Professional services firms are facing unprecedented customer, competitive and operational challenges today. Customer expectations are rising, competition is intensifying and their traditional operating models are being tested by changing workplace requirements.
The advent of Cloud Computing and a widening assortment of ‘on-demand’ services are compounding the challenges faced by professional services firms. These technology trends are encouraging the consumerization of IT which is changing the way business applications are being adopted, setting new standards for how these applications should perform, and lowering pricing expectations among business decision-makers. These trends are forcing professional services firms to change the way their organizations operate.
The good news is that innovative professional services firms can leverage today’s leading Cloud-based, solutions to respond to these challenges. Even more importantly, the leading SaaS alternatives can be integrated with legacy systems and software, as well as other Cloud-based alternatives, to enable forward-thinking minded firms to become more agile, improve their overall business effectiveness, and gain a new competitive advantage.
Macro-Market Trends Reshaping Business
Organizations of every size are facing severe challenges brought on by the continuing economic uncertainties, and the lowering of barriers to entry across nearly every industry as a result of globalization and e-commerce. In response, many organizations are facing severe financial challenges, and are being forced to reduce their operating expenses and restrict their strategic investments.
At the same time, the web and a myriad of mobile technologies are making it easier for employees to work remotely and on the road. While these enabling technologies permit businesses to interact with their customers and partners more intimately on a face-to-face basis, they also creates a new set of management challenges as organizations attempt to coordinate their employees’ work in a timely and cost-effective manner.
These issues are driving organizations of all sizes, across nearly every industry, to adopt Cloud-based solutions which are better suited to respond to these demands than traditional on-premise systems and software that were designed for more centralized and static environments. Web-based, SaaS applications make it easier for workers to access and share information on a real-time basis from anywhere at any time. The low implementation costs, rapid deployment capabilities and intuitive user interfaces of Cloud-based solutions also add to their appeal.
Common Cloud Adoption Patterns
These applications first gained acceptance in the front-office with the rapid adoption of CRM and SFA solutions from Salesforce.com as well as a wide array of on-demand collaboration offerings. The success of Cloud-based SaaS solutions in the front-office has encouraged corporate executives to consider using similar solutions to better manage their back-office operations, including financial management and accounting systems.
In the past, CIOs and their IT teams were generally opposed to the unilateral adoption of SaaS and other Cloud services by business end-users and independent business units. However, as the initial rounds of Cloud deployments gained success, CIOs and IT departments have recognized their business value and are now working with their business units to support the orderly adoption of these alternatives.
Success Fueling Growth
In fact, IDC forecasts the worldwide SaaS market will experience a 25.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2014, when it will equal $40.5 billion. Organizations are accelerating their adoption of SaaS solutions because they are pleased with the results. A Gartner survey found that 95% of current users expected to maintain or expand their deployment of SaaS solutions.
The trends have persuaded forward-minded professional services firms to consider how they can employ Cloud solutions to transform their operations and better support their employees, serve their customers, and work with their partners.
Kaplan is the Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com) and Founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace (www.cloudshowplace.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.