Our shared passion for the future of professional services has led George Beaton and I to collaborate on projects over many years.
George has long expressed his view that the traditional “BigLaw” model for legal services firms is under severe threat. He has just launched his latest book Remaking Law Firms to provide clear guidance on how law firms can adjust and reshape themselves for success in a rapidly changing world.
Drawing on the concept of my Newspaper Extinction Timeline, George and I collaborated to create a timeline for the changing structure of the legal services industry over the next decade and beyond across different geographies.
The full description to the legal services timeline describes in detail the mega-forces shaping the industry, the research methodology, and the outcomes.
Here are the legal services industry timelines we created for five regions, with below the charts descriptions of the types of legal services providers referenced.
Today’s Australian Financial Review featured a section Transformation Agenda, including an article based on an interview with me, Health and education sectors the next to feel online disruption.
After opening with a discussion of connected work and marketplaces such as Freelancer.com and Upwork, the article goes on:
According to business consultant and futurist, Ross Dawson it’s a trend gathering pace within professional services like business consultancy, marketing strategy, IT services, even engineering and law. “Knowledge work can now be done anywhere.” he says.
It appears that this is another emerging sector where Australia is leading the way.
Sydney-based firms Expert360 and Skillsapien support two of the leading digital marketplaces for professional services, both of which Dawson sees as signalling a transition to “virtual” organisations.
“What is the role of the organisation today?” he asks. “Do they need to have offices with people sitting together? Is that the best way to source the best ideas?”
With the emergence of massive online platforms connecting millions of people it would seem not.
The article goes on to draw on my comments to look at many of the examples of how connected work is disrupting health, including CrowdMed, Doctus.com.au, and Dr Sicknote, and then closes with my comments on the impact on education, from an Australian perspective.
In the case of education, the online learning genie is out of the bottle, Dawson notes, with Australian institutions well placed to capitalise on it.
MOOCs (massive open online courses) have been around for some time with a fair degree of competition. But new opportunities are appearing in areas like professional certification, for which Australian institutions are well regarded.
“Education is and will continue to be one of Australia’s greatest exports,” Dawson says, noting that Australia’s fondness for and skills in developing digital channels will breed further opportunities in this and other knowledge-driven sectors.
Work can be done anywhere. We have reached the point where professions of all kinds will be increasingly practised remotely. While we need to ensure that potential problems are minimized, we also need to acknowledge the massive social upsides. This shift is inevitable.
Last Friday, after delivering the breakfast keynote at CPA Congress in Brisbane (more on that in another post), I ran a half-day workshop at the partner offsite of a national accounting firm network on the theme of Disruption and Innovation in Professional Services.
I spent some time giving the partners current perspectives on both disruption and innovation in professional services, with the rest of the time spent facilitating the group in generating and prioritizing initiatives to drive the members firms’ future.
I ran through the domains in which they can enhance their business models and performance. However in professional services probably the most important domain is service delivery, in which extraordinary possibilities for innovation have opened up in the network economy.
I have just recalled that eight years ago I co-authored a white paper for SAP titled Service Delivery Innovation: Creating Client Value and Enhancing Profitability. While it is not recent, the issues I covered are still completely relevant today, so I thought I’d share a section from the white paper here:
A little while ago an article The future for law firms: virtual law firms, legal outsourcing and the battle for talent appeared in Thomson Legal reporting on some of my thoughts on where the legal industry is headed.
The article opens:
It’s an excellent report, bringing together contributions from leading researchers from Australia and globally, looking at the exceptional challenges of the changing landscape of work, and some of the policy prescriptions that will help nations and their citizens to prosper.
One of the highlights of the report was an analysis of the likelihood of automation replacing jobs in Australia, adapting the methodology used by the Oxford Martin Institute in examining the risk of job losses in the US.
The Australian study looked at the likelihood of different job sectors being replaced by automation.
Last week I ran a brief workshop at the strategy offsite of a professional services organization, with their top 100 executives in attendance. They wanted to understand major business trends and the implications for both their own organization as well as the services that will be valuable for their clients.
In a highly interactive session I ran through major trends in technology, business, and society, went into depth on the lessons emerging from lean startups and crowd-based models, and then facilitated groups in generating high-potential ideas for new service lines and creating a high-performance organization.
While many of the concepts of lean startups feel quite foreign within many established organizations, a useful way to help shift thinking is to focus on the concept of ‘testable hypotheses’. This is central to how dynamic startups function, and can fairly readily be introduced into large organizations – and their clients – without seeming overly radical.
In introducing the idea into enterprise I have found it useful to frame testable hypotheses as 5 steps:
Yesterday professional services expert George Beaton and I ran the inaugural Clients and Firms of the Future: How to Compete conference in Sydney, bringing together around 100 senior leaders of professional services firms to look at the future of the industry.
It is just over 15 years ago now that my first book was released with the subtitle The Future of Professional Services (now out in its Second edition). While these days my work covers a far broader scope, over the years I have worked extensively with professional services firms to help them create successful futures.
There has been substantial change in the professions over the last decade, however there will unquestionably be far greater change in the years to come.
It was an absolutely fascinating day at the conference exploring the future of professional services. I will be sharing more from the conference over time, but today would just like to put down a few initial thoughts from the three themes of the day.
Leading up to the Client and Firms of the Future: How to Compete conference in Sydney on March 11 (which I discussed in a previous blog post), my co-organiser George Beaton and I have recorded a brief video to set the scene.
In the video we begin by addressing the question: Why do professional services leaders need to think about the future? and go on to discuss what to expect at the conference.
Points we make in the video include:
The subtitle of my first book, 15 years ago now, was ‘The future of professional services’. I still believe it’s an incredibly important topic, not just in the future of business, but also in the future of work and society.
As such I am delighted to be collaborating with one of the world’s leaders in professional services strategy, George Beaton, in organising the Clients and Firms of the Future: How to Compete conference in Sydney on 11 March.