This is a guest blog by Leanna Michniuk from BigTime Software
Whether we can believe it or not, 2022 is here. What does this mean for people and firms in the professional services industry? If it’s anything like the past two years, we can expect … well, the unexpected.
Using what he’s learned and experienced firsthand throughout his career and leading a company through a pandemic, Brian Saunders, CEO of BigTime Software, sat down to share his predictions for the new year with one key theme in mind — preparation.
Keep on reading to get an inside look into what Brian foresees in the upcoming year and his advice for making it a successful one.
Q: What Do You Think This New Year Will Look Like for Professional Services?
A: I think this is going to be a tricky year for professional services. Lots of people have paused growth in order to see how things play out. I think in 2022, that’s going to catch up to them a little bit.
What we end up with is this rush to staffing. More and more, especially as people come back from remote, staffing becomes hugely important. Make sure you have the right people on the right project and that you train staff properly and have a repeatable process. It’s really going to kind of separate the organizations that have worked hard during this little downturn from the people who have not. So as we come out of this, if you furloughed staff, laid off staff, reduced staff, or just kind of froze in place and tried to do more with fewer, you really need to get going because that demand is going to come back.
Q: If You Were Still Running Your Previous It Consulting Firm, the One Before BigTime Software, What Would You Be Doing Right Now?
A: I’d be at college campuses recruiting people who are new to the workforce, excited to be in an organization, and haven’t been in duck-and-cover mode for two years. There’s a whole generation of consultants out there who are eager to get in and make their mark. I think there’s a chance that the early wing of Gen Z ends up being a real force within the workplace because they’re coming in on the heels of people in their twenties and thirties who are just kind of burned out.
It’s been a tough couple of years. There’s a lot of push away from the office, away from work, away from the “career,” and more toward the “gig” in that late twenties, early thirties generation/group. I think the folks coming out of college could do some real damage. You could see that group pass the folks who graduated 10 and 15 years before them just because they’re coming into it with fresh legs and excited about the opportunity, as opposed to being maybe a little jaded about what a career path actually holds for them.
Q: BigTime Is a Tool That Assists a Remote Working Environment — How Have You Seen the Need for Operational Management Software Like BigTime Change in the Past Year?
A: We’re always trying to help our customers relate to their customers and make things easier for everyone. With more people working remote, online payments have been a big initiative — breaking that time-consuming cycle of “I need to get to the office so I can print a check so that I can mail it so that somebody else can get to the office and open it and then deposit it at the bank.” We’re trying to break out of that cycle and just smooth out the relationship between our customers and their customers (and have them get paid faster).
Another thing that we’ve seen a big need for since working remote is focusing on real-time reporting metrics. With real-time metrics, it’s much clearer for staff to know where they need to spend their time each day, and as a team, where they need to work together. It’s interesting because about 50% of the time, budget overruns are related to customer needs. But the other 50% of the time, it’s not driven by the customer, it’s driven by the lack of internal communication. And so within the system, we’ve tried to streamline that process of budget to projects, to tasks/to-dos, all the way to timesheet entry, so that communication is clear for everyone at the firm. Our integrations with tools like Slack also help us to strengthen internal communication.
Q: Do You Think This Will Be the Year That On-Premise Software Finally Expires With the Rise of Hybrid Offices? What Would You Say to Those People Who Are Apprehensive About Converting to Cloud-Based Software?
A: Well, I don’t think anybody’s really apprehensive about the cloud anymore. Maybe they are, but I think it’s less about the cloud and more about control. And the interesting piece about that puzzle is you could get more control moving your data into the cloud. You just do. You decide who accesses it, you decide what areas things get embargoed, what IP addresses can access it, and who gets to see which reports. Rather than just throwing it onto a network drive where everybody can see everything and you’re not exactly sure what the security is.
The other piece of that is when an integration is sitting on your server, you own it. If it breaks, it’s your problem. So great, now you become your own IT department. You’re calling the various vendors to say, “Why is this thing not working?” or “How do I tweak it?” When it’s in the cloud, it’s the software provider’s problem. The integrations then become something that the SaaS company has to pay attention to and monitor/fix when issues arise. The positive of the cloud is that instead of being your own IT person, our company has thousands of customers all over the world, which makes us even more accountable for spotting potential issues. If Google or Intuit puts out a release that breaks something, we’re going to spot it way before you do, and that’s going to flow through our support team. By the time it actually affects you, chances are high that we’ve already figured it out and either issued a fix or are in the process of doing so.
In total, I would say the benefit of cloud software comes down to security, control, and letting someone else solve the IT issues for you.
Q: Looking to the future, what are the biggest challenges you predict professional service firms are going to experience?
A: I have absolutely no idea. Everybody hates uncertainty, and we’re entering into a year that’s uncertain. The challenge is to avoid groupthink and to start to figure out in this uncertain environment questions such as “How can I exploit it?” “How can I grow?” “How can I act, as opposed to ‘wait and see’, while my competitors are on my heels?”
I think the challenge is getting ahead just a little bit … it’s like a swim relay. It’s about getting just a little bit ahead, just a microsecond ahead of the rest of the competition, and getting out there early to staff up and be ready for client demand.
Wait and see is a terrible idea. It’s funny because the exit from the downturn is always missed opportunity. In 2002 and 2003, if you sat on your heels, you missed a ton of opportunity, whereas the people who spun around that downturn and turned it into an opportunity are the ones who actually gained. Ditto 2009, as we were coming out of the financial recession, and the same thing will be true now in 2022. Waiting and seeing isn’t going to kill the company, but you’re going to miss out on what could be a once-in-a-decade opportunity to grow the firm that you’re running.
BigTime Software is dedicated to developing practice management tools that help growing professional services firms track, manage, and invoice their time. Its award-winning, industry-specific solutions are designed to speak the language of consultants of all stripes, from accounting, engineering, and architecture to IT services.
About the Author Leanna Michniuk
Leanna Michniuk is a Content Marketing Specialist at BigTime Software, the leading Professional Services Automation Software. Creating relevant and applicable content for those in the professional services industry, Leanna is dedicated to creating work that helps boost efficiency in service organizations. BigTime is recognized as one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest-Growing Companies in America and G2’s Top 100 Software Companies list.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share on what you think the 2022 holds for professional services firms.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success