Starting From Scratch - How Business Leaders Would Reimagine Their Technology Stack - Image by Malachi Witt from Pixabay At a recent technology conference in London, a C-level senior executive lamented the challenges his professional services organization faced with their failing tech stack. “If only I knew then what I know now, then our technical infrastructure would look entirely different,” he said, as he sipped a glass of wine.

The long-term success of a professional services organization is premised on the ability to choose effective technology solutions that cater to the specific needs of business as it grows. Naturally, businesses tend to start small, using a combination of free tools and accounting and work management solutions built for small businesses to manage operations at the earliest stages, when the business is still operating at a scale where employees, clients, and projects can mostly be tracked through spreadsheets and emails. As the business grows past the point where this sort of manual intervention is effective, senior managers need to make strategic decisions about how to scale their technology stack so that it aligns with their business’s growth plans. Too often, business leaders realize in retrospect that they did not make the right decisions about technology adoption soon enough – they waited too long to replace manual processes with automation, spreadsheets with purpose-built technology, and solutions tailored to the needs of small businesses with future-fit solutions designed for the needs of rapidly growing services businesses. In doing so, they recognize some of the opportunities they’ve missed along the way.

To help you better understand what mistakes to avoid, we asked several professional services business leaders a simple question: If they started from scratch, how differently would they build their tech stack?

Investing in People Earlier

When asked what he would have done differently if starting from scratch, Tom Schoen, CEO & President at BTM Global, admits he probably would have invested in people earlier. He explains that when an entrepreneur first starts a company, their product and financial priorities are very different from their present challenges.

According to Schoen, “When I first started BTM, I was only hiring experienced people. Individuals normally with five to 10 years’ experience. At the time, the ramp-up time to full revenue from those experienced employees was a lot shorter than if you’re hiring people from college and university. Our service offering is complex, and time was needed to train and onboard them. With hindsight, I would start a program hiring college graduates or people with just one to three years’ experience.

The Kantata Cloud for Professional ServicesTM is helping Scheon do some of the things at BTM Global he wishes he’d been able to undertake from the outset. Schoen adds, “With my Kantata solution, we can take people out of school, train them up on consulting skills, and help them understand our solutions rapidly. If I had known about Kantata earlier, I would have implemented this type of PSA much earlier.”

Just like countless PSOs, BTM Global was dependent on spreadsheets in the early days. “We ran it on spreadsheets that were all interlocked. It was pretty easy to do when you have only half a dozen projects running at the same time. It doesn’t work when you have 70 to 80 projects running. We needed a professional services tool to be able to help manage that workload.”

BTM eventually invested in Kantata to support its growing and evolving needs. However, many firms still remain inefficiently stuck in their countless spreadsheets.

Immediately Providing a Top-Down Look at Financials

Jacqueline Stanley, Director, Delivery and Operations at Hero Digital, would ensure Business Intelligence (BI) tools and systems are immediately in place if she were starting from scratch, supporting needed transparency throughout the firm.

According to Stanley, “It’s vital that the enterprise can provide executives with a top-down look at financials, giving them access to all key data and KPIs.”

Stanley adds, “BI tools are amazing for me. They take data from multiple sources and integrate them into one source of truth. In my role, I own lots of the reporting tools and am constantly required to prepare reports on specific metrics. A BI tool allows executives to pull that data more easily themselves.

Stanley explains the benefit of BI tools, “There is no longer a need for senior managers to reach out to their teams for that same information, stopping team members from undertaking billable work to pull together the information or data required.”

Furthermore, Stanley touches on the importance of collaboration and investing in tools that support effective communication and culture. “In my career, I have experienced several acquisitions. As a result, I am a firm believer in developing a coherent company culture and structuring the way employees work together more collaboratively. It is important that employees understand what is going on within the firm.”

If Stanley had a magic wand and could restructure her technology differently, tools that support transparency would be her priority.

Building a Quote-to-Cash Process

Lucy Butterton, VP Product Management at Kantata, regularly has long conversations with PSO clients and prospects wanting to acquire tools to support a particular objective. Butterton suggests professional firms often get distracted with peripheral activities.

Butterton believes PSOs need to stay focused and build on the quote-to-cash process. “It is important to develop an end-to-end operation, from a services perspective. This should provide full visibility and complete cohesion around that process, from front-office to back-office. Providing the business with visibility of quotations, translating them into services, translating those into revenue, translating that into cash.”

Butterton explains the importance of data surrounding the quote-to-cash process. “If an enterprise has a smooth-running, well-disciplined and well-established quote-to-cash process, then the business ultimately knows whether it will hit its targets. All employees will know their margins and resourcing requirements for projects. That should be the key data coming out of such a solution.”

As far as how that would translate into a tech strategy for a new business, Butterton says, “If I was to start a PSO from scratch, to get to that critical size for an effective business, I would invest in a project management tool. This would be supplemented by a time-entry tool. Furthermore, I would build out my financial reporting application to support forecasting.”

Butterton would ensure her firm could cascade the visibility of information to all key stakeholders. This would give management the predictability and forecast visibility they need to scale a burgeoning business.

Choosing the Right Technology for Sustainable Professional Services Success

The professional services sector is large and diverse, a thriving ecosystem of people-powered businesses of all shapes and sizes – digital agencies, IT consultancies, management consulting firms, and systems integrators are just some of the types of businesses that operate in the professional services industry. What makes the sector unique compared to other industries is its dependence on the knowledge and talent of its employees – both revenue and client success are impossible to attain without the diligent work of individuals with specialized skills and expertise. As a result, the effective use of human talent is the key to success for employees in every professional services company.

This is why it’s important for organizations to adopt tools that are purpose-built to align with the unique requirements, objectives, and aspirations of the professional services workforce – usually sooner in an organization’s journey from startup to established player than business leaders tend to think is needed. In a recent study commissioned by Kantata and Salesforce and conducted by Forrester Consulting, 83% of senior decision-makers in the professional services industry agreed that their businesses have unique needs that are different from those of other organisations within other industries, and 77% agreed that technology vendors limit professional services organizations when they provide generic (rather than industry-specific) solutions and services to address those unique needs.

Tech Stacks Should Solve Problems, Not Make Them

For PSOs implementing a new system in their tech stack, it’s important to stop and think about the business problem they are looking to solve. What are the business requirements for the platform or application? Will technology requirements evolve as their business grows? Is the proposed solution a good fit for current requirements, and is it equipped to be future fit for where the business is heading? What is the cost of doing nothing and maintaining the status quo?

When these questions aren’t at the fore when evaluating and building the business case for new and existing technology, it becomes more likely that gaps will emerge between essential solutions, processes, and teams – between the front office and back office, for example. Focusing on these questions and how they align with the overarching technology strategy and growth plans for the business is the key to preventing potential disruptions caused by bad technology that will inevitably cost your business time and money.

The business leaders that take this to heart will have the tools they need to drive sustainable professional services success, more of which is outlined in Kantata’s latest whitepaper, “Mind The Gap: How to Bridge Front & Back Office Systems for Professional Services.” The business leaders that don’t are left to lament the “what ifs” and “could have beens” over a glass of wine.

KantataKantata takes professional services technology to a new level, giving people-powered businesses the clarity, control, and confidence they need to optimize resource planning and elevate operational performance. Kantata’s purpose-built software is helping over 2,500 professional services organizations of all shapes and sizes in more than 100 countries to focus and optimize their most important asset: their people. By leveraging the Kantata Cloud for Professional Services™, professionals gain access to the information and tools they need to win more business, ensure the right people are always available at the right time, and delight clients with project delivery and outcomes.


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