Digital Strategy for Professional Services Companies: 3 Priorities to Success
Digital transformation has changed every industry in unexpected and innovative ways, and professional services are certainly no exception. For firms building an Intelligent Enterprise foundation, whether on-premise or in the cloud, research shows that three strategic priorities are particularly poised to create success in this new technology environment.
You could be forgiven for thinking professional services firms would have an easier time fending off the inevitability of digital disruption. The industry’s competitive advantage stems from its perception as transformation vanguards supported by the strength of people and their expertise.
But today’s professional services firms are adopting approaches seemingly unthinkable a decade ago. They’re starting with a digital foundation that affords continuous flexibility and adaptability, enabling decision making that’s balanced and data-driven. By emphasizing real-time access, customers can find the information they need, wherever and whenever they need it. And, importantly, they’re addressing processes from end to end, ensuring greater delivery on experiences, products and services.
Established firms now face a crossroads: It’s time to pivot, or perish.
Embrace the Evolution
The only way to face technology disruption is to own it. In SAP’s recent white paper, “The Intelligent Enterprise for Professional Services Firms,” we highlighted these specific developments that have become integral to a successful digital approach:
1. Outcome-based Engagements
Firms have long run on simple time-and-materials business models. Customers now want a more predictable experience, one based not on effort performed but on impact achieved.
This transfers much of the project risk from the client to the service provider, ensuring a more predictable performance for the client while allowing the service provider to execute in its proven area of expertise. Firms must work to develop a superior bidding process supported by accurate proposals that will ensure predictability and repeatability — and thus minimize delivery risks.
Professional services companies see a 10% higher win rate and improved customer satisfaction with an outcome-based approach, thanks to faster proposals and provable results. Clear accountability and measurement fosters a highly collaborative relationship between firms and customers as well.
Customers increasingly want access to information anytime and anywhere. Technology advancements offer them greater insight than ever, increasing the demand for dynamic and subscription-based access to expertise and solutions.
For instance, lawyers can now offer packages with forms and instructions for clients to complete on their own, for instance, in areas such as estate planning. Rather than attempting to meet individually with every client, they can empower clients with the benefit of professional knowledge without the cost of the service. When a need for more specialized or personalized assistance arises, clients can then come in for one-on-one attention and guidance.
In the past, intellectual property was available only through formal engagements, offering a key point of differentiation for firms. Innovators are now unbundling service lines and monetizing institutional expertise, pushing firms to deliver their knowledge and expertise as a digital service across platforms.
It can be challenging to overcome the concerns of cannibalization inherent in this approach, but if a firm doesn’t disrupt itself, the new revenue streams available will be scooped up by someone else.
3. Global Talent Networks
The world’s workplace is becoming increasingly borderless. Firms must be prepared to flexibly scale their workforce on demand to capitalize on the right skills at the right moment.
With global talent networks on the rise, the external will become the internal. By widening the primary employee resource pool, firms can seamlessly deploy resources alongside their internal workers, allowing access to scarce and unique skillsets whenever necessary.
Deployment won’t just be about who the best available person is; it will be about who the single-most optimal person is. Firms will be able to make more sophisticated decisions based on skills, availability, cost, quality and strategic criteria, providing clients with a consistent brand experience and level of service.
With a digital approach, professional services companies will continue to optimize what they do going forward, extending their current processes and transforming their business. Ultimately, embracing technology disruption is the key to sustained success.
For more information on the ongoing transformation of the professional services industry and a deeper look at the corresponding technologies, strategies and use cases, download the white paper “The Intelligent Enterprise for Professional Services Firms.”
– written by Catherine Lynch, SAP Senior Director Industry Marketing