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Four Key Strategic Solutions for Professional Services Firms

SAP S/4HANA, Professional Services, sap analytics cloud

Four Key Strategic Solutions for Professional Services Firms

NIMBL | Dec 20, 2021

Working with clients to design creative solutions in S/4HANA Cloud and SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC)

Businesses in the professional services industry are increasingly reliant on digital solutions that help align talent around the world and automate business tasks. These firms cover a wide range of services, from business consulting, accountancy, and financial services to advertising, public relations, and architecture. But they face similar challenges.  To overcome them, businesses that sell professional services require a strong digital infrastructure, customized for the distinct business model, in order to provide the data and flexibility needed for smart business decisions. 

To meet this need, NIMBL has worked with its clients to design and build multiple creative solutions in both S/4HANA Cloud and SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC). These solutions provide a digital infrastructure for tracking employee and contractor hours, billing those hours, and other workforce and planning needs unique to professional services firms. These four key tools are available to professional services firms to optimize processes and provide strategic insights:

1. Pay Bill - Managing Contractor Payments in SAP

The use of independent contractors is increasingly common and cost-efficient in professional services companies, but it requires a sophisticated approach to manage and pay them. Unlike employees that get paid regularly via payroll, independent contractors (ICs) may request payment when their work on a project is completed, even if the firm’s client hasn’t yet paid for the project. This process is even more difficult to manage when firms are working with multiple contractors on various projects and have to track contract terms and pay-by dates. 

S/4HANA Cloud allows projects to be coded for systematic identification, and NIMBL’s custom Pay Bill extension provides a way to solve the challenges related to paying contractors. To use the solution, a firm provides unique codes to its ICs, who include them on their invoices. When the firm receives the invoice, the charges are verified against the business’ records and entered into S/4HANA Cloud. If the end client has paid, the invoice is released for payment to the IC. If the firm hasn’t yet received payment, an intelligent robotic process automation (iRPA) bot checks payment terms, and if those terms are met, processes the invoice.  

The Pay Bill solution gives professional services firms the confidence to use contractors without taking financial risks or dipping into capital reserves. Firms can fill gaps temporarily while they search for skilled labor or build long-lasting relationships with contractors that help them get projects across the finish line.

2. Customizable Project Planning Workflow 

Project management teams in professional services firms need to plan for projects before they go live, ensuring the projects follow a logical workflow, all tasks are assigned, and necessary resources are available. Instead of tracking project approvals and discussions through emails, calls, or homegrown solutions with spreadsheets, these teams can utilize an S/4HANA Cloud extension to automate the process and ensure only data relevant to active projects are sent to the company ERP. 

The side-by-side extension allows a manager to enter information about a project and automatically alert accounting for billing information or share data necessary to other workflows. It also includes the ability to customize fields, so stakeholders can share precise information that other decision makers might need, as well as notifications to executives for final approvals. The software - not the project manager or staff member - enforces the process and document approvals from all stakeholders, saving time and helping to send solid proposals out the door sooner. 

Because the solution is a side-by-side extension rather than an integration, project managers can use the application for workflow planning but only send confirmed and approved project data to the ERP from SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) via APIs. That way, the data developed around planning and workflows can remain independent of your ERP until the project is active. 

3. Time Tracking Made Easy

Tracking time for a team of 20 or more employees/contractors can be a complex and time-intensive task, especially if they live in different locations with unique employee break laws and requirements. Unfortunately, time-clock solutions at professional service companies may not precisely track time, which can cause serious implications for not getting it right. 

Professionals traditionally don’t punch a time clock, but businesses that essentially sell their staff’s time require a prudent level of time tracking. That’s why NIMBL created a time-clock extension for SAP S/4HANA that takes time tracking to the next level. When an employee logs into the SAP system to begin work, the time-clock extension logs their time. It also enforces policies for breaks, reminding employees when it’s time for a 15-minute or meal break, logging the time employees take and when they return to work. The extension automatically shares data with HR and payroll for accurate accounting and to project managers to give them visibility into the hours their teams are working. 

Professional team members no longer have to interrupt their work to fill a timesheet, and managers aren’t required to review sheets for accuracy and enter data into the ERP. The solution can also help enhance work culture because it puts managers and employees on the same page regarding breaks. 

4. Collaborative Workforce Planning

It’s a too-common practice for finance and human resources to plan in silos with little to no collaboration. Finance teams don’t get to see the impact that headcount or salary adjustments have on financial forecasts, making it difficult to adjust drivers and perform “what-if” scenarios based on varying rates, new hires or compensation adjustments. 

NIMBL has created a solution for SAC to address professional services firms’ unique workforce planning challenges that also integrates into their workforce payroll systems (including ADP, Workday, Oracle HCM, etc.). It enables HR planning and financial forecasting, expanding upon an ERP’s master data with additional dimensions customized to company needs, such as employee level and clients. 

NIMBL’s workforce planning solution allows firms to manage HR planning and financial forecasting in a single platform, which promotes collaboration and planning across an enterprise. NIMBL can build custom calculations based on specific drivers that can be easily adjusted through the inputs, giving a snapshot of how headcount, total revenue, and average utilization trend during the year. 

The Value of Integration and Digitization for Professional Services 

Providing professional services requires a strong digital infrastructure customized to provide the flexibility needed for unique payroll situations, time-tracking, project planning, and more. NIMBL is passionate about helping professional services companies reap the benefits of integrated operations and business systems through SAP. We have extensive experience with SAP solutions, lending an edge to our carefully designed extensions and informed consultations. 

To learn more about SAP S4/HANA, SAP Analytics Cloud and to see all of its powerful capabilities for your company, request a live demo from NIMBL today!




Written by NIMBL