For the past several years, many companies have been endeavouring to send paper-based processes the way of the dodo bird. If Changepoint Corp. has anything to say about it, its professional services automation (PSA) solutions will be another step down that road.
Originally targeted at fee-for-professional-services organizations – most often IT consulting companies – Changepoint’s customer base has broadened into other organizations facing similar challenges, including healthcare consultants and corporate IT departments that are seeking to run like companies. According to Changepoint’s Richmond Hill, Ont.-based vice-president of marketing Chuck Tatham, this solution is appropriate for any organization with employees in disparate locations (See: “You can build it,” April 5, 2002, page 8).
“Many of our customers have very large companies with a presence in all major cities. Our PSA solution offloads the burden of having to manage a monolithic structure,” he said. “The mandate of PSA software is to improve performance through the application of business software.”
The Changepoint PSA solution provides a single, unified user interface, and is designed to ensure that the workflow within end-to-end business processes is seamless. The solution breaks performance down into two core elements: operational efficiency and employee productivity. Tatham explained that operational efficiency revolves around ways to do more with what you already have, and focuses on how to reduce costs associated with delivering services. The employee productivity element allows companies to manage people in a unified environment by having reports on time and activities.
“It’s an opportunity around guiding individuals’ behaviours. For instance, if a company wants to accelerate time to invoice, they can put a target in front of people. If the targets are achieved, the employees can be rewarded or recognized, but if they don’t, corrective action can be taken,” Tatham continued.
For Durham, N.C.-based Clarkston Group, a management and technology consulting firm that creates and implements business strategies, Changepoint’s PSA solution integrated its business development cycle, consulting service delivery and back office functions.
Kimberly Barnes, a project manager at Clarkston, explained some of the benefits of the PSA solution.
“Knowing where people from our consulting organization are at any particular time and knowing who is available from our organization to be staffed on projects is a huge benefit,” she said. “With everything in real time, it’s really improved our process.”
Part of the reason that Changepoint’s PSA solution has worked so well for Clarkston is that the application is entirely Web enabled; 80 per cent of Clarkston’s workforce is mobile.
“Everyone has access to Changepoint,” Barnes said. “The 220 employees – in sales, project management, senior management and operational management – have access to the PSA every day. It’s given us a lot more control.”
According to Kazim Isfahani of the Robert Frances Group in Westport, Conn., the biggest challenge with adopting a solution such as Changepoint’s PSA is dealing with internal politics.
“It’s very difficult to bring in systems like these because they’re essentially cultural overhaul systems. Employees aren’t used to entering in time for tasks, or being monitored or evaluated so it can be difficult to put in place. Training and education go hand in hand with the implementation of a product like this,” Isfahani said.
Clarkston training manager Dima Khatib agreed, and maintained that part of the success with the implementation was focusing on change management.
“We got everyone through the process within two weeks. We wanted to make sure that project managers had a heads up in terms of changes coming through, and that there was regular communication company-wide,” she said. “In some cases there were misconceptions and confusion, but in other cases there was interest and understanding. It was important to manage that well.”
In terms of ROI, Clarkston expects to meet its payback goal within a year of installation.
“A lot of the benefits aren’t quantifiable, but the simple ability to generate invoices faster means that our clients can pay us faster,” Barnes said.
The Changepoint PSA solution is built on standard Microsoft-based technology, and uses SQL and IIS servers. According to Tatham, the solution is modular and can be scaled by “throwing hardware at it.” The solution can manage up to 10,000 employees and is able to integrate with existing applications.
“We lean on what a customer already has,” Tatham said. “Whatever they have in the back office – Oracle Financials or PeopleSoft or SAP – we integrate with.”
The Changepoint XML integration platform standardizes access to Changepoint information in an open XML format, which means that any outside system can communicate with Changepoint in real-time by sending pre-formatted text information via the Internet. This information can originate from any system including a Mainframe or AS/400. Both push and pull capabilities are supported, and other integration can be added with little configuration required on the Changepoint end.