The professional services industry, as we currently know it, will likely be radically different in just ten years’ time. All professional services firms are predominantly people focused, both internally with their talent pool and externally through their client relationships. Demands and expectations from both groups of these people are ever changing and increasing.

To respond and adapt to these increasing demands and expectations, there are four people-focused business priorities which all leaders of professional service firms should have front and centre of their minds. These priorities should be paramount for leaders who are looking to optimise their business outcomes and become a next-generation professional services firm.

1. Client Relationships

Leaders of firms need to be concerned with understanding their client portfolio, the hallmarks of what creates a lasting and profitable relationship and what they can do to expand the profitable segments of their portfolio.

To be able to do this and grow revenue, firms must be able to effectively mine their data to identify opportunities and coordinate a consistent, firm-wide approach to prioritisation and new client targeting. An organisation’s data needs to be in a healthy state to be able to achieve this therefore having strong data foundations to build upon is a must for any successful firm.

2. Billable Expertise

Maintaining customer relationships, delivering on commitments and building a firm’s brand all depend on assigning the strongest and best aligned talent to work on certain projects.

There are not many things more important to a professional services firm than its ability to attract, hire, retain and motivate exceptional talent. Firms also need to be able attract freelancers and subcontractors when required and/or make use of a partner ecosystem.

3. Service Delivery

Once you have the correct talent, it is important they have the correct technology and processes in place to best execute their deliverables. The service delivery lifecycle is where a project is mapped out, step by step. It is where firms require industry-specific processes and capabilities.

Being able to impose controls on the planning and execution of projects is critical to the predictable, repeatable and ultimately profitable delivery of an engagement. Leaders need to invest time and effort into developing a structure for projects with phases, milestones and deliverables outlined. This is easy assisted by the correct technologies.

4. Financial Results

If leaders are effectively managing the above business priorities, financial results should, in theory, take care of themselves. However, financial controllers and CFOs will be quick to point out the practical reality that cost controls, oversight and direction-setting don’t happen on their own (wishful thinking!).

Service line and practice managers with P&L responsibility are similarly concerned with looking at their data from many different angles, identifying concerns before they become problems and taking early corrective action. Hence the importance of collecting and storing your data correctly and having healthy data practices in place.

It is a given that the next ten years will be a period of transformation and disruption for the professional services industry. To effectively meet the business priorities outlined in this article head-on, leaders need to take a logical approach to change and embrace new technology.

To find out more about digital transformation in the professional services sector, view Optimising Business Outcomes – a guide for the professional services sector.