Consultants should take own advice on digital transformations

13 August 2021 5 min. read

Mass disruption caused by Covid-19 has pushed digital platforms to the forefront of operations – something professional services firms are helping clients across multiple sectors adapt to. Chris Nichols, Microsoft Dynamics Consultant at Columbus UK explains four ways consultants could emulate their clients by using digital transformation to find long-term solutions for their own recurring pain points.

Studies by global consultants McKinsey & Company show the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation strategies by seven years. The opportunities for firms to build long-term foundations for efficiency, collaboration and greater management – and secure their place in a highly competitive market – are striking.

The global growth of the professional services industry has led to growing complexity. With more projects being accepted for international clients and markets, collaboration between stakeholders and communication with contractors in different time zones are causing a logistical nightmare.

Chris Nichols, Microsoft Dynamics Consultant, Columbus UK

Expansion of an industry also comes with increased competition. Those who do not keep ahead of the digital transformation curve may find themselves failing to meet client expectations, stay connected to international stakeholders and retain talent.

Despite such challenges, clients still expect the same personalised and tailored service from their consultants as they’ve always received, while costs are expected to remain low. Unifying these two expectations can be a struggle. For this to be a success, organisations must be co-ordinated and efficient to ensure smooth execution of projects. Favouring digital platforms will make companies more agile with streamlined operations, meaning clients are receiving top quality service while retaining existing talent.

There are four key pain points that digital transformation can help professional service businesses overcome to stay agile and grow market share:

1. Keeping track of performance metrics

In the professional services world, performance is key to staying successful. Firms must hit certain criteria for effective operations – consistently meeting KPIs, detailing billable hours to customers and providing continuous communication. Being able to keep up to date with performance criteria will mean clients won’t be chasing firms for answers, keeping workload and stress at a minimum.

To make this a reality, firms must adopt a centralised repository providing all employees with access to up-to-date data from any location. More advanced solutions such as AI and automation leverage reporting and data mining to further build on this, which can reduce the burden of manual data entry and help managers make critical, informed decisions in real-time.

2. Managing shifting workloads

Beyond improving data accessibility, digital solutions can also provide capabilities to handle workloads in a more streamlined and flexible manner, providing a rapid alternative to manual strategic planning and forecasting. This can help firms anticipate shifting workloads and react to projects scaling up or down.

Business management platforms such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 can further support specific project operations, with the integration of modules such as finance, project management and sales. AI-powered capabilities will also support high demand periods, short-notice changes or even prolonged downtime that some firms may face.

3. Robust collaboration means connection, data protection, regulation and industry standards

Since the pandemic forced a mass shift to remote working, it has become apparent that businesses need to adapt in line with new ways of working. This disruption has emphasised the need to improve connectivity and collaboration between workforces, individuals, organisations and clients. The increasingly global nature of professional services work has also placed an emphasis on the ability to connect and collaborate internationally to ensure efficient service.

Hybrid models are also being introduced alongside remote working, meaning more challenges for professional services firms to tackle – including around data protection, regulation and industry standards. Being able to securely support these models and put in place suitable collaborative tools will unlock greater productivity and provide access to a larger pool of industry talent.

4. Looking after the future – HR joins the team

As the professional services industry is on the rise, so is the demand for new talent. Firms looking to expand will not only need to recruit new staff, but also retain existing team members. For this, relevant training and upskilling are needed for employees to feel they have enough skills and training to execute their role. Additionally, hiring new staff can also mean a lengthy, time-consuming task which diverts capacity away from billable work and projects with deadlines.

Advanced business management platforms provide a solution to these problems. By integrating HR modules into an existing platform, firms can ease the recruitment process by automating what was once a manual process.

As well as assisting with recruitment, advanced business management platforms can also help identify resources, spare capacity and skillsets for assignment to relevant teams and projects – ensuring employees aren’t over-worked or under-resourced.

Time to change

The shift to digital operations is here to stay for consultancy firms and the wider professional services sector. Facing the challenges brought by project complexity and customer demands early will help firms deal with the push towards digitisation, ensuring operations are agile and delivering consistently high levels of service, reporting and engagement.

Removing siloed data and establishing effective end-to-end business management is vital for enhancing projects, operations and connectivity between departments for sustained efficiency and collaboration. Acting now to deploy this technology will aid with reaching the end goal of ‘digital maturity’, such as cloud deployments which scale alongside customer demand and business growth.