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How are professional services organizations responding to digital disruption?

Posted by  Henk Jan Onstwedder

Success in professional services means prioritizing your people, the projects they work on and the clients they support. Unit4’s Global VP Professional Services Organizations, Henk Jan Onstwedder, takes a closer look at how the leaders are harnessing technology to do all that, while at the same time delivering a better people experience.

A pattern is emerging in the professional services industry — many leading companies are reacting to the demands of digital disruption in the same ways; and their responses center around finding the right technology to enable rapid change, while looking after their people. Let’s take a closer look.

Relationships first

Competition is intense in professional services, so organizations need to put their client and prospect relationships first. Success in this industry means building a strong sales pipeline and then enabling sales teams to consistently deliver standout responses during the tendering process.

To achieve this, many companies are investing in enterprise resources planning (ERP) platforms, through which they can analyze the performance of previous successful projects, and learn from those that did not deliver the desired results.

By combining this data into a single source of truth, they can deliver better proposals and feel confident they will deliver on their promises once the client relationship has been secured.

The real secret to the success of these systems is a greatly enhanced people experience so the people using them can deliver their best work in a smarter, faster, more collaborative way.

Equipping people with the right tools

Finding the right talent is critical to business success, so leading organizations are giving their workforce sophisticated tools to make their jobs easier, more straightforward and less laborious.

ERP and HCM software enables companies to automate many of the everyday, low-value processes which keep their operation running. This improves employee engagement, job satisfaction and productivity, as staff are able to focus on meaningful work.

Many of the market-leading ERP platforms also feature in-built business intelligence tools, so professional services organizations (PSOs) can analyze how best to use billable staff across upcoming projects, creating a more profitable way of working.

Refining the working model

ERP technology can reveal critical insights into one of professional services’ biggest profit killers: poor project performance.

The industry’s leading organizations are building new business models focused around productizing services, which are easy to purchase from a client point of view; and employees at these firms have a clear set of deliverables and expectations.

With the help of the right enterprise applications, the industry frontrunners can identify effective working methods and establish standardized, repeatable processes, continually learning where improvements can be made. Holistic reporting capabilities also mean that project leaders have complete visibility of campaign objectives, milestones, budgets and expenditures, to ensure that everything is progressing on target.

Bottom-line success

Embracing ERP software is having a massive impact on the billing process too, as leading PSOs are using integrated performance management tools to more accurately invoice clients, fulfill compliance reporting requirements and track profitability.

In this way, forward-looking PSOs ensure that the efforts of their workforce don’t just deliver happy clients, but they support bottom-line success.

A foundation for innovation

The professional services sector is a good indicator for how well the corporate world as a whole is responding to digital disruption, due to its contribution to the global economy.

It’s clear that progressive professional services organizations are using technology as a foundation for innovation, giving them the visibility, tools and insight to empower their employees and exceed customer expectations.

The challenge for companies still responding to digital disruption is to find a platform that can deliver business-wide transformation, ensuring rapid return on investment.

To read more about how your organization can innovate through ERP, download the industry brochure: BREAKING NEW GROUND FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES ORGANIZATIONS — how people-centered and project-based professional services organizations are thriving despite The Great Productivity Challenge.


How PSOs are breaking new ground to overcome The Great Productivity Challenge


Solving the Talent Puzzle optimize billable staff utilization (e-guide).

Managing Customer Relationships to win more business (e-guide)

Execute Profitable Projects to hit revenue and margin targets (e-guide)

Solving the Financial Visibility Puzzle to bill with precision (e-guide)

Henk Jan Onstwedder

Henk Jan is an experienced executive in the software business, who has worked in the ERP market for 25 years. Prior to joining Unit4 in 2016, he held a range of line-management roles in the software industry, covering sales, delivery and general management. Henk Jan is heading Unit4’s department for Professional Services Organisations, creating and delivering on industry product roadmaps, developing the ecosystem, and leading strategic sales engagements.