A recent GoSkills article spotlighted a critical gap professional services businesses need to be aware of if they want to achieve hypergrowth. In their article, they reference the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) 2016 Pulse of the Profession report, which states that out of every $1 billion invested in projects, $122 million is wasted due to poor execution. In PMI’s 2017 report, they project that by 2027, employers will need more than 87 million people working in project management related roles. Let those numbers sink in.

The lack of project management skills and the growing need for those skills is one of the biggest threats to the professional services industry. But what is a professional services organization? The professional services industry definition includes pretty much any occupation or skill that can provide a service to other businesses — from law to marketing to HR.

This year, Wrike did a survey measuring the biggest business and professional services project management challenges. The most interesting results? Teams aren’t just facing one main challenge around project management — it’s many challenges intertwined.

For example, when we asked respondents to pick the biggest challenges facing professional services firms, there was a 6-way tie:

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Keeping projects on track, managing different client processes, too many projects, too many manual tasks, consolidating feedback, disconnected tools — is your head spinning yet?

Anyone in the professional services industry can attest that one of their favorite parts of the job is the excitement of facing new and different challenges every day. But it’s not so great when those challenges impact project success. 

To top it off, many folks who go into their professional services roles do it for the passion of their craft — not project management. But having a team with expertise in their field will only get you so far. Your team needs processes that empower members to be project management experts effortlessly.

That’s where a professional services project management template comes in. Although every project is different, there are still many similar steps involved every time. By leveraging those similarities, you can create a structure that streamlines your workflow. Luckily for you, we’ve made you a professional services definition template to help you get started! As you build out your template, consider these 4 benefits. 

4 Reasons to Have a Professional Services Management Template

1. To streamline work intake so you can take on more projects

We’ve all been there. You win a client and dive right into their first project. You know exactly what they want, everyone is aligned on scope, and the project is moving along seamlessly — until you get halfway through and discover you each had totally different visions and expectations. 

The challenge for many professional services companies is the pressure to jump right from acquiring the client into actually working on the project. Successful projects start at kickoff, but they don’t end there. Turning a project concept into a timeline is a challenge! In fact, in our professional services survey, almost 1 in 3 respondents said that project setup, scheduling, assigning resources, and resource management is difficult or very difficult — not to mention time-consuming! 

A professional services project management template helps you balance the art and science of planning, scheduling, and assigning your projects while also saving you time. It doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel every time if your projects all have a similar structure. When the critical structure, steps, and best practices are already there, you can easily flesh out the skeleton provided by a template.

And since you’ll use your template again and again, you can refine your work intake process and project timelines over time, optimizing your work without any extra effort. You’ll be able to more quickly and accurately anticipate labor needs and timelines. That means fewer delays, less confusion, and no more wasting time on the wrong work — ultimately freeing you up to take on more projects and clients. 

For example, here’s how you can streamline your work intake with a template in Wrike

  1. First, build out your professional services management template in Wrike.
  2. Next, set up a customizable request form. You can build a request form for each of your project templates.
  3. Populate your request form with common questions to gather the information you need from your clients before you start the project.
  4. Wrike’s request forms are dynamic so you can designate which questions should be asked next based on a response. This makes it easy to match every project with the right template.
  5. The answers on the form should trigger an auto-populated project using the appropriate prebuilt template.

Having a templatized work intake process saves you time by ensuring that you have everything you need to get started upfront. It also helps your team take the lead. So often, it’s difficult to marry your processes with your clients’. By setting a strong process from the start, clients will be delighted and trust in your expertise, and the consistency will help your team better estimate resources.

2. To consolidate communication and feedback into one place

What’s worse than too many chefs in the kitchen? Crickets. Silence. We’ve all been there when waiting on feedback or approval. In our professional services survey, one of the top reasons for customer churn was communication difficulties and delays. And 28% of respondents said that project collaboration and execution are difficult or very difficult. 

Can the solution to these two challenges be the same? Yes. Having a template in a work management tool like Wrike centralizes the communication process, helping you get the feedback you need and consolidate it effortlessly.

A recent Hinge survey found that 33% of professional services firms cite rapid technological advancement as a major threat. The professional services landscape is shifting dramatically. Many firms have a hard time finding a balance between too many tools and the right tools to leverage with their clients. The right tools help optimize workflow and provide a competitive advantage. 

And too many tools? Well, in our professional services study, we found that professional services companies using 5+ tools experience more project delays than those with fewer tools. Nearly 29% of companies using 5+ tools report that they “always” experience delays. In contrast, just 8% of those using 2-3 tools report projects always being delayed. That’s a 21% difference just by streamlining your tools!

So instead of using IMs, emails, calls, spreadsheets, and meetings to discuss projects, consider consolidating your communication right into your project template. With a platform like Wrike, you can simplify collaboration for everyone. 

