Growth Opportunities for Professional Services in 2021
As technology firms transform to create products and sales processes that focus on delivering outcomes to customers and value that drives renewable subscription businesses, keeping the customer at the center of their business is more important than ever. From systems that revolve around the customer to a customer-centric culture and mindset, the customer must be at the core. Doing so empowers the organization to react to change quickly, provides a window into risks and opportunities, helps build durable and lasting relationships, and drives direct impact to their bottom line.
Join a panel discussion presented by FinancialForce and Salesforce and moderated by TSIA. Leaders from Salesforce, CLD, and Traction on Demand discuss what it means to be a customer-centric services organization and the key steps organizations can take to align around their customer throughout the customer experience.
Vanessa: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar: Growth Opportunities for Professional Services in 2021, brought to you by Technology and Services Industry Association and sponsored by Salesforce and FinancialForce. My name is Vanessa Lucero and I'll be your moderator for today.
Before we get started, I'd like to go over a few housekeeping items. Today's webinar will be recorded. A link to the recording of today's presentation will be sent to you within 24 hours via email. Audio will be delivered via streaming. All attendees will be in a listen-only mode, and your webinar controls - including volume - are found in the toolbar at the bottom of the webinar player. We encourage your comments and questions. If you think of a question for the presenters at any point, please submit through the Ask a Question box on the top left corner of the webinar player, and we will open it up for a verbal Q&A portion at the end of today's session. Lastly feel free to enlarge the slides to full screen at any time by selecting one of the full screen button options, which are located in the top right corner of the side player.
I would now like to introduce our presenters today: John Ragsdale, Distinguished Vice President of Technology Research for TSIA; Robert Watkins, Senior Director of Business Value Services for Salesforce; Peter Short, Vice President of Consulting Operations for Traction on Demand; Suzanne Lesser, Learning and Development Consultant for CLD Partners.
As with all of our TSIA webinars, we do have a lot of exciting content to cover in the next 45 minutes. So, let’s jump right in and get started. John, over to you.
John: Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar. We’re talking today about growth opportunities for professional services in 2021. We’re going to spend some time discussing what it means to be a customer-centric organization, and we’re also going to talk about how you can begin to consolidate a lot of the infrastructure that is enabling your end-to-end customer journey with benefits to both the customer and to the business.
So, those of you who are TSIA members have seen this slide many times, but I think it helps when you’re talking about any transformation project - in particular, transforming the customer experience - to look at it in, really, four segments.
The first step is understanding what the experience is that you want to create for your customers. Ideally, you’re talking to your customers to understand this, and - in the perfect world - it’s not a single department figuring this out, but it’s really all of the departments across the enterprise figuring out how to make that end-to-end customer journey a really pleasant experience.
So, once you've understood what the experience is that you want to deliver, you need to understand what are the capabilities and the offers that we need to create in order to deliver that experience. That could be additional communication channels, it could be new offers that are focused on value creation to really help set the stage for delivering that experience.
Number three is what changes to people and process need to happen? A lot of this is around changing the culture of the company to truly be centered around the customer.
Then, the fourth step is the technologies that enable all of this vision. As TSIA’s Technology Researcher, I often am accused of being a hammer looking for a nail, because I think technology can solve just about anything. But, truly, you need to understand what it is that technology needs to enable. If you’re investing in technology before you understand the people and process changes, you’re going to have a much more difficult time getting a successful implementation.
So, everybody I talk to says, “My company is completely centered around the customer. We’re organized around customer success.” I think, if we’re honest with each other, that’s not necessarily the case. I think that a typical B2B customer journey often goes something like this. It starts by building a relationship with the salesperson who understands your business goals, why you’re buying the technology, how you’re organized, who’s going to be using the technology. They get all this incredible intelligence about your company through that sales process. But, unfortunately, all too often, once that sales deal closes, you get tossed over the wall to Professional Services who may get very little information about why you purchased the technology, or your goals for the implementation. So, they’re working with you - these days, all virtually, but at some point we’ll be back to on-site. They’re meeting you, understanding your goals, figuring out what’s unique about your organization, getting the implementation, the customization done. Then, when you go live, very often we see the customer is tossed over that brick wall again to the Success function, or the Support function. They may have little information about what actually has been implemented, the customizations you have, your goals for the implementation.
