Why Technology Investments Are Not Generating Desired ROI for PS Firms

In an increasingly digital landscape, the real value of consulting, advisory, or legal services will not be derived by ‘knowing things faster’ (which AI, ML, and automation are designed to offer), but from recognizing ‘how creatively, collaboratively, and effectively’ one can approach client problems.

Professional Services or PS firms (consulting, advisory, and legal players) will be judged by their ability to address underserved dimensions that layer data and analyze each obstruction with contextualized intelligence to render less noise and more action. Some areas in which an active insights program can generate high RoI are

  • Market and sector intelligence (sector trends, dynamics, player KPIs, challenges, and other forward-looking insights)
  • Competitive intelligence (eminence white spaces, investment analysis on competitors, social media engagement levels, etc.) 
  • Focused opportunity screening (relevant to a specific practice / area of interest) 

Consequently, professional services firms have been investing heavily in technology and innovation to service the evolving needs of their clients. Their focus has been on creating digital delivery platforms to propel innovation and proprietary solutions that can transform consulting expertise and insights into high-impact and scalable solutions.

However, most professional services firms are yet to realize the full value of ‘enabling technology’ for insights generation and dissemination. Many are coping with a double-edged sword, because they must transform their clients into technology-capable establishments, while they themselves undergo a simultaneous transformation.

What is causing the bottleneck for professional services firms?

Our discussions with clients and other professional services firms have made us realize that many firms have invested heavily in technology to generate relevant and timely insights. Big firms have tried to build solutions in-house or have partnered with AI / ML firms that claim to be able to generate insights. However, 90% of investments have not been satisfactory due to:

  • Lack of integrated yet modular knowledge and architecture: Without a defined knowledge architecture around insight generation, AI / ML engines (created for data and knowledge aggregation) provide results in silos, leading to disparate workflows, limited collaboration, and fragmented decision-making.
  • Missing ‘human’ dimension: Context-based and persona-specific scope enhancements and customizations are rare and point at the need for a ‘human dimension’ across existing AI-based insight platforms. AI tools might be great at crunching big data, but they are not (yet) able to provide truly actionable insights based on unstructured data. Therefore, partnerships with technology or AI firms alone doesn’t allow for the fulfillment of all use cases. 
  • Problem of plenty with knowledge tools: Due to a lack of relevance and context, every new AI engine tool or database leads to more noise and redundant insights. Consequently, users often find themselves spending time and money on sifting through information to find relevant insights. In many cases, such tools just become ‘one of the many’ data sources that a company has access to.
  • Invisible cost of unused insights: Every new database, AI engine, and subscription has serious cost implications for PS firms. Moreover, as knowledge or insights mostly reside in organizational silos and have a limited shelf-life, an inflexible contract may lead to duplication and limited reuse of data and knowledge. The invisible cost of unused and obsolete information can be quite high for PS firms. 
  • Lack of flexibility leading to a broken value chain: Most PS firms still have legacy infrastructure that does not allow interoperability and integration with new tools and enterprise systems (e.g., SFDC, Microsoft Office, Tableau). 
  • Increased disruption and democratization of knowledge: There is a growing demand for highly interactive self-serve platforms that enable intuitive and on-going exploration of data and insights, as well as the need to centralize all the data for professionals across a firm.  PS firms need to actively adopt digital tools by integrating data across business units and incorporating technological capabilities for collaboration and self-serve. 

What did we find? 

Evalueserve has 20 years of domain expertise and a clear understanding of how professional services firms generate and use insights. Our experience has shown that insights generation and dissemination can be more effective if the technology is used holistically. Some of the key findings from our recent survey on basic tenets of effective and comprehensive technology application are:

  • Minimalism and simplicity drive customer engagement: Simplicity is the most desirable yet most complex of all product design attributes. The complexity arises from the fact that simplicity is relative and difficult to define and quantify. For a successful knowledge platform or product strategy, simplicity must be experienced across the entire spectrum- design, interface, usage and content.
  • Effective B2B UX is guided by 5Cs (Curation, Content, Context, Customization, and Collaboration): Mapping customer’s B2B journeys across the 5Cs will increase focus on context and persona-based intelligence. B2B UX requires a data and user-centric and use-case-focused strategy, which is integrated in product design. However, this is one of the most commonly missed aspects of a platform or product design.
  • Right technology can aid user discovery: Each user applies insights differently, and therefore it is critical for insights platforms to be customizable. This can be achieved through a collaborative and design thinking approach prior to the deployment of technology and the development of prototypes.
  • On-demand and anytime-anywhere knowledge is important: Legacy knowledge platforms merely aggregate content for distribution, without necessarily integrating mobile capabilities with domain specific needs (such as optimized mobile applications, and custom solutions via application programming interface). Availability of up-to-date and contextualized ‘knowledge on-the-go’ is critical for certain user groups (such as commercial teams, partners, CXOs) to differentiate against yet ‘another news alert service’.
  • Large clients with global presence demand a ‘single source of truth’ (SSOT): With rapid deluge of digital platforms, there is an ongoing demand to rely on singular authority or a connected comprehensive solution that promotes integrity and transparency of data and insights, thus dissolving business silos across an organization. The demand for SSOT will drive more consolidation across B2B platforms, making them more cross-functional and interoperable.
  • Regular governance and audit of knowledge assets: Enterprises often ignore proper and timely management of data and knowledge assets, as well as the write-off of obsolete assets. The high-volume of information assets in PS firms calls for innovative forms of information processing and audit.

Our suggestions for professional services firms

For professional services firms, the RoI of technology investments depends on a crucial factor – their ability to close the gap between knowledge and action by investing in the right tools, technology, and people. This can be achieved by: 

  • Undertaking enterprise-level investment in connected intelligence ecosystems: Technology should be used to mobilize knowledge throughout an organization. Connected data and insights have a cross-functional and firm-wide impact across all stakeholders, and can prove indispensable for strategy, operations, and commercial teams alike. 
  • Making insights actionable and purpose-driven: An effective intelligence program is not about archiving and disseminating insights or discerning trends. It is about reducing the gap between knowledge and action to drive organizational value. According to Forrester, only 29% of companies succeed in using their analytics effectively. 

For PS firms, the user, and not the product, should be an end goal for insights generation platforms.

  • Ensuring differentiated value creation through strong partnerships: The success of any insights’ generation program rests on specialized domain skills, technology expertise (cloud, NLP, AI), and an agile ecosystem that promotes innovation and collaboration. Therefore, PS firms need to invest in partnerships that fill strategic capability gaps and accelerate their technology and digital footprint. 

Last but not the least, technology should be able to gather intelligence and push the right information to the right person at the right time.

To learn how Evalueserve’s solution combines the above best practices to deliver relevant and contextual insights, please write to us at ps@evalueserve.com.

Satyajit Saha
Vice President and Product Lead, Professional Services Posts
Sangeeta Upadhyay
Associate Vice President, Professional Services Posts

Latest Posts