By: David Hofferberth, Founder and Managing Director of SPI Research
Understanding key industry benchmarks is essential for consulting and professional services firms to evaluate their performance, set targets, understand client needs, manage finances, and gain a competitive advantage. The most successful firms are the ones that are consistently evaluating key performance indicators against past performance and their industry peers.
My firm, SPI Research is dedicated to helping professional service organisations (PSOs) make improvements in productivity and profit. Each year, I team up with Deltek to conduct a benchmarking survey of thousands of consulting and professional services organisations. This year, a record number of respondents completed the benchmark survey. Here is what we learned:
Important 2023 Professional Services Benchmarks, KPIs and Trends
As shown in the table below, many important metrics went down last year, most notably deal pipelines, billable utilisation, and project margin. Although attrition went down slightly to 13.8%, it is still above the five-year average. While it’s encouraging that profitability increased to 16.1% from 2021 to 2022, this alone is not enough. There are warning signs that professional services organisations may face increased headwinds. On-time project delivery decreased last year to 76.2% as clients demanded an increased level of service and professional services organisations took on larger projects. One heightened area of concern for the industry centers around deal pipeline which was down last year to 162% (from 183% the year before), indicating a slower year for many PSOs.
Below: Important Professional Services KPIs (5 Year Trends) from 2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report
Remote Service Delivery Slows
Even before Covid-19, consulting firms were well positioned to transition to a more remote service delivery model. This was a big reason that consulting and professional services organisations thrived over the past few years. Now, the movement to remote service delivery appears to have stalled at around 66%, or two-thirds of all billable hours. This number may turn out to be the optimal level because even with virtual meetings and collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it is important for consultants to spend ample face-to-face time with their clients.
2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report
Benchmark Your Firm and Analyse Industry Trends
Maturity & Visibility Matters
As you can see in the table below, increasing levels of business process maturity do result in significant performance improvements across the board in terms of revenue, forecast, and utilisation rate for professional services organisations. The firms that make investments in systems to provide visibility and appropriate levels of business control are clearly performing better.
Below: Maturity Levels of Professional Services organisations as Reported in the 2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report
It's important to note that maturity does not mean time in the market. In fact, SPI Research found that high levels of performance have far more to do with leadership focus, organizational alignment, effective business processes, and disciplined execution. Relatively young and fast-growing organisations can and do demonstrate surprisingly high levels of maturity and performance excellence if they have a clear focus.
Below: Comparison of High Performing Professional Services who Use PSA Solutions (from 2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report)
It wasn’t too many years ago that PSOs invested very little in information technology for internal use. Now, the market has clearly demonstrated the benefits of information, especially in real-time. Capabilities such as collaboration tools, machine learning (ML), professional services automation (PSA) tools, and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to improve operational visibility and increase efficiency for consulting and professional services firms. And the data from the 2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report shows a clear correlation between information visibility and performance. As shown above, over 83% of the highest-performing professional services firms (HPP) use PSA, and many have it integrated with their CRM and core financial management solutions, which gives executives the ability to understand project-related data in real-time.
Discover More Key Benchmarks & Industry Trends
With market uncertainty and growing competition remaining top of mind this year, it’s more important than ever to benchmark yourself against other professional services firms. I invite you to access the full 200+ page 2023 Professional Services Maturity™ Benchmark Report here or join me and other consulting leaders for the 2023 Professional Services Benchmarks Reveal On-Demand Webinar. Use these resources to understand how your firm compares to your competition and discover more key metrics that help you analyze and improve business outcomes.
About the Author
David is the Service Performance Insight founder, Managing Director, and licensed professional engineer who has served as an industry analyst, market consultant, and product director. He is focused on the services economy, especially productivity and technologies that help organisations perform at their highest capacity.
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