Using Generative AI to Grow Your Professional Services Organization
The CEO of a global HR advisory firm recently told me,
“It is the wild, wild west right now. But I know, with certainty, AI will be a revolutionary change, not an evolutionary change, for professional services firms. This will be a huge change management challenge as we rethink almost everything - how we create value, who we hire, how we make money - really, everything.”
As we pass the one-year anniversary of ChatGPT’s release, many people are reflecting on the advancements in both the sophistication and adoption of generative AI (and other forms of AI) that have occurred across the last 12 months. They are also starting to come to grips with the significant change management challenge ahead.
Vecteris has a unique vantage point amid this change; over the last year, we have had hundreds of conversations with leaders at professional services firms about how they are using generative AI to transform their businesses. We’ve looked across the spectrum of professions – legal, engineering, management consulting, IT services, BPO, PR, marketing, and accounting – and have seen a range of strategies and investment decisions. We convened roundtables of professional services leaders to share ideas and facilitated working sessions with teams to develop strategies and adoption playbooks.
We’ve watched leaders ride the hype curve up and are now seeing some enter the infamous ‘trough of disillusionment” as they realize how difficult it is to encourage adoption. That is because in adopting generative AI, professional services leaders have to fundamentally rethink how they create value.
And it takes intentional work to turn services organizations into solutions organizations that embrace both human expertise and technology to deliver value.
While we are not experts in artificial intelligence, we are experts in the capabilities needed to ensure that the investments services organizations are making in AI payoff. We call these capabilities “productization” capabilities. Vecteris’ mission is to help services organizations use technology to standardize, scale and ultimately transform an industry that, until very recently, was relatively isolated from technological disruption.
And we can say, with confidence, that AI is already reshaping the professional services industry in many exciting ways, but the most exciting of all is as a catalyst for growth.
But first, it is important to acknowledge that . . .
. . . a large part of core knowledge work in professional services can now be automated.
Professional services provide knowledge and expertise to clients. However, not only can we now capture and categorize that knowledge more effectively using technology, but AI allows us to access more knowledge, much faster, and to make inferences and judgments about that knowledge. That’s what makes the recent advancements in AI different from previous technology and digital innovation in professional services.
In fact, recent research looking at estimates of time and labor across 17 different industries found that of all industries, professional services is the most vulnerable to disruption from Generative AI - over 41% of existing work can be automated using Generative AI. This includes not only software developers using tools like GitHub’s Copilot to write code, but also professionals across legal, management consulting, accounting, architecture, engineering, and marketing using generative AI to improve the speed and quality of research, analysis, and creation of a large part of their core knowledge work. As such, leading service providers are now actively exploring how generative AI allows them to offer solutions to solve new client problems.
And the professional leaders that I work with believe that the timing for real transformation in professional services is perfect. One advisory services firm leader shared,
“Traditional professional services delivery through ‘arms and legs’ has gotten a lot harder. We are paying more money for scarcer talent and it's increasingly hard to maintain quality as we grow.”
For starters, the best professional services talent is still hard to find and keep. Professional service firms have the fifth-worst industry retention rate at 63.5%. The good news is that automating more core knowledge work can reduce talent as the rate-limiting factor on professional services growth.
Another trend making the timing ideal is that professional services customer loyalty is declining, according to research from DCM Insights. Within the next 5 years, repeat buyers of traditional professional services are expected to decline to just over 30% (from 76% five years ago and 56% today). This trend is existential for B2B services companies that have long relied on customer loyalty to bolster revenue. Leveraging AI to develop solutions to new customer problems can help firms continue to grow.
To succeed, firms need to develop a productization mindset.
Productization is the use of technology to standardize and scale services that were traditionally delivered by humans. This could be as simple as just automating more of the work our professionals do with no change to how the client experiences the value delivery (productized services), to creating new products that clients use as a complement to our services (bundled solutions), to offering standalone products or products as a service to deliver value to new users and/or new market segments.
Professionals with a productization mindset can both see and evaluate the attractiveness of different productization opportunities. They can imagine how knowledge, data, and workflow used to deliver value on a 1:1 basis can be transformed to deliver value to 1:many.
These professionals share several characteristics:
- Digital literacy
- Going beyond diagnosing an individual client’s needs and being able to identify customer problems shared by attractive market segments.
- Running intelligent experiments to test assumptions about the attractiveness of an opportunity (e.g., feasibility, market appetite, competitive differentiation, etc.)
- Disseminating findings from experiments quickly across their organization and openly collaborating with colleagues and with clients to build new solutions.
Ultimately, developing a product mindset at a services organization means that an organization shifts from thinking value is delivered via...
.... specific people with knowledge in their heads....
... scalable solutions comprising our proprietary information, technology, and services.
To learn more, please download this free whitepaper where we cover a few topics:
- The wide range of opportunities to use AI at B2B services organizations (hint: this is not just about productivity)
- How to select the best opportunities to use AI
- How to ensure successful organizational adoption
- The importance of developing organizational fearlessness
How Vecteris Can Help:
We would love to help you navigate in this exciting time. Here are some of the best ways we help:
- Inspire your organization to change by sharing the opportunities and success stories we see in a leadership meeting, offsite, or all-company meeting.
- Help you prioritize which opportunities to focus on first, second, and third.
- Accelerate the development of the mindset needed to be successful with AI and other technology.
- Coach and guide you through managing the change.
Contact us if you would like to learn more!