How Innovative Cloud-Based ERP and PSA Technologies Enables Client Satisfaction

With client satisfaction being one of the top objectives for consultancy firms, are you sure that you are doing everything you can to WOW your clients? Satisfied clients equal repeat business, bigger deals, higher lifetime value, and winning more new business through referrals. So what would it take to delight your clients? Do you have the right practices and technology in place to WOW your clients?

How Innovative Cloud-Based ERP and PSA Technologies Enables Client Satisfaction
How Innovative Cloud-Based ERP and PSA Technologies Enables Client Satisfaction

Consulting firm leaders must lean into the evaluation and deployment of cloud-based ERP and PSA technologies today to accelerate project success, improve performance, and win client trust.

Read on this article to find out what your firm can do to get the foundations in place and foster client satisfaction. In this article on exceeding client expectations, you will learn:

  • Discover the best practices and technology required to satisfy clients and enable repeat business
  • Find out how small – medium-sized firms can afford and embrace the right technology platform for growing business
  • See why and how engagement managers must continuously measure and monitor engagements so realistic expectations and communications are met

Content Summary

Reality Check
Embrace The Crossroads
It’s All About That Base
Cue The Cloud
I Can See Now
Measuring Is Monitoring
Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate
Find The Wins Deep In Your Platform
Don’t Wait To Hear The Applause

Reality Check

Client satisfaction is THE goal for engagement managers. A satisfied client equals repeat business, bigger deals with existing clients, and referrals to potential customers for new business.

Think about it: When the professional services industry’s average bid-to-win ratio is less than 50:50, your ability to build a trusted relationship with your clients becomes the competitive advantage your business needs. (See Figure 1.) A project-based ERP system is the best first step, but the real secret sauce is in the best practices you set from there. Coupling your hard-earned experience with the right technology will distinguish your business from competitors in a crowded market.

Source: SPI Research, February 2019
Source: SPI Research, February 2019

Chances are, if you’re like most engagement managers, you’re sitting in a sea of disconnected systems. HR, financial, CRM, time and expense, Excel spreadsheets, and other point solutions churn away in silos, and it’s on you to pull data together, ensure its accuracy, and then communicate important information to internal and external teams. In such a complex environment, balls will inevitably be dropped, and clients will be frustrated—and you won’t know until it’s too late to fix it.

What you need is a pursuit-to-closeout system of best practices, supported by best-of-breed technology, that will streamline communication among all stakeholders, promote collaboration and teamwork internally and externally, and provide visibility across the engagement and client life cycle. Here we offer insight that will help you ensure an optimal customer experience from the moment your sales team says “go”.

The cloud ERP market is forecast to reach upwards of U.S. $28 billion by 2022, and the firm attributes the appeal of this model in part to lower capital expenditures and a significant decrease on IT cost. Source: Market Research Future

Embrace The Crossroads

If you’re reading this paper, you are likely one of the firms that are actually demonstrating growth and potentially recognizing problems in your workflow that you had not encountered before. This is the time to make a change before it’s too late.

Some issues you might be facing include:

  • Legacy or homegrown on-premise applications that are not able to scale with your business or will require a costly upgrade.
  • A lack of visibility into engagement status and costs across disparate systems.
  • No way to measure engagement progress/success or customer satisfaction before engagement closeout.
  • Sudden growth that requires collaboration among offices that your current platform doesn’t support.
  • No client access to the project schedule so clients can’t participate in real-time decision-making.
  • Lack of any time anywhere accesses to tools and systems impeding delivery speed.

Any—let alone, all—of these barriers can hinder your ability to impress your clients with outstanding customer experience. You can have the best talent and expertise in the world at your firm, but if your underlying technology and processes are dated, your clients will feel the difference and it will impact their trust in you. The fact that you are ready to let go of the old ways of doing things and to move your firm forward is already a big win.

More than three-quarters (78%) of millennials say access to the technology they like makes them more effective at work. Retaining talent would be much simpler for firms if they had a solution that makes life easier for consultants. Source: Insight to Action

It’s All About That Base

Fact: Most smaller, niche management consulting firms do not want to spend a fortune maintaining a universe of complex and costly applications.

While bigger firms might see a large enterprise ecosystem complete with a fully staffed IT department as the cost of doing business, small-to-midsize firms do not have—nor do they want—this luxury. After all, clients opting for a smaller firm are doing so, in many cases, to decrease costs, leaving little left for firms to spend heavily on technology.

Yet, the technology you choose—a base layer to your overall engagement management process— is what clients will notice when they interact with you, so make sure that experience is impactful.

Your technology platform should mirror the way you do business. At a minimum, it should foster a work-life balance by allowing any time, anywhere access from a host of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. At optimal use—which we discuss later—it will guide the way you do business.

As Mike Scopa, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Deltek, recently wrote in his blog, the life of an engagement manager has significantly changed in recent years. Where once your team’s day revolved around trips to the office to check project statuses and fill out time and expense sheets, project-focused technology today keeps team members in the field, allowing everyone to stay focused on the client’s project instead of ancillary tasks.

Cue The Cloud

Cloud-based, project-focused solutions have eclipsed the behemoth and costly ERP systems of the past. You can deploy business-class ERP designed for the nuances of engagement management at an affordable cost. And choosing the right platform is essential because as you grow—and you will because of satisfied clients—your application must be able to scale with you.

Opting for a solution in the cloud helps make this happen, offering you the latest functionality without skyrocketing costs. For instance, artificial intelligence is making its way into engagement management to help you predict project benchmarks, costs, and schedules. You can access such functionality—which will help you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of engagements—without a pricey upgrade or staff with high-end skills.

Set your engagement management foundation as a cloud-based solution, and you’ll know you’re building your best practices atop a solid foundation.