So, it becomes a very disjointed experience for the customer, and they truly feel like they’re being abandoned and re-introduced to a new group, and they have to start all over again.
So, clearly, we've got to break these walls down if we're going to move forward. Two things that I think clearly have to change: the first is selling outcomes, not products. That's a big TSIA message, but in a subscription world, it’s all about delivering value to customers. If they’re not getting the anticipated business value from the implementation, they’re pretty unlikely to re-subscribe at the end of their contract period.
The second point is we’ve got to do a better job of tracking satisfaction and effort all along the customer journey. Typically, I see that each department that touches the customer has a separate siloed customer satisfaction survey. If they’re doing any sort of customer analytics, it’s focused on a single department, and we’ve got to get better at consolidating these efforts, consolidating the data so we truly understand the sentiment, the experience of the customer at each step of their journey.
So, a couple of data points for you. I know a lot of PS folks have complained about me talking about launch-and-leave mentality, but the reality is in an on-premise world, that was very often the case. The check had cleared, they were up and running, PS went on to the next project and there wasn’t a lot of handover to Success and Support. But if we're really focused on delivering value, it also means Professional Services needs to start creating some additional offers that are focused on value creation. According to our benchmark, industry-wide, 35% of companies so far have a methodology for developing offerings specifically around increasing adoption and value. A little higher in a cloud world: 40%. So, hopefully that is going to continue to change because that will make sure that we're really focused on delivering value, and leaving that launch-and-leave mentality in the past.
If we look at PS Revenue Source, there's a data point on here about the revenue from specific PS offers for value realization and adoption, and you can see those are still pretty small. So, it's no surprise the bulk of the revenues come from implementation and integration. Slight increase in consulting services, which could be a part of that. But over time, I'm hoping that we're going to see that customers are willing to pay for offers that are going to help them be successful, and we'll start to see a little bit of a shift in the makeup of this revenue.
My final slide, and then I will bring our panelists on. I talked about the fact that, today, customer satisfaction surveys, experience analytics, tend to be very siloed. We definitely need to see an end-to-end attitude about making sure we're sharing this data, tracking this data, synthesizing this data certainly gives you a lot of clues about the health of the account.
Just one final data point from our benchmark: 69% of Professional Services Organizations say they have a formal CS (Customer Satisfaction) measurement process for PS engagements. But, only 26% of PS engagements are [inaudible] we’re collecting a satisfaction score for. So, we may have the methodology, but we’re not being consistent in how we’re getting information about these projects. Maybe we don't want to know, maybe the customers aren't answering the surveys, but clearly 26% is not really giving you enough information to understand what the customers are experiencing in these PS engagements.
So, it's time to meet our panelists. We have three really bright and experienced folks to talk about these topics with you today.
First, we have Robert Watkins. Robert brings over 20 years of experience in helping customers understand the value of technology-driven business improvement opportunities, from early qualification through value realization. Robert has been with Salesforce for five years, prior to that, he held leadership roles at Oracle and Live Person. In his current role as Senior Director within Salesforce Business Value Services Practice, Robert leads a team of practitioners focused on business value analysis, business case development, proposal development, and deal structuring negotiation for Salesforce's largest North American customers across the Professional Services and Staffing industries. Robert, welcome to the webcast.
Robert: Thank you very much. Happy to be here, John.
John: Next we have Peter Short. Peter is Vice President of Consulting Operations at Traction on Demand. Peter and his growing team are focused on processes and tools that allow Traction’s consulting teams and customers to collectively achieve success. He strongly believes in utilizing data to measure and monitor performance, but also understands that effective communication within a consulting organization is just as critical.
