The top 10 professional services automation (PSA) solutions

02 November 2021 Consultancy.uk 10 min. read
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The professional services industry is increasingly making use of intelligent software – known as professional services automation (PSA) solutions – that help them manage their client engagements and operations throughout the project lifecycle. A new buyer’s guide sheds light on the top PSA solutions in the market.

Firms from across the professional services landscape – including consulting firms, creative and marketing agencies, accounting firms, engineering businesses, digital agencies, technology consultancies and recruitment firms – are rapidly turning to technology to streamline their operations while optimally serving their clients, and efficiently scale their business.

According to research by SPI, professional services automation solutions indeed are proving their worth. Among the benefits that have been demonstrated are: better employee billable utilization rate, a more effective sales conversion funnel, an enhanced firm-client relationship and improved teamwork, a more streamlined an efficient procure to pay process, and lower revenue leakage. 

All in all, firms that use a professional services automation tool enjoy according to SPI’s latest benchmark a notably higher revenue per project and consultant (in some cases of up to 33%) and a higher profitability.

It’s not surprising then that – according to one estimate – over 75% of professional services businesses currently have a PSA solution in place, up from under 50% five years ago. This has significantly lifted the global size of the PSA software market (which is estimated to range anywhere from $1 billion to $10 billion depending on who you believe), with the segment forecasted to continue its double-digit CAGR growth in the coming years. 

What’s the best PSA solution?

Finding the right PSA solution for consultancy firms is not an easy task – analysis of the Capeterra database (a global software platform database) shows that there are close to 300 PSA solutions on the market. For any buyer of PSA solutions, trimming this list down to a shortlist and subsequently selecting the top PSA solution can be a daunting challenge.

A new buyer’s guide by Info-Tech Research Group helps decision-makers with this process. The US-based IT research house surveyed hundreds of professionals from across the professional services arena to canvass the views of actual users on how they evaluate their PSA solutions and the vendor providing the system. Over 40 PSA tools were included in the benchmark (see the full list below).

To come to its list of the top PSA solutions, the analysis explored four key metrics: the capabilities of PSA solutions; how likely users are to recommend a PSA solution; the capabilities of vendors; and the satisfaction with the experience provided by vendors.

The 10 PSA solutions with the highest overall score:
1. Projector PSA
2. Kimble PSA
3. Accelo PSA
4. Mavenlink
5. NetSuite PSA
6. Avaza
7. Dynamics 365 Project Operations
8. Workday PSA
9. Changepoint PSA
10. FinancialForce PSA

Recommended PSA solutions just outside the top 10:
SAP PSA
Wrike
ConnectWise Manage
Bitrix24
ProWorkflow

On what factors where PSA solutions assessed?

PSA vendor capability: Business Value Created
The underlying purpose of software is to create value for employees, customers, partners and ultimately shareholders. As a result, it is imperative that any software selection be aligned with the organization’s needs and deliver enough business value to justify the cost.

PSA vendor capability: Breadth of Features
Users prefer to work with feature rich software that enables them to perform diverse series of tasks as opposed to one they find restrictive.

PSA vendor capability: Quality of Features
Feature quality is just as important as quantity. Software needs to do what you’re purchasing it to do, easily, intuitively, reliably, and effectively.

PSA vendor capability: Product Strategy and Rate of Improvement
Purchasing software can be a significant commitment, so it’s important to know if your vendor is serious about the need for constant improvement and deliberate strategic direction. Vendors who don’t stay on top of emerging needs and trends won’t enable you to meet your business goals.

PSA vendor capability: Usability and Intuitiveness
End user learning curves cost the organization money. Pay attention to your end users’ technical ability to determine how important UX is in your purchase.

PSA vendor capability: Vendor Support
The importance of vendor support will vary for each organization depending on internal capabilities, but there will always be issues that only the vendor can resolve.

PSA vendor capability: Ease of Data Integration
The ability to integrate with other systems is increasingly important; without this, manual data loading and extraction can be time-consuming and prone to error.

PSA vendor capability: Ease of Administration
Administrative interfaces don’t get the same attention as those built for end users, but they shouldn’t be clunky or unintuitive.

