Five trends which will challenge business models, resource/personnel management and marketing:
Customer preference for engagements with predictable cost.
Hourly billing models leave the client wondering what result will be delivered at what cost. At a deeper level, they may create a barrier to long-term trust development, as the service provider is financially motivated to increase billable hours, rather then solve the client’s problem quickly.
Professional burn-out and resistance to hour based compensation.
Professionals have a growing desire to escape the tyranny of the billable hour in their lives, and to be recognized and compensated for results delivered, rather than time logged. Many firms are now wrestling with increased staff turnover, which impacts expertise, client retention, and project success.
Long-term acceptance of remote work – dramatically accelerated by Covid – has created the demand for and supply of collaboration tools, which offer the opportunity for higher margins (reduced office rent) greater productivity with far better, more substantive interactions than email can provide. The available resource pool the firm enjoys is also greatly expanded.
The growing importance of social media in influencing firm image and generating leads.
It is more and more likely that a favorable impression will be registered on social than other media – TV, banners, Adwords, etc. The Productization of professional services makes them more amenable to social media campaigns.
Certainly for consumers, and for many business prospects the key to the sale may end up being a firm’s ability to offer extended terms. Apart from increasing a firm’s income, this can significantly improve the won/loss record, and enhance lead generation.
FIRM MANAGEMENT SYSTEM:
Key Elements of the Ideal Solution
For many firms, what is needed to address immediate and longer-term challenges is a firm management system which combines in a single platform:
Project / Engagement Management
With staffing, task management, scheduling, milestone/deliverable, and clear, visually appealing project dashboards and reports – showing in an instant where the project is. Automated alerts and escalations for project management are key.
With resource skills, experience levels, prior engagements, availability, and performance by project, as well as the ability to easily assign or reassign project roles and tasks. The easy creation and updating of project teams, along with an effective suite of project collaboration tools is essential. Engagement performance rating (contractors/vendors as well as staff) is a long-term must.
Fully Integrated Financial Management
So that key performance indicators can be automated from transaction records, and so that estimates, billing, collections, and payables creation can be automated from the engagement or opportunity (subject to any needed approvals).
Few firms do business and structure processes without elements that are unique. Rather than be forced into a one-size-fits-all dictated by a management package, each element should be customizable.
The ability to run marketing campaigns, ingest leads and track campaign ROI, and evaluate the success of content (A/B testing, etc.) by segment, distribution channel, and other key variables. With integrated financials and marketing on the platform, fast, informed campaign and spending decisions can be made based on financial as well as prospect engagement metrics.
Our Approach to Professional Services Automation
We have not yet seen a package that provides each of the elements of an ideal solution. We have seen some with a few of the elements, although we find that none of the elements (such as accounting) matches the process needs particularly well for most firms.
There are many packages on the SalesForce ApExchange which meet one requirement well – e.g. project management. Because these packages are native to SalesForce they can be relatively easily customized to create a single, unified solution.
Ayodia works with clients to create the ideal fit SalesCloud lead conversion implementation, along with based sales pipeline project and resource management solutions. We implement Accounting Seed (the most customizable, flexible enterprise-grade accounting and finance system on SalesForce) to fully support the revenue model, which may include hourly, flat fee, and milestone-based billing models. For marketing, we implement a SalesForce package – such as Marketing Cloud which offers all of the key B-to-C elements, or Pardot for B-to-B.
Almost every client chooses to add some customizations to one or more packages, and what those are is determined is an in-depth discovery process, which saves time and expense over the project life. Some clients have decided that there is no project and resource management package which really works. In this case, Ayodia builds fully-custom solutions for resource and firm management.
The result: professional firms get what delights them, not what is merely acceptable. Professionals and back-office are more productive and get relief from burnout.
Case and Firm Management – Legal Services
A law firm needed a case management application with features not available in existing SalesForce applications, along with the ability to track and bill both hourly and flat fee matters, offer financing or extended terms and automate its accounting and transactions processing. The firm also needed:
The ability to track the financial and case performance of law offices, senior attorneys, and client engagement personnel.
Client access through a portal to their engagements by matter, their account information, billing, and payment histories, and to select a payment method, process options.
The client was looking to create a significant method-of-doing-business advantage through its technology platform, considering alternatives, decided to use a project management package (AppExchange) for hourly case management/time tracking, and a separate (custom designed) application for flat fee matter management. Workflows for both were modified for automated transaction creation and general ledger entries with Accounting Seed.
The client has a full management solution that matches the process they have designed.
YOUR SPECIFIC NEEDS
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