Professional Services –3 trends

The PS sector will become ultra-competitive in 2019 as buyers, providers and systems mature.  Firms that embrace change will thrive - leading the charge while those who don’t will struggle.

Here are the three ways PS will change in 2019:

1. Rise of the Consultant

The term ‘Consultant’ has been used in Professional Services and the tech world for decades.  In reality it covers a number of roles – anything from data entry to provisioning / implementation, training, and of course ‘proper’ Consulting where a unique blend of knowledge, skills and experience are brought to bear.

As I have said before, tasks that can be replicated and automated will (and should) move from humans to machines.  This will leave us humans to perform tasks that machines are unable to - tasks that require skill, judgement and emotional intelligence.

This is a good thing.  By concentrating on delivering real value, the number of people skilled in the art of Consulting will need to rise.   As markets shift, these people will become more valuable, their skills will be in higher demand, and they will command a premium.  Again, this is positive as the true value delivered for the hours billed will be  higher.

As the market becomes ultra-competitive, companies will need to concentrate on ensuring people are motivated or risk losing them.  This will mean more focus on engagement, providing the best tools and an  investment in learning and development.

Extending training beyond technical skills into the art of Consulting will be a major factor that sets providers apart, as will investment in agile, fit-for-purpose systems that support an increasingly mobile and  transient customer / employee base.

Expect to see: A shift in focus towards fewer, more highly skilled Consultants with a market that sees true value and will pay for it.

2. Forget automation – Orchestration is the future!

Sophisticated technology that allows great flexibility is both a blessing and a curse.

Unchecked flexibility means implementations can become the software  equivalent of a fully bespoke suit. The disadvantages of this approach are obvious – hard to support, differently implemented versions of the same functionality with Consultants using their own versions of best practice that only they understand. 

Today a new generation of tech-savvy buyers are asking awkward questions about the value extracted for hours billed, and with good reason.  True value is delivered when Consultants use their skill, experience and knowledge to provide the 20% of a solution that needs to  be bespoke (I’m generalising but you get the idea).  Spending time hand-cranking the 80% foundation is not good value, and everyone knows it.

For those vendors who don’t have time or the ability to automate,  this could present a real threat in 2019.  However, a saviour could be on the horizon in the form of a new breed of Orchestration systems.

Orchestration takes script-driven automation and propels it to new levels.  Gone are the days of point-click-wait macros - the latest  systems integrate AI and bots to make active decisions and accomplish extremely complex tasks that previously were only achievable with human  input.  They also do it 24/7 and don’t take holidays…

Taking human effort out of routine configuration is essential to delivering value and a reliably supportable system.  Some will point to the fact that less Consultants are required and therefore less billable hours will be available.  They may be right, but prolonging an inefficient, valueless process to maintain billable hours will only end one way.  Badly.

In 2019, successful companies will invest in automating the back-office, engineering out the routine and mundane to concentrate on delivering real value - the Consulting magic that sets them apart.

Expect to see: Emerging suppliers of Orchestration systems and a new breed of Consultancy practice to deliver and implement.

3. Nobody cares about your KPIs anymore – Insights are the future

The old mantra ‘what gets measured gets done’ has served the industry well for decades.

We had KPIs for everything – from customer satisfaction to consultant  utilisation, finances to processing accuracy.  Of course, they’re all important in their own way, but for some they have become a mini-industry in their own right and departments are drowning in numbers  to the point where they’re meaningless.

I’ve written previously about the folly of only relying on NPS for example, and how the fact that a project was completed on-time and on-budget doesn’t mean it was a success.

Customers are becoming more interested in outcomes and tangible  transformation – how does a project positively impact their business,  provide a return on investment and therefore deserve to get funded?   This is important, because it acknowledges that projects always have challenges and it's how these are navigated that makes the difference between success and failure.

Employers are also moving towards insights in the areas of staff motivation, development, and retention. Previously they would have reported staff retention rate, how many attended a course or an NPS-style satisfaction survey. The best employers are now using data and real interactions to predict flight-risks, spot low engagement or see previously uncorrelated areas for improving learning and development.

Driven by insights, 2019 will see the rise of the Destination Employer - a place people want to be and an environment where they can excel.

Expect to see: A sharp rise in analytics-driven systems to deliver insights, with systems becoming increasingly interconnected to  achieve this.

So there you have it – my predictions for the changes you  need to embrace to survive and thrive in 2019. Please subscribe and  contribute to the debate!

Author: Kelly Smith