by Ray Grainger

The 3 biggest opportunities to improve your services operations in 2018

Mar 06, 2018
Digital TransformationIT StrategyTechnology Industry

The business world is accelerating, and the pressure for services companies to keep up is apparent.

3 lightbulbs with the number three
Credit: Getty Images

If you feel like the world is spinning faster, you are not alone.

According to the 2018 State of the Services Economy report, 63% of executives believe that it has become harder to operate a services business in the last 12 months. Furthermore, the number of executives that said the conditions to operate a services business are changing “more quickly than ever” more than doubled from 21% in 2017 to 52% in 2018.

This unrelenting pressure and increasing complexity sets the backdrop for 2018. Within that complexity lies opportunity. By addressing potential challenges early, you give your business a competitive advantage. So the question is: How are high-performing services leaders planning to adapt and thrive amidst all the changes?

1. Enabling a modern, services-centric technology infrastructure

Professional services businesses are incredibly complex to manage. There are many dynamics that change by the minute. Historically, technology has not been able to meet the unique needs around facilitating collaboration, project planning and execution, resource utilization, and managing project costs. In 2018, it’s a different story. Today comprehensive technology is available.

While the  State of the Services Economy report found that high performing services organizations were at least twice as likely to have Professional Services Automation (PSA), Human Capital Management, and Business Intelligence and Analytics (BI) solutions in place, adoption of this new technology alone rarely enables the necessary change.

The research also reveals that technology, inadequately adopted, can hinder progress. The top technology challenges revealed are that executives believe they have too many disparate systems, and integration challenges and manual workarounds impede business performance instead of contributing to it.

With the multitude of solutions available, the real path to success will result from critical thinking about how to structure the right architecture. This involves focusing on the core functions required to operate your business, and then drawing boundaries around related business processes and finding systems that can logically connect them. When viewing your systems from this lens, you will end up with simplified solutions that are more easily integrated.

2. Develop mature collaboration processes

On any given project today, your teams may be working with remote team members, external service providers, and clients, from all around the world. The research confirmed the makeup of the modern services workforce: 89% of executives stated that their organization has remote employees, and 72% said they work with employees in different countries.

Considering this dynamic, companies that can collaborate better, perform better. A recent Accenture study found that companies that effectively leverage digitally enabled collaboration save millions of dollars a year.

In response, there has been a rapid deployment of collaboration tools. While many companies have deployed tools, there are siloed across teams, and there has been little strategic planning around who uses what tools and for what purposes. The top collaboration challenges executives stated today are a direct result of disparate tools being implemented—information is not accessible to everyone, and it is being spread between too many systems.

This modern services workforce has the potential to change the way in which services are delivered. As more businesses rely on collaboration tools, services leaders will need to implement a company-wide strategy to adopt mature practices, processes, frameworks, guidelines, and insights.

3. Leveraging a liquid workforce

Eighty-one percent of business leaders stated that they consider leveraging contractors a competitive advantage. Why? As services have grown more competitive, the breadth of offerings that customers expect has grown. An astounding 89% of executives surveyed in the State of the Services Economy stated that they have expanded services offerings for clients in the past year. 

In order to address these growing demands, services organizations need to offer a more diverse set of specialized skills than ever. Leveraging contractors is the most effective way to do that. Having a network of contractors enables you to scale at will and tap into talent pools of specialized skills exactly when they become relevant. This, in turn, will allow you to offer a wider breadth of services than your competitors, and ultimately increase your client satisfaction.

The future of the workforce will be more liquid, and yet few firms are able to leverage the agility that this model enables. 30% of executives stated it’s hard to find good contractors. In the future, it will be the organizations that are most successful at building and leveraging these talent networks that will emerge as the leaders.

Facing the future

The business world is accelerating, and the pressure for services companies to keep up is apparent. Your organization requires strategies to better connect your people, leverage a flexible workforce and a create culture that adapts to technology. This exciting transformation will reshape services firms as we know them, and what will emerge are highly efficient, scalable and global organizations. This will be the future of work.