It is often a major challenge for today’s professional services companies to differentiate their service offering in an increasingly crowded marketplace – and that’s especially true of SME businesses struggling to get their voice heard over the noise of their larger peers.
Being able to differentiate and grow rapidly in this sector is above all about customer service quality. But high-quality customer service must be underpinned by sharp project management, efficient utilisation of talent and skills and accurate time management and billing.
SMEs in this sector may be looking to expand quickly but often they are weighed down by an over-reliance on Excel spreadsheets, leading to lost data, manual input errors and duplicated documents. This can stunt business growth as it prevents agility and frequently results in escalating costs. Added to this there is often a lack of insight into project costs which adversely impacts profitability. Poor visibility of project status and outcomes leads to badly-informed or delayed decisions.
So, what’s the solution?
Technology and in particular, cloud computing, can point the way forward for these businesses.
For professional services firms, the cloud is a great leveller. It makes possible and affordable many functions that would not be viable otherwise, particularly for a small to medium-sized organisations. For example, moving from a traditional on-premise based to a cloud model means a move from an unwieldy capital expenditure-based model to a more flexible operational expenditure arrangement. This helps manage budgets more efficiently and drive down costs. Also, businesses pay only for what they use.
Cloud-based technology is also highly scalable. That makes it ideal for a company on a fast growth path, but not sure how fast. They can quickly scale up by buying new licences as and when they are needed. It’s also a good option for businesses with a small IT team or without one altogether as the cloud provider can manage back-ups and disaster recovery plans as part of the contract, taking the pressure off the mainstream business. Plus, it is highly flexible, enabling professionals working at a client site, at home or on the road mobile access as they only need a basic internet connection to be productive.
Moreover, for those businesses deterred from making the move to cloud by perceived security concerns, it is worth highlighting that cloud providers take security highly seriously as their livelihood depends on it – and they put in place far more robust precautions than an individual company could afford or would be able to put in place.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of cloud, however, for small professional services firms, is the enhanced agility it delivers. It frees them up from onerous IT management concerns, enabling them to focus their attention instead on their core business of service delivery. Critically too, it drives efficiency in this process, in turn enabling SMEs to punch above their weight and compete on a level playing field with the larger corporate professional services firms.
Look out for more blogs on how the Cloud can help professional services over the next few weeks. You can read our second blog; The silver lining that the cloud can bring here, or discover more about SAP Business ByDesign by clicking here.