A project template in your work management system enables chronological communication right in the task itself so everyone has visibility. With simple @mentions, you can nudge the right person and gather their feedback. Since the task and communication are in the same place, they can see how a delayed response impacts the project and will feel more accountable.

Wrike’s proofing and approvals tool also allows you to upload files right into the task so teams can provide feedback in one place and collaborate in real time. 

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3. To automate manual processes and better utilize your time

Professional services teams and agencies do their best work when they have the time, space, and freedom to channel inspiration. But this doesn’t always happen. It’s easy to get bogged down by ineffective meetings, administrative tasks, or unnecessary back-and-forth. This leads to distractions and inefficiencies, which agencies simply can’t afford.

According to Ad Age’s Agency Report 2017, although total U.S. agency revenue rose 4.4% to $48.3 billion in 2016, the industry saw its slowest growth since 2013. Major consultancies like PwC, IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte are entering the professional services space and eating up major contracts to the tune of $13.2 billion. In the same Hinge survey of high-growth firms, 37% of professional services teams say they face the threat of "downward price pressure/commoditization.” 

Many professional services organizations simply don’t have the resources to compete on price alone and need to find other ways to win in an increasingly competitive market. So how can your team make better use of resources? Automation.

In our survey, about 60% of respondents reported spending 1-3 hours each week updating project statuses, sending update emails, generating status reports, or having status update meetings. 11% of respondents said they spend 4+ hours a week! 

On top of this, 30% said they could achieve 30%-39% more work if technology were able to automate repetitive, administrative parts of their job. 22% even said that they would be able to achieve 50%+ more work.

A template helps you automate time-sucking tasks from billing to updating workflow status. Here are a few tasks you can automate with Wrike’s free professional services management template:

  • Task creation: You can set up your request form to build a project with your prebuilt template. All your tasks are automatically filled out!
  • Dates and dependencies: When you fill out task due dates, dependent tasks will reschedule automatically.
  • Work assignment: You can set your template to automatically assign the right workers to the right projects based on how the request form is filled out. 
  • Workflow status change notifications: You can set your template up to automatically notify clients or team members when work statuses change — no more interrupting or time-consuming email/IM updates!
  • Reporting: Wrike Reporting allows you to save report preferences that will automatically update, providing a real-time dashboard.
  • Time tracking: Wrike can automatically track time on tasks and integrate with your favorite billing tools to make the process seamless.
  • Resource management: When changes occur, you can drag and drop tasks between team members, automatically updating resources.

A template provides a structure that allows you to layer in automation. On top of keeping clients happy and team members organized, automation will become your ultimate competitive advantage. Your team will be more agile and able to utilize their time more efficiently. No matter what type of client personality you’re working with, you’ll be able to keep them in the loop automatically so your team members can stay in the zone, delivering their services.

4. To set expectations and visualize project progress 

One of the most challenging positions professional services leaders find themselves in is breaking the news to their client that a project is delayed. And yet, these delays happen all the time. In fact, 97% of our survey respondents said their projects get delayed to some degree. It’s such a common challenge and it can really impact client and employee satisfaction. While you can’t avoid every delay, a project management template can help solve some of the root issues.

First, a template in a work management tool will have different project views, like a Gantt chart. Your hands-off clients will enjoy being able to get a bird's-eye view of each step. Your hands-on clients will like that they can click into tasks to dig into the details. 

Either way, providing a visual timeline with task dependencies helps your team align expectations with clients from kickoff. Your team will be able to estimate labor and visually identify potential roadblocks. Clients will be able to see where and when they’ll need to take action and how delays on their part will impact the project. And using your template over and over will help you continue to optimize timeframes and workflows — meaning every project will be easier, faster, and better.

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As your project progresses, your template in your work management platform will empower your team to keep the project on track no matter what crosses their path. In our survey, 1 of the top 3 reasons for client churn was lack of visibility into project status. And 22% said that a “dashboard where clients and internal stakeholders can view real-time project progress” would have the biggest positive impact on their business.

When you set up your template, determine the workflow statuses you’ll use to communicate where a project stands, like “planned,” “in progress,” “waiting on others,” or “under review.” If you set up your template in Wrike, clients will be able to view workflow statuses by simply glancing at their dashboard. You can also set up notifications to alert them when statuses have changed. 

Clients will love that your team comes into the project with a project template and clear process they can follow. Not only does it establish your team members as trusted experts, it helps your team stay within their usual workflows instead of always adjusting to the various workflows clients might have. With workflow status and timelines in one place, both team members and clients have the visibility and accountability to keep the project moving.

Check out Wrike's Professional Services Guide here.

Ready to build your professional services management template?

We’re here to help you get started! We’ve built a sample professional services project template to help you plan projects, map tasks to an interactive timeline, track and report on time spent using a timelog, organize deliverables to meet deadlines, and so much more.

Download our professional services template and get a free 2-week trial of Wrike today.