What is Professional Services Automation (PSA)?

PSA stands for ‘Professional Services Automation’. The term describes the IT functions that manage teams. A PSA system is particularly necessary for the management of IT support departments or Managed Services Providers (MSPs).

What is PSA?

Professional services automation (PSA) software offers an alternative to the array of separate project management, time tracking, invoicing, resource planning, business intelligence and collaboration tools used by many project teams. This guide provides you an introduction to PSA software and offers resources for organizations considering an integrated software solution for managing project delivery.

PSA applications help professional services providers manage client engagements throughout the project lifecycle. A project starts when a sales opportunity is created, the deal is closed and resources are allocated to deliver the work. The cycle nears completion when invoices are issued and cash is collected.

PSA software establishes a consistent process for planning, managing and measuring the performance of each project throughout its lifecycle. By centralizing business processes and data, services can be delivered more predictably and repetitive manual processes streamlined or automated. It is analogous to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and PSA is sometimes referred to as ERP for services organizations.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

While the advantages of a specific PSA solution depends on its capabilities (and how they are used), the central benefit of PSA software is enabling people who are responsible for business performance to manage and measure service delivery at scale. Reporting features enable account and resource managers to identify trends and allocate staff to match demand. Executives can see where the business is performing well and where there are opportunities to improve certain areas.

Effective PSA applications help organizations do three things
  • 1. Easily Manage Projects (e.g., by reducing spreadsheet time)
  • 2. Optimize Resource Use (e.g., by improving utilization rates)
  • 3. Drive Stronger Margins (e.g., through greater reporting and visibility)

PSA tools can also help organizations gain control over their project, financial, timeline and resource data. Organizations often choose to adopt and/or upgrade their PSA tools when they need to increase headcount, when their demand increases, when their range of services needs to grow to meet client needs, when they expand their market geographically, or when projects, deadlines and timelines become more numerous and difficult to manage using manual processes. A great PSA tool keeps top thinkers out of spreadsheets and more engaged with the data at a high level, to make decisions that drive greater profitability.

Disadvantages

PSA software can be purchased commercially off the shelf (COTS) or built in house. Both require implementation, business process reengineering and user training, all of which incur costs in staff time or budgets. COTS solutions may have limited integrations and limited customizability; organizations opting to purchase PSA software must select an option that fits a majority of their feature needs, integrates with the systems they already use, or offers an API to build their own integrations. Homegrown solutions come with their own limitations, including costly maintenance, upgrades and integration build-out costs. Homegrown solutions are ideal for organizations that have a great need for custom functionality combined with significant internal expertise and financial resources to sustain a custom software application indefinitely.

Functions and Types of PSA

Functions

A PSA should be able to fulfill all of the team management functions needed to run an IT operation as a successful support department. Management tasks that PSA should assist with include:

  • Distribution of work to team members
  • Tracking of task progress and completion
  • The logging of resources used on a project
  • Forecasting to identify where extra resources might be needed
  • Goal achievement reporting for service level agreements
  • Auditing to demonstrate compliance to data integrity standards

 

Although a PSA is an essential tool for the management of IT support, it is not the only software platform needed by MSP and cost-center IT departments.

Types

Most PSA tools are cloud-based as opposed to on-premises products, with SaaS being a typical deployment model. The cloud approach eases the hardware acquisition and management burden of an onsite offering, which is a plus for professional services firms looking to avoid onsite technology costs, while focusing on their core business lines. The cloud-based PSA tools may also make it easier for companies to manage increasingly distributed and mobile workforces.

Professional services automation products tend to differentiate themselves through the level of integration they offer with respect to other automation software and tools. Some PSA vendors offer integrated suites that bring together PSA, remote monitoring and management (RMM) and remote control software. Other vendors, meanwhile, focus on PSA on its own without a broader suite of automation software products. The standalone PSA vendors, however, often provide integrations with other applications, such as CRM and accounting.

Let XEOX help you

A lot of the things provided by PSA can be done with XEOX.  XEOX’s Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) database, which enables you to store all your information about hardware, software and user assets in one central location. 

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