By, Scott Winter Director of Product Management for LexisNexis InterAction
2020 saw digital transformation accelerate at a pace that no one could have foreseen. Now with professional services providers and their consumers having warmed to the idea of digital engagement, 2021 will see the strengthening of this mindset. Expect firms to undertake measures to truly help embed the digital approach into their day-to-day operation to help meet their business goals.
Firms Will Invest in ‘Flexibility’
2020, a year that was dominated by uncertainty, highlighted the importance of adaptability to changing client and market demands. Technology shone bright as it supported business operation during the pandemic. In 2021, professional services firms will look to actively invest in and build a flexible technology environment for business development that can shift and evolve as needed. To this end, firms will prefer to adopt the best, functionally rich individual solutions for each key area of business development and marketing and seamlessly integrate – over investing in a single-source,” jack of all” solution that provides “good enough” functionality. This approach will ensure that they spend money in the right areas so that their existing infrastructure can work better and flexibly as needed.
Additionally, firms will embrace an increasingly remote and dispersed workforce – with some even going so far as downsizing office space. So, the pre-2020 office where people sat at the same desk, in the same chair, Monday to Friday will likely never be the case for many individuals. This will drive firms to adopt applications that are easily deployed, maintained, and updated, and accessible from anywhere in different formats. Furthermore, the ever-changing and complex privacy and security landscape will drive firms to adopt solutions that allow choice and flexibility in where their valuable data resides.
Data-led Evidence Will Push Firms Up the Business Development Maturity Model
In a dispersed and distributed business environment, a data-driven approach to business development will find acceptance. This will prompt active improvement in processes, as teams use business development-led data insights from their client management systems to uncover new connections and opportunities. The more forward-thinking firms will take the approach a step further, using insights from data across the organisation to develop and track targeted growth strategies to deliver on the firms’ objectives and capitalise on a changing business landscape. Consequently, all these approaches will increase business development maturity.
Business Development Executives with Data Analytics Skills Will Be Seen as “super stars”
Today, very few firms have been able to capitalise on the data analytical skills within their business development and marketing departments. As firms embrace data-driven business operations, the business development executives who actively develop and champion their data analytics skills to problem solve and support strategies to deliver the highest possible levels of client experience will find themselves revered as the “super stars” in their firms. The good news is that with the sophistication of client relationship management solutions, analysing firm data and deriving usable insights doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge, as was previously the case with technology. So, with a data analytical mindset, business development executives will also find that their skills are transferable, making them a ‘much in demand’ commodity in the wider industry too.
Living, Breathing Business Planning Will Become Routine for Agility
If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that there are no constants and business environments can change dramatically very quickly. Who would have thought that video conferencing and Zoom could have experienced such explosive growth? Or that demand and future of commercial real estate, long considered a practically fool proof investment vehicle, could ever be in jeopardy? Or even that almost overnight digital medicine would be a trillion-dollar industry?
So, while up until 2020, most firms reviewed their business development plans annually, here on in, firms will embrace a continuous approach to business planning, creating data driven “living” documents and strategies to guide every decision at every level of the firm. The effects of uncertainty have called for the ability for firms to be agile.
The myth that only large firms can achieve this high level of business development maturity will be dispelled in 2021, with firms of all sizes adopting this approach. This is because technology already exists and likely is also already deployed in most organisations. While the challenge thus far has been about adoption of technologies such as client relationship management, professionals today realise that it is counter-productive to their goals. In the absence of physical interactions, they need access to real-time relationship and contractual intelligence such as how strong their client relationships really are, what are the gaps in the firm’s service that present a threat to contract renewal, and so on.
Clichéd as it may sound, data is genuinely the lifeblood of any organisation today. In a large-scale digital business environment, not leveraging it for business insight and advantage would be regrettably fool hardy and firms recognise that.