Just Say No
to Data Sprawl
5 signs your professional services organization
needs to consolidate data and technology
A unified approach to data and technology can help you shorten the contract-to-cash period, improve resource utilization, and discover new ways to grow your business.
Consolidate your fragmented data and technology.
If you’re like most professional services executives, you want to shorten the contract-to-cash period, improve resource utilization, and discover new ways to grow your business. A unified approach to data and technology can help you do all this and more. By bringing sales, service delivery, and finance functions together, projects can seamlessly flow from contract to delivery and billing. Furthermore, this gives you a complete and trustworthy view of projects, customers, and financial metrics.
The catch? First, you have to consolidate your fragmented data and technology, which is known as data and/or technology sprawl. This is when your data and applications are scattered throughout your organization in a way that impedes knowledge and productivity. Data for service delivery, sales, and finances may be stored across different systems and spreadsheets. Moreover, because these applications and data sources are entirely disconnected, business-critical reports risk being myopic and narrowly focused, and aggregation of data ends up being a manual, error- prone process that relies on static tools like Microsoft Excel.
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The problem with data and technology sprawl.
Data and technology sprawl makes it difficult to get a clear picture of your whole organization. Departments may make poor decisions because they only see a small slice of the bigger picture. For example, a sales team might send a pitch letter at the same time billing sends a collections notice. Sprawl can also lead to delayed and inaccurate reporting because running reports requires exporting, unifying, and consolidating data from multiple systems. When you struggle with data and technology sprawl, you can never totally trust your data.
Today, most professional services firms deal with some degree of data and technology sprawl, and make important decisions based on an incomplete view of the business.
Why PSA alone isn’t enough.
Some professional services firms have adopted a professional services automation (PSA) system for company-wide resource and project management. But PSA alone is not enough. Because many PSA systems do not easily share data with front and back office systems, they don’t make it easy to unlock business insights. Instead, you remain dependent on a collection of spreadsheets and custom apps.
Take the next step.
Consolidating data and technology can help you make the transition to a unified platform, a single source of truth for your organization. Learn more about five signs that your professional services firm should start consolidating data and technology today.
1. You manage projects or financial processes using spreadsheets and email.
The Excel spreadsheet is often the de facto tool for project planners and accountants, especially at firms with less mature business and decision processes. Typically, individual managers build and maintain spreadsheets and manually enter data as needed. They may use spreadsheets for analysis, project scheduling, resource management, and more
As companies grow in size and process complexity, however, spreadsheets cannot keep up. Because spreadsheets make it difficult to share information, routine processes may end up being managed over email. For example, project managers may send the accounting team an email when projects are ready to bill, and the accounting team may send bills via email. Executive-level reports that aggregate data from multiple sources can take days or even weeks to build, leaving your organization running blind.
If you’re storing a lot of data in spreadsheets or using spreadsheets to create bills or C-suite reports, you’re ready for data and technology consolidation. If a process or report is repeatable, it is generally best to move it out of a spreadsheet, and into a modern application with embedded analytics.
2. Your resource utilization and new project forecasts are always way off.
Accurate forecasting is critical to professional services firms. Understanding how much time your people have available and how much new work is coming in helps you plan for successful projects and keep margins high. On the other hand, when forecasts are inaccurate, you’ll find yourself overstaffed or scrambling to hire contractors.
If your forecasts are consistently off, the culprit may be your data. Possibly, sales pipeline and backlog data are not being pulled into your forecasting process. Or perhaps the data in your spreadsheet-based reports is out-of- date. Either way, your forecasting problem is a data problem.
When you consistently struggle to generate accurate forecasts, you’re ready for data and technology consolidation.
3. Projects are delivered late more than 24% of the time.
On average, about 76% of professional services projects are delivered on-time.1 That means 24% of projects are delivered late.
Why are projects delivered late? Often, the issue is missing data or lack of data integration. Data necessary to complete a project may be scattered across multiple systems that can’t talk to each other. Hand-offs from one phase to another may be managed via email, and some people working on the project may be unaware of milestones and deadlines. Moreover, when managers cannot view all projects in progress with one dashboard, they often realize too late when a project is at risk.
If you’re delivering more than 24% of your projects late, fragmented data and technology may be part of your problem—and you’re ready to begin consolidation.
4. You need to export data from multiple systems to generate company-wide reports, deliver revenue forecasts, or close the books.
