What Service Software should I consider for my company?  This question isn’t as easy as it may sound.  As you evaluate software for service-based businesses, you need to understand what options are available and what is the best fit for your company.

There are three basis models for service-based companies, although there are multiple variations of each.  In this blog post we will focus the following three major models. 

  • Time and Billing
  • Project Accounting
  • Field Service

Time and Billing

Time and Billing solutions are the simplest form of service software.  These programs are best for companies that bill for time and related expenses like travel, hotels, meals etc.  Some packages allow you to designate a code related to a particular matter (example: a law suit or an annual tax return).  Billing options are typically on a retainer or by hourly billing.  Typical industries associated with time and billing software are law firms, accounting firms, architects and designers.

Project Accounting

Project Accounting software expands on the time and billing concept to provide additional reporting and billing options.  Project Accounting allows you to track billing and costs by project and by tasks or steps related to completing the project.  Longer-term, and/or more complex projects are associated with project accounting.  Tasks/steps may be linked with different skill sets such as a junior consultant, senior consultant or subcontractor. Alternatively, the tasks/steps may be arranged by functional units such as planning, design, or programming for a web design company.  Project accounting also may include material or inventory costs, as well as subcontractor and billed expenses.  Project Accounting allows you to track revenue and expenses by project and allows profitability reporting. 

Project Accounting also provides multiple revenue models and even combinations of the following methods:

  • Fixed Fee where you bill a fixed fee at the completion of the project or by a percentage of completion.
  • Time and Materials where you bill an hourly fee for time charged to the project and materials at cost or a standard markup.
  • Cost Plus Billing where you agree to complete the project at cost, plus an agreed upon percentage markup.

You may incur changes to the original project agreement, so change orders may also be included in the project costs and revenues.

Industries typically associated with Project Accounting include technology companies designing and writing software, network companies installing new systems, software implementors such as ERP or other complex software implementations, and service companies such as engineers who provide longer-term and more complex services.

Project Accounting is often associated with the construction industry, however, especially for general contraction and/or larger commercial or industrial based sub-contractions, specialty solutions beyond typical project account may be necessary.

Field Services

Field Services have typically been associated with companies that sell and install/maintain inventory.  If you own a truck and have technicians who travel to a location other than a “job site” you may be a candidate for field service software.  However, field service solutions may also be appropriate for companies with technicians who never leave your facility.

Like project accounting, field service solutions may have multiple steps to complete the service and may be billed on a time and material or fixed fee basis, however the similarity stops there.  Field service solutions are better suited for shorter terms projects, typically a few hours and up to several days.  A major benefit of field service solutions is the ability to schedule technicians.  Staff can be assigned one or more skill sets.  When a request for services comes in, a dispatcher may check availability of technicians based on the required skill set.  A major distinguishing difference between project accounting and field service software is the dispatch functionality.  While scheduling is important in all service businesses, the project accounting schedule is primarily based on resources required to complete the project, while field service scheduling is based upon who is available with the required skill set to complete the service.  Field service solutions usually contain an elaborate calendar function that facilitates the scheduling of services and technicians.

Field service solutions may also include equipment tracking with required spare parts and/or maintenance items.  Vehicle routing may also be a component to ensure your technicians appointments are scheduled to minimize time on the road.  This is particularly important in larger metropolitan areas were traffic significantly affects the schedule.

Industries often benefited by the use of field service software are companies focused on sales and services, including plumbers, electricians, HVAC providers, glass and glazing companies, appliance sales and service, home and commercial security companies, mechanics in automotive, diesel and commercial spheres, as well as maritime repair and services.

Basically, if you sell inventory and provide services related to that inventory, you may be a good candidate for field service solutions.

What is Right for Your Business?

Your company may need one or a combination of the above described service solutions, but there is a plethora of options to suit every type of business and function. Identifying your business processes helps to determine what type of service software is required for your business and can help set a software implementation up for success. Read more about Successful Implementations.