The market for professional services is changing, from what clients expect a good service to look like to the way in which they engage with services companies.
Against a backdrop of rapid digitisation, a shift towards cloud-based technologies and the growth of agile ways of working, clients today expect “more value, a higher quality of work, and a faster delivery of solutions and services”, according to a survey of 576 executives by Deltek (a global provider of software and information solutions). The main demand is the requirement for clients to own strategic change rather than be driven by tactical change.
These heightened demands are further reflected with 89% of services executives [stating] that “they had expanded services offerings significantly for clients [in recent years].”
Graeme Adams, Delivery Manager for TEKsystems, suggests that some notable client changes in the UK services market include:
• Partnership working – where shared outcomes are agreed between clients and third-party service suppliers with joint accountability in place to help both sides achieve successful delivery. These partnership models look to replace the more rigid in-house or fully outsourced service models.
• Customisation of services – an increase in tailored and flexible service models to suit agile ways of working and evolving project requirements rather than traditional, inflexible linear service contracts. This blended and flexible service approach is required to navigate the fast pace of change in modern service delivery and enable clients to scale up and down and switch technical capabilities across their project lifecycles on demand.
• SME thought leadership – a higher level of expectation for professional services companies to bring SME industry expert leadership to help build their overall technology strategy and positively influence technology communities.
Changes in client involvement can also be seen in the objectives of procurement teams within larger organisations expecting more transparency and accountability from their supplier. Sarah Buchanan, Executive Director, Allegis Group, says, “With Procurement having ultimate responsibility for managing cost and maximising return on investment (ROI), the focus will remain on ensuring that the overall risk, management and ownership of the scope of services lies with the managed services supplier.”
Building strategic partnerships are the future…
These changing behaviours are challenging the more traditional packaged service models and encouraging companies to move towards a value-orientated, solutions-based approach underpinned by a strategic partnership.
Many companies are still relying on the expertise of their people as a key differentiator, however, the pace of change and the fact that consultants tend to move jobs more regularly, means it is more critical than ever for companies to put client outcomes at the heart of their strategies in order to stay ahead.
Fiona Czerniawska of Source Global Research says, “it’s a rare consulting firm that puts itself in its clients’ shoes”. Moving forward, however, it is expected that we will see more professional service firms shift to value-based strategies as they try to become ‘trusted advisors’ rather than just service providers.
Focussing on client service has suddenly become the only metric that matters.