In 2020 professional services organizations (PSOs) are profoundly experiencing at least three different and substantial disruptions to their business, and often several secondary ones as well.
It was the arrival of COVID-19 earlier this year that led to lockdowns around the globe that have curtailed client demand and hampered project delivery. Those same lockdowns have also restricted project staff to their homes for the most part, slowing down client projects and impacting billable work. Finally, a rising economic downturn is wreaking havoc both in client budgets as well as the PSO firms’ own finances, leading to urgent calls for cost cutting and new efficiencies.
It’s the proverbial perfect storm of major challenges and it’s leading to a dramatic impact on customer success as well as affecting morale of the talent base in most PSOs. This has resulted in calls for a widespread push within firms to rapidly rethink and update their operating models to determine the right mitigations and respond effectively.
Except, as many have found, responding quickly and effectively to these challenges is hard to do when so much uncontrolled change is currently taking place.
In fact, many PSOs will be tempted to focus first on cost control to ensure short-term survival. While this is a natural response that does offer immediate and tangible control over a once-in-a-lifetime event filled with uncertainty, organizations must also remain mindful of the vital characteristics of professional services firms. Overly enthusiastic responses to this year’s disruptions can adversely impact the organizations strategic operating model long term.
The risk is in affecting the overarching characteristics of professional services firms. In particular, it is two stand-out characteristics that make them unique in the industry: One is the nature of the highly bespoke work they do that is especially tailored for each client regardless of tools, services model or data. The second is the special nature of cultivating successful long-term client relationships. Both of these characteristics require intensive and skilled delivery capabilities. Finally, underpinning both of these foundational characteristics is the high leverage human capital model that determines both revenue and profit for the PSO, and which needs to be finely tuned across the many layers of the organization.
This was a painful lesson learned across the PSO industry from the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Decisions made too expediently negatively impacted firms long after the crisis had passed. Studies have shown that decisions to reduce talent or cut compensation and billable time affected their client relationships as well their brand image for many years. Conversely, the firms that weathered the short-term pressure and managed to keep hard-to-replace human capital prospered as the economy recovered. In this same vein, organizations with a clear sense of the type of PSO that must emerge from the veil of 2020 — and what it will take to thrive in the resulting market conditions — will be in the best position to prosper.
Figure 1: The Pre-2020 Model of PSOs is Giving Way to a New Client/Talent Focused Model
It’s therefore paramount that any cost control discussions be viewed through the constructive lens of the organization’s business and talent strategy, along with its future operating model. In order to be able to do that, the business must first recalibrate their core strategy and execution with today’s fresh realities in mind:
In other words, there are major prospects to do more than just survive through brute force cost cutting. Instead, more elegant solutions afford themselves if first the PSO will engage in a rapid rethinking through a view of the current the art-of-the-possible. In essence, a combined business and digital transformation. This transformation will generally consist of a combination of bold new ideas, better integration and consolidation of operational activities, and powerful new technology tools including automation, holistic user experience upgrades, and powerful new concepts from the realm of digital business.
As it turns out, the typical PSO has been experiencing quite a bit of change in the last couple of years anyway. Trends like more dynamic staffing approaches, better automation of delivery, more project analytics and diagnostics, have all led to improved services, higher margins, and greater customer success. Often led initially by technology, which has led to simultaneous advances in re-imagining the operational models of PSOs through new capabilities, a new type of PSO is emerging that is more agile, lean, digitally-infused, and experience-centric.
Driven by industry trends, technology innovations, and changes in the world, below are the types of key shifts that are being seen in PSO organizations as a result of the events in 2020. These trends are grouped into three categories, focusing on the business/clients, the worker, and overall health and wellbeing of all PSO stakeholders.
In summary, PSOs have a historic opportunity to pivot to adapt to the significant disruptions they have faced so far in 2020. By adopting an updated operating model and quickly delivering on it with clients and talent using new solutions, PSOs can avoid the most damaging types of cost cutting while being positioned for growth in 2021 and beyond. That is, as long as they are willing to think outside the box and adopt sensible yet far-reaching shifts in their strategies, tools, and operating models.
Source : https://www.constellationr.com/blog-news/rethinking-professional-services-organization-post-2020