PSA vendor capability: Ease of Customization
Out-of-the-box functionality often isn’t enough, especially for niche or industry-specific software, and the reason you’re buying rather than building is to save time and money in the first place. make sure you don’t get bogged down in a difficult customization.

PSA vendor capability: Availability and Quality of Training
Effective and readily available training enables users to get the most out of the software you’ve chosen.

PSA vendor capability: Ease of Implementation
Choosing the right software is only the first step. Successfully implementing the new solution is necessary in order to realize its full value and promote end user adoption.

PSA product capability: Billing
Includes invoice management, time capture, and expense tracking.

PSA product capability: Expense Detail Tracking
Expense information related to the expense, including reason, attendees, project and/ or client information, and whether an expense is re-billable to a client.

PSA product capability: Auditability
All changes to contracts are fully audit-trailed to improve controls.

PSA product capability: Business Process Analysis
Contains a template library with version control to understand and improve process efficiency.

PSA product capability: Credit Card Processing
Expenses can be allocated to credit cards to help match statements.

PSA product capability: Customer Suveys
Ticket closure can support customer satisfaction feedback.

PSA product capability: Knowledgebase
Allows users to creare knowledgebase articles, metadata tags, creation data and author's name.

PSA product capability: Mobile Access
The solution can be easily accessed by employees through a dedicated native application or HTML5 access.

PSA product capability: Reporting
Straightforward data storage with ability to create any reports easily. Dashboards for any role with ability to easily build and modify.

PSA product capability: Resource Management
Includes resource allocation, expense tracking, and resource planning.

PSA product capability: Time Management
Includes time tracking or recording, automatic timer, and timesheets.

PSA product capability: Outlook Calendar Integration
Ability to synchronise resource bookings with Outook.

PSA product capability: Process Automation
The automation of the sequence of tasks within a process, to be executed without manual intervention.

PSA product capability: Project Management
Includes support for elements of individual project management such as phase, task, resource, duration and budget, with Gantt and WBS views.

PSA product capability: Security
Software provides appropriate data and access security.

PSA product capability: Task Management and Workflow
Supports triggers and events for process automation.

PSA product capability: Team Collaboration
Allows multiple users to comment on, mark-up, annotate, or edit a document. Provides team sites, workspaces or other landing areas that enhance productivity.

The full list of PSA solutions assessed by the Info-Tech Research Group study:
Accelo PSA
Atera
AutoTask PSA
Avaza
BigTime
Bitrix24
BlueFolder
Changepoint Services Automation
ConnectWise Manage
Conrep - Professional Services Enterprise
CrossConcept Continuum
Epicflow
FinancialForce Services Automation
Forecast: Resource & Project Management Platform
Function Point
HaloPSA
HarmonyPSA
Infor Professional Services Automation
Intervals
Kaseya BMS
Keyedin PSA
Kimble PSA
Klient PSA
Mavenlink
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations
Naverisk PSA
NetSuite Professional Services Automation
Projector PSA
Promys
ProWorkflow
Ravetree
Replicon PSA
SAP PSA
Scoro
Tigerpaw One
Unanet PSA
Unit4 PSA Suite
Upland PSA
Vogsy
Workday Professional Services Automation
Wrike

What is professional services automation?

PSA software – also known as en ERP system tailored to the professional services industry – helps professional services groups manage most or all of their front-office and back-office processes. In the business development landscape, PSA solutions can be used to support the sales process, from opportunity identification through to conversion to sales.

From a delivery perspective, PSA solutions help facilitate the end-to-end project delivery process, from the staffing of consultants on projects to running project budgets (time and expenses) and profitability through to project (and at a high level: portfolio) monitoring. Project teams also can use PSA solution for collaboration and client communications. 

Finance and accounting teams use PSA solutions for managing and tracking financials, as well as ensuring integration with accounting records. Procurement professional use PSA solutions for contract management and managing service level agreements, while risk experts leverage PSA systems for quality assurance and keeping track of compliance. 

PSA systems can be integrated with software for accounting, customer relationship management and payroll, among others. 

What are the benefits of PSA solutions?
Years of research shows that PSA tools can provide several benefits including optimized staffing, improved collaboration, automated time & expense and enhanced knowledge management, which improves company performance across a range of metrics, including employee productivity, billable utilization, operational efficiency and financial margins.