Best software for consultants: 6 types to consider in 2024

written by
Ellen Darbyshire
Mar 14, 2024
minutes read

Software for consultants is designed to help consulting firms manage their everyday operational processes and tasks, so your consultants can keep focused on actually delivering their work.

The potential value of consulting software doesn’t stop there, though—beyond reducing time spent on admin, the right software can actually transform the profitability of your business.

If you’ve decided it’s time to implement a software solution in your own consulting business, then you’ve come to the right place!

 In this complete guide, we’ll take you through some of the different types of software for consultants, the key features you can expect from each system, and the benefits of using them to manage your processes:

  • Project management software
  • Time management software
  • Resource management software
  • Customer relationship management software
  • Project accounting software
  • PSA software

By understanding the diverse range of software solutions on offer in the consulting market and the impact they can have on your firm, you’ll be ready to invest in your business and take your operations to the next level

Project management software

An example of a project planning Gantt chart from CMap PSA software

As consulting firms are project-based businesses, project management software often seems to be the next logical step when you make the jump from spreadsheets or pen and paper.

Standalone project management software is delivery-centric. This means it helps consulting firms actually deliver their work, facilitate task management and manage projects efficiently—basically, your “in the weeds” stuff.

At their most basic level, consulting project management tools allow you to create, assign, and track tasks so you can stay on top of the individual activities within a project.

Some more advanced project management tools may also provide automation features to streamline your workflows, visualization of key milestones with charts and reports, and the option to collaborate with both internal and external people on the project.

For smaller consulting firms, these standalone project management tools can be a great option to give you basic visibility over a project and keep your consultants on track as you manage the granularity of your projects. 

However, as the size of your firm increases, so does the complexity of your operational processes—which means if you’re looking for software that will give you insights into how those projects play into the overall health of your firm, you may need to look for an integrated solution. 

But more on that later…

Key features of project management software

Key functionality to look for in project management software for consultants includes:

  • Task management
  • Project templates
  • Budget tracking
  • Project dashboards

Time management software

An example of timesheet functionality from CMap PSA software

The other logical step you may take on your search for the perfect software for consultants is time management software. This is because, of course, consulting businesses sell time (as projects).

Time management software offers functionality like timesheets to track the amount of time your consultants spend on a project, so clients can be billed accurately.

If timesheets are regularly completed, by everyone who needs to complete them, and with a high level of accuracy, then you’ll prevent under-reporting costs or over-reporting profit.

As these timesheets feed into your financial reporting, it’s critical that they’re accurate and up-to-date. That’s why it’s important that your chosen time management software is intuitive and easy-to-use, so it becomes a painless task for your employees.

Having time management software that also functions on a mobile app is also particularly beneficial as it allows your staff to complete their timesheets anywhere, at any time—no more excuses!

Key features of time management software

Key functionality to look for in time management software for consultants includes:

  • Timesheet submissions
  • Billable vs non-billable hours
  • Task and activity descriptions

Resource management software

An example of a resourcing dashboard from CMap PSA software

Resource management is often the first operational process that growing consulting firms see break.

It’s also arguably the most important operational process for any professional services firm—people are, after all, your most valuable assets—and so it’s not one you can allow to slip through the cracks.

Most resource management software helps consultants see the utilization rate of their employees, so you can manage peaks and troughs of capacity and demand, and allocate resources to projects.

While some resource management tools only offer resource allocation functionality (generally as part of a wider project management package), others may provide tools like skills and competencies matrixes, capacity forecasting, and even HR integrations.

Key features of resource management software

Key functionality to look for in resource management software for consultants includes:

  • Resource allocation
  • Utilization calculation
  • Capacity planning and forecasting
  • Skills matrixes

Customer relationship management (CRM) software

An example of a CRM dashboard from CMap PSA software

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a great addition to your toolbelt if you want to keep existing clients happy and find new opportunities with potential clients.

Managing multiple clients can become tricky, especially when they’re multiple clients with multiple different needs and you’re having multiple conversations!

Acting as a central repository for all your key client data, sales leads, and communication history, a CRM will help you manage your pipeline and cut through the noise of your potential opportunities, giving you the best chance to secure your work.

As well as helping you convert leads into loyal clients, customer relationship software can also enable you to identify opportunities to collect powerful social proof, like client testimonials or case studies, which can be leveraged throughout the sales process.

