issues of customer relations and productivity simultaneously, only an integrated system will provide the powerful 360-degree view of the activities, requests and projects that customers need to stay ahead of their competition.

“They need tools that track all tasks, activities and expenditures for every project or job. Also, consistent and up to date data, automated invoicing and a full 360 degree view of customers and projects for complete visibility and control,” he explains.

More importantly, Ford says company executives require critical insight into financial, resource utilisation and project management data. “Portals for customers, subcontractors and suppliers to collaborate. This is how automation and integration improve productivity using modern systems, now often enabled through cloud technology.”

For simple and straightforward service work, Acumatica provides a simple order entry and billing process using unique order types. Set up and modify the workflow for unique order types as needed and they are immediately integrated with the accounts receivable, general ledger, and financial reporting.

For services firms that provide business service of a non-project nature, such as repair or support, the Service and Support Automation functionality in Acumatica effectively handles a service-based track. Then, for project-based services firms such as engineering or legal, the Project Accounting Software Suite manages budgeting, time sheets, billing, profitability, and reporting for projects.

For services firms that purchase billable parts and supplies or carry stock inventory items, the requisitioning, purchasing, warehousing and invoicing is also done within Acumatica.

“Customers will appreciate and reward your ability to uncover problems early, prevent delays, and keep costs in line, while providing a more responsive service experience”, he concludes.

This solution can be deployed on-premises, on a hosted server or Acumatica’s pure cloud platform.

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