As the highly-regarded, best-selling author Richard Susskind famously said, “Firms are less interested in achieving competitive advantage than in avoiding competitive disadvantage.”
Susskind, who coined the term irrational rejectionism, believes that more firms are “far more worried about what their competitors are doing than what the correct strategy is for them.”
His point is well made. While the emergence of the knowledge economy has encouraged virtually every sector to “go digital,” many industries are still catching up with technological developments. Take the professional services sector for example, which faces particular challenges when it comes to implementing IT and keeping up-to-date.
One reason is culture. In professional firms – from accounting practices to legal offices, architects or even medicine – the decision makers are often practice heads with years of sector experience. However, such experts frequently lack the technical insight to navigate the minefield of conflicting issues that drive digital strategy.
This is compounded by complex regulatory frameworks, which can constrain the firm’s digital strategy. That, in turn, limits the organisation’s ability to respond to opportunities and deliver superior services.
The challenges facing CIOs in professional services companies are certainly significant. However, with flexibility and the right technology partners, there is plenty of scope for innovation.
For years, the default unit for many professional services firms has been the “billable hour.”
Ironically, this can actually penalize highly efficient professionals, who get their work done in half the time it takes than their less capable colleagues, but bill at the same rate. Indeed, as technology improves and executives become more individually productive, many firms are finding the billable hour to be a less attractive billing option.
The turbulent economic climate is causing many law firms to evaluate their billing options, as many clients are beginning to demand alternative billing models. Examples include blended rates, capped or fixed fees, project-based fees or and results-based fee arrangements.
Firms, particularly those that utilize alternative billing models such as flat fee models, realize that technology can be a critical enabler, which ultimately translates into revenue increases.
By leveraging technology efficiently, firms can automate routine tasks and access critical applications and data anytime, anywhere. This allows experienced professionals to complete their workloads in less time. Increases in productivity can enable firms to support more clients while assigning fewer employees to staff a project.