Trends transforming the professional services market


The professional services market continues to expand with 75% of professional services firms expecting their turnover to grow this year. As a result, firms are going through substantial challenges with 65% of employees noting their organisation has gone through significant change with in the last 12 months.

These technological advances are disrupting the role, structure and environment in which these firms operate, presenting new challenges (and opportunities) for professional services firms address.

Here are some of the more recent trends we’ve seen within the professional services industry:

1.) Automation

Professional service firms are in the process of embracing the latest technologies to drive efficiencies and stay competitive. Notably investment in automated marketing platforms has increased in recent years, with 53% of firms in the industry now using these tools as an effective part of their marketing strategy.

Machine learning systems like IBM’s Watson are also gaining ground, promising to reduce the time needed for analytical tasks and helping to provide extra capacity for client facing tasks. Firms are also set to automate back-end services in-line with front end services, again reducing the time and cost attending to these tasks.

While the promise is that automation will help your organisation, do remember that the set-up of these systems can take a lot of time and effort - automation platforms need to be continually fed with new content.

Also be aware aware of data implications. Data issues typically fall into three core areas - incompleteness, inaccuracy, and decay, however with GDPR now on the horizon, there are considerably more issues to be aware of. Setting a solid data strategy is an absolute must.

Please get in touch with Jonathon Richmond for more information on how we can help.

2.) Cloud is the new normal

Driven by flexibility and potential cost savings, firms continue to embrace cloud technologies. This has been happening for a few years now but interestingly these decisions now seem to be influenced or led by Marketing, rather than IT departments, especially when it comes to automation or CMS platforms.

Businesses now understand that technology decisions should match wider strategic objectives, often improved customer experience, leads and revenue, rather than based on features.

This is supported by the fact that we are seeing an increasing number of marketing teams looking to implement or upgrade cloud based offerings from Episerver and Sitecore. Both companies offer flexible and comprehensive cloud based offerings, including machine learning applications, marketing automation plugins, and connectors for other key systems like DynamicsCRM.

But the systems are also quickly scalable in multiple languages - perfect for global roll-outs.

Interestingly, and tying into the automation point above, it’s the machine learning that seems to be of particular interest to the professional services businesses that we have spoken to recently. This makes sense, because when your website is primarily used to generate leads and show off your knowledge, thinking, and talent to prospects, these behavioral based content marketing features can be extremely valuable.

Visitors can be shown relevant content based on their current or previous visits, landing pages can be automatically created based on the search terms used to find your site, and on-site search can generate suggestions based on previous on-site search history.

This data can also then be used to inform your content strategy, helping you to focus on the topics and themes that you know your prospects or customers are interested in. 

3.) The efficient and virtual disruptor

We’re hesitant to use the word disruption but there are an increasing number of professional services firms using technology to create interesting ways of doing business. Reshaping value propositions, developing customer first products, and building new capabilities to meet client expectations more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

Modria, for example was developed by the team that built the original ‘dispute technology’ for Ebay and Paypal. They provide a secure platform for handling minor disputes including landlord fees, small claims, etc. and say they have reduced resolution times by up to 50%. Having processed over 400million claims already, it’s clearly a decent sized market.

Will firms start to develop their own tools, targeting specific aspects of their service offering, or acquire technology businesses to help develop new revenue streams in the process? We think so. In fact, it’s happening already.

Drafting contracts can be time consuming as a number of parties are often involved. To address this, law firm DWF developed ‘Draft’ in collaboration with Thomson Reuters. Draft is an automated contract drafting platform that plugs in to Thomson Reuters existing contract automation platform, Contract Express, and reduces the time and risk associated with this stage of the contract process.

Interestingly, it is being sold as a standalone product by DWF for £8,000 p/a which, I imagine, provides a huge ROI.

Fixed, is another example of technology helping automate and simplify a common legal process. Fixed started by helping users easily fight parking tickets. Users could upload a picture of their parking ticket that was then scanned by the software for common errors. The app would then create a bespoke letter flagging these errors on the users behalf (thus providing opportunity to contest the charge) that was then sent the local authority. Genius.

It was so successful that governments started to apply real pressure to shut the app down so Fixed had to rethink their business model.

They now focus on contesting speeding tickets on a user’s behalf, employing a similar process, but now using real, vetted lawyers. The app now acts as a calculator for the user, explaining the financial impact that the ticket would have on the user over the long term including the initial fine and the increase in insurance costs. This is then presented alongside the cost to challenge the ticket. 

Since this business pivot, Fixed has now been acquired by a much larger legal firm - Lawgix. Lawgix now use Fixed to reduce the time it takes to set up a new client and therefore reduce the overall administration fee.

ROSS Intelligence is another example of technology led innovation in the legal sector. Utilising IBM’s AI platform, Watson, ROSS users can search the entirety of American law with specific long form questions. These questions are then analysed and users are presented with relevant laws, previous cases and secondary sources.

This significantly reduces the time needed to research and stay up to date with the latest legislation, helping firms reduce their fees while increasing the quality of their work. It's this use of AI that I find particularly fascinating and where some of the biggest efficiencies will almost certainly be found for professional services companies.

But it also raises another question: how long will it be before we witness a legal case handled entirely by AI?  

How we can help

It’s clear that technology is changing the professional services sector in a number of different and exciting ways - both client facing and back end. This is clearly a trend that will continue, and over the next few years there will be significant tools, apps and platforms focused on improving the customer or end user experience.

We’ve worked with professional and financial services businesses for twenty years, and in that time, have helped businesses including AXA and Lloyds to develop user focused technology solutions.

If this sounds like something that may useful to your business then please get in touch using the form below.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to someone directly, please call us on 0207 749 3600.

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Matt Deegan