This report looks at the new opportunities that technology can bring to professional services firms and contrasts with the challenges presented by disruptive technology. It considers the best ways to be agile enough to take advantage of new trends and not to be left behind by emerging technology, while also exploring the typical challenges professional services firms have with existing technology and processes.
Whitepaper: Driving performance with technology for professional services firms
This report looks at the new opportunities that technology can bring to professional services firms
and contrasts with the challenges presented by disruptive technology. It considers the best ways
to be agile enough to take advantage of new trends and not to be left behind by emerging
technology, while also exploring the typical challenges professional services firms have with
existing technology and processes.
++ Handling of compliance matters is a good example of how
professional services firms can take advantage of modern
technology. Professional services firms deal with application
forms and instead of relying on systems that don’t integrate, a
workflow system based on a tool like Microsoft’s Sharepoint
portal can be a secure and efficient alternative. Information
can be ingested into an online application form which can
then be segregated into components so the right people get
access to the right components.
LEGACY PROCESSES LIMIT CLIENT
Like other vertical industries, professional services have
unique requirements for information processing and customer
engagement. A significant challenge lies in professional
services firms’ sales processes and how they go to market to
generate new business.
Justin Bailey, Cloud Solutions Consultant at Nexon, says many
firms don’t have formal sales processes or modern CRM
platforms to drive new business, which they are actively trying
to turn around.
“A further challenge is getting that data from customers and
presenting it to your staff,” Bailey says.
The challenges professional services firms have are common
across most verticals, particularly around mobility and
compliance. “Most firms have consulting practices so mobility
is important and that wraps back into compliance, which they
need for their own due diligence,” Bailey says.
The outlook for professional services firms’ core business and
intellectual property remains strong, with the most probable
technology disruption coming from point solutions like online
“There aren’t many disruptions for this vertical market, or the
core intellectual property, but there is disruption in the services
offered to customers. For example, with accounting; rather
than giving a client a report on financial statements, today’s
applications can instead give them more live information and
trends on what a customer is doing,” Bailey says. “This is a
more valuable outcome and the firms that take advantage of
these technology components are well positioned.”
Smaller firms doing tax returns, however, could be disrupted by
GRASPING THE TECHNOLOGY ADVANTAGE
With opportunities to improve processes combined with the imminent
march of Cloud-based point solutions, Australia’s professional services
leaders cannot ignore the role new technology can play in keeping their
business relevant and agile.
New developments in the Cloud space like Cisco’s WebEx, Microsoft’s
Office 365, CRM Online and Business Intelligence offerings allow
professional services firms to move beyond siloed applications to
platforms that enable customised workflows across information systems.
IN-HOUSE OR OUTSOURCE? OUTSOURCING SETS
FOCUS ON INNOVATION
++ Which parts of the business are professional services firms keeping
in-house and which are being outsourced? A lot depends on the type
of application. Not many core functions are being outsourced, but
Bailey and Russell are seeing more IT outsourcing in areas like support,
infrastructure services and application hosting and development.
Professional services firms can be trapped in a cycle of only keeping
the lights on, but services can be taken outside the firm as investments
to improve project management or create more intellectual property.
the wave of online accounting applications now available.
Nexon Unified Communications Business Lead, David Russell, says the
chances of the professional services industry being “Ubered” like the
taxi industry is very unlikely, but that doesn’t mean firms won’t get left
behind by more agile competitors which can take advantage of new
“There are many ways to access different technologies, so firms can
jump into new verticals and geographies with a lot less risk,” Russell
says. “The success of this is increased if the company is agile and can
create solutions quickly.”
++ Nexon’s documents management systems have some
four million documents and the data resides there for the
lifetime of the client engagement and then a further seven
years for compliance reasons. One client project involved
Nexon moving documents from an existing legacy
appication to the Cloud and retaining the metadata
information. Other benefits include stronger search
capabilities and a lower system management overhead.
COMPLIANCE: AN IDEAL CLOUD USE CASE
FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
WHEN PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
FIRMS ADOPT A SUITE OF MANAGED
SERVICES, IT ALLOWS THEM TO BE
MORE CUSTOMER-CENTRIC. THEY CAN
INTERACT WITH CUSTOMERS AND
COLLEAGUES WHEREVER THEY NEED
Business Lead, Nexon
The more technology-rich the solution, the less of a technology sell it
is, Russell adds.
“You have to engage tightly with the business and understand what
people do day-to-day across every area of the business. Explore the
‘day in the life’ of each person in the business as people can have
‘eureka’ moments when technology enables them to do something
more effectively. Taking a tablet instead of a giant folder into a
meeting, the ability to collaborate by phone or instant messaging
and not having to go to a dedicated videoconferencing room are
all good examples of this change.”
TAKING THE LEAD WITH CLOUD AND
There is a good opportunity for professional services firms to deliver
their core infrastructure requirements through a managed Cloud
provider with a view to long-term cost savings and becoming a
more dynamic, innovative organisation.
