Why the only way is up for the services industry

Automation can help us remain in control

The only way is up for the services industry

A recent report found that the UK services sector 'expanded strongly' in February, with staffing levels rising at their fastest pace since October 2013.

Businesses operating in sectors like technology services or financial services are seeing a greater demand for their expertise, finding themselves in the enviable position of welcoming new customers on board at a rapid rate. But as services businesses grow and customers multiply, how can they make sure they are satisfying customers while remaining profitable?

We spoke to Lori Ellsworth, President of performance solutions specialist Changepoint, about the challenges services companies face and how automation can help them remain in control.

TechRadar Pro: What challenges are services companies facing in the current market, and how have these changed over recent years?

Lori Ellsworth: Growth is always a good thing, and while providing service excellence has always been a process with many moving parts, business expansion can make services delivery even more challenging. It's also become far more complex over the last decade as the corporate world has gone global.

Services businesses are finding themselves working across different geographies with customers and staff spread around the world, presenting them with a management challenge that spans borders. Demand for services is high and businesses that are unable to draw upon a global resource pool are going to fall behind their competitors.

TRP: How have companies used technology to traditionally manage these issues?

LE: In the past, spread sheets have been the fall-back position for many service businesses; in fact, it still amazes me how many companies continue to use simple spread sheets to manage their complex services business.

Manually created shared documents and programs, either built in-house or brought in from outside, are also still prevalent. And of course, there's no shortage of off-the-shelf tools on offer that claim to help services organisations manage projects, timescales and costs with ease.

There are technologies that can support services organisations by acting as the 'backbone' of the business, but spread sheets are not the way to do this if you are trying to scale or grow your company.

TRP: Why, in your opinion, is this approach no longer viable?

LE: For a start, spread sheets and manually created documents are extremely prone to human error and are almost instantly out of date. They become unwieldy as they grow in size, and make collaboration virtually impossible.

Similarly, 'one-size-fits-all' tools will not do the job as they do not meet specific, individual needs that services businesses have – and every service business has their own needs.

This often means that services companies are missing out by failing to capitalise on opportunities as they end up with a disparate set of tools that lack connectivity and create silos of information.

With the services sector seeing such rapid growth, there is an increasing need for a new approach that helps services companies ensure they are running business operations profitably while meeting customer demands.

TRP: What is Professional Service Automation (PSA)?

LE: PSA software assists services professionals in many industries, from financial services to technology services, with the management and delivery of services.

Importantly, automation allows companies to track financial project health and manage resources in real time; this ensures that project management, resource management and customer relationship management, amongst other functions, are operating effectively and profitably.

PSA software also supports a scalable and repeatable process that can be replicated across different regions and countries, allowing services businesses to analyse, track and forecast client opportunities and requirements on a global scale; helping them improve efficiency and profitability of their operations.

PSA provides a level of technology sophistication that gives businesses a competitive edge. Here's a good analogy: PSA is to a services executive what ERP is to a finance executive.