It’s 2019 and we live in a time when admin is relegated to the past, we make decisions on the basis of hard facts and information, and fake news is just so ‘last year’. And professional services organisations like yours run on pure efficiency, with little in the way of admin or guesswork to bog you down.
Except for the fact that it is indeed 2019, the rest probably doesn’t ring true at all. Unfortunately, in most workplaces, gut feel is still part and parcel of how decisions are made. We still spend endless hours looking for things, whether as banal as the car keys or as important as research to guide consulting advice for a customer.
And, most of your consulting work is still heavy lifting, requiring an abundance of manual effort.
There must be a better way, you surely think. The good news is that yes, yes there is a better way.
That better way can be found, paradoxically perhaps, in what some are describing as one of the major threats posed to professional services businesses. Data analytics.
Now, the article linked above is from 2014, but it already identifies the challenges face by professional services firms. At the same time, it points out that instead of being a sitting duck (whether then or in 2019), harnessing data analytics for your own advantage is probably a good way to go. It’s not hard to see why – data analytics can make your people far more productive and effective if properly introduced.
There is of course, a ‘but’ or two. The first ‘baseline’ which need to be in place before considering data analytics really comes down to the word ‘data’. You need good data before a data scientist (a fancy term for a software engineer with specific training) can get to work on it. Yes, that means you need a good ERP solution in place, along with other elements which might include CRM, payroll and HR modules and more.
Taking that as a given, the next crucial factor is to get a clear idea of the business outcomes you’re after (this is probably something you do when providing professional services to your customers!).
Those outcomes will vary depending on your line of business: it won’t be the same across a recruitment or law firm, a financial advisor, or technical consulting company.
But what might be common includes concepts like improving client retention, delivering more value, improving customer service or enhancing service offerings. These goals can be powered, at least in part, by data analytics.
There’s a wee fly in the ointment, though, in that data analytics (and related concepts like business intelligence) tend to have been the domain of the ‘IT geeks’ (most of us at Verde are IT geeks, so we’re allowed to make that observation).
In fact, if you get a data scientist on board, whether as a staffer or a consultant, chances are s/he will be an ‘IT geek’. That’s fine, but true value from data analytics depends on YOUR consulting expertise as a businessperson. After all, you understand the challenges and opportunities better than the techie can.
This is a reality with a long, long tail. Bridging the ‘business/IT’ gap is a traditional challenge and barrier to the introduction of better technology tools at work. With maturity, that bridge has gone from a couple of ropes strung over a chasm, to something closer to the Millau Viaduct. In other words, the gap is far from insurmountable. But it’s there.
Taking a strategic approach to data analytics can equip your professional services business to achieve amazing things. There’s an outstanding example of that in McCarthy Finch, a law firm which sounds a lot like any other law firm.
Except that CEO Nick Whitehouse, a good Kiwi lad, is building the company on artificial intelligence which, you guessed it, rests on data analytics. Check them out: it is a remarkable story and McCarthy Finch offers services such as AI-powered research and virtualised problem-solving. Imagine a world where lawyers don’t have to spend days or weeks parsing legal texts while researching cases applicable to their clients’ issues…
That’s one very good example of a professional services firm which is doing brand new things and offering brand new services which rest on data analytics. When you talk to our experts, we can help you identify possibilities and opportunities for your company. It doesn’t have to be as extensive and sweeping as McCarthy Finch’s initiatives. But if you could save your people five or 10 hours a week, and free them from some of the drudgery associated with just about every job…well, that is bound to have serious value.