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Professional services firms have seen tremendous change because of the pandemic, including less face time with clients and an increasingly hybrid work environment. These shifts have come with their challenges and have led to new expectations from clients and employees.
With change comes new opportunity. Professional services firms can use technology to support their efforts to meet customer and employee expectations while reaping new and profitable rewards.
Here are two significant changes professional services firms are navigating today – and how technology is helping them find their way.
Professional services firms have always followed an outside-of-typical work schedule. Employees work at odd hours to accommodate clients in varying time zones. But in March 2020, COVID-19 brought about stay-at-home orders and social distancing.
“Everyone was contained in the same walls and trying to have a healthy work and social or family life,” says Joe Haley, professional services account manager at NetSuite. “The demands on the family had more of an impact on the demand of remote employees.”
While stay-at-home orders and, to a degree, social distancing may be in the rearview mirror, the effects of that time have lingered.
A PwC survey found that 83% of employers said that the shift to remote work has been successful successful; 55% of workers said they would prefer to be working remotely at least three days a week.
Professional services firms are flexing to accommodate more sporadic schedules or fewer hours to avoid potential burnout. With clients, professional services firms have had to be empathetic. As part of that, they’ve needed to consider making access to their services more convenient.
These changes have made it more difficult for organizations to match the right resource to the right project at the right time. Additionally, current and future talent are questioning whether professional services are the best career path for the balance they need. And there’s concern about filling gaps left by those approaching retirement.
“Technology can really improve efficiencies operationally within an organization, but at the end of the day, the users have to log in and use it.” – Joe Haley
An ERP system can be an oar for professional services companies in the ever-changing rapids of our time. But you need the proper infrastructure and processes to support implementation and adoption and procedures and policies that reduce employee burnout while maintaining an expected level of service for clients.
Implementing a solution or offering that your employees can’t easily use or won’t address their needs will not be effective. And if you implement the right technology and do not prioritize change management, the effort can fall short of its potential. A Cloud-based ERP from Microsoft or NetSuite can improve efficiency in a remote work environment in various ways.
The pandemic forced most professional services organizations to move their in-person meetings, on-site visits and face-to-face interactions online.
While digital communication proved to be efficient and cost-effective, it can be challenging for professional services firms to maintain authenticity and retain quality client relationships without interacting in person.
“A lot can get missed in video calls or conference calls when there’s no visual representation,” Haley says. “You can’t see the facial expressions. As long as you’ve got the facial expressions, you can navigate and make sure you’re addressing the needs everybody has. But when it’s lost, 80 percent of communication is non-verbal. There is something tangible about the collaboration that can occur face-to-face.”
Clients may perceive less value when those relationships suffer and start looking elsewhere for similar services at a lower price or with more convenient digital offerings. Professional services firms have accelerated their digital offerings, prioritizing the expansion and enhancement of digital and virtual service channels and communication methods to improve their customer experience, even when they can’t be in person.
Virtual meetings and remote work are not going away anytime soon. Organizations may opt for a combination of in-person and virtual communication. Each organization must find the right balance that helps them retain their client base and meet new expectations.
A Cloud ERP solution can help professional services firms lean into new challenges by centralizing data from their disparate systems. That way, they can see the bigger picture and eliminate data siloes by unifying data for a holistic view of your customers, business and operations.
The Cloud can help organizations move off disparate, clunky, high-maintenance systems and platforms to create a more accessible technology environment as the changes over the past two years become more permanent.
The good news is that professional services firms are no longer “stuck” with what they have or facing a significant overhaul and integration to get what your organization needs as it grows or changes in an uncertain environment.
Extend existing applications, build new solutions, and integrate with other technologies on a flexible, scalable and secure platform. Talk to one of our professional services experts at Enavate to learn how the right tools can help you meet the changing needs of your employees and clients.