Peter has been a certified Salesforce Administrator and certified Sales Cloud Consultant since 2013. He holds a BA in Geography and an MSC in Urban Planning. Peter lives in Vancouver, Canada with his wife and two boys. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, fly fishing and gardening. Through his past career as a professional field hockey player, he had the opportunity to travel the world, and he represented Canada at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. I don't think I've ever met an Olympic athlete before. Peter, thanks for joining us!
Peter: Thanks for having me.
John: Our third panelist today is Suzanne Lesser. Suzanne heads up Learning and Development at CLD Partners, a FinancialForce partner. She has enjoyed a 15+ year career in Professional Services with roles in management, client satisfaction, leadership training, onboarding, end-user experience and change management. Her background in Professional Services provides the platform for implementing change initiatives in diversified business environments. Suzanne's expertise is in designing and implementing consistent global training programs. She partners with senior leaders, talent management and HR Business Partners across geographies to assess requirements and devise training and change management solutions that address the client needs and deliver the training solutions. Suzanne, welcome to the panel.
Suzanne: Hi, John. Thank you for having me today.
John: So before we dive into our discussion, I want to open by hearing from the audience. We're going to be asking three polling questions today, and I just pushed out the first polling question. It asked, “What do you see as the biggest obstacle to your growth this year?” You have four options: entering new markets, hiring the right people, increasing customer satisfaction, and visibility into your business. So, if you would, please, go ahead and click the response there that you think best signifies the biggest obstacle to your growth in professional services this year. I see some of the votes beginning to trickle in. You're going to have to participate, folks. We're going to have two other polling questions coming to you.
So, it looks like we're getting a good, significant [portion] of the audience has voted now. So I'm going to close the votes out, and let's see what the results are.
So, the largest percentage, 35%, say entering new markets. We're hearing that from a lot of companies targeting new geographies. Everybody's got a health care product launching this year, I think.
Visibility into the business. That is a big issue with Professional Services: a lack of really understanding resource forecasting, revenue forecasting.
The third option: increasing customer satisfaction.
The final is hiring the right people.
So, let's open up our panel discussion today. The first question, I'm going to go to Robert. Robert, could you talk to us about customer-centricity?
Robert: Yeah. Thanks, John.
So, first of all, I can’t imagine an organization that doesn’t want to be customer-centric, but, as you can imagine, reality is a lot more than just putting a customer at the center of a slide like this. It's really about organizing your entire business around the customer, both from the perspective of the organizational culture and the technology. Typically, you're always gonna hear, you gotta go from product- to service-focused, but, at the end of the day, you've got to link. You’ve got to break down those silos you mentioned earlier. It’s linking pre-sales to post-sales, but it’s also bi-directional. You’ve got to link post-sales to tee up future pre-sales opportunities. So, breaking down the silos so there’s that bi-direcitonal flow from sales to service to support is really what’s going to make it customer-centric - because the customer has problems. They don’t care whether they’re pre-sales or post-sales, but they have needs and problems that need to be addressed.
Back to the slide, though. If you look at the different value dimensions… We like to break it down into five different areas. But, in particular, I wanted to call out that employee experience dimension because, like I said, employees generally want to be customer-centric and do the right thing. But how well does the surrounding culture and underlying technology support those objectives? Because when there’s a disconnect here, it becomes so much more difficult to attain those targeted outcomes. But, at the end of the day, if you can effectively put your customer at the center, growth will follow.
John: Well, Robert, thank you for that and sharing your views on customer-centricity.
Next, I’d like to hear from Suzanne. You are involved in a lot of helping people transform and building strategies for transformation within technology companies. What are the roadblocks that you see organizations stumbling over as they try to be more customer-centric?
Suzanne: Well, John, a lot of our clients have the same attitude that you have: that technology solves everything. But, as Robert just said, being customer-centric is not just a system issue. It’s also a cultural one. At CLD, we have a unique perspective in that we’re able to help our clients implement new systems and undergo a cultural change that helps them create their own customer-centric solution.
