Professional services evolution – the reasons to digitise are stronger than maintaining the status quo
Blog //18-02-2021

Professional services evolution – the reasons to digitise are stronger than maintaining the status quo

by Kevin Reed, Freelance journalist and consultant

Change, and why professional services (PS) organisations put it off. It’s a topic I briefly touched on in my last Advanced blog about what 2021 means for PS.

There are standard excuses to maintain the status quo you would have heard (or said) once or twice. Clients seem happy and are paying their bills, and a trickle of referrals maintains numbers. The firm has decade-old ways of doing things, so why upset the applecart? Partners are hitting target and won’t be swayed to go elsewhere.

But there’s a way of turning this all on its head. What if clients want more, or different things, from you than what you’ve always provided? I bet your firm doesn’t know (AKA hasn’t asked). What if, by providing a better or broader service, you could gain a bigger market share than the one you cling onto?

And are the partners pushing themselves, or waiting to hit retirement? If this isn’t managed properly then it often proves an existential question for the firm – it’s also an incredibly disruptive and time-consuming issue to manage.

I see the real reasons for not changing as being two-fold: firstly, not enough time and thought has been spent on understanding who and what clients want from you, and how you can deliver those services. Where these are undertaken, it’s usually done once in a blue moon, rather than periodically. Because of this lack of strategic focus, it seems much easier to keep things going as they are.

Why is ‘doing things the same old way’ necessarily good? It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad, but you’ve got to ask the question – and the basic answer is that ‘things change’. Few things stay the same.

Many changes that do occur in a PS firm are usually forced upon them and reactive i.e. a regulator forcing them and clients to act or operate differently, such as HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative, or via random and opportunistic acts within a firm that don’t necessarily fit well with its ongoing service or operations.

There is a different mindset to take when running PS – one that is being taken by hundreds of firms across the UK. Advanced’s new research states the case: 87% of professional services businesses believe Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to a digital-first mindset for their organisation.

We can see that cloud technology – sometimes referred to as ‘Software-as-a-Service’ - enables professional services firms to set up very quickly, building a stack of apps on a platform – often all they’re missing is the clients themselves.

And at least more mature PS firms have clients, and they have people. Changing how you work, who you work with and developing the people you have are not easy, but bear in mind the above statistic, and:

  • Virtual is the new normal. Digitisation of your practice will help you better communicate and service clients – and it doesn’t even have to be face to face.
  • Old technology won’t meet tomorrow’s challenges – you need to be agile, flexible and scalable to in order to ensure success. Think about professional services-focused technology in the cloud.
  • Your people are your most valuable asset – they want to work for businesses which are future-focused and work in innovative ways. Professional services automation is a huge and exciting area – it doesn’t have to mean fewer people, or commoditised offerings.
  • Run world-class projects. Ditch the spreadsheets and the admin headaches – run your projects smoothly and you will elevate your business to world class.

The reasons (excuses) for avoiding change above aren’t exhaustive. Neither are the reasons to adapt and evolve. The answers for your firm to the question ‘how do we make ourselves fit for the future?’ are for you to find out. The trick is for you to ask the question of yourself, your colleagues, and your clients. And keep asking it.

Blog Saas Professional Services Automation
Kevin Reed

Kevin Reed

PUBLISHED BY

Freelance journalist and consultant

Kevin Reed is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years' experience covering professional services. He is a former editor of both Accountancy Age and Financial Director, including a period covering accounting technology. Kevin has also written for the management consulting and financial services markets. Current roles include consultant for Foulger Underwood and chair of the Women in Accountancy and Finance Awards.

Read published articles