Why a Lengthy PSA Implementation is a Major Red Flag

Does this scenario sound familiar? You are evaluating potential Professional Services Automation (PSA) platforms only to learn that implementing most of them will take upwards of six months. Maybe you had planned on a month or two; maybe you wanted to go live next quarter; but you likely weren't thinking it would take significantly longer.

While implementing a new PSA platform isn’t trivial and requires careful project management and change management, the time to value should be well less than six months. In fact, a long implementation schedule is an indicator of material risks and costs.

Before looking at those risks and costs, let's first review the primary tasks of a PSA implementation. These include:

  • Business requirements gathering
  • Project and change management
  • Platform configuration
  • Data migration
  • Configuration of integrations
  • Testing and remediation
  • Training
  • Communication and go-live coordination

When these tasks are executed in an effective and timely manner, the PSA rollout is almost certain to be a success. When these tasks require many months to complete, the outcome becomes far less certain.

The obvious negative impact of a lengthy implementation is simply that it will cost more than one that is delivered in less time. But, there are other negative implications of a lengthy implementation that should be considered.

Productivity Tax

Generally, the more complex business software is, the longer it takes to deploy. While engineers may be comfortable with complexity, the typical business user is not. Complexity causes a steeper learning curve and levies an ongoing tax on employee productivity. Users may never fully figure out the software and new hires may feel “thrown to the wolves” from a training perspective.

Steve Jobs once said of the battle between complexity and simplicity, “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Building business software that is simple to use is not easy, but it is doable with the right people and processes. When business software is simple, it is quicker to deploy, easier to learn, and less expensive to maintain. A sign of good business software is that users intuitively understand how to use it.

You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. ~Steve Jobs

Far too many PSA platforms are overly complicated and that hurts the company’s productivity during and after the implementation. Complexity in business software is primarily caused by:

  • Incomplete or incorrect functional specifications, often as a result of a flawed vision for the product or feature.
  • Prioritizing speed of development above quality of work. Hasty development leads to compounding technical debt over time.
  • Accommodating numerous one-off features and customizations to win larger customers.
  • Weak software engineering personnel and processes.
  • Weak user interface design personnel and processes.

These mistakes made by PSA vendors cause a meaningful ongoing productivity and financial drain for their customers.

Excessive Internal Costs

The implementation of a PSA platform requires time and dedication from both the vendor team and the customer team. PSA customers tend to underestimate both the amount of time they will need to dedicate as well as the number of personnel. Additionally, since the PSA deployment is mission critical to the business, many of those personnel will be senior level (and expensive).

Each of the following groups within a professional services company will play an important role in the PSA implementation:

  • Corporate IT – The IT team will execute tasks related to security, single sign on (SSO), integrations, and compliance.
  • Professional Services Organization (PSO) Leadership – PSO leadership typically “owns” the PSA implementation and must be regularly involved in meetings, oversight, and validation.
  • Project Management Office (PMO) – Project managers are usually the heaviest users of a PSA platform and should be engaged in system configuration, project templating, and workflow optimization.
  • Data Migration Personnel – The most time-consuming component of a PSA implementation is the migration of data from a legacy system to the new system.
  • Human Resources – The HR team will need to ensure that onboarding/offboarding is seamless and that HRIS integrations are working properly.
  • Finance – The finance team will be involved in the integration of the accounting system as well as standards related to billing and revenue recognition.
  • Developers – If any custom integrations or applications are needed before go-live, internal software engineering team members will deliver that work.
  • Company Leadership – While company leaders likely will not have a day-to-day role in the PSA implementation, they will need to regularly communicate the importance of the initiative and provide support and resources.

As you can tell from the list above, it takes a village to implement a PSA platform. All things being equal, you’d like that village to deliver the work in four or five weeks instead of four or five months.

Extensive Training

A long implementation timeframe is correlated to system complexity and the need for comprehensive user training. The more the complex the software is, the more extensive the training will need to be.

Typically, the PSA vendor will provide initial training before the go-live date. But, that training won't benefit the employees that are hired in the future. The vendor will likely not provide regular training sessions for future personnel and thus the company will need to invest the time and money to develop and administer its own training program.

When business software is intuitive and has a simple user experience, minimal training is needed. Users simply "get it" within a matter of minutes and training materials can be brief and self-service. Systems that require minimal training enable maximal business productivity.

Bugs and Performance Issues

To win new customers, software sales teams sometimes promise one-off features and customizations of their platform. Those customizations take time and push out the implementation effort. On the surface, the customizations seem like a big win for the customer. After all, the customer is getting functionality that is tailored to their business needs.

The problem with one-off customizations is that they cause software to be more fragile. With cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, the software executes on the vendor’s servers within their data center. Every one-off customization is typically part of the same codebase even though each customization may only be available to one customer. That one-off programming muddies up the codebase and has negative ripple effects.

Invariably, the one-off code eventually causes errors, or worse, a system outage. If the one-off customization was developed years ago, it is quite possible that the original engineer who wrote the code is no longer employed by the vendor. This extends the amount of time it takes for the vendor to identify and cure the problem. In short, PSA vendors that allow one-off code changes end up with software that breaks easily and negatively impacts the productivity of their customers.

Ongoing Administration

Software systems that take a long time to deploy often require dedicated internal administration. With a complex PSA platform that takes a long time to deploy, it is not uncommon for companies to dedicate an employee to the management and administration of the platform. This can easily add upwards of $100,000 to the annual expense of running the PSA platform. Complexity comes with a heavy total cost of ownership.

Onboarding with Ruddr

PSA initiatives can be expensive and they are not without risk. The longer the implementation period, the greater the cost and risk. Ruddr was architected from the ground up to be intuitive and simple, lowering both the cost and risk. Ruddr offers two onboarding options which are Basic Onboarding and Advanced Onboarding. Small companies can even opt for self-service onboarding. Ruddr's Basic Onboarding is typically a one-to-three week engagement and the Advanced Onboarding is three-to-six weeks. By building simplicity into every aspect of the product, Ruddr allows customers of any size to get up and running efficiently.

About Ruddr

Ruddr is the modern Professional Services Automation platform. Our mission is simple. We exist to help professional services organizations achieve remarkable results. From opportunity management through invoicing, Ruddr is an end-to-end platform that is uniquely tailored to the professional services industry.
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