From a system perspective, the primary roadblocks we see: our clients who are using multiple systems and manual processes. When moving to a single platform, they often try to replicate what they currently do even though it isn't working. We get them to think about the why. How you think about your customers’ needs will naturally inform what's important in how your systems are set up and what data you use. The end goal is to serve as the customer, and streamlined processes help them get there.
Another roadblock we see is when standard operating procedure is different from what's actually being done. So, for instance, you have someone in ops or IT who says, “This is our process,” and then a PM or a Subject Matter says, “Well, it's not really what we do.” So, there's a huge disconnect in how the technology is being used or not used - which is often the case.
From a cultural perspective, it's also about a disconnect. But this disconnect is around who owns the technology and who uses it. I conduct upfront training with all of our clients at the start of every implementation, and find that the groups aren't always aligned or even in the same room to make decisions. So, I have to specifically call out that it's not enough to have ops and IT involved in designing the technology, but they also need to have subject matter experts in the room.
Every group needs to hear how others need to use the technology so that they can work together towards a unified solution.
Moving on-platform allows our clients to shift services operations into an intuitive and consistent set of processes and technologies. Layer this with providing employees with the right knowledge, resources, and support drives continuous improvement and happier customers.
John: Yeah. I completely agree. That length between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction plays out again (audio cuts). across the influence your business. Can you hear me?
Peter: Yeah, John. I think we lost you a little bit there, but I’ll go ahead and answer, because I believe you were asking me about how customer-centricity has influenced our business at Traction On Demand.
So, before I answer that question, it’s obviously pretty broad. You could go into a lot of different areas. Just, quickly, I want to introduce Traction On Demand, Salesforce implementation partner. When I joined the company nine years ago - actually, I have an anniversary coming up tomorrow, which is kind of interesting. But we were 20 people, and today we’re over 1,000 people. We have 500 consultants billing on projects. So, we have seen lots of change.
One change that I think is important that is still influencing Traction today is we rolled about seven years ago a squad model. There are a number of reasons why this made sense for us at that point. We were about 120 people at that point. But, really, we did focus around our customers’ experience. One of the reasons was, we were seeing return business, and our customers were receiving different project teams over and over again if there was a lag between projects. So, one of the core reasons that we created this squad model is that we could really wrap our arms around these customers and provide some consistency.
Fast forward to today. So, that was seven years ago, and we are obviously evolving with Salesforce and all the different offerings that Salesforce rolls out. We’re starting to see some squad specialize in specific Clouds and offerings. That’s exciting for our customers as well, because they get that expertise within those squads, and they can maintain those partnerships as well.
Some other things that we’ve done, as well, is we’ve been really hypersensitive as we’ve scaled to not leave smaller businesses behind. So, we’ve rolled out other offerings. Obviously, we’re going to focus on enterprise customers as they come along, but we’ve also really made sure that we focused on some of the smaller, non-profit organizations that we’ve worked with in the past as well, just to ensure that we don’t leave any of those businesses behind that helped us scale.
So, I’ll stop there, because I know we’ve got a lot to cover, but that was a great introduction as well. Thanks.
John: Thank you. Hopefully you can all hear me again.
Now, I’m going to go to our second polling question: "How many systems are you pulling from to track sales, to service, to accounting?" So, really give some thought here when you’re thinking about the entire flow of customer information for marketing and into sales, into Professional Services, into success. There are so many databases. We tend to think that CRM is a solution to everything, but I talk to companies that are doing entitlement separately, and they’ve got geographic-specific systems.
So, I’m seeing the votes come in. Your choices are one to two systems, three to five systems, five to ten systems. If we had a 10+ option, we might get a few options for that as well. So, it looks like we've got quite a few of the votes. So, let's go ahead and look at the results, thanks to you who voted.
