The Focal Point Blog // Resource Management // Team Parallax // February 14, 2023

Spreadsheet Alternatives for Resource Planning & Forecasting: Is PSA Automation the Best Choice?

Drowning in spreadsheets? Frustrated when one of your formulas breaks, and it sends the whole spreadsheet into disarray? Overly reliant on one project manager who owns the spreadsheet and doesn’t want anyone else to touch it? This is an all-too-common scenario in the services world. We get it—we’ve been there, too. But there’s a better way to track and manage critical business insights, and we’re here to explain exactly how. 

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The challenges of using spreadsheets for professional services

Let’s be honest: there are many challenges associated with using spreadsheets in the services industry. We’ve all experienced issues with homegrown systems at one point or another, and many of you still may be grappling with daily spreadsheet-related headaches and roadblocks – whether you realize it or not. 

Serious manual effort 

No one can deny that spreadsheets are difficult to maintain and that they require a lot of manual effort to keep them in good shape. Yes, spreadsheets can provide valuable insights, primarily for smaller, less complicated businesses – but at what cost? No matter the size or scale of your business, spreadsheets are time-consuming, error-prone documents, and they become even more problematic as new work comes in and your business grows. More people will be inputting data, and more time will be required to not only keep each unique spreadsheet updated, but to synthesize data across them all to deliver critical insights for performance reporting and future forecasting. And there’s significantly more potential for things to go wrong – think: broken links, incorrect formulas, redundant tabs and documents, and so much more. 😑

Difficult to integrate 

How many spreadsheets does your business currently rely on? It’s probably so many you don’t even know the count. Getting them to feed into and collaborate with the rest of your technology stack can feel next to impossible (and sometimes it is!). That’s because your spreadsheets are not built to be integrated easily into other systems. It’s risky to rely on a system where both the data and formulas can misguide important business decisions. Instead, look for solutions that provide integrated, data-informed insights, enabling smart, strategic operational decision making. 

 Massive learning curve

Learning how to update, operate, and get answers from a fragile array of spreadsheets that a small group of people (maybe even one person) custom-built is a difficult task for even the most experienced spreadsheet superuser. It takes time to learn how to use them, and it takes time to train others how to use them—and that’s all time spent away from strategic planning and billable work. This can not only impact morale and productivity over time, but it can potentially impact your recruitment efforts. Strong talent might inquire about the tools and technologies your business uses (and therefore what they’ll be expected to use), and an immature toolkit that includes custom-built spreadsheets feels like an antiquated approach for most people today.

Inhibited collaboration 

Project managers are already tasked with a lot. They’re expected to have actionable insights at the ready, describing why the project is delayed or over budget or why certain staff have less time to give than initially expected. They live in a constant reactive state, where one answer is provided just as quickly as another question is asked. They often end up creating unique spreadsheets that help them get through each day, and they quickly become attached to their own process But because the spreadsheets are inconsistent and difficult to maintain, project managers often feel like they are working in silos, leadership doesn’t have access to consistent data, AND they have to spend too much time approaching each situation in a unique way. Everyone becomes overly reliant on project managers to provide insights, and true team collaboration ends up feeling like a far away concept.  

Delayed forecasting 

Perhaps the most impactful challenge that spreadsheets create for services organizations is the inability to forecast in a timely, confident manner. Yes, spreadsheets can be a great tool for looking back at the business, but they aren’t ‘smart’ tools that provide actionable forecasts. As your business grows, you need to have accurate, reliable forecasts that help you make the right hiring decisions, price projects correctly, and manage resources effectively. Disparate spreadsheets make generating these business-critical forecasts a slow, time-consuming process that often stretches across a few days or even weeks. Then, once a forecast is created and approved, it might already be irrelevant as things move fast in the services world. It’s time to embrace a solution that provides the visibility and insights needed to better plan ahead and make smart investments. 

What is professional services automation software?

Professional services automation (PSA) solutions claim to streamline workflows, increase visibility, and enable greater efficiency for services organizations by providing a variety of project management, resource optimization, time tracking, expense management, revenue tracking, and forecasting capabilities. But these legacy systems don’t always work as promised, usually because they’re time consuming to adopt and difficult to manage. 

Other alternative solutions are designed to integrate with business-critical applications already in use, such as CRMs, project management, and time tracking platforms, to allow for seamless orchestration between best-in-class tools. This type of solution, not quite a traditional PSA, does something more for services businesses. It’s an integrated resource planning and forecasting solution that provides all the value of a PSA, but takes it a step further and offers predictive and proactive tools that enable strategic, forward-looking decision-making. 

From our perspective, the platform your business uses should enable you to get more value out of existing tools that are working for you. This approach results in way, way less disruption for your teams and also supports daily forecasting from the frontlines. Your platform should aid in tactical, “here and now” operations AND enable better, faster decision-making that drives strategic performance—so if your platform doesn’t do this, it might be time to look elsewhere. 👀

The benefits of integrated resource planning and forecasting solutions (a PSA automation software alternative) 

When services organizations finally outgrow their spreadsheets and adopt an integrated resource planning and forecasting solution that can support their business today and the business they want to be in five years, the benefits are vast. Here’s just a sampling of what they’ll experience:  

You’ll no longer be bogged down by homegrown systems.

When less time is needed to build and maintain custom or homegrown systems – and significantly less time training people how to use those systems – people can focus on their craft. They won’t be bogged down by extensive manual work and can instead go after new opportunities, learn new skills, and continue to add value to the business. 💯

You’ll have more time to learn and adopt best practices. 

