The professional services industry’s future is suddenly right on the doorstep, forced into immediacy by the pandemic’s impact on all facets of a business. Rapidly developing technology, evolving clients’ demands, employee expectations, and other factors will impact everything from how professionals deliver their services to what the professional services will include.
Learning about the professional services trends and what factors are transforming the professional services industry can help you make wiser decisions to best position your business for long-term success.
Despite a reputation for being slow to embrace change, professional services industry trends are finally emerging to suggest that the professional services industry’s future will look very different from today’s.
Simply put, professional business services like accounting, legal, and consulting are at the gates of a digital transformation.
Shifting expectations, new digital platforms, and data-driven services will challenge accounting service professionals to adapt to new client demands and technology.
Accounting firms and professionals could find some services automated or even completed by the clients themselves. They gain access to technology that simplifies transactional data and delivers it in an easily digestible form.
Global workforce demographics are also shifting, while clients demand more value from legal services professionals than ever before.
At the same time, the legal sector must embrace technological advancements that drive new business models and develop new roles for legal talent. This could mean a radical change in this sector in the coming years.
In addition to the forces shaping the future of the legal and accounting sectors, the current appetite for technology-based consulting could mean new opportunities for expanded services in these and other professional services. This demand may continue and expand in a post-pandemic world.
Why Do Professional Services Exist?
What exactly are professional services?
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the professional services definition is as follows: “a service requiring specialized knowledge and skill usually of a mental or intellectual nature and usually requiring a license, certification, or registration.”
So, a professional service provider is one who offers these services, often through a professional services firm.
Professional services grew from the development of an increasingly specialized workforce. Since each society, business, and individual can’t “know all the things,” people and businesses began to focus on acquiring and selling specific skills and services.
These services became increasingly specialized over many years, resulting in a professional services industry with a growing number of narrowly focused professional services sectors.
Professional services firms traditionally offered legal, accounting, financial, and consulting services via face-to-face meetings. Professional services responsibilities usually include offering advice, problem-solving, and/or document preparation. Current knowledge of the laws and/or best practices informs the professional’s opinion and recommendations based on the client’s situation and requirements.
Historically, technological advancements influenced the professional service specializations being offered. However, going forward, the impact of technology on professional services could also significantly affect how consumers use these services.
New technology could even replace some service providers completely, as technology makes knowledge sharing more efficient.
Major Trends Impacting Professional Services
The professional services industry outlook includes impacts from these significant trends
- Prioritizing cybersecurity to protect data from cyberattacks
- Changing values of new talent - increased importance of balanced work-life, flexible work arrangements, and purpose-driven careers
- The desire for a more personalized and intuitive customer experience as delivered by new technology
- Data-driven decision making (i.e. data collection allows efficient calculation of key ratios such as customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value)
- Increased dependence on consultants, contractors rather than employees
- Automating administrative tasks to free up professional talent to boost productivity
- Increased operational complexity in areas such as project management, workforce planning, and budgeting due to factors such as globalization and specialization
- Adaption of emerging artificial intelligence technologies to automate administration and customer service tasks (i.e. chatbots and digital personal assistants) and improve sales forecasting (machine learning)
- Consumers are searching for and finding professional services - online instead of via traditional print and media advertising.
Future of Professional Services Firms
As pandemic-related global changes might have professional services bumping into the future sooner than expected, it’s essential to consider the key factors necessary for business survival in an increasingly global and digitized environment.
Launching or expanding services on a digital platform could mean exploring options for delivering services, documents, and information to clients via a secure online portal. Establishing your professional expertise and authority through digital channels such as social media, online advertising, and website content will require a robust yet focused digital marketing strategy.
Begin preparing your business for a new workforce planning/human resources strategy aligned to work with new and emerging business models, including virtual firms and AI, and machine-learning enabled independent firms. This could mean hiring independent contractors, freelancers, and remote workers in place of traditional employees and budgeting for virtual work, home office equipment, and collaborative software services.
To stay competitive as a traditional professional service, study the professional services trends and then identify your business’s current strengths and opportunities. Then you can consider how to best future-proof your company in this new business landscape.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.