Ashley Miller asks what professional services industries might look like in a post-digital transformation era
When it comes to digital transformation, it’s not unfair to say that professional services businesses have been a little slower to embrace change than the very businesses and industries they serve. Yet the need to digitally transform is more pressing than ever, with those who have yet to do so finding themselves at a distinct disadvantage when up against their digitally-transformed competitors. Digital transformation has not only changed how professional services businesses operate, but customer expectations too. Organisations increasingly expect their partners to modernise the way in which they use technology to remain relevant and deliver value.
With all this in mind, it’s vital for professional services businesses to look forward, with an eye very much on the future of the industry, and put plans in place now to carve out all-important competitive advantage on the global stage over the next decade and beyond. As more businesses embrace digital transformation, the professional services industry must step up and go beyond “talking the talk” to “walk the walk”, demonstrating best practice.
So what will the professional services industry look like in 10 years’ time? Well, due to changing client demands, employee expectations and technology developments, professional services businesses will have to deliver more and faster. To ensure their customers can keep pace with changing markets and the fast-moving digital economy, professional services businesses need to be agile enough to stay one step ahead when faced with a whole host of free online ‘experts’ and ‘advice’, proving their value through insightful and accurate consultancy, potentially available 24/7.
For a sector based on consultancy and advice, this means taking it to the next level and increasing the quality of the services it already offers by investing more time and effort into the real value-add parts of the business. What some forward-thinking professional services businesses have recognised is that technology can be a key enabler when it comes to future-proofing their organisation, putting the infrastructure in place now to allow it to develop its operations ready for the challenges still to come.
By investing in the right business IT solutions, professional services businesses are moving away from their traditional ways of working, turning their backs on the business models where business functions and departments are kept very separate, and bringing together all parts of the organisation with a single, centralised system. By sharing information across the organisation, manual data transfers are a thing of the past, along with the time this takes and the inevitable errors that occur, and a new collaborative approach to business creates even more efficiency savings.
Also, by automating many of the critical but mundane admin-heavy tasks, this frees up resources to not only focus on further developing customer relationships but to also achieve the new depths of expert consultancy that will give a business that crucial competitive edge. Using one system right across the business results in increased visibility too, enabling project managers to quickly and easily keep track of resource allocation and utilisation, for example, maximising efficiencies wherever possible. Add to this the business agility that’s achievable due to having a timely, accurate, comprehensive data picture from right across the business at the click of a mouse, and you can see why more professional services businesses are investing in business-wide systems to put themselves one step ahead.
With advanced analytics built-in, professional services organisations can derive more value from business information, generating valuable insights to underpin decision-making. Analytics can also be used to deliver unprecedented insight into customer profiles too, enabling businesses to personalise and tailor their services to chime perfectly with customer requirements, bolstering that competitive edge further still.
With this increased visibility and insight comes the ability to pinpoint potential problems before they occur, predicting any project hurdles and enabling more right-first-time successes when it comes to accurate project quotations and actual completed projects. For an industry where keeping on budget and on time are key, this predictive insight is a real bonus, adding another string to the bow of the professional services organisation in question.
The rise of online experts and clients’ desires to have access to consultancy and advice as and when they want it, are giving rise to a new way of working for professional services businesses. By focussing on securing efficiencies elsewhere in the organisation and making the most of the information at their disposal, professional services businesses can focus on enhancing the consultancy and advice that they provide, increasing the value of the expertise they offer and putting themselves head and shoulders above the competition in what is set to be an increasingly crowded marketplace. By putting in the groundwork now and optimising operations wherever possible, professional services businesses can ensure they’ll be well-placed to compete on a global stage, even in ten years’ time.