So, the top number, 62%, is 3-5 systems. 31%, five to ten systems. I actually think those are better results than I was expecting. 7% of you are really ahead of the game, down to one to two systems, which is pretty remarkable. Obviously, having too many disparate, siloed systems becomes a major barrier to both having good insight into your business, but also understanding account health.
So, I'd like to go on that topic to Suzanne. How does consolidating systems influence behavior in a services organization?
Suzanne: John, when we find that when everyone is in different systems, services teams are doing their jobs with blinders on. After consolidating, people have the right tools so they can focus on the customer. If you just put your customer first, you’ll always build solid relationships. But change is hard, and getting there is difficult. To help get everyone on the same page, we build change management support and end-user training into every project. The project team is so focused on implementing new technology that they don’t always think about how it affects the behavior of the people in the organization who will be using it.
As soon as projects start, people begin to talk, and it kind of turns into a game of telephone. Someone hears about what's going on in the project, they share with a colleague - but it's slightly distorted. The more the information spreads, the more distorted it becomes. All of a sudden, you have people who aren't involved in the project who already hate the technology. We work with our clients to ensure that everyone understands the changes that are coming and why. Ideally, there is management support and awareness. Managers are sending out regular communications, the project team provides a forum to end-users to ask questions and demo the new system, which in turn ensures the entire organization understands the benefit of the technology and is on the same page.
With go-live, we make sure that everyone who is going to be touching, or is affected by the new system, gets training. End-user training ensures that everyone knows how to use the new technology, how it will make their jobs easier, and shows them how it will free up their time to focus on the customers.
Services organizations are used to multiple systems where every functional area is siloed. Robert pointed that out on his very first screen. Right? When everyone is on the same platform, though, they have more visibility into what other teams are doing. Whether it's a different practice area or region or function, they can see, now, how everything flows downstream and affects each area, allowing them to work towards a common goal.
Having the big picture view changes who your customer is. Teams are no longer focused on internal customers. They can focus on their real customers. So, for instance, if an opportunity has closed but the project hasn't started, Sales can see that and then follow up to ensure the client is okay with being in a holding pattern. If your go live date has passed but the project hasn't started, Operations can reach out to Finance to ensure all the paperwork is in place. If a project has been created, but there is no PM, a staffing manager can work with a practice lead to ensure the right person is assigned.
Now, you have Sales, Service Delivery, Staffing and Finance all in the same place. When they’re on the same platform, there’s better data, there’s improved internal communications - all of which streamlines jobs so that Services can focus on the customer, because now they can see the entire lifecycle and how their role affects that relationship.
John: We talked so much about better visibility into the business and into projects, but I really like your point about better visibility for customers into the projects, as well, because you're absolutely right. It's going to be really hard to get them to adopt and use and love technology if they're hearing a lot of negative rumors that aren't even true during the implementation process.
So my next question is for Peter. Clearly, the last year has been a challenge for all of us in many ways. I think that it has really made us understand the enormous pressures that our customers are under. I think that this has really helped accelerate that focus on being more customer-centric. So, how is having a 360° view of your customer influenced your growth strategies through the pandemic?
Peter: Yeah, great question. It's crazy to think a year ago - it seems like so long ago, I think, for everybody. I think what's really important here is that, for us, when we went through this, we really did rely on the fact that we had a significant amount of our customers were returning customers. So, 70% of our bookings were consistently coming from returning customers. So, for us, it was really quite reassuring that we could pick up the phone and have open and transparent conversations with our customers, so we could understand what their appetite for spend was in the coming months, while we were all trying to figure out our way through this.
So, that was the first thing we did. Once everyone had to work remote, and we realized this was going to last for at least through the summer, we picked up the phone to all of these potential customers, had clear and open, transparent conversations. We could trust their buying patterns, and we could have that dialogue.
One of the key things that we did use was a revenue forecasting tool that helped us make decisions through the pandemic. So, what it does is it looks at our booked work that we have with our existing customers, and it layers on our pipelines. So, we were able to make very strong decisions based on what revenue expectations we had. So, that was a huge tool for us to help us navigate these difficult decisions that we made on growth through the pandemic, and we’re still using that today.