It’s also important to understand how your CRM fits into your wider tech ecosystem. This can be done at its simplest level by ticking items off a checklist when a project is won, but when you’re operating at scale, industrializing this process through technological integrations may be your best bet.

Key features of customer relationship management software

Key functionality to look for in CRM software for consultants includes:

  • Contact and company management
  • Interaction tracking
  • Job costing and quoting
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Automated workflows
  • Integration capabilities

Project accounting software

An example of a project accounting dashboard from CMap PSA software

Project accounting software for consultants helps firms to manage project budgets, track expenses, produce invoices, and more. 

As well as providing an accurate overview of budgets, billing and revenue, project accounting software can also provide keen insight into the overall financial health of your projects.

With standalone project accounting tools, you’ll get these insights at a project-by-project level, but other integrated tools can give you visibility over the financial fitness of your entire firm.

Key features of project accounting software

Key functionality to look for in project accounting software for consultants includes:

  • Budgeting and cost estimation
  • Expense tracking
  • Revenue recognition and forecasting
  • Profitability analysis
  • Integration capabilities

Professional services automation (PSA) software

Now that you’ve seen the different types of standalone software solutions for consultants, it’s time to take a look at professional services automation (PSA) software.

PSA software takes all of the systems mentioned above—and often more—and combines them into one centralized, comprehensive platform where you can manage all of the key operational processes.

It’s not just a thing of convenience, though—PSAs keep all of your key data in one place, combining live data with pipeline, so you can get accurate forecasting and data-driven insights.

PSA software for consultants will also often transform your data into automated reports and dashboards, giving you instant visibility over your data and turning it into something you can actually make sense of.

As well as containing many, if not all, of the individual features above, PSAs will also take your operational processes to the next level:

  • Project management: We talked about the typical delivery-centric, task management functionality of project management software earlier; PSAs deliver on operations-centric project management, which means they look at the bigger picture of how your projects play into overall firm performance
  • Time management: Although standalone time management tools do enable you to capture timesheet data, they don’t do anything useful with that data; timesheet data in PSAs automatically flows through to other areas of the system to provide real-time insights like WIP, BvA, and more
  • Resource management: Often the heart of PSA tools, resource management is all about balancing resource demand and capacity; PSAs excel at this by combing live project data with pipeline project data, so you’ll always have a clear view of staff availability and future demand
  • Customer relationship management: CRMs aren’t always a given in PSA systems, but some PSAs such as CMap offer built-in CRM functionality; having a natively integrated PSA and CRM enables you to plan your resourcing with total clarity, as the interplay between pipeline management and resourcing is so crucial for professional services firms
  • Project accounting: As well as managing your project-related expenses and revenues at a project-by-project level, PSAs allow firms to track this across the entire firm; dashboards and automated reports based on your project accounting data give you the clearest view over the financial state of your firm, so you can up your revenue game—most PSAs even integrate with your favorite accounting tools!
  • Customization: In addition to the above features, PSAs are also favored because they’re often highly customizable to meet the unique demands of your specific firm, industry and locality, so you can set your system up in a way that works for you and your staff
  • Integrations: The other great thing about adopting PSA software is that you can often integrate them with your key systems, so the data is carried over and turned into reports that capture the full picture of your business; these include key finance integrations like Xero and QuickBooks, to CRM tools like HubSpot

A recent study from Consultancy BenchPress revealed that 51% of consulting firms who adopted a PSA last year saw an increase in revenue by 26% or more, compared to the 33% of firms with no tools.

Additionally, the same study revealed that there was a 25% increase in the average utilization rate of firms when they adopted a PSA vs no tools—and with resource utilization having such a significant impact on profits, that’s not something to be sniffed at!

Final thoughts

There’s a wide variety of software for consultants out there, but it’s up to you to assess your own firm’s individual needs and factor in elements like industry niches and size.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Mark Sloan, Managing Director at Asaph Advisors, offers a comprehensive breakdown of each level of scale and the essential processes to get right at each size. 

At the end of the day, we can’t overstate the importance of integrating your disparate tools and systems for a comprehensive approach—you’ll really feel the benefit as you start to grow, and you’ll save yourself a significant amount of money in the long run.

For more insights into successful digital transformation and PSA adoption, click here

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