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As digital technology evolves, professional services organizations must transform their business operations too or risk losing productivity and efficiency to the more forward-thinking firms. However, digital transformation is always an intimidating challenge. Such a transformation is complex and must span across the length and breadth of the entire enterprise, covering all departments, systems and workflows. However, embracing digital transformation enables professional services firms to integrate and streamline operations, drive productivity and efficiency, and improve business intelligence and performance. It can help them differentiate themselves from the competition by delivering improved services more accurately and faster.
Digital Transformation Driving Paradigm Shift in Professional Services Firms
Professional services firms should view digital transformation as an ally rather than a challenge. Digital transformation helps companies deliver quality services while improving operational efficiency. Moreover, the fast-paced professional services industry is filled with dynamic challenges such as the recent rise in remote and hybrid workforces. Firms are increasingly looking towards digital transformation to become capable of taking proactive decisions even in the face of major upheavals. The biggest impact of such transformation can be seen in four key areas.
Transformation of Business Models
Digital transformation allows professional services firms to rethink existing business models by reimagining all aspects such as value propositions, services, and price points. With digital, firms can start developing new delivery models and services that can bring them increased revenue in newer markets and partnerships. The recent shift towards remote and hybrid working capabilities is one example of such transformation.
Professional services firms can leverage automation and analytics to augment how they think, research, understand, and solve. Automation can break down complex activities into component parts such as research, analysis, and development etc. These tasks can then be outsourced to experts or pushed towards employees with the relevant skill sets, freeing up the more experienced professionals to focus on the more complex tasks such as management. As a result, the firm delivers more quality expertise in greater volumes to customers while lowering the service costs.
Embracing agility allows companies to deploy their resources more efficiently, in terms of hours or days, compared to the months or weeks required by non-digital models. The flexibility allows these firms to leverage expert specialists for certain tasks that need niche expertise. As a result, the agility becomes a competitive advantage, allowing for increased collaboration, better decision-making, and faster services delivery.
Digital transformation can improve the efficiency of employees by enabling them to spend more time on more profitable and critical tasks. Additionally, newer digital tools can help professional services firms to improve their hiring process. They will also help companies to maintain higher engagement levels among their employees through training and dynamic management.
What Is Agile Digital Transformation?
More mature organizations tend to be highly complex and are slower when it comes to innovation. They also lag behind other organizations in delivering newer solutions to customers. Therefore, enterprise organizations must adopt the agile mindset in order to stay competitive and maintain their market position.
Agile is an approach most commonly associated with software development but has now spread to all parts of organizations. Under this approach, projects or initiatives are broken down into shorter iterations with the understanding that the needs or the goals will change throughout the entire process. An agile digital transformation roadmap aims to deliver progress over perfection and responds to change instead of following a strict plan.
By focusing on agility, organizations learn from each iteration and constantly adapt to demands and needs, reducing the risk of failure. There is continuous innovation and radical transformation in capabilities but they take place in measured steps. Organizations feel empowered to start digital initiatives, learn and then re-start as needed allowing them to react quickly to changing needs and market conditions.
Agile Digital Transformation Guiding Principles
Professional services must follow 5 digital transformation guiding principles, as follows, to ensure a successful outcome.
1. A Transformative Vision
For many professional services firms, there is a distinct lack of a strong vision for transformation to guide the digital strategy. The absence of such a vision makes it difficult for enterprises to measure their progress and make adjustments to ensure desired outcomes. It is imperative that the senior leadership creates a robust digital vision and communicates it throughout the organization.
A study by Project Management Institute noted that 51% of senior executives believe that a leadership mandate was the reason behind the rise in their organization’s agility level. It is vital that the leadership takes responsibility for influencing and coaching their teams to embrace the transformation, particularly for an enterprise. Enterprise leaders must help teams organize themselves and change their perspectives. They must help enable and encourage transformative efforts throughout the teams, increasing communication and collaboration to ensure a successful transformation..
2. Bring in Secure Digital Platforms
Digital platforms enable the intelligent use of newer technologies such as Cloud, social media, Big Data, mobile devices and more. They allow a modular approach to choosing systems and tools, allowing for lower costs and better flexibility. Professional services firms must start implementing digital platforms in gradual phases to enable digital transformation. However, while doing so, they must not forget to manage security risks. Here, the right digital platform strategy is necessary to support growth and transformation while reducing risks.
3. Build Digital Engagement with Customers
A successful digital transformation must focus on improving customer experience to drive engagement. This helps prioritize adding value to the organization, rather than focusing only on costs or milestones. Organizations should leverage the new digital platforms to deliver this value early and continuously. This generates feedback and data which can then be used to inform the next set of improvements. At the same time, organizations can improve their customer engagement as they actually start listening to what customers want.
4. Generate Insights with Data
For a progressive digital transformation, organizations must do more than just constantly gather data. They must also analyze the data to generate actionable insights in real-time. This allows the stakeholders to improve their understanding of the technologies and drive decision-making around those technologies.
5. Embrace Digital Agility with an Iterative Approach
An iterative approach can bring value and ROI incrementally with time while breeding a culture of continuous improvement. It helps companies to evolve their strategies based on feedback and outcomes. Such an approach for digital agility allows companies to assess their capabilities while exploring new and more innovative options to drive growth.
For professional services firms that take pride in delivering the best services, digital transformation and agile must go hand-in-hand. As the world continues to become digital-first, professional services must seek to better position themselves by embracing digital agility. Only then can they remain competitive and become future ready.
Why Professional Services Firms Struggle with Enterprise Digital Transformation?
Transformation is vital for any organization that wants to survive the constant changes in the professional, economic and technological worlds. Digital transformation is the complete metamorphosis of organizational activities, business models, and processes with advanced technologies. Due to the inherent complexity involved in such a radical change, it is not uncommon to see professional services firms struggling to succeed at it.
The main challenges that organizations face with digital transformation can be broken down into the following.
When considering transformation, many organizations get caught up in the promises offered by the new technology. They are dazzled by the potential improvements and become overly optimistic and excited about what these new technologies mean for the organization. They fail to realize that those improvements are only possible when there is a strong vision guiding the transformation, supported by good communication.
Lack of Leadership
Digital transformation requires a massive shift in how organizations go about their daily processes. The resulting upheaval is just one of the areas that require the guidance of a strong qualified leadership. The leaders must also possess a strong vision, as mentioned above, to strategize the implementation of new technologies. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the leadership skills necessary to drive these transformation initiatives successfully.
Underdeveloped or Inadequate Skills
Competency gaps and lack of skilled talent make it difficult for organizations to replace older technologies and legacy systems. It becomes necessary to reskill their existing employees and that can be a tough hurdle to overcome. There is also a shortage of resources that have the right level of industry expertise and knowledge to support transformational change to consider.
Shortage of Funds
Bringing about change at all levels of the organization does require a considerable investment. Few professional services firms have the financial resources necessary for such initiatives. The lack of funds make it harder for these firms to make meaningful contributions towards their transformative efforts. Firms also tend to be wary of making large investments due to concerns about the risks associated with change and the possibility of failure.
While professional services organizations recognize the need to embrace digital transformation, they have been slow to innovate. That is why many of them are looking towards Agile to overcome challenges.
To learn more about why professional services must embrace digital agility, listen to the podcast, The Future is Now: Professional Services Need To Embrace Digital Agility.