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What is the best cloud based ERP for a small professional services company?

Answers

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Assuming your needs are somewhat "vanilla" your starter list could include:

Acumatica
FinanceForce
IntAcct
NetSuite

it could extend to:

Fusion Financials
Workday

Depending on your needs, some vendors above may incorporate a partner add-on to provide certain functionality.

How well defined are your needs:
Strategic direction?
Organization (who does what/who should do what, where, how many)?
Functional (how good are your processes/what pains exist)?
Technical (integration with other business systems)?
Financial (budget, TCOTS target)?

If you can share more info, we may be able to refine responses.
Regards
Len
"An Ounce of Selection is Worth a Pound of Implementation"

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Quickbooks

Jim Burtt
Title: Director Global Financial Systems & Proc..
Company: formerly at Guidewire Software, Inc.
(Director Global Financial Systems & Processes, formerly at Guidewire Software, Inc.) |

If at all possible, subscribe to one platform that takes care of both ERP and PSA. Otherwise, your accounting group will be mired in manually transforming the PSA transactions to speak ERPese every month. We use Intacct for ERP and a legacy PSA that we integrated. The most complex functionality of PSA for us was billing (review your contractual terms) and intercompany chargebacks. Good luck!

John Kogan
Title: CEO/CFO
Company: Proformative, Inc.
(CEO/CFO, Proformative, Inc.) |

I thoroughly agree with Jim. Consolidating on one system for ERP and PSA makes sense from many angles and will not only improve your consolidation, but many operational elements of your business as well without the headache of version lock, which you will repeatedly face if you are trying to keep two major systems in lockstep.

Topic Expert
Bob Stenz
Title: Controller
Company: Silicon Valley start-up
(Controller, Silicon Valley start-up) |

Jim/John, Thanks for making the distinction between PSA and ERP. That said, I'm left wondering which ERP systems from Len's list include PSA?

Anonymous
(Consultant) |

That would be Intacct. They have PSA resource planning and billing that is not a third party solution so it fully integration from the front to the back end in managing projects.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

When you ask about Professional Services company you need to be prepared to speak about how integrated you need time keeping to be in the accounting system. If you are billing on an hourly basis, the inputs of time entry will drive your revenue and billing, your payroll, and your accounts receivable sub ledger to a greater degree than you actually realize when you start thinking about systems.

The complexity of your organization chart and various employee benefits are an issue if they are costed to a complex structure.

One think that is invariably missed in implementation requirements is how the employees are charged to jobs. If you need an employee to be charged to multiple jobs owned by various manager organizations or cost centers you need a payroll system that will allow this multiple use coding of employee time and expenses to multiple clients.

Most people get excited by the sales pitch but they forget about integration at the very beginning of the financial flow (time entry). The system needs to work the same for small company with a few employees as it will for a large company with thousands.

The best advice is to decide what project reporting you need in tandem with your billing cycles, then look at integration with time keeping related to the A/R billing. Think about the different billing cycles you have and the types of billable contracts that you have. And then also think about the document management part of the equation because many times the failure is in contract management not accounting.

Implementing a system will require an IT department or contracted support, and it will require different roles and layers of accounting staff and inputs from your sales team.

I have worked with Compuware and had to correct a complex revenue and billing implementation that went sideways. Compuware does not have a GL date as part of its design, so you will have to rely on the A/R system you are using for that which means you will need a very complex Excel based reconciliation process that will drive dollars and frustration into your backoffice. It all sounds great in the pitch but unless you know how to implement it, I would look for something that needs less IT support on a daily basis.

Without more information its hard to provide any recommendations.

Intacct works very well for service based businesses and integrates with many many SAAS services.

For professional services - its the timekeeping integration and reporting capability and the cross charging of employees that will kill you if you don't get it right as I said.

Been there, done that, don't want to do it again. Choose wisely or it will cost you a few hundred thousand to rework until you get it right. Perhaps your situation is not very complex.

Lynne Taylor
Title: Principal
Company: Cloud Accounting Services for Enterprise..
(Principal, Cloud Accounting Services for Enterprises) |

FinancialForce has one of the best PSA products on the market and it integrates seamlessly with the FinancialForce Accounting application. Both apps are built on the Salesforce force.com platform and are used by professional services firms around the world of varying sizes.

Jim Burtt
Title: Director Global Financial Systems & Proc..
Company: formerly at Guidewire Software, Inc.
(Director Global Financial Systems & Processes, formerly at Guidewire Software, Inc.) |

Unless a PSA system comes already integrated with ERP, there is likely a major integration effort in the works unless you want your accounting department to manually transform every transaction at month-end. It depends on the complexity of your business needs. If the systems were developed separately, their core assumptions are going to be different, e.g. - month-end cutoff, multi-currency, pricing, discounting, bundled products, fixed fee vs. variable rate billing, VSOE, rev rec, taxability, profit centers, sales credit, and intercompany chargebacks. Many master data fields must be aligned, e.g. - legal entity, dept, project, customer, contacts, product.

One of the most important interface points is billing (sales order) to invoicing. The timing of when you send SO lines across the interface can be very tricky. How is WIP treated? Mixing and matching SO lines with invoice lines so that they are presentable to your customers can be complex.

I have not even touched upon timekeeping, labor costs, expense reporting, and billing for expenses.

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