Mastering Workflow Management In Professional Service Organizations

By Mark E. Engelberg, TimeLinx Software –

Return on capital invested can be a murky performance metric in professional service organizations (PSOs)—one that’s easy to inadvertently misuse in calculations that give a narrow focus on ROI weighted in misleading contexts. The effect can be PSOs held back by poor tracking of true cost-to-service, plus a resulting impact on project margins.

Workflow management can take PSOs leaps and bounds toward accurately accounting for critical profit and loss factors. For example, are you tracking profit and loss metrics such as:

  • Project overruns?
  • Margin per project?
  • Annual revenue per employee?

Those are just three of hundreds of P&L factors to be conscious of. Integrating workflow management optimization into company-wide processes can help PSOs monitor, optimize and even detect the rest.

What Are Workflow Optimization and Workflow Management to Each Other?

Workflow optimization is about improving operational time efficiency and quality of delivery. Achieving it requires ubiquitous adoption of workflow optimization incentives from your entire organization—that’s how you’ll transform workflows into profits.

What’s the value of workflow optimization?

In practical terms, workflow optimization helps PSOs revamp procedures by:

  • Implementing new operational functions
  • Designing simpler guidance process efficiency
  • Unifying departments under integrated workflow protocols
  • Reducing errors and associated costs in particular task workflows

For PSOs, this means more significant profit and loss control. For their clients, it means consistently high caliber outcomes.

How is workflow management different?

Workflow management is the strategic framework by which workflow optimization incentives are designed and implemented.

For example, let’s imagine your manager identifies a flaw in the project invoicing process. Perhaps your accounting system is missing billable details affecting project margin.

Workflow management would detect these billing deficits before deploying a workflow optimization process that would target and resolve the source of the billing discrepancy. For example, this may be billable time unaccounted for due to poor timekeeping.

The 3 Phases of Workflow Management

While workflow management processes can vary by workflow and other factors, there are three primary phases to workflow management… er, workflow?

Workflow mapping

This involves theoretically visualizing the target workflow to optimize through a workflow diagram wireframe.

For example, what’s your professional service project quoting process? What data contributes to it? Where are you sourcing it from? All of these things would go into a project-quote workflow map.


Workflow analysis
Once you have your workflow theorized on ‘paper’, as it were, workflow analysis is leveraged to identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and optimization opportunities.

You may detect that certain cost factors in your current project-quoting workflow fail to account for projected costs of expensive 3rd party consultants outside of your organization. That’s a problem that’ll leave a gaping hole in project margin calculations.

Workflow optimization

Now that you have the theory of what workflows should look like, plus the reality of their weaknesses, you can start optimizing and improving workflows based on the analysis results.

To close the example financial gap detected in project-quoting workflows, you might decide to implement project and service management automation (PSM) that bridges the gap between your CRM and accounting or HR platforms.

A PSM solution integrated as part of your CRM interface allows project timekeeping factors to be captured without re-keying errors at any stage of project lifecycles—the result is more accurate project quoting.

Strategies for further improving Workflow Optimization in Professional Service Organizations
The best part of workflow management in professional service organizations is that one discovery leads to another; unearthing one profit and loss factor in the project life cycle often leads to unearthing more.

1. Standardizing Departmental Processes

Leaders that undertake workflow management incentives should aim to pull on that thread continually by standardizing processes across departments, such as data-sharing and essential timekeeping. The more this can be supported with the right integrated tools that leave nothing to chance, the better.

2. Integrate the right technologies
Having a CRM and ERP doesn’t guarantee comprehensive P&L data capture across project lifecycles. Workflow management can be significantly assisted by technology that breaks down those information silos so that the correct information is relayed end-to-end.

3. Automating elimination of human error
For example, the TimeLinx Accounting Package (TAP), or any similar integration package, banishes time-consuming and error-prone re-entry of data across multiple applications—all while relaying financial data bidirectionally between your CRM, accounting/ERP, and PSM platforms.

# # #

About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.