John: My next question is for Robert. You're also working with a lot of very large enterprises and helping them plan and execute their transformations. So, from an ROI perspective, what return do you see from your clients as they transform themselves and begin this consolidation of systems and information?
Robert: It’s interesting, because, first of all, you have to identify the big rocks and recognize that not every system is equal in terms of either reducing cost or unleashing increased revenue. That said, I mean, within larger organizations, cost savings alone can sometimes more than justify the initiative. But, in general, I would say about a 75% reduction in systems and around a 30% or so reduction in supporting cost is not an uncommon metric to attain. But, really, the bigger question is it comes back to what’s the cost of doing nothing? What’s the transformation upside, or the risk of being disrupted in the marketplace? Because the competition is not standing still, your customers’ expectations aren't standing still. So, what is the trajectory really going to be if you don’t look to change?
But, back to your original question of what return are we getting? If you just look at core sales processes, we went deep with a larger Professional Services organization and validated a 10% uplift in incremental revenue. While 10% doesn’t sound like much, again, this is a multi-billion dollar organization. Obviously, smaller organizations are going to have a larger percentage impact. But, again, that’s just looking at one level of being incremental sales.
John: Peter, let me turn it back to you, since you’ve been through this transformation. Obviously, there are costs associated with transforming people, process and technology. But, this has benefits as well. Could you share what the ROI was like from your own digital transformation?
Peter: Yeah. What I’ll do is I’ll briefly just chat about something here that’s unique about Traction. One of the things that we’ve done successfully is we’ve actually launched a number of different product companies. So, those product companies, some of them are ... We have one called Better Me, where logging employee and customer sentiment. We have one that is associated with events - it’s called Traction Gather. We have one called Traction Guest. So, if you go to your website, you can have a look at some of those interesting product companies.
Why am I talking about that when I talk about ROI? Because these product companies have provided not only recurring revenue streams, but also it’s helped our employee retention. So, consulting isn’t for everyone. Doing that for 15-20 years, people are looking for new adventures, and I think what Traction’s done successfully is they’ve allowed ... and we’ve retained a lot of our strong employees and placed them into interesting roles where they can grow into smaller companies.
The other thing that we’ve done over the last two years, here: we’ve added an innovations team. They’ve been building accelerators for our customers. So, providing revenue, but also quicker time to value for all of our customers on the platform - on Salesforce. That team also has rolled out a tool that we’re running our projects on called Traction Enable. By owning and having our own custom tool, we can completely control our customers’ experience by making modifications to that as we grow, as well.
John: So, I want to move into our third polling question. One of the greatest learnings from the last year is that to build a predictable business, you have to have great insights into forecasts and be able to take into effect changes in market dynamics.
So, the polling question is: "How far into the future do you have confidence in your forecasts?" Nobody's going to know what you answered. So you can tell us the truth here. Is it one to two months, two to four months, or more than six months that you truly know what your folks are going to be working on, what your business is going to look like, months into the future. So, go ahead and register how confident you are in your forecast.
Let’s see where we are. There’s a lot of integration work required here, but I tell you, a lot of it is also around just the hygiene of the data that we’re getting from the sales organization, and making sure they are forecasting reality, and not just the numbers they need to hit their quota.
So, we’ve got most of the audience votes in. So, I’m going to go ahead and broadcast the results. So, half of you say two to four months. The smallest percentage, 19%, say over six months. If we had asked 12 months in the future, I’m guessing it would have even been a smaller number.
So, you know, two to four months is a start, but definitely with what we’re seeing going on in the world and how quickly things are changing, we definitely need much more accurate visibility.
So, we’ve been talking about consolidating technology platforms and, once that process is complete, you should have much better visibility into your customer and business data, which should lead to smarter, real-time decision making.
Robert, over to you. Could you talk about the role of analytics and improving predictability?