“Professional services firms need partners to help understand what is
possible in the Cloud and provide advice on the best way to adopt
it,” Russell says. “We have Cloud expertise in applications, from
CRM to telephony, video conferencing and document sharing.”
++ At some point organisations will have to move
to a modern solution that is Cloud and mobile-
enabled, but diving directly into an on-demand
service can be risky. A prudent approach is to work
with a partner that deals with risk mitigation and
project management and has a lot of experience
with Cloud migrations. Partners can engage with
business owners and consider how the services can
be customised to suit individual business needs and
ensure they understand how the change will work.
CHOOSE A PARTNER FOR A
SMOOTH CLOUD JOURNEY
“Integrating applications together is a better solution than simply
using individual tools,” Bailey says. “Professional services firms
can work with good partners in the Cloud space to deliver
improvements in workflow and change their business.”
In addition to on-demand Cloud services, other emerging
technologies such as mobility and collaboration tools can
significantly improve the operations of professional services firms.
Nexon is currently working with a legal firm in Melbourne where
the lawyers are experiencing the benefits of mobility as they can
work anywhere and collaborate with colleagues, police and other
government departments, according to David Russell.
“Legal practitioners often have many client meetings each day
and leveraging mobile and Cloud technologies allows them to
optimise these interactions,” Russell says.
NEW TECHNOLOGY CHANGES CLIENT
Professional services firms that have practised for a long time
can experience cultural barriers involved with new technology
adoption. However, with the right motivation, organisational
change can result in many new ways of doing business.
Firms should always be wary of “change for the sake of change”,
Bailey says, but when applications and workflows show real
value, the adoption increases, which changes organisational
According to Russell, helping firms understand how technology
can benefit staff help to increase buy-in from senior partners.
“For example, the definition of unified communications (UC)
changes with the type of user, but you need a collaboration
platform that bridges the use cases of younger and mature
workers,” he says.
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MORE AWARE OF PaaS POSSIBILITIES
++ Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS, is a hosted development environment that allows organisations to quickly prototype new applications
without having to manage the required infrastructure, databases and application development environments. PaaS allows
organisations to develop and test new applications that can integrate a multitude of third-party Cloud services, like Office365.
PaaS is a path to a more innovative way of doing business, but it is an ongoing education process.
Russell says IT staff are more relevant than ever as they become
service contract specialists and DevOps professionals to help deliver
better service to the organisation.
“A firm should look at all pieces of its infrastructure and services and
ask if it can be moved to the Cloud,” he says.
The Cloud can bring wholesale change to how professional
services firms approach IT, including the introduction of many hybrid
environments where hosted infrastructure like SharePoint applications
are connected to online services like Office 365.
Bailey says some professional services firms have development teams
that are bigger than their IT teams to build highly customised CRM
platforms, particularly on top of the Microsoft Cloud stack.
“Custom applications written in Microsoft’s Azure PaaS are all about
working with customer workflows, which is often not something out of
the box,” Bailey says.
Combining Office 365, Azure for laaS and PaaS, plus the Microsoft
partner infrastructure, can make sure the hybrid platform works the
way the firm needs.
Going Cloud is not just about the applications, and solid
infrastructure is required to deliver them with guaranteed service
“Professional Services firms looking at moving critical business
applications to the Cloud need to do their homework on the types of
Cloud service providers available,” Bailey says.
“It is imperative for them to partner with Cloud service providers who
are using best of breed technologies like Cisco’s Unified Computing
System (UCS) within their infrastructure to ensure they get the
resiliency and reliability they require.”
“With firms now signing up to Cloud first policies, legacy
applications are not necessarily a barrier to moving to the Cloud as
they can be hosted on partner infrastructure,” Bailey says.
Many accounting firms that have a strong partner structure within
the business are tasked with sales and business development
work. These types of professional services firms stand to gain the
most when adopting a Cloud-based CRM application. Bailey
is also seeing a desire from firms to look at Business Intelligence
components, which is still nascent.
“Many companies are trying to focus on spending more time on
CRM and Business Intelligence,” Bailey says. “Accounting firms
will start helping clients transition to new platforms in the Cloud,
which is a large task.“
THE VALUE OF A CLOUD ARCHITECTURE
IS EASY TO ARTICULATE, BUT FIRMS
STILL NEED TO ENGAGE WITH A
CLOUD INTEGRATOR TO MAXIMISE
THE RETURN TO THE BUSINESS.
Business Lead, Nexon
Russell says this is a good indication of why Cloud is becoming
more relevant. “It is simpler to look at Business Intelligence when
you have a Cloud platform, rather than undertaking a massive
project around infrastructure and software. You can take smaller
steps with Cloud apps,” he says.
Another way professional services firms can become more
innovative is with social collaboration. Russell says the social
enterprise is interesting and there is a lot of take up from a
collaboration standpoint for working on documents across
geographies. Firms dealing with end-users more frequently are
especially interested in social interactions.
To find out more about Nexon, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nexonabc.com.au