The professional services sector is experiencing substantial disruption resulting from Covid-19 and changing global business models. The sector is also seeing increased competition from market entrants using digital platforms and automated business processes. Changing clients' demands, employee expectations, technology developments, and other external factors will change the nature of jobs and skills required in the future.

All this is happening during a time of uncertainty caused by Covid-19 and Brexit. Professional services firms are now under pressure to do more with less. The firms reacting well to this challenge are the ones using digital platforms to ensure they are delivering innovative and efficient services to their clients.

Digital platforms present an opportunity for professional services firms to work smarter. However, many firms have not taken full advantage of this opportunity. In an environment characterised by competition, regulation, and economics, it's no longer a question of whether or not professional services firms should be using digital platforms to reduce costs, minimise risk and increase efficiency. Instead, it's a question of how they do it, and how quickly.

One of the legacy problems associated with professional services firms is that they're processes are manual and paper-based, both in terms of back-office support and front office administration. There can also be something of a disconnect between the front and back office, making them inefficient as firms. Digital platforms provide firms with the ability to make the transition from being disconnected, manual, and paper-based to being integrated, automated, efficient, paperless, and mobile.

Back-office automation is increasingly important, helping firms to eliminate paper-based processes, and at the same time, significantly reducing costs and increasing efficiency and service level. Professional services firms can gain a competitive advantage by taking this approach.

Firms embracing digital transformation can address the disconnect between the front office and back office, allowing them to eliminate data silos and automate business processes while removing paper as a consequence. Previously unseen insights can be unearthed by implementing a data capture strategy and using business intelligence to understanding how to identify future opportunities.

To allow firms to unlock business efficiency through digital platforms fully, it is essential that these technology platforms are user friendly while also delivering a familiar user experience. Nowadays, mobile access is taken as a given, and the next generation of technology brings smart digital assistants proactively supporting users and automating activities such as email generation and diary management.

Professional services firms must continuously innovate to drive profitable growth and be agile to support and respond to how customers want to acquire, use, and pay for their services. The end goal is an efficient, highly automated back-office running in the background all the time and an agile front office where time is freed up to collaborate and innovate, supported by live business intelligence.

By effectively implementing technology platforms, many global professional services firms are already reaping the rewards of continuous innovation while automating their business processes, increasing efficiency and profits, and delivering a superior customer experience.

Professional services firms' business strategy must focus on platform-based solutions. Platform solutions are the future. Platforms which deliver collaborative, connected, cloud-based and scalable solutions across the entire business. Enabling a sales team to access relevant financial data, enabling a marketing team to send leads to sales and, in turn, enabling sales users to seamlessly liaise with operations or legal. A truly connected business. A smart business.

LexTech, a technology company, delivers end to end solutions to enable organisations to digitally transform. For further information, contact Karl Manweiler: kmanweiler@lextech.ie