Much has changed in the Professional Services (PS) industry over the past five years, not least the impact of the economic downturn. However, 2014 is at last witnessing a renewed confidence in the sector and with it growing client budgets and demands.
Business for growth
Such is the importance of PS, that in July 2013 the UK government published a report ‘Growth is Our Business: A Strategy for Professional and Business Services’ centred on the industry and how to further drive its growth.
And while the report praised its success: ‘The Professional and Business Services (PBS) sector generates 11% of UK gross value added and provides nearly 12% of UK employment. It also contributes strongly to economic growth and productivity: despite the economic downturn, PBS has seen growth of nearly 4% a year in the last decade.’
A sentiment echoed by a Centre for European Reform report which states that: ‘Services make up the great majority of economic activity in most developed economies. In France and the UK, they constitute nearly 80% of economic activity. Even in Germany, which has a large manufacturing sector, services make up 72%.’
War for talent
The UK report also recognised its challenges: ‘The PBS sector’s main asset is its people. Key to its success, therefore, is access to a wide range of advanced skills, both to meet current demands and future growth opportunities. The quality of the PBS workforce will be critical to the sector’s ability to compete for international business.’
Indeed, talent is a key issue across the consulting spectrum, including marketing and PR and architecture and engineering. And as the landscape continues to change, so too does the skill set of the Professional Services industry and its people.
If you’re not online, you’re offline
In a landscape where the internet has become the primary way for businesses to communicate - through email, video conferences and the like - globalisation has become ever more realistic for Professional Services organisations. As the Lord Mayor of London states ‘In financial and professional services, the world is not driven by nations but by markets.’
This has been made even easier with the increase of mobile working, allowing employees to access their business systems from their homes or different office locations. This has huge benefits for organisations whose consultants are often working within their clients’ offices. A recent European study found that 68% of companies allow their employees to work out of the office which can lead to a 39% increase in productivity.
Demand and supply
As is their prerogative, clients demand more and expect more. For example, favouring fixed prices over retainers, and time and material rates over hourly payments. So how can the Professional Services sector respond in a bid to try and please all of the people, all of the time, and still make money?
A better and more efficient way of working which is aligned to both internal and external changes is a sound starting point. This will enable any business to achieve a more tangible means of planning, recording and managing how they and their team work. This requires a business support system, via enterprise resource planning, which mirrors that vision. A fit for purpose, project-based ERP could be the difference between your PS business standing still and sprinting.
Keep the conversation flowing
To move your business forward you need to look at the inside first. Improve your internal communications to keep employees engaged and a business culture that delivers in this period of growth.