Defining Competitive Advantage In A More Challenging Professional Services Market

Posted by Neil Davidson on November 14, 2018

defining competitive advantage

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Professional services firms face a much more complex landscape than they did a decade ago. As competition mounts their clients have become more demanding, asking tougher questions and shopping around rather than sticking with one provider. At the same time, providers are shouldering the burdens of a more globalised industry, a myriad of new regulations, and the looming threat of disruptive technology.

In this context it had become harder to deliver jobs at speed and to cost, and not surprisingly firms’ margins have been squeezed. As our survey, Insight to Action – The future of the professional services industry, shows, 51% of respondents consider price pressure a top business development issue over the next 12 months, while 55% say increasing competition will be a major business priority in 2018.


Industry Report

Professional Services Trends Report 2018



Beating ‘Scope Creep’

Defining competitive advantage is therefore key, but how can it be done? Firstly professional services companies must tame “project complexity” wherever it exists, while weeding out backend inefficiencies. That means ensuring they have good visibility of their project pipelines, including the resources required for each job, expected costs and variables, and the timeframes in which they must be delivered.

Failure to do so leads to “scope creep”—the continuous or uncontrolled growth of a project’s deliverables after it begins. Costs and resource needs change continually during a project’s lifetime, and preparing for all eventualities is hard.

As our report shows, project teams must devise detailed work plans, laying out the necessary steps to deliver a project to the highest standards. They must also break down each job into manageable chunks, including deliverables, milestones, tasks, deadlines and processes.


'professional services companies must tame “project complexity” wherever it exists, while weeding out backend inefficiencies'



People Power

 complex projects

Choosing the right team is crucial, as deploying the wrong staff to a job creates delays. Firms must first tackle their skills shortages and plan ahead to make sure key employees remain engaged and are developed. In a more competitive labour market retention is key.

They may also have to borrow talent from other departments internally, although this can have a knock-on effect across a business. Globally, 58 percent of businesses report that they have shuffled employees around projects, highlighting the importance of good stakeholder management.

As our report sets out, the rate of failure for complex projects is high, and perhaps not surprisingly some 52% of decision-makers think the increasing complexity of projects will be the number-one challenge for project management in five years’ time.

As our report sets out, it is ultimately up to senior leaders to take responsibility and get on top of this problem. They must implement a comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution across the business that unites all business activity into a single view of people, work, time, and financial results.

They should also monitor performance closely and step in at the first sign of trouble. By doing so they will change company culture, strengthen performance and build more nimble businesses that will thrive in today’s complex market.


2018 Industry Report

Professional Services Trends Report

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