Robert: What’s interesting is, oftentimes, AI is used or justified through a specific customer challenge: increase sales, reduce service costs, reduce customer churn and improve satisfaction. The reality with AI is that the impact actually goes well beyond the primary lever, and it really amplifies the impacts of a customer-centric organization.
Let me give you three quick examples on that. Amplifying existing processes. By enabling your employees by enabling your employees to be more successful in whatever their role - it could be sales, service, support - it elevates productivity. As Peter mentioned earlier, it impacts your employee retention and productivity. There’s a strong correlation between the improved productivity and reducing the amount of regrettable attrition, as well as, when you do have attrition, improving the time to market when they could actually be billable and learning your processes.
The next piece of this is the intelligence lets you connect your back office to drive new opportunities and reduce risk. So, you're suddenly able to maybe do some deal structures, where you maybe had to put in a little more buffer, but you have these insights into your delivery organization you didn't have, so that you can more comfortably make more creative deal structures.
Then, finally, the third one is just what we’re seeing, which is just adjusting agility and adjusting the market conditions. We talked about that a couple of times. But, as you enter new markets, as you get out of certain markets, having that flexibility to be able to quickly do that and in the most effective manner possible.
John: Suzanne, over to you. We saw from the audience, the majority of the audience really isn’t sure they’ve got accurate forecast data more than two to four months in the future. From your perspective, how does having visibility into the delivery pipeline help drive sales growth priorities?
Suzanne: When you have sales and services on the same platform, it allows you to forecast from both opportunities and from existing projects. So, this gives you visibility and insight into your forecasting and your staffing. So, if you can see opportunities in a new industry, you can direct your sales team to reach out to potential clients in that industry.
The increased visibility into the pipeline allows you to make educated decisions around where to focus your sales efforts. For instance, where do you want to push it to get a deal closed because of timing? When you look at your forecast variants to see how you're trending, you can now dig deeper and determine why. If Services has clients asking for new features or functionality, you can expand your offerings. Peter talked about how revenue forecasting really helped them get through the pandemic. You can see how this makes a difference.
You also have visibility into resourcing needs. So, when you're looking at your existing projects, you can see your resourcing needs and make better staffing decisions and set more accurate growth targets. So, do you need to hire resources? Do you need to upskill your current staff? Have resources been freed up and are now under utilized? Are there unassigned hours on existing projects and why?
When clients have their operational and process activities - when clients improve their operational and process activities - they gain insight across regions and practices allowing for more collaboration, improving the health of their business. If leadership can see existing revenue and predicted revenue, then they can decide how to act on it.
So, it doesn't really matter if you're a large company or a small company. If there's no gap in your data, if you have the analytics, you don't have to wait for someone else to give you a report. You can look at a dashboard and make an educated decision to move forward.
Internally, you can see what's happening in your pipeline, how delivery is going, what the client will need in the future. Knowing all of this helps you build your client relationships that are more sustainable, which in turn will grow your business.
John: Well, to build on that, I think that most tech companies are launching new products, they’re targeting new industries, no user profiles, new geographies. This means that Professional Services has a revolving list of new skill sets and experiences that they need on the bench.
So, Peter, to you. How do you balance the professional development priorities of your teams based on the need for future pipeline activity?
Peter: Yeah, great question. So, obviously, we measure our pipeline in lots of different ways, and we’re constantly looking at it. Suzanne brought up the revenue forecasting tool that I was chatting about before, and we are applying that into Tableau, which gives us so many opportunities to pivot the data and look at it in different ways. The other aspect here is the squad model that we have in place allows us to put people into a squad where they can learn and grow around a certain technology. So, that applies all the way down to the individual consultant level and gives them learning paths.
But, balance in Professional Services organizations is always a constant topic. So, for Traction, most of our targets are based on 80% utilization. So, what do we do with the other 20% Utilization? We apply it to what we call Guilds. So, what happens in our delivery model is that we have squads which are horizontal, if you will, and then we need a vertical. We need the ability for all our project managers to get together and share learnings and grow together, and that goes for other roles in our model as well. So, Guilds accomplishes that, and we encourage our consults to spend effort to grow in Guilds.