According to Gartner, Worldwide IT spending hit a record high of $3.7 trillion in 2018 based on strong growth of 4.5%. Enterprise software spending led the surge with 9.9% growth, underscoring the shift to cloud-based “as a service” spending. Source: SPI Research

I Can See Now

Perhaps the most important best practice we can impart to you is demanding visibility into real-time, accurate data for all engagement stakeholders.

As an engagement manager, you’ve likely been in the position to either enter data or extract data across multiple systems. And more likely than not, you’ve encountered discrepancies that impact engagement schedules, costs, or resource allocation and ultimately degrade proper planning and analysis, as well as client satisfaction.

The number one reason for this is a lack of visibility across all functional areas. Your finance, HR, time and expense, and sales data should be available in a role-based manner to all parties who need access to it. There can be no lag time between when an expense is entered, to how it is reported in status updates and engagement estimates. Managers, finance chiefs, and others should be able to get alerts through a dashboard regarding changes that impact deliverables or the total cost of an engagement. The more information you can share among your team, the quicker you can respond to changes that impact the client. And the quicker your response, the better the customer experience, and the greater the likelihood you’ll see a satisfied customer at closeout.

Visibility is not only important for each engagement, but it’s also important for your firm overall. Your talent is your best resource, and you need to make sure you’re not spreading people too thin. A project-focused platform can show you how your talent has been allocated and when it’s time to hire more people. You don’t want your clients to feel that the team assigned to them is distracted or overburdened with too many commitments, and, therefore, cannot do the best job possible. Getting out ahead of this common occurrence is essential.

Just 37% of management consulting firms feel they have a clear view of which clients and engagements are profitable. Clear visibility into organization, client, and engagement health is required for strategic decisions about the firm. Source: Insight to Action

Measuring Is Monitoring

Being able to see across your engagement management environment is one thing, but another best practice to enact is measuring your engagements with real-time metrics.

Your clients hire you because of your experience. They expect you to guide them in every aspect of their engagement and to provide them with optimal choices every step of the way. The most efficient way to do this is to draw on the lessons learned from previous engagements, and that is best done through measurements. For instance, when creating schedules, being able to figure out the average delivery times for materials based on similar engagements helps set realistic expectations that directly impact client satisfaction.

You also can measure the experience of engagement so that you can make adjustments in how you do business. For instance, if you see that a client typically ramps up interest at a certain point in an engagement, you can proactively loop their team in and provide the information clients typically request at that point.

Measurements come in handy as you scale your business, so you can keep your staffing in line with your client’s needs and better predict revenue and profit. You’ll see that as you get more comfortable developing and applying metrics, there will be increasingly more that you’ll want to measure and report on.

Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

Clients want to be involved in the progress of their engagements. Until recently, that has meant engagement managers, as the front-facing person for the firm, would act as an intermediary for communication between the functional teams and the client. Today, your cloud-based platform can help you easily link internal and external team members, so they can directly collaborate (within the application), enabling the best practice of promoting direct communication.

Decision points arise often during projects so providing external teams the opportunity to collaborate as if they were members of the internal team is not only a benefit toward customer satisfaction but also for improving the overall efficiency and progress of an engagement. The faster and better the decision, the closer the engagement moves to complete.

Collaboration is not just about access, though. It’s about involving your clients in the overall workflow, allowing them to imprint on the way their engagement process flows. For instance, if they like to see progress in a certain way, you can customize their dashboard in that fashion. Maybe they even have metrics they’ve developed for success that can be incorporated into your own. The goal is to make your client feel so integrated into the way you do business that it will feel like an extension of their work environment. You might even gather some takeaways from them to improve your own business.

Find The Wins Deep In Your Platform

Just because you’ve been conducting engagements in a certain way for a long period doesn’t mean that you can’t change or take advantage of new opportunities.

From the start of your project-based ERP deployment, you should be open to ideas that come about from features embedded in the system. For instance, when you are guided through the setup using natural-language prompts, take the opportunity to evaluate how you see your business, including what’s most important and why. If you’ve been focused on the volume of engagements, it might become clear that improving the quality of engagements should be a greater priority. If you thought one geographic area was your sweet spot, metrics coupled with visualization could reveal that another region has grown in popularity based on the number of proposals being generated, or the talent you’ve amassed there.

Don’t cement your pre-conceived notions about your business yet, because your project-focused solution could illuminate profitable path changes for you. Maybe you’ve been specializing in a certain industry, but one of your consultants is building a strong book of business in another. If you use all the business intelligence tools available to you and put in place processes that allow you to act on the analysis you receive, you could broaden your horizons and either expand or fine-tune your portfolio. In a highly competitive industry, any advantage you can gain is worth pursuing.

Don’t Wait To Hear The Applause

Sure, we’re being presumptive in assuming applause. However, if you adopt all of these best practices, you will notice an immediate difference in how your clients engage with you. In the past, you had to wait until a closeout survey or post-mortem meeting to assess your performance. With project-based technology, you glean information about your client’s satisfaction overtly and intuitively as you go along.

Consider these examples:

  • A client who is bought into decisions on time is going to be much more satisfied versus one who was informed too late to change things.
  • A client who is made to feel part of the engagement will feel much better about the experience than one who was kept at arm’s length.
  • A client who is told in real-time about cost overruns and can see why will be more likely to accept them than one who finds out at the time of payment.

Don’t you want to be able to avoid a bad experience if you can? There is nothing more harmful to a smaller firm than a negative client review. By being proactive, communicative, and collaborative, you can assure that clients experience the best you have to offer. Your journey to rock star status with your client is a mere click away. Wow your clients and improve your bottom line— all by accepting a new way to ERP.

Source: Deltek

Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.