May 21, 2020
One thing that has been made abundantly clear in 2020 is that the landscape that businesses find themselves in can shift at any time, resulting in a need to pivot (in some cases dramatically) to keep up. Helping companies make that pivot is one of the most valuable ways in which those in the professional services space can assist their clients and can lead to various positive outcomes, such as additional long-term work and referrals.
That said, professional services companies need to have enough capacity to assist their clients to adapt or risk spreading themselves thin or overpromising and under-delivering. This is why business agility matters so much to professional services: agencies need to easily scale manpower and expertise to help clients shift to a new business reality seamlessly.
While some may consider business agility to be all about technology, it also includes people and data. While improving any one of these areas can benefit an agency, true agility requires all three elements be adapted to improve efficiency.
Let’s explore how those in the professional services industry can improve business agility across these three areas.
Digital Transformation for Professional Services
On the technology side, professional services companies need to make sure that they have the digital infrastructure necessary to allow them to adapt to meet their customers' needs when changes occur in the marketplace quickly.
Since talent can be sourced from anywhere and will often work virtually, a cloud-based ERP becomes essential for managing this remote workforce. This makes critical business tools easily accessible to remote workers and allows them to self-service basic HR tasks.
Training is another area in which technology can be on-demand and self-service. Adding digital adoption tools like AppLearn to the digital infrastructure will provide remote and/or contingent workers with the training necessary to utilize SaaS solutions they may not be familiar with.
While digital transformation among professional services companies has been a growing trend for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that these agencies need to prioritize modernization to ensure that that staff can easily operate from home or at the office. Late adopters may find themselves in positions in which they are unable to catch up to those firms that have transformed or, worse, be unable to cope should another crisis occur.
A Scalable Workforce
When a client needs help transitioning to a new strategy, it can require larger amounts of personnel than a “standard” project, as well as require additional expertise. This normally may be fine, but if numerous clients require help adapting to the same market changes, then it’s possible for an agency to become shorthanded and unable to assist all of these clients effectively.
For some agencies, this may not be a problem, as some professional services companies rely, either in full or in part, on contingent workers to staff projects, and there is a growing pool of talent to pull from. In fact, Intuit predicts that upwards of 40% of the U.S. workforce will be contingent workers by the end of 2020. Organizations utilizing 100% internal resources, however, will be hard-pressed to find the talent needed to staff for these projects appropriately. While there are certainly benefits to having on-hand staff, it is increasingly important that professional services also utilize contingent workers to fill in staffing gaps.
In some cases, it may also make sense to bring in new full-time employees as well. To speed up this process, having a cloud-based HCM and talent acquisition solution can streamline the hiring and onboarding processes and fill key talent gaps quickly.
Consolidate Data & Utilize Robust Reporting Tools
To be able to make intelligent decisions quickly, agencies need reliable data. When data is spread out among various systems, the possibility of errors is great. Erroneous data is even more likely if it must be manually pulled from one system, standardized, and then uploaded into another system on a regular basis. When data is centralized (by consolidating to a single cloud ERP) and most of the collection is automated, this process becomes far more reliable and data more trustworthy.
It is also critical that this data be easily available and exist in real-time. This will allow a professional services agency to make critical business decisions, such as whether or not to reassign personnel to a different project, quickly. Sophisticated reporting tools make it possible to create customized dashboards and scorecards, as well as generate regular reports, creating a more complete picture of the professional services organization and allowing changes to be made with greater confidence.
Business Agility Helps Clients and Agencies Alike
The very same market conditions that impact their clients can also affect a professional services agency itself, making it doubly important that an agency can adapt to change as well. Professional services organizations need to lead the charge when it comes to business agility and show the way for their clients. By digitally transforming, agencies can communicate the value of modernization from a position of experience.
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