There are many solutions that leverage an array of spreadsheets and homegrown tools or that require the adoption of a monolithic all-in-one solution that no one really wants to use—we (obviously) recommend avoiding these. Because the right solution will be easy to adopt, understand, and use; it will connect best-in-class tools already in use to ensure sustainable, impactful operations. In other words: your team will be up and running quickly, as there’s not going to be a massive disruption to what they’re currently doing. 

You’ll start making proactive, strategic decisions with real-time data. 

When leveraging a top-of-the-line resource planning and forecasting solution, leaders gain a shared perspective across the business and are able to better align priorities for operational improvement. With real-time visibility, they can then make smarter business decisions across sales, delivery, hiring, and accounting teams and more easily answer questions like: are our projects on time and on budget? Do we have the right talent available for the demand based on active work being sold? How is utilization looking across our teams? 

You’ll be able to invest in your team and your business with confidence. 

Quality resource planning and forecasting software enables confident, reliable forecasting that can be pulled together quickly. Instead of chasing critical information down for days, your solution should serve up actionable, meaningful forecasts. This helps enable proactive decision-making, and it definitely reduces the anxiety that leaders often associate with forecasting. 

You’ll have more time for coaching and collaboration.

By removing outdated methods for tracking projects, budgets, and utilization (to name a few things) and instead adopting a modern solution that supports best practices across business functions, everyone feels less stress. They know that their tools and technologies will work – that nothing will fall apart when the project manager is gone for a week’s vacation. Everyone can better collaborate and communicate, which ultimately helps drive the business forward. 

PSA Alternatives vs. Spreadsheet: Which one is best for you?

Sure, there’s a time and place for spreadsheets. They usually work for digital services companies that are just getting started and want to gather data in a way that represents how they think and function. These businesses can (typically) get away with using spreadsheets for a while because they’re small and nimble. 

But what happens when you start to grow? When your team expands and your client list doubles? Homegrown systems like spreadsheets start to chip away at your valuable time and limited resources, and they really slow you down. 

We want you to scale with ease and confidence. We want you to keep using the tools you love by leveraging a platform that has thoughtful, strategic integrations. We want you to be able to move smart and move fast, with less stress and zero headaches (well, maybe not zero, but definitely fewer!). That’s why we built Parallax… it’s the catalyst your business needs to grow with confidence and purpose (more on this below 👇). 

Top PSA software platforms (and other alternatives)

It can be difficult to assess and demo aaaaall the PSA platforms and/or resource planning and forecasting solutions that are available today, so we recommend first identifying your pain points and objectives so that you have a clear vision as you kick start the assessment process. 

Some tried-and-true questions we think everyone should ask are: 

  • How well does this platform work with my existing tools? 
  • What does the implementation and onboarding process look like?
  • Are there robust analytics and reporting capabilities? 
  • Does the platform help eliminate homegrown spreadsheets? 
  • Will I have ongoing support from the provider? 

Here are a few top tools to consider during your search… 


Parallax offers more value than legacy PSA systems. It’s an integrated resource planning and forecasting platform designed to give growth-minded leaders the data and support needed to develop and execute a cohesive plan for today and tomorrow. Instead of navigating misaligned perspectives, manual processes, and making reactive, instinctual decisions, Parallax optimizes operations and drives business results by serving up reliable, real-time data when you need it.

For services businesses that are starting to scale (or want to start to scale), Parallax helps expose, identify, and overcome critical business issues or areas of weakness that stand in your way. The solution enables better visibility across your business and tools, so you and your teams can focus on what’s important today and plan for what’s ahead. It also empowers your people to do their best work, allowing your business to truly thrive.

If shared perspectives, smarter forecasting, better financial control, and proactive thinking are on your wish-list, look no further. That’s what Parallax was designed to deliver


Metric.AI is an all-in-one platform designed to provide a single source of truth for agencies’ financial data. The platform includes various capabilities, ranging from time tracking, resource allocation, and project budgeting, to invoicing, analytics, and forecasting. It provides real-time metrics around profit, utilization, and effective bill rates and also allows users to create custom metrics for enhanced decision-making. 

Kantata (Mavenlink) 

Kantata is a PSA platform that centralizes operations and tools into one core solution to help services organizations optimize their resource planning and decision making. The platform allows users to more easily balance supply and demand, explore impact to revenue and margin, configure resource recommendations, align skills with project demands, and more. It’s designed for creative and consulting firms as well as IT and software shops, and in order to get the most out of the Kantata platform, users are encouraged to migrate data from existing systems and adopt their tools and processes, meaning implementation can take twelve months or longer.


Wrike streamlines the internal project management and collaboration processes across teams. The platform focuses on the accomplishment of tasks rather than entire projects, offering workflow customization for companies to make processes more company- or industry-specific. It’s built to streamline proofing and reporting for marketing campaigns, to more easily develop creative assets and have them routed through approvals quickly, and to support project managers more easily track deadlines and deliver results. 


Teamwork is a project management tool for agencies, professional services, and creative teams that want to gain visibility into performance and profitability, more easily manage financials, and address challenges before they cause problems. Its capabilities focus on collaboration and delivering work on time and on budget, and it makes resource management simple by providing a view of everything in one place for the team, clients, and freelancers. 

Ready to say goodbye to spreadsheets? 

We know change can be hard, but it’s also necessary. It’s time to leverage a solution that allows you to cut through the noise and brings a truly integrated approach to life—one that’s not reliant on manual processes and homegrown, fragile spreadsheets. 

If you’re ready to optimize operations for a better today and tomorrow (and we really hope you are!), let’s chat: