Running a global professional services company can be challenging. You need to preserve margins in your established markets, drive double digit growth in emerging markets and keep on top of where the next emerging market is. Then you need to hire the best people, collaborate with businesses that used to be your competitors, outsource your back office to a low cost market and consolidate your IT systems so you are in a good position to help drive organic growth and target the right acquisitions. And above all, you need to do it every single quarter with increasingly higher profits and all under the gaze of analysts, auditors and consultants telling you how you could do it better.
But how do you continue to do this when the long-lasting and deep recession we have all recently experienced squeezed so much efficiency out of the existing infrastructure and team? In many cases there is very little left to give. A 2012 global survey and report by IDC titled 'Successfully Managing a Consulting Business in Challenging Economic Times' clearly showed that enterprises are under tremendous business pressures from the economy, shifting technologies, and increased global competition. So, forward planning for businesses coming out of the recession needs to now be much more about future proofing - in other words, starting with the end in mind - and less about the short term survival mode that many businesses slipped into (often for right and necessary reasons) over the last few years.
But how can this be achieved? The good news is many of the key threads running through these challenges can actually be addressed without too much difficulty. Let's start with 'information'. To be a leading Professional Services (PS) organisation in today's market you need to know in an instant how your business is performing. It is not 'big data', it is timely accurate data that helps you to understand and make decisions. Cobbling data together about your latest acquisition, which actually took place a year ago, is not a path to the margin improvement and growth that led you to invest in the acquisition in the first place. Those with disparate systems and processes, and a lack of global visibility, will ultimately struggle to keep up.
A second strand is robust, simple business processes and a solid long term infrastructure to support them so you can meet the needs of your growing enterprise with international ambitions. Too many PS organisations tie themselves up in knots, and struggle to achieve back office savings as they are afraid to truly do what it takes to change the status-quo. But if you do take on the incumbent process, get radical with it and turn it on its head with the support of a partner who understands the organisation and knows the industry, you will be surprised at the opportunities that present themselves. It is not an easy thing to do, but organisations who can set a 'to-be' situation and develop a transformation process with the right technology partner are the leaders of the future.
A third strand is collaboration. In order to grow a PS business, it is paramount that the people who are responsible for acquiring new clients collaborate. More and more organisations are opening up their cultures to ensure the vital information that makes them competitive and enables them to win business is accessible and fully visible across the company, regardless of division or location. When it comes to actually delivering projects across geographies, business units and companies, you need a growth enabler that incorporates collaboration and knowledge sharing, and one that doesn't rely on archaic share-point solutions.
In my view, global PS companies need a global enterprise solution for information, business process, and collaboration. I am proud to work with the leading PS companies who take bold decisions to change their organisations to ensure that they stay at the top of their game. Change and evolution in the information backbone of a PS company is essential. The key to this is simply a case of deciding how far, and how fast this change and evolution needs to be to ensure you remain or become the next global leader in your field.
Neil Davidson is Vice President Enterprise EMEA of global Enterprise Resource Planning and Social Collaboration software provider, Deltek
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