Part of the “Navigating Disruption Today, Planning for Tomorrow” series
Professional services firms set an important example for their clients – whether they provide financial planning and accounting, healthcare, engineering, training and development, or any of an endless array of services. According to IDC’s Becoming a Best-Run Professional Services Company: How Growing Midsize Firms Use Technology and Innovation to Succeed (sponsored by SAP), such qualities may include modeling a culture of innovation, proving the value of digital platforms, and showing the way to relentless customer-centricity.
Yet, when disruption is unlike anything anyone has ever experienced, no one – not even seasoned experts – is expected to have the right answers straightaway. What matters is that professional services firms have the foundation to learn from it immediately, discover silver linings of opportunity, and innovate new best practices and tools to rise above it.
Demonstrating value as their clients’ first responder
What made a company successful before an extensive disruption may no longer apply during a recovery. Experiences like this change what clients value, how they want to engage, and where they want to go next. Delivering on these new expectations requires greater flexibility, expertise, and scalability.
Here are four things professional services firms can do now to prepare themselves, as well as their clients, for the next wave of disruption – whether it comes in the form of an economic recovery, a recession, or a completely new series of unforeseen events.
1. Protect the workforce and ensure business continuity
Professional services employees are road warriors on a global scale during ordinary time. But as work-from-home mandates become a way of life for the short term, they must be given the tools and knowledge to keep up with commitments on existing engagements and respond to new customers effectively.
To address today’s challenges and prepare for the future, a cloud-based ERP can improve visibility across service delivery, revenue generation, and billing risks to protect engagement margin, customer relationships, and employee engagement and utilization.
Professional services firms can further their understanding of organizational readiness for remote work and take action on real-time insights into workforce morale and well-being and potential implications for culture, productivity, and the overall business. Additionally, a worker profile management application provides total visibility over full-time and external workers, so firms can analyze where large concentrations of contractors are located and know if anyone is in a high-risk area.
2. Stay closer to clients
When working remotely, conducting business exclusively virtually is new territory for professional services and their clients, especially in an uncertain economic climate. Firms need to quickly learn how to reach out to customers and engage them in ways that are personalized, responsive, and compelling enough to remove any holds on investment decisions.
By monitoring customer confidence, firms can determine changes in customer expectations. This information allows the business to effectively communicate response measures to customers and help ensure their promises are kept and improving the evolving situation.
Once economic conditions rebound, firms can build on this new capability with an experience management platform. This technology fosters a better understanding of where and why gaps in the employee and client experience persist and what challenges are impeding business continuity. When combined with analytics, firms can use those insights to streamline sales-force automation and sales performance management – from lead and opportunity management to digital customer engagement and configure, price, and quote.
3. Rethink business models, delivery tools, and platforms
As engagements are canceled or stalled, professional services firms can start developing a new business model that provides a stable revenue stream during intense disruptions. Such approaches – including digital services or as-a-service revenue models – are simpler to scale based on business volume and need low- or no-touch processes from order to cash.
Firms can kick-start the initiative with a free engagement focused on the adoption of an intelligent ERP. Real-time, time-boxed, and expert-guided, this virtual classroom engagement enables firms to design and develop their unique transformation roadmap. By taking this first step, the business can get their post-disruption recovery underway, implementing preconfigured and agile processes at a fast pace and imagining how the latest technologies can provide distinct advantages.
4. Safeguard financial performance
Finance leaders and risk managers often find lockdown situations precarious as they work hard to minimize impacts and maintain business continuity. Securing correct and compliant financial closing processes and acquiring a consolidated view of cash flow and liquidity are challenging while their teams work remotely.
This moment is certainly not the time for disparate external and internal systems. A cloud-based ERP can help ensure financial resilience by enabling team collaboration, one source for information, and a real-time view into cash flow and risk exposure. Plus, different post-disruption business scenarios can be simulated to help guide decision making.
Preparing themselves and their clients for the next normal
Risk, disruption, and now crisis – these realities of running a midsize business are never easy to tackle. But the stakes are even higher for professional services firms because their responses and actions are just as critical to their clients’ survival as they are for their own.
By putting the right technology-enabled mechanisms in place, firms can adapt swiftly to support their clients. They can connect the dots between risks and opportunities, client expectations and outcomes, and employee experiences and productivity.
That’s how professional services can emerge from extensive disruption – stronger than ever before.
For further exploration of how professional services firms can support their employees, join our webinar, Get Ready to Take Charge of Change.
This blog is part of a series on how small and midsize companies weather the implications of today’s pandemic. Related blogs include “Beyond Today’s Crisis: HR Shifts the Culture of Midsize Businesses to the ‘New Normal’” and “Why ERP Can Be the Secret to Fueling a Recovery for Midsize Companies.”