Thought leaders’ views on the future of professional service firms and their clients

By Jenna Owsianik on April 12, 2015 | Permalink

Professional services are a critical and fast-growing sector of the economy. It’s important for everyone, not just people in the industry, to think about their future and the forces that may influence them in the next decade.

To address this topic, Future Exploration Network and Beaton Capital recently ran the conference Clients and Firms of the Future: How to Compete, co-facilitated by Ross Dawson and George Beaton. The highly participatory event was an opportunity to learn from the foremost experts in the field. The main themes of the conference included the future of professional firms’ clients, the impact of digital technology on the industry, and future of business models and competition.

The high calibre of delegates and faculty lead to fantastic insights to arise from group discussions. They also prompted thought-provoking reflections after the event. Below is an overview of the top perspectives shared by thought leaders, which also generated the most discourse and interest at the conference.

Clients of the Future

Thought leaders present at the conference spoke about clients’ changing needs and offered their viewpoints on what trends will affect the delivery of professional services.

Top insights:

  • Clients will increasingly use technology and automation to obtain the services and information they require
  • Clients will demand faster and immediate results as well as price competitive firms
  • Relationships will become more important and collaborative between clients and firms in physical spaces
  • Porous boundaries between clients and firms will cause teams to be built with multiple services providers
  • Clients will become more empowered because they will be more informed, leading the information asymmetry between firm and client to virtually disappear
  • Clients will desire for pricing based on outcome and value rather than on hourly rates
  • Alignment between client and firm will become more important in terms of values, relationships, price-risk sharing model, and business model

The Role of Digital Technology

Technological innovation was not only discussed as a possible threat to the professional services industry. Delegates also addressed the potential for it to reinvigorate ways of doing business.

Top insights:

  • Every technological threat can also be seen as an opportunity to improve the quality of service provided to clients
  • Digitization will result in increasingly commoditized services, pushing firms to become more specialized in areas that cannot be commoditized
  • Clients will receive better outcomes as firms incorporate artificial intelligence and big data into their analytics
  • Access to real-time data will shift firms’ approaches from curative to preventative as potential problems are curbed before they can fester
  • A booming digital marketplace will lead to the majority of professional services being sourced from online channels
  • Telepresence and other forms of digital communication will bring in opportunities to connect with clients far away

Business Models of the Future

Future-proofing of business models was a key theme of the event. Senior leaders from professional service firms contributed their ideas on how to remain successful by focusing on how firms structure and govern themselves.

Top insights:

  • Firms must get better at continuously improving their business models, which may require culture and mindset change to overcome legacy culture
  • There’s a need to do less thinking and more doing when it comes to incorporating new technologies, and firms must overcome reluctance to fail and make more mistakes
  • To remain competitive, firms will need to shift from time-based fees to fixed and outcome-based fees and adopt lean and agile business models
  • Outsourcing processes will free up time for adding increased value to clients
  • To successfully transform firms’ business models, they must throw out traditional structures to direct earning models and promote incentivized referrals

As a result of the success and strong interest garnered by the forum, Future Exploration Network and Beaton Capital will hold a second Clients and Firms of the Future: How to Compete conference in March 2016.

For further post-event coverage of this year’s conference, Beaton Capital has published a short video recap and article. Co-facilitator Ross Dawson has also shared his reflections, focusing on the critical domains of change driving the future of professional services.

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