Increasing Productivity and Profitability

Professional services firms are accelerating business success with automation.

by David A. Kelly, August 2008
The demand for comprehensive global project management and predictive service execution capabilities continues to drive professional services companies. Today, those companies have to worry about attracting new clients, retaining key talent, and ensuring efficient—and profitable—delivery of services. Two different companies—one with a renowned history in the computer industry that has recently transformed its core mission, the other an up-and-coming consultancy with an eye to the future—are meeting the challenges of professional services delivery with technology that’s powering efficient, cost-conscious business management.

 

Unisys: Accelerating value with professional service automation

Over the past few years, IT services giant Unisys has embarked on one of the most extensive makeovers in the industry, refocusing itself from a hardware-oriented company to one focused on services and solutions.

At the same time, Unisys has also transformed its IT infrastructure. The company has reduced the total number of applications in its portfolio by 35 percent, decreased its server footprint by 50 percent through virtualization, increased its use of off-the-shelf applications to 60 percent, and achieved costs per end user that are 30 percent lower than comparable organizations.

But one area that had eluded Unisys’ transformation was critical to its future profitability—the area of resource management and professional service automation (PSA), including project setup, budget and funding, online resource requests, résumé searches, assigning resources to projects, and more. With about 22,000 employees in billable jobs, Unisys had to make sure its consultants focused and executed efficiently.

Change Starts at the Top

That’s why Kevin Kern, who joined Unisys two years ago as CIO, determined that one of his first tasks was putting a viable PSA solution in place. The company had previously tried to roll out a PSA solution, but the project required too much customization. As a result, Kern was tasked by Unisys CEO Joe McGrath to deliver a workable solution.

“I’m biased toward both taking action and putting points on the board as soon as possible. With our business goals, we didn’t have three to five years to create a PSA solution,” says Kern. “We analyzed our needs, simplified our requirements, chose the Oracle solution, and launched our initiative. The result was that we were able to accelerate our PSA solution time to value and enable business and customer value faster than ever before.” Not every company is fortunate enough to experience the success that Unisys has had with its PSA solution, Kern believes. “Many companies come close but never quite optimize PSA. As a result, they miss opportunities,” he says.

Unisys needed an integrated solution that wouldn’t require significant customization and that could manage its consulting resources and engagements from opportunity to booking. A key criterion for the solution was the ability to provide resource optimization for local and global resources—matching the right people with the right job at the right time. But the solution also needed to provide a variety of capabilities—including workflow for automated actions and approvals, integrated resources, project and financial planning, easy-to-use reporting, and efficient data entry.

Kern’s CEO had emphasized that professional service automation and resource management were key priorities—not surprising, considering that approximately 85 percent of Unisys’ revenue is derived from services. Unisys not only needed more control over those services and costs, but it also required an innovative solution that would help fuel future growth and highlight the benefits of PSA.

The right PSA solution would allow Unisys to align its resources to the highest-value projects and optimize its IT resource utilization. Within a short period of time, Unisys had selected a set of Oracle products, including Oracle Project Management and Oracle Project Resource Management, as the basis for its PSA solution. Both products are part of Oracle E-Business Suite’s Projects applications and are designed to help organizations manage the capacity and deployment of people and assets for project work, empowering users with the information to make the best decisions possible. In addition, Unisys uses Oracle’s project costing, project billing, time and labor, and financials applications to help complete many of its key business processes.

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