3 Ways Life at Services Firms is getting Harder and what You can do About it.

Managers of professional service teams have had to keep up with an unprecedented amount of change over the past few years; during which, some have fared far better than their peers. Much of the success of these most successful firms comes down to how well they understand their competition, the market, and their own team.

When we look at organizations in the professional services industry - lawyers, accountants, creative services, management consultants, healthcare practitioners, and technology professionals - we see that many firms struggle with the same challenges. Namely, that client expectations are rising and competition is growing. In the wake of this, we see the following macro trends emerge. 

 

1.  Many organizations lose revenue due to the lack of access to people data


In a recent survey, 65% of service team executives stated that their organization had to turn down work in the last 12 months, as they lacked the necessary resources and skills. The unfortunate truth is that the right talent is often hidden within your organization. Many companies hire for a specific need and do not have the skills inventory necessary to manage crucial information about their employees.

People are multifaceted and workers in the knowledge economy often possess a broad range of skills, many of which are transferable, but ignored by outdated systems of record. Managers need to keep track of a massive amount of people data in order to efficiently match the right talent with the right project or customer. 

Much of this data lies within specialized datasets and closed proprietary systems. In some cases, firms are leveraging data science and integration tools to work with these systems to support internal recruitment and increased collaboration. 

Structural helps identify the intersections of expertise, past experience, network connectivity, and more, to help teams identify latent business development opportunities. Additionally, Structural can help leverage large datasets with advanced filtering and search functionality. This, when combined with the ability to facilitate internal communications (e.g. posts, polls, email, Slack, and more) help ensure that the message or request for help goes to exactly the right people.

 

Increase billable hours

"We need to sell more and staff more effectively by finding people at the right time and empowering everyone in the organization to do that vs. working through the “sludge” of current information."  
- Vice President for a business management consultant company

Winning organizations are not as top down as they used to be and they empower employees to be proactive about service work. And because of this, firms capture excess capacity across the organization. 

At Structural we call this “raising your hand", which provides the ability for team members of internal service teams to assert that they have available capacity and skills necessary to complete a task.

This is a supplement to, and not a replacement of, existing time tracking or capacity tracking systems. Encouraging a company culture of proactivity and providing tools that enable proactive decision-making provides teams with the ability to capture excess capacity across the organization.

Of course, many productivity and efficiency measures can be linked to increasing billable hours - which we’ll dive in a little deeper as we continue to cover the need for service teams to utilize people data. 

 

2.  Time is wasted looking for talent

According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, for most organizations, 20% of time is spent looking for the right people and information to solve a problem. In professional services this can become a major drain on productivity. 

We believe there is always talent hidden within your organization. Take for example the perspective of an account executive working at an agency. 

"We need to increase awareness of talent across geography and to breakdown silos by better connecting people in other geographies to each other by generating awareness of shared skills, interests, etc." 
-
Account Executive for a full service marketing agency

It’s common that account executives will go to the same consultants or freelancers repeatedly because they can trust the work they do. At larger companies this can be complicated as account managers across the organization act independently and each initiate work directly. The result is a sprawling and unmanaged list of partnerships with no credit to the highest performers on that list. 

Instead of several account executives managing their own personal and siloed database of talent, organizations should centralize and track performance. Doing so successfully requires the right tool.

The Structural platform is built to manage performance data so you can identify consultants with similar skills and high performance characteristics. In this way, you’ll you widen your scope for who is sourced for a project or client and ensure the right talent is selected. 

With performance data at your fingertips, you’ll also make decisions faster. 

"It can take a week or more to find the right set of expertise and availability for a client need. Taking too long results in lost business."
-
Vice President for a global health care provider

Structural helps companies quickly find the internal talent needed to fill projects. By providing expansive search capabilities on skills, expertise, availability, geography, and more; coupled with targeted communications, Structural reduces this talent search from two weeks down to two days.

 

3.  Technology is rapidly changing the workforce and customer expectations

Many firms are shifting recruiting strategies to address shortages in human resources including employing more remote workers and teams and leveraging vendors to complete service requests. As we’ve covered previously, tracking diverse skill sets and communication silos are big hurdles to overcome when solving for the new economy. 

Now companies can select talent from across multiple geographies, to select the right fit, at the right cost—actually, 94% of high performers strategically leverage external talent networks

As we outlined in the account executive scenario, you’re able to manage and achieve greater results with a centralized solution. With bill rates input into a platform like Structural, a simple search can be conducted that helps find the best cost resource with the right capabilities, regardless of geographic location.

 

Easily locate just-in-time expertise

Workers can be proactive in raising their hand to take on work and they can be just as proactive in learning how. Learning needs to be collaborative and the knowledge of others should be shared across the organization. Otherwise, workers may find themselves asking, “who works here who is good at [subject or technology]?”

Sometimes, you just need a quick answer, but you don’t know if anyone across the larger organization has the experience to answer your question. Even with all the recent collaboration technology (intranets, Google Drive, Slack, etc.), often firms still don’t have access to their own people data.

For too many organizations, figuring out who on their team possesses the answer to even a simple question is reliant upon tribal knowledge. That is, workers conduct their search often through a trial and error process; without the benefit of targeting those who really have the answers.

“We need to be able to find the right expert at the right time for PR purposes.  Maybe it’s a story on driverless vehicles and we need someone who can serve as an AI expert for example.”
-
Executive for a full service marketing agency

Structural makes it easy to conduct a targeted search and deploy a targeted request for help: turning a search result on a broad range of characteristics into a question or post asking that group possessing the necessary and specialized knowledge if they have the answer. 

 

Improve customer satisfaction

Transparency is as important to your team as it is to your customers. For professional services teams, there exists a huge wall between the full scope of talent at the services organization and the client. 

In many client relationships, the clients do not know the full potential of their vendor’s team. Being transparent about your team’s skills, services, and expertise is a great way to enable your client to ask for additional services. 

Transparency about your firm’s capacity, skills, and people data can also help to ensure clients have the right talent matched to their objective. With client feedback input into the platform, Structural can help report on the match and offer alternatives to the client who might be an even better fit. This helps organizations not just meet the need, but exceed it over time.

 

What sets a successful firm apart from others is that firm’s access to their own network of human capital

For firms working in the professional services industry the most important assets relevant to addressing the biggest challenges today are the service professionals themselves. However, they’re becoming more geographically spread out and, in terms of workload, spread thin. Furthermore the widely used and traditional informational service platforms responsible for managing human capital are not keeping up with rapid change disrupting many industries.

Successful organizations know how utilize data analytics and powerful new technologies to empower their teams to become more efficient and provide greater value to their evolving customer base. When organizations harness and leverage their own people data they compete on what they are experts at, providing great services. 

 

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Banner image by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

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