Professional and Business Services: Bridging the Acceleration Gap

At Workday Industry Insights EMEA, experts, customers, and industry leaders discussed how professional and business services firms are fuelling enterprises on the digital acceleration journey and helping them stay on track with the skills and offerings essential to thrive in the new world.

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The acceleration gap is real. Businesses are struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the market, heralded by an influx of new players, emerging technologies, novel ways of working, and evolving customer preferences. Nearly three-quarters of CEOs say they are stuck in operational silos that greatly hinder their speed, and 80% of the C-suite feel their decision-making takes too long. This state of affairs, as the great acceleration is in motion, can be detrimental for enterprises.

As the turbulence of the last 18 months starts to stabilise, professional and business services (PBS) firms, with their bouquet of specialised skills, can enable companies to seize the day and sharpen their competitive edge. To do this, they must rev their own digital transformation engines.

At Workday Industry Insights EMEA, industry experts, leaders, and customers weighed in on the business climate and how PBS firms are filling the acceleration gap with the skills and offerings critical to rebuilding the future for enterprises everywhere.

 

Firms must align their talent strategy to future business needs, and in a market where the urgent demand for talent transcends the supply, upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling can be the answer.

Skills Gap: The Achilles Heel for Businesses

On a digital acceleration journey, people strategy often becomes a blind spot. But overlooking the talent landscape can create massive drag on an organisation’s transformation agenda. 

As of 2021, the global talent shortage already amounts to 40 million skilled workers worldwide. By 2030, the global talent shortage is predicted to reach 85.2 million workers. Jeremy Lief, partner, transformation and technology consulting at PwC, believes skills shortages are a burning issue across industries today. “A whole host of industries are experiencing a significant shortage of skills right now, not just here in the UK, but all over the world. It’s not necessarily something you can just buy your way out of,” he said.

Firms must align their talent strategy to future business needs, and in a market where the urgent demand for talent transcends the supply, upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling can be the answer. Empowering your existing workforce can create a more adaptable and resilient organisation, according to Lief

“It's not about necessarily going out and recruiting people from other organisations or other countries, because there aren't enough people with the right skills in the workforce around the world. So that's where upskilling becomes really critical,” he added.

Out of adversity comes great opportunity. Stuart Collins, a finance partner at BDO LLP, which provides tax and audit assurance, advisory, and business outsourcing services to companies worldwide, spoke about the early dividends that a holistic talent strategy was paying for his organisation. He focused on successes in the shared services arena and how his firm had taken the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis in its stride.  

“With remote working with agile tools such as robotic process automation (RPA), we have been able to redeploy quite a lot of our support staff and retrain them. And there's been much enthusiasm to learn these new skills and these new roles in the shared service centre,” said Collins.

 

A digital acceleration journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Beyond the Digital Leap

Going digital by moving core business processes online or to the cloud, and adopting new platforms, is just the tip of the iceberg when embarking on a digital transformation agenda. To make the acceleration journey reap meaningful rewards, firms must delve a lot deeper into technology solutions such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and scenario planning. 

“We have been investing, and we are investing more in digital solutions, RPA, and AI,” said Collins. “One of our top 10 strategic projects is what we call commercial reporting. And this is very much about a joined-up, end-to-end use of data throughout our organisation—and data sources beyond our organisation—to try and get real insight into what's going on, what decisions to make, and which clients and individuals to work with. This helps us see a whole new way of doing things, and we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of these technologies,” he added. 

Organisations that can replan and reforecast as conditions change are better able to respond to what’s happening now—and prepare for what’s in store for the future. What-if scenarios will empower firms to make data-driven decisions, even when the unexpected happens. “It's coming back to the need for reliable, predictable, standard data that you can then use to drill down and look at various what-ifs across areas to help you make better informed business decisions,” said Lief.

BDO LLP has recently deployed Workday Financial ManagementWorkday Human Capital Management, and Workday Professional Services Automation. “At the moment, we are building a forecasting and business-planning tool for our budgeting process within Workday. Workday is also helping us to design a resource-planning tool for our audit practice,” said Collins.

Patrice Cappello, global head of professional and business services go-to-market at Workday, described the long-term partnership and collaborative approach that is critical in the success of a firm’s digital agenda. 

“When I meet executives for the first time who are considering Workday, I'll tell them, ‘If you choose Workday, it's going to be a very long relationship, and we will not consider ourselves successful until you are driving value back into your business.’ So it's a pretty unique approach to helping services firms from a solutions perspective,” said Cappello. 

 

“Trust your people. You're going to be working in an agile way, and it requires a certain element of trust.” 

Steven Raymond, Executive Director, People Transformation, Capita

The Data Dilemma

Digital creates vast amounts of both structured and unstructured data, and businesses must work to untangle these and transform them into actionable insights. So, how should professional services companies approach data management? 

“You need systems and processes that will capture data, systematise it, and make it accessible, so that you can use it and do something with it. Because otherwise it's just filling up your servers and your data centres. … You’re looking for a tool that will allow you to standardise things and really make data available right across the organisation,” said Collins.

Steven Raymond, ​​executive director of people transformation at Capita, the largest business process outsourcing and professional services company in the UK, stressed the importance of having access to accurate data and its role in fortifying an organisation’s agility.

“In order to get agile, you can't really skip the basics of having accurate data and having efficient processes around that. It's those enablers of agility we've been really focusing on that have now allowed us to be more agile. If you don’t have a good foundation for data, then everything else you try to do is going to inevitably collapse.”

Digital Acceleration Playbook: Winning Strategies

A digital acceleration journey is a marathon, not a sprint. So, what are the best practices that can fuel businesses along the way and keep them on track? Workday Industry Insights EMEA experts shared their top strategies from the digital acceleration playbook.

Lief said the most important factor is getting the foundations in place. 

  • “It requires big investment. It requires commitment. It requires leadership engagement and sponsorship. But once you've taken that step and you've built the technology platform and the data platform, you really then have the foundational tools that you need to make business decisions in context that you can't anticipate today. Think differently and be bold.”

 

For Collins, the secret sauce in the recipe for success is having a finger on the pulse of your people and staying connected with industry peers. 

  • “We talk to our people. We do surveys. We do focus groups. … You've got to be in tune with your people. And you've got to talk around the sector. I spend a lot of my time talking to CFOs of other professional firms and indeed very different organisations, and I'm fascinated to hear about their challenges. And I share some of mine. So we are building the best intelligence we can to try and make the best decisions we can.”

Raymond agreed with Collins. 

  • “Trust your people. You're going to be working in an agile way, and it requires a certain element of trust.” 

Cappello closed the panel discussion with her short and sweet nugget of inspiration: 

  • “My advice would be, ‘Embrace digital. Go digital.” 

Watch the on-demand session to hear from our expert panelists and guests and learn more about how professional and business services have accelerated their journey to becoming a digital enterprise.

 

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