Financial reporting and closing the books quickly are top priorities for CFOs. However, running monthly and quarterly management reports is a dreaded chore at many companies. It may involve running lengthy batch reports or tinkering with spreadsheets for days or even weeks. Often, the resulting reports are significantly out of date or may not contain complete information. Other kinds of financial reporting, such as forecasting and profitability analysis, can be similarly painful to produce and inaccurate even when they’re completed.
Once again, the problem is your data. When data is stored in disparate systems and spreadsheets, it is difficult to get a company-wide view of your projects, customers, and profitability. For example, revenue data and cost data may be maintained in separate front- and back-office systems. This means data must be exported from both systems, processed, and combined – often in yet another system like a data warehouse. Not only is this time-consuming and an added burden for IT staff to manage, but it also increases your risk of errors and reduces access to timely information, leading to restatements and related audit fees.
Professional services firms with ERP and PSA solutions that share a common data platform, on the other hand, can typically improve their days to close from weeks to days, if not hours. Generally speaking, the bigger the ordeal it is to create reports and revenue forecasts, the more you could benefit from data and technology consolidation.
5. Your time from contract to cash is longer than you’d like.
“Contract-to-cash” is critical to the health of professional services firms. If your contract-to-cash metric is lagging, some possible culprits include:
- Lack of visibility. In this case, finance can’t easily see when projects are completed or milestones are hit. They have to wait for a batch process to run or someone to manually add the data to their system because projects are managed in multiple systems or spreadsheets.
- Billing errors. Invoices may have errors because project or pricing data available to finance is erroneous or out of date.
- Project start and billing delays. When contract management systems don’t seamlessly feed details and scope requirements into a PSA system, both project starts and billing events may be delayed.
- Outdated payment requirements. When customers cannot pay electronically and, instead, have to cut a paper check, both contract-to-cash and days sales outstanding (DSO) may be negatively impacted.
When data is not easily shared and utilized across your contract-to-cash process, everything slows down.
Most of the issues described above are closely related to data. When data is not easily shared and utilized across your contract-to-cash process, everything slows down. Projects may start late or take longer to complete. Invoices may be incorrect or be delayed. Together, these issues may add days or weeks to your contract-to-cash, and negatively affect service margins, employee morale, and even customer retention.
If your contract-to-cash period needs reducing, you are probably ready for data and technology consolidation. One integrated platform with one data source can help projects easily flow from service delivery to billing.
Transforming through data transparency
As happens with many growing businesses, Windward Consulting had developed various data and technology silos across the organization. With data distributed across finance, sales, and other departments, Lorim ipsum the company found it difficult to confidently and accurately forecast opportunities and risks over the coming quarters.
By standardizing on one end-to-end business platform with Salesforce CRM and Certinia ERP and PSA, Windward was able to reduce IT costs, break down departmental silos, and gain a complete picture of the business. Company-wide data transparency has liberated managers to remove the guesswork around a project’s status or profitability and make decisions based on data, not hunches. With guidance into which projects to prioritize as well as recommendations for next steps, every team can quickly pull key business levers across sales, services, and finance.
It’s time to begin the transition to a unified data and technology platform.
If you’re dealing with fragmented data and technology, making a change can feel overwhelming. You may be dealing with hundreds of spreadsheets, apps, and data sources. But change can be easier than you think. Take a deep breath, and then talk to your IT team to begin work on a consolidation plan. This plan should include:
- A map of existing data that must be aggregated and centralized.
- A process for transitioning from fragmented data to a single source of truth.
- A recommended platform for automating your whole professional services business, including sales, service delivery, finance and accounting, and more.
The result should be an integrated platform with one source of data you can use to get accurate insights about the state of your business.
Salesforce and Certinia: A unified platform for professional services success
Together, Salesforce and Certinia represent a unified platform that can help you quickly achieve data and technology consolidation. It runs in the cloud and off one database so all your employees can make fast and more informed decisions using the same “single source of truth.” Plus, it complies with modern security and privacy standards, so you get peace of mind.
Certinia provides ERP and PSA solutions native to the Salesforce platform to automate all aspects of your professional services business. They also connect seamlessly to your Salesforce CRM. The bottom line? Switching to Certinia can help you improve contract-to-cash, accelerate project completion, and generate forward-looking insights.
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Certinia is the leading cloud ERP for the new services economy. The #1 ERP native to the Salesforce platform, Certinia unifies data across the enterprise in real-time, enabling companies to rapidly evolve their business models with customers at the center.