At a recent PSVillage event, a senior executive of Tenrox gave me a copy of Rudolf Melik’s book “The Rise of the Project Workforce” (Wiley ISBN 978-0-470-12430-7). Rudolf is a co-founder of Tenrox – a PSA (professional services automation) software provider.
The book is written in three parts. The first looks at project work in the modern age. This section deals with accounting, regulatory (e.g., SarbOx) and global workforce issues that confront project and service operations leaders. If you have been recently elevated to a senior services position, the first five chapters of this book will give you a great overview of the challenges you will no doubt face.
The middle of the book deals with the operational practices service leaders should have in place to run a services group well. These practices, coupled with a good PSA solution, would help a services group operate efficiently and effectively. This book identifies the minimum requisites and several of the best practices needed for a services group to succeed. I am relatively certain the people at Tenrox could wax eloquently as to hundreds of other practices that could have been included in this book but then the book would be several hundred pages longer.
The last third of the book concerns implementation of a PSA or PPM (project portfolio management) solution. The discussion here covers topics like best-of-breed solutions, SOA (services oriented architecture), etc. The key insights center around the ability of a service firm to get data into its systems fast, accurately and without error or re-entry.
The book's title is a bit of a misnomer. As the three parts of the books indicate, this book is about more than the changes driving an increase or rise of a project-based work world. The book has less of an intellectual feel (a la Friedman's The World is Flat) and more of a practical purpose. This is a book for practitioners.
I’ve read a number of books re: professional services and project management. Each was focused on a single aspect (e.g., selling services, history of the space, etc.). This is the first I have read around the automation that service organizations need. Who should read this? My guess is that the best candidates are leaders of service groups specifically those who are newer to the role or have recently parachuted into a new firm with stated goals to becoming a better services group.
There's another reason why I decided to write this book review and it concerns the need for services groups to create differentiating intellectual property (IP). When a service firm can 'prove' it knows/understands a given set of business problems, clients will give it more work and gladly pay a premium to get the best qualified people to deliver it. Buyers of services don't accept the claims that each service firm is unique or differentiated. They need proof and way too few service groups provide it. The book I reviewed in the preceding paragraphs is an example of a PSA vendor putting their intellectual property out there for clients and others to see. This book may never become a New York Times bestseller but it does give Tenrox an edge over its competitors. If your services or software firm can't point to unique, compelling pieces/proof of its intellectual prowess, you will face some dire times in a down economy. There's nothing special about a services firm that lacks any discernible proof as to why it deserves top dollar for its people. If you run a services firm, ask yourself when (not why) you'll have your book, methodology or other big thought leadership piece out on the market. I've created a number of them and I can positively state that these products make a huge difference in selling and winning higher margin work.
FYI - Tenrox is a PSA vendor that offers a software as a service (SaaS) solution. The company competes with other PSA vendors like QuickArrow, CA-Clarity and Primavera's Evolve (soon to be part of Oracle).