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How to Improve Operations in Professional Services Firms

December 20, 2012BY AMS Editor

The economic downturn has taken its toll and service-based businesses are more vulnerable than ever. Not only are clients more price-sensitive and demanding faster service, but also the complexity and increasingly competitive market are contributing to lower margins overall.

According to a research study by Kennedy Consulting, achieving operations excellence is the only way to remain at a competitive advantage.

Defining Operational Excellence

While operations is a catch-all term for how your company works, there are very specific elements to a service-based businesses that remain critical when it comes to operating (aka doing business) efficiently:

  • Delivery: All the physical assets, proprietary intellectual property, and technology to deliver services effectively and efficiently
  • Operations Support: Processes for decision-making, facilities, and other support processes for delivery, customer support, and employees
  • Resources/Talent: Ability to acquire, train, and empower employees to perform
  • Customer: Support for sales, marketing, and customer management
  • Systems: Financial systems, CRM systems, operations and administration systems, and HR systems.

Improving operations, therefore, is a combined effort involving processes, people, and technology. Focusing on being the best at service delivery may not suffice if a competitor has superior systems and operations support. Also, the well-oiled machine that your company needs to be relies on maximizing certain activities (like billable hours) while minimizing others (administrative tasks, for example). The total profitability of the services operation depends on optimizing all elements.

How to Optimize Services-Based Operations

In their report, Kennedy Consulting gives you actions to help you get started. Their six steps process involves:

  1. Centralize and standardize financial data to improve profitability
  2. Centralize business intelligence systems to coordinate management activity
  3. Enhance delivery management systems to adequately scale the delivery of services
  4. Build systems and processes to efficiently access resource channels and contractor networks
  5. Implement initiatives for talent management leadership
  6. Develop a deeper understanding of account profitability

The full explanation and detailed steps of their suggested approach can be read in their full report, which you can download here.

It is a worthwhile read that might help you and your team think through the operational challenges your company faces and might also give you some ideas of how to go about tackling those issues. Enjoy!

Operations Excellence in Professional Firms

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