The business response to COVID-19 has accelerated change to an extraordinary speed within the Professional Services sector. The demand for digital services, virtual delivery, and easy access to unified corporate data has skyrocketed.
But major structural change was already underway. Before the pandemic, the UK's Financial Reporting Council (FRC) had already outlined plans to instruct the Big Four accounting firms – KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, and EY – to split off their audit arms by 2024.
The larger consulting firms are beginning to see a new generation of competition – the rise of smaller, specialised start-up firms supported by innovation in data and AI.
Over the coming years, Professional Services firms need to evolve their offering and their internal operations if they are to stay competitive and connected in this new marketplace.
Changing demand for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has also had a knock-on effect on the Professional Services sector. Budgets are tight, and clients are looking more closely at outgoings and the need to justify spend. Indeed, some outsourcing organisations are moving away from their traditional services as part of a change in strategy following profit warnings.
This shift in global economic circumstances has led to many companies looking more closely at spend and placing more rigorous performance benchmarks on their consultancy partners. Companies want to know exactly how and why their money is spent, and what kind of return on investment Professional Services firms are providing.
To do this, they turn to data. Data has become more central to decision making and performance monitoring in the client's world. It is unsurprising, then, that clients are starting to use data to benchmark the performance of their Professional Services agencies.
For Professional Services firms, changing client demands will result in a change to their performance tracking, billing and pricing models. Even during the initial selection process, clients are demanding a greater degree of cost transparency – so that they compare each firm's services with those of competing consultancies.
Firms must reorient around a model based on specific, clearly-defined projects and adopt a new definition of success, one led by client-centric, performance-driven milestones.
This new client-centric model of Professional Services is an opportunity to overcome some of the challenges that have held back many firms – the fragmentation within a larger business, and the disconnect between geographically separate parts of the business.
To do this, firms need to ensure that their internal teams are all on the same page. By breaking down internal silos, larger companies can stay competitive and adopt the same agile methodology that has made their smaller competitors a success.
Firms need one central repository of client data, accessible when needed across the entire company structure. Equipped with the right tools and data, every team can develop an intuitive understanding of the client and their needs and offer a more client-centric service.
In the face of less secure and project-based client relationships, client engagement and loyalty become ever more crucial. Firms must ensure that they truly understand client needs – and prioritise client engagement. Effectively identifying leads, sending personalised marketing communications, and being more proactive about potential client needs – this is what will define the success of the Professional Services sector.
Professional Services firms need to shift from their traditional business model to this new, more competitive, client-centric way of doing business. Firms need to gain new levels of insight, analysis and data across their complex and changing clients, while also breaking down silos to provide a more transparent, streamlined, and cost-effective service.
Salesforce enables companies to adapt to this change and reorient their business model. By adopting our Client-360 approach, Professional Services firms can become more agile and responsive in the face of client demands for greater transparency, accountability, and ROI within the sector.
Salesforce is a client-centric performance platform that provides firms with the ability to unify their client data on a global scale, enabling them to deliver high-performing consultancy and accountancy services. Better performance means greater client engagement and revenue in the long term.