Thursday, February 14, 2013

Workgroup Collaboration Meets Project Management

In yesterday's Virtual Peer Group session, Sean Crafts, the Chief Customer Officer at  Mavenlink, discussed many applications and benefits of utilizing project management software to manage the productivity of workgroups. Mavenlink is a top-rated app in the Google marketplace and is used by companies principally in the SMB segment but also has a number of large enterprise customers such as Oakley, Aflac, Shell and Kaiser Permanente. They have over 450,000 users located in 190 countries - so the product has broad market appeal.

So why is project management such a good fit for Cloud Service Providers?  From my perspective, there are 3 big reasons.  First, SaaS solutions like Mavenlink can be integrated with other cloud services that are used to run the business - from foundational collaboration and messaging services like the Google apps suite to hosted business apps like Intuit. Second, project management can be used to amplify the productivity of teams - in the case of Mavenlink, those teams can include internal members and external members like clients and suppliers. And third, project management can provide executive oversight for ensuring business goals are met  - including hard dollar business goals like collecting invoices on time and managing project costs against operating budgets.

CSPs can add value to a project management deployment by becoming proficient in the business integration of project management as well as the application and data integration. By business integration, I mean adapting the use of the tool to the workflow of the business. If you understand how your customer can benefit from project management, and you design, deliver and deploy a cloud service that realizes those benefits, then you have earned more than just a reseller commission. You can justify up-front consulting fees and ongoing management fees for this ingredient of your cloud solutions ecosystem. Many of Mavenlink's partners implement project management internally for just this reason - to become proficient with the business, application and data integration of the tool.

Who pays for project management? For Mavenlink, the key industries involve professional services firms - marketing and design firms, legal, financial, IT and engineering and business consulting as well as education and public sector clients. Why? These are organizations with users who are typically tracking time and expenses, customer deliverables and collecting payments. Collaboration with external contractors and clients is especially important to the customer profile.

What happens when workgroup collaboration meets project management? The CSP can tie the softer benefits of workgroup productivity to the more tangible benefits of time, cost and revenue management. This can not only be a source of one-time and recurring revenue for a CSP, but also adds value to the critical role of trusted advisor  - and that often leads to longer-term relationships and more customer referrals.


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