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Ten professional services technology predictions for 2019 (part 1)

Posted by  Bas van Woudenberg

In the first article of our two-part series we look at how this year’s ERP will help people-centered organizations win more business, find data insights, help solve the talent puzzle and create space for meaningful work, while executing profitable projects. Here are the first five of our 10 technology predictions for 2019.

In the Everything as a Service (XaaS) economy, professional services organizations (PSOs) are crafting new business models in response to increased competition for customers. Meanwhile, client expectations are heightened and there are more constant changes in regulation. In the background, workers are losing one third of time to admin while employees are becoming harder to attract and retain.

That’s the bad news.

This year, advances in emerging digital technologies (many of which were almost unthinkable a decade ago) are making life easier for PSOs. Loosely coupled enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems — those which are built on platforms with microservices-based architecture — will bring powerful new capabilities. These capabilities will enable all PSOs to create space for meaningful work and bring greatly enhanced data clarity, foresight and compliance.

And, as we look ahead to 2019, the evolution in integrated software solutions for PSOs is making it easier for people-centered organizations to win more business, solve the talent puzzle, execute profitable projects and bill with precision.

XaaS is already showing signs of becoming the greatest revenue-booster, and research shows digitalization is set to drive productivity. And, according to global maturity benchmarking research, the outlook for the global professional services (PS) industry in 2018 was rosy. While the analysts gather data for this year’s report, we look ahead over the next 12 months with a run-down of the 10 top technology predictions.

1. PSA will help organization win more business

This year, integrated, cloud-based solutions specifically for PSOs will become the silver bullet for managing sales opportunities by helping sales and service teams manage customer relationships better, while simultaneously mending schisms between them. By connecting seamlessly with customer relationship management (CRM) applications, PSO solutions will help organizations grow new business win rates and boost client profitability by showing them where to compete.

Then the systems will help them win more work with more accurate proposals based on past project success. The secret lies in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and predictive analytics which are powering these new generation of solutions.

2. Insights from abundant data will become less rare

Using a dated, inflexible ERP is expensive to maintain and upgrade; it’s error-prone and doesn’t deliver instant visibility over data. A single, cloud-based solution for PSOs eliminates the need for expensive, disparate systems. And analytics dashboards help staff from any level pull out relevant data any time from any device, to get up-to-date insights about the important aspects of their business: profit, client, consultant project, whatever they need.

Data is abundant, insights are rare. So, this year we’ll see more PSOs switching to cloud-based ERPs to benefit from rapid insights in easy-to-understand, visual formats to make insights from abundant data commonplace.

What’s more, this year’s ERPs integrate with AI-powered corporate performance management (CPM) and business intelligence (BI) solutions, which allow your finance department to analyze, predict and improve performance and help PS organizations develop a better-informed strategy. More and more will use these solutions integrated across platforms with microservices-driven architecture. The reason? With today’s rapid evolution of digital technologies, many will simply find it hard to compete without them.

3. Integrated solutions will help solve the talent puzzle

In 2019, we will see more people-centered organizations using integrated, platform- and cloud-based suites to optimize billable staff utilization. AI-powered ERP, integrated with PSO-focused solutions — including professional services automation (PSA), help services organizations gain panoramic visibility over every team member’s skill set, experience, availability and seniority, then match them to the right job at the right time to meet demand.

This synchronicity across talent and back-office functions — such as payroll & HR, project backlog, performance & analytics) helps meet heightened client expectations while reducing staff attrition. This secret is too good to keep. As we proceed through 2019 we will see more PS organizations embrace technology to solve the talent puzzle.

4. ERP will create space for meaningful work

Office workers spend one third of their working day on laborious admin. By learning working patterns and automating the manual stuff, AI makes work life easier for staff. Merely the act of using a UI designed for people — instead of IT experts — makes doing tasks quicker and more pleasurable. All this will help PSOs attract, retain and support talent while helping them create space to perform the value-add tasks that only humans can do — the creative stuff that robots can’t.

Examples that we will see more of this year as part of ERP solutions include using natural language through a digital assistant (like Wanda) or on a mobile timesheet app, rather than filling in a form, whether that’s in the field or the office. Loosely coupled ERP will help organizations take advantage of these latest emerging technologies. 

5. The right tools will make executing profitable projects ‘easier’

This year, more people-centered organizations will execute profitable projects to hit revenue and margin targets thanks to 360-degree visibility and control of project plan, schedule, cost and budget. Using a modern, integrated PSA tailored to their industry, more PSOs will develop standardized methodologies such as repeatable processes and project templates, while benefitting from tools for planning, budgeting, forecasting and analyzing.

Thanks to these tools, powered by rapidly evolving emerging technologies, we’ll see PSOs speed up project staffing times, grow project staffs and lengthen project durations; they’ll run more projects concurrently, experience fewer project overruns and fewer project cancellations while improving average price per project.

These are the first five technology predictions for professional services organizations in 2019. Join us in the next article for predictions 6-10.

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Bas van Woudenberg

Bas van Woudenberg is a professional services sector veteran, aiming to support organizations to improve utilization rates, customer satisfaction, and financial results. Bas is also the director of the Unit4 PSO Center of Excellence.