digital transformation

Why a large digital investment is more important now than ever before

For those looking to invest in digital transformation in 2020, if someone had told you what was going to happen in the first half of the year, you probably wouldn't have believed them.  

But where does that leave your investment and your transformation? 

As COVID-19 forces much of the world's labor force to "stay at home," around 81 percent of professional services firms have initiated work-from-home policies; it’s exposed flaws in how some firms have implemented their remote working capabilities. Turns out, many workers in this sector still lack the software and systems they need to execute day-to-day tasks.  

It’s also becoming apparent that working from home policies are here to stay, and companies will be upping, not cutting, their digital budgets. So professional services firms need to realize the benefits of remote employment.  

How digital investment during a crisis can equal savings 

Companies tighten their belts during a national crisis. It happened during the 2008 recession, and it's happening now. Experts predict global tech market growth to slip to just 3 percent in 2020/2021, so expect professional services firms to cut IT spend.  

But there’s another side to this coin. Investments in some technologies, like ERP, could offset overall losses as companies ramp up their work-from-home infrastructure.  

Research shows that providing people with the right remote working technology can save companies $2,000 on office space rent per person and thousands more on the costs associated with hiring new people (95 percent of managers say home working has a positive impact on employee retention.) These savings could more than make up the cost of implementing (and even maintaining) ERP, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.  

Don’t look at ERP implementation as a short-term stopgap to get through the crisis, but rather a larger, long-term investment that delivers cost savings in the months and years to come.  

"We've proven many types of work can be done remotely, why go back?" said tech columnist Jason Aten, writing for Inc. magazine. "Working remotely just works. It is, in many cases, better for both the employees and the company. It allows people the freedom to choose the type of schedule and work environment that helps them thrive."  

Shifting large digital investments toward remote working 

Before COVID, homeworking wasn't always the norm. Yet for more forward thinking services, the advantages were abundant —  improved employee retention, more autonomous workers, lower costs, reduced salaries, and more. It was a win-win for both organizations and their people: Full-time remote workers were 22 percent happier in their jobs than non-remote workers, and employers saw an increase in productivity too. 

However, for most professional services firms, the shift toward homeworking has been a more gradual one. With many trying to cut corners or shorten necessary implementation phases, but this has often left them without the right digital tools like an ERP system to achieve homeworking.  

Services in this position are now playing catch-up. And even when the pandemic ebbs, the business landscape will look unrecognizable as many workers realize the benefits of remote work and those who can will decide to "stay home" indefinitely.   

Recommended reading: Find out how we're helping our partners get through this unprecedented time

The need to implement remote working capabilities  

Your remote workers need so much more than a computer, an internet connection, and a video-conferencing app. But what does a scalable solution look like? 

In previous years, ERP helped drive digital modernization in the public and private spheres, but for many organizations, it's now become a necessity. And today, ERP systems facilitate remote working for people in various verticals, including law, finance, engineering, advertising, and more.  

The benefits of ERP for your home workers are far-reaching, automating tasks for almost every professional service discipline impacted by the pandemic, including project management, financial management, procurement management, HR, payroll, and field services. It's no wonder, then, that experts predict ERP investments will not only continue during the crisis but accelerate. 

"With some industries such as travel and entertainment facing bleak futures, and others like healthcare and biotech more needed than ever, ERP projects will shift based on who has the resources and demand to be nimble," says CIODive

The benefit of automation  

One of the immediate benefits of ERP is automation. The latest programs improve the efficiency of repetitive tasks in professional services, which lets you focus on value-adding activities. This is particularly important in the current climate, where many supply chains will be broken, and jobs will be lost.  

Automation is a big deal in the professional services vertical, with one-fifth of CFOs in the industry saying it's their biggest investment priority over the next five years. COVID-19 is unlikely to change this view.  

This is because a fully integrated ERP lets you reduce leakage of hours, automate billing, gives you complete visibility into utilization, and reduces overheads. Because: 

  • Better insights mean better decisions about financials, and reduce costly processes.
  • Improved billing optimizes your payroll and invoicing processes letting you chase unpaid bills more effectively.
  • More business intelligence helps you identify costly problems before they happen, standardize workflows, and make long-term cost savings.
Final word 

Making a large digital investment might not be at the top of most employer's to-do lists right now, but implementing a scalable, reliable, people-first ERP system for at-home workers will undoubtedly pay off. This isn't just a short-term crisis but a tipping point — the moment where more professional services firms optimize their at-home set-ups for good. Going forward, more people in the professional services industry will work from home, but they need the right digital technologies to do it. This means a human-focused ERP that automates and saves costs for years to come.