In the ERP world, the entry point to delivery is always executing an order. So much, so normal.
Information like a customer’s purchase order reference, delivery address, special instructions etc. all form an essential part of the sales order process and drive delivery actions.
But, when you move into the Professional Services space, in particular with project based PSA systems, order processing seems to reside firmly in the CRM space with, at best, a notification to create a project triggered by an order executed status.
And if all projects were simple sales: sell it, do it, bill it, close it, this wouldn’t be so terrible. It’s still inefficient, but not a disaster.
But projects are not like that. Once begun they lead a life of their own: they grow, change, morph, get cancelled early etc. In other words, the first sales order is only the beginning, it is in no sense a process end point. Placing this first stage in a CRM system actually makes no logical sense. Think about it for a minute…
Let’s consider the wide range of services engagement types and processes that can occur in professional services sales:
- A new customer, new engagement
- An existing customer, major new engagement
- An existing customer, ongoing minor engagements
- An existing engagement, changes orders
- Existing customers, rate changes/negotiations
- Existing engagement, project scope change (value increasing/remaining the same/decreasing)
- Work order request within a service agreement
- Negotiation of a billable element for work not covered by an ongoing service agreement
Some of these clearly sit with the sales team, but others are obviously more informed and better handled by the project manager. Professional services engagements are not “fire and forget” like ERP ordering. They involve relationship management and the complexities of scope into delivery interpretation.
CRM-based order processing within the sales teams is only ever able to deal with a sub-set of these processes, they simply neither have the time or the knowledge to get involved in changes to ongoing work. Indeed, often the majority of work won in a year is actually from growth orders not new work.
The implication of this is that multiple processes exist for trapping new financial commitments, making mistakes easy, forecasts inaccurate, introducing time booking errors and so resulting in billing issues.
This problem is compounded by the project PSA system entry point often being the creation of a new project. Each new commitment is not a new project, most are actually changes to existing work.
Many requirements we get from customers seem to be addressing the chaos resulting from a lack of single order processing thinking. In fact, they are requirements seeking to address the symptoms not the disease.
Here is where PSA systems need to learn the lesson from ERP systems.
If every new financial commitment is a new order, modelled in the PSA system NOT the CRM, the problem of multiple confused processes goes away. It no longer matters who raises the order, the process is the same and controls around Customer Purchase Order compliance can be enforced uniformly. Adding that order to an existing project or contract, is then a simple and natural task, without the need for double entry potentially introducing mistakes.
With Harmony, order processing is the natural end of the CRM process BUT is also available to project management to model changes as they occur. Placing both inbound paths in the same system, and making that system the delivery platform means you have a single consistent process able to handle all the variabilities associated with selling Professional Services.
Along with curing the disease, you also eliminate the symptoms.
About the Author: Harmony Business Systems Ltd (HBS) is the company behind HarmonyPSA, the most complete cloud PSA software on the market. Developed with functionality to cater for even the most complex needs of MSPs, VARs, ISVs and Professional Services organisations, HarmonyPSA truly is the next generation of PSA systems. Follow HarmonyPSA on Twitter, LinkedIn or Website