Meet Carly. She runs her own architecture firm focused on commercial projects, and she has a dedicated team of nine employees who help her complete plans for new construction and redevelopments.
As much as Carly likes to think she’s detail-oriented and organized, she’s come to the realization that her firm’s internal processes could use a little fine-tuning.
While every project eventually gets completed, progress often resembles a ping-pong ball bouncing wildly around a room. One team member checks off one task without notifying others. The client provides feedback in a variety of email threads and document comments. Important notes get missed, and it’s hard to tell which plan draft is the most updated one.
Carly knows that her team could be a lot more effective and efficient, and she’s considering investing in workflow software to make this happen.
What exactly is workflow software?
It might seem like a fancy buzzword, but workflow software (which you might also hear referred to as workflow automation software, workflow management software, or workflow process software) is actually pretty straightforward: It’s a digital tool you can use to organize and oversee all of your work processes.
With business workflow software, you can map out the steps it takes to complete projects and then easily check off tasks and track progress.
Doing so offers numerous benefits, including centralizing communication, improving collaboration, increasing visibility across the team, and empowering you to take a more structured and streamlined approach to your work — especially for projects and tasks that you do frequently. Because once you land on the magic formula, you want to repeat it again and again, right?
Those are advantages that would make any team bust out their best happy dance, but these perks are especially valuable for professional services teams.
Wondering if you count as part of the professional services sector? This category includes any person or organization who provides a knowledge-based service to their clients. That could run the gamut from accountants and architects to lawyers and marketing consultants.
People in these types of businesses obviously want their operations to run as smoothly as possible so that they can better serve their clients, improve their reputations, and, ultimately, boost their bottom lines.
But there are plenty of hurdles they need to make it over in order to deliver their best work time and time again. That’s why we’re breaking down some of the major professional services responsibilities and roadblocks — and how even simple workflow software can help you cross the finish line in record time.
Use workflow software to streamline collaboration with external clients
When you work in professional services, serving your clients is how you pay your bills and keep the lights on. But that level of collaboration is tough — especially when you’re working for people who aren’t under the same roof (and, cough, have a lot of opinions about how the work gets done).
In our own study of the top project management challenges for professional services teams, 27% of respondents cited managing different clients’ processes and requirements as the top challenge their team faces. Another 21% said that consolidating feedback and communication across various spreadsheets, email threads, and more was a major hurdle.
That’s where workflow software comes into play.
You can use it with all of your internal team members to manage and chip away at projects. But you can also give your external clients, vendors, and subcontractors access to check in on status, leave comments, provide approvals, and generally monitor progress, all within the platform.
Worthwhile workflow analysis software or workflow diagram software should allow you to specify different levels of permissions. In Wrike, for example, you can set access roles that dictate what different users can see and what actions they can take.
With this system in place, you’ll spend less time going back and forth chasing down the information you need and trying to figure out exactly where a project stands. Plus, your clients are bound to appreciate the streamlined and straightforward collaboration that doesn’t clog up their inboxes.
Use workflow software to maximize your billable hours
You pride yourself on being reasonable and honest with your clients, especially when it comes to your billable hours. You and your team only charge for the time you spend actually making measurable progress on those client projects and not for any of the other behind-the-scenes, administrative stuff that has to happen.
But let’s face it: There’s a lot of groundwork that needs to get done, and it’s really dragging down your utilization rate. You feel like you’re only able to bill for about half of your team’s time (when you really want to be aiming for a rate of at least 75%).
The good news is that workflow software makes it easy to handle these important tasks, like organizing resources, creating templates, and standardizing your work processes. Getting all of that in place saves you time on future projects and, as a result, boosts the amount of time you’re actually able to bill for.
When it actually comes time to send that invoice? Workflow software makes that step easier too.
According to our study, one-third of respondents said that it takes them two to three hours each week to track their billable hours. And about one in 10 said it actually takes them more than four hours each and every week.
The right workflow software will automatically track hours and completed tasks to be added to your invoice. Select Wrike plans include seamless billing as well. You’ll spend less time collecting your money and more time earning it.
Use workflow software to take on more clients and projects
As someone who works in professional services, what’s your most precious resource? It’s time.
That’s one of the biggest frustrations related to a service-oriented business model — your income is directly tied to your time, and there are only so many hours in the day.
To make more money, you need to take on more clients and projects. But to take on more clients, you need more time. And in order to make more time, you need to hire, which requires more money. Are you seeing the vicious cycle here?
That’s why it’s important to optimize your existing hours as best as you can, and workflow software will help you do that.
With organized processes and automation, you’ll save time in doing the initial legwork for projects, going back and forth with your clients, generating reports, and completing your billing tasks. Those are extra hours that can be dedicated to new clients and projects, which will ultimately boost your bottom line.
Our survey found that teams that utilize workflow automation can manage 50% more projects. And three in 10 respondents said they could achieve 30 to 39% more work if technology could automate repetitive, administrative parts of their job. One in five said they could actually achieve 50% more work.
So stop wasting your team’s time and energy on to-dos that could easily be removed from their plates by workflow automation software.
Help your professional services team get more done (with fewer headaches)
Remember Carly and her architecture firm from our opening anecdote? Well, by now, it seems obvious what she needs to take her business and her operations to the next level — workflow software.
Using this sort of tool to systemize their workflows and automate repetitive tasks, Carly and her team can expect numerous advantages, including:
- Improving internal and external communication with workflow software
- Maximizing their billable hours
- Opening up time for more clients and projects
Do you want your own professional services team to reap similar benefits? We certainly can’t blame you.
Wrike is a great workflow software option that will streamline how you get projects accomplished so you can focus on what really matters — delivering your highest quality work to your clients. Start your free trial of Wrike today.