At Full Sail Partners, we firmly believe in the transformative power of the business benchmarking process. It serves as a vital tool that empowers professional services firms like yours to make well-informed decisions, streamline operations, and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. To achieve optimal results, we advocate adopting an approach that encompasses four essential steps. These steps lay the foundation for a comprehensive and effective benchmarking strategy, allowing you to unlock the full potential of your business.
#1 Look for Benchmarking Resources
If you're just getting started in the world of benchmarking, it's always beneficial to get a glimpse of how other professional services firms handle this process and measure up against your own company. There's an abundance of industry experts and organizations out there who generously share valuable insights into their benchmarking practices.
By taking advantage of these resources, you'll gain valuable knowledge and a broader perspective on benchmarking strategies. You'll be able to see firsthand how successful companies approach this process and uncover valuable tips and tricks to apply within your own professional services firm. So, don't hesitate to tap into this wealth of information and discover the key to benchmarking excellence.
Here are a few of our personal favorite resources that you'll want to check out:
- Hinge Marketing
- Society for Marketing Professional Services
- Vision Edge Marketing
There are countless other companies and organizations out there who are also avid benchmarkers, so don't hesitate to explore further and discover even more insightful resources.
#2 Choose Your KPIs to Measure Success
This is where we get to choose the meaningful measurements that will serve as your benchmarks or standards. Don't worry, we've got an array of exciting key performance indicators (KPIs) to explore—financial and project-related statistics that provide valuable insights into your professional services firm's performance. It’s like finding the perfect recipe for success!
In the world of professional services firms, there's a whole bunch of KPIs that can help you gauge your organization's financial and operational health. Here are some of the widely used favorites:
- Accounts Receivable
- Average Collection Period
- Chargeable Ratio
- Chargeable Ratio times Net Multiplier
- Current Ratio
- Debt to Equity Ratio
- Employee Realization
- Employee Utilization
- Estimate at Completion (EAC)
- Estimated to Complete (ETC)
- Net Multiplier
- Net Revenue per Technical Staff
- Net Revenue per Total Staff
- Overhead before Discretionary Distributions
- Profit on Net Revenues before Taxes and Distributions
- Return on Owners’ Equity
Now, it's time to do some soul-searching and consider which of these metrics truly encapsulates success for your unique organization. Establish corresponding benchmarks that align with your firm's historical performance, industry surveys, specialized standards, your company's philosophy, or even a delightful combination of factors. The goal is to create a tailored measuring tape that fits your organization like a glove.
When selecting professional services firms to benchmark against, think about factors like industry, geography, and size. The more similarities they share with your firm, the more relevant and valid their metrics will be. It's all about finding those perfect benchmarking buddies who can inspire and guide you toward greatness.
#3 Diligently Track Your Data
With the metrics identified and the benchmarks set to evaluate your professional services firm's performance, it's time to engage in diligent data tracking. Fortunately, there are various options available to streamline this process.
While traditional methods like one-off spreadsheets and makeshift workarounds may seem tempting, we highly recommend exploring sophisticated software packages tailored to your specific needs. These solutions range from advanced accounting software that effectively monitors financial statistics to specialized project management tools designed to meticulously track individual projects.
However, allow me to introduce an even more compelling alternative: a purpose-built Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system such as Deltek Vantagepoint. This comprehensive solution seamlessly integrates data from both the front office (project-related activities) and the back office (accounting operations). Imagine having a reliable sidekick that offers real-time, comprehensive visibility into all the aforementioned metrics. But it doesn't stop there—Deltek Vantagepoint also optimizes project and staff oversight, automates manual processes (including Customer Relationship Management and business development), and significantly enhances operational efficiency.
Whether you opt for a combination of software programs or embrace the unified power of Deltek Vantagepoint, it is essential to utilize consistent and continuous data collection. This is an ongoing endeavor that ensures you stay well-informed and propels your professional services firm towards remarkable achievements. So, let's implement robust systems, leverage cutting-edge technology, and diligently track that data to stay ahead of the curve as accomplished benchmarkers.
#4 Use Your Benchmarks to Make Data-Driven Decisions
This is where we close the loop and ensure that the right data reaches the right people in a timely manner. It's all about fostering a management commitment to utilizing data for decision making and trust me, it's a game-changer.
Imagine this scenario: You have schedule-based metrics at your disposal. Not only do they help you determine if a project is currently on budget, but they also shed light on whether it will ultimately stay within the overall budget. If the Estimate at Completion (EAC) surpasses the overall budget, management faces a pivotal choice. They might decide to reduce future expenditures or accept that the project will go over budget, while also identifying where the slippage occurred (perhaps those additional services contracts slipped through the cracks). Mind you, this is just one example. Depending on the specific underperforming metric and the degree of deviation from the desired benchmark, management will have an array of options and decisions to make.
Now, let's uncover the secret to success in this phase of the benchmarking process: granting management access to all the vital metrics at any given moment. While manual methods can be employed to gather and present this information, there's a far more efficient way to do it—automated KPI dashboards. These customizable features, available in Deltek Vantagepoint, serve as your trusty sidekick, delivering essential data to management in a snap.
By embracing this data-driven decision-making approach, you unlock the power to steer your professional services firm with precision and confidence. So, let's ensure the flow of valuable insights reaches decision-makers in a timely manner, empowering them to make informed choices that propel your company to new heights of success.
Don’t Wait, Start Now!
Regardless of the approach you choose to identify and track your professional services firm's benchmarking information, rest assured that the process yields substantial dividends. It grants your firm a more relevant and up-to-date understanding of its performance, positioning you for success. Equally important, it enables proactive measures to address underlying issues before they escalate into significant challenges, thereby increasing the likelihood of achieving both project and financial success.
The future of a professional services firm's success begins with benchmarking. Embrace it, harness it, and let it guide us towards a prosperous tomorrow.