Firms will need to bolster their access to high-quality, always-available data, along with having staff with the necessary data literacy skills to make sense of it all. Of companies with fully-accessible data, 76% say they are well-equipped digitally to ensure business continuity in times of crisis, Workday finds. Small wonder, then, that advanced analytics and data visualization are the skills most sought after by IT leaders (35%) and finance leaders (34%).
“Access to data is the crux of most technology issues in any company,” says Jennifer LaClair, CFO, Ally Financial.
To better understand what the future might hold for professional services firms, industry thought leaders shared their predictions for three of the biggest trends the industry will face.
1. New Ways of Working Supercharge an Embrace of Automation, Analytics, and AI and ML for Resource Management
Spreadsheets will no longer cut it as a way for professional services firms to keep a tally of their people and their skills—not when the industry is evolving so quickly and talent demand exceeds supply.
Keeping track of talent has become more complicated in a hybrid work environment with almost two in five global employees (39%) expected to work hybrid schedules by the end of 2023, up from just 12% in 2020, according to Gartner.
This talent environment demands that industry leaders must be able to put the right people on the right projects with ease. But because spreadsheets can’t provide accurate, dynamic insight into available talent and skills, firms tend to staff projects with the same people, time and again.
“They’ve been relying, basically, on staffing projects with the people they know. That’s not a scalable strategy—particularly in a remote or hybrid environment,” says Justin Joseph, Workday’s senior director of product strategy for professional services industries. “New ways of working have highlighted, for a lot of companies, how murky their visibility is on the real skills of their workforce.”
So murky, in fact, that 38% of human resources (HR) leaders consider workforce planning one of the biggest human capital challenges their organization faces today, according to the PwC and Workday report.
“You need to be able to look across the business and see who you have, see what skills you have, to be able to plan for the future,” says Patrice Cappello, managing director, professional services industry, Workday.
To know how best to use available resources, companies need intelligent resource management software that can provide a holistic, centralized view of people and their skills. A truly smart resource management application will use ML to pull in data from sources such as resumes, performance reviews, learning systems, and people’s past projects to build a skills ontology that’s both comprehensive and continuously updated.
Automation and ML can then unlock real-time visibility into the workforce, shedding light not only on available people and skills but also on the best combination of people for the project at hand.
“Machine learning can work through so many more dimensions around who would make an ideal team for a particular project—helping the person tasked with resourcing to make data-driven decisions faster and with greater accuracy and confidence,” Cappello says.
Firms can use ML to quickly adjust hiring plans in response to economic fluctuations and other changes, making the most of their billable resources. That’s no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have.
“In the past, professional services firms were hesitant to put in the work required for real enterprisewide resource management. But the past few years have been a perfect storm for highlighting the vulnerabilities in that approach,” Cappello says. “Tighter margins and clients’ increasing sophistication in procuring resources are driving firms to rethink resource management, and we see the industry now takes automation much more seriously.”
2. To Meet Shifting Client Expectations, Organizations Must Focus on Actionable Insights
In light of the rapid-fire evolution of technology, clients increasingly expect faster and more personalized service. At the same time, they are less likely to commit to a fixed set of project deliverables, but more likely to expect specific business outcomes to be met, IDC reports.