Other areas we’ve been focusing on are Expert Paths, Leadership Paths, things like this for each consultant so they understand what their path is for the coming year or two - or even further. But, one of the things we’ve done over the last year, which I think most organizations are having to do, is really focusing on a learning on-demand approach. So, making sure that our consultants can go into and slot into their calendars a time for learning, and they can go and grab that learning. One of the things we’re doing right now is rolling out Linkedin Leadership learning paths as well, where you can go in and go through a pilot. You can go through and learn all about how to have effective one-on-ones, how to have effective career conversations with your team members. So, these are just some of the things that we’re focused on to get us through this remote working environment.
John: Well, Peter, thank you for that. We’re getting close to the end of our time together. We’ve got a lot of questions in the queue, and I’m seeing a lot of commonalities in these questions. Asking, "How are we going to grow our business this year?"
So, could I ask each of you to give a quick 30-second answer to where do you predict the biggest growth opportunities are for Services in the next six months or more? Suzanne, do you want to start?
Suzanne: John, I think the biggest opportunity is integrating Services Quoting tools. Quoting products for sales are very different from Services quoting. Services quoting consists of resource roles being sold at hourly or daily rates over time. It looks at the level of effort scheduling, billing schedules, expense budgeting, and task planning. This solution really provides the sales team to quickly and accurately build a quote and automate the generation of Services projects that brings in all of that data from the quote.
We’ve built a lot of these solutions on-platform for our customers, and we partner with Zimit. We used to get these requests infrequently, but now we’ve found that almost all of our clients are looking for some kind of services quoting. It gives them a true sightline into their end-to-end process, and we think this is the way of the future.
John: I completely agree with that. Peter, do you have a 30-second answer for biggest growth opportunities?
Peter: Yeah, I’ll try. So, obviously, everyone is not in a normal planning cycle with their business these days. I feel like most people are kind of going quarter-to-quarter right now. So, we are really working and putting layers into our delivery team to make sure that we are gaining that "trusted advisor" status with our customers, so that when we come out of this pandemic, that everybody is ready and they're seeing us as a strategic partner to help them get through the coming year and the coming coming quarters.
John: Robert, final thoughts from you?
Robert: Yeah, I'd really like to echo Suzanne's view around quoting. Really, it drives or mitigates revenue leakage. We're seeing revenue leakage as a bigger and bigger issue, and not all of it is addressable. But the significant part is by breaking down the silos and having the pre- and post-sales visibility into your resources and flexibility and quoting configurations, it really can drive some immediate material value.
John: Well, I’d like to thank all of our panelists for the great discussion today. Here is the web links to get a hold of all of the folks on the panel, as well as our sponsor today: FinancialForce. If you’ve got a question or want to talk about anything with any of these bright folks, if you just want to submit a question or a comment into the system, we’ll definitely follow up with you afterwards.
So, I know we’re very short on time. So, Vanessa, let me turn it over to you.
Vanessa: Perfect. Thanks so much, John. Unfortunately, we have run out of time for our live Q&A, but don’t worry. I know we have quite a few questions that we weren't able to answer. We will do our best to respond to you personally.
Since we have come to the conclusion of today's webinar, just a couple of quick reminders before we sign off for today, there will be an exit survey at the end of today's webinar. Please take a few minutes to provide your feedback on the content and your experience by filling out that brief survey. A link to the recorded version of today's webinar will be sent out within the next 24 hours.
I’d now like to take this time to thank our presenters - John, Robert, Peter and Suzanne - for delivering an outstanding session. Thank you to everyone for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us for today’s live webinar Growth Opportunities for Professional Services in 2021, brought to you by Technology Services Industry Association and sponsored by Salesforce and FinancialForce.
We look forward to seeing you at our next TSIA webinar. Take care, everyone.