Posted by Lee Thompson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific & Japan
There’s good news and bad news about the burgeoning professional services market in Asia Pacific.
On the upside, demand for professional services in the region continues to increase meaning there are plenty of business opportunities for existing and new professional services organisations (PSOs). However, on the downside, given that so much of the success of projects depends on how PSO employees deliver those projects, there’s a real talent war underway as organisations struggle both to attract and then retain high-performing project staff.
Global research, consulting and training organisation Service Performance Insight (SPI), which focuses on PSOs, examines this good news/bad news phenomenon, which it dubs a “double-edged sword” in its ‘The State of Professional Services in the Asia Pacific Region,’ a recent report commissioned by NetSuite.
SPI estimates that globally there are over one million PSOs with a combined annual revenue of more than US $4 trillion. “Professional Services is the fastest growing segment of the global economy due in large part to the fact that companies in all other vertical industries are increasingly outsourcing and out-tasking their non-core business processes and technology to specialised PS providers,” according to the report. It’s also a highly fragmented market with the world’s top 200 largest PSOs (those with more than 5,000 employees) accounting for less than 5% of that $4 trillion revenue figure.
Around the world and in APAC, the professional services market is in transition as all sizes of PSOs are building out broader portfolios of services – whether within a specific vertical or crossing multiple verticals. Growth for PSOs is determined by how successful companies are in engaging and retaining employees who can time and again deliver on-time, on-budget projects with consistently high customer satisfaction scores. According to SPI research, the PS employee annual attrition rate is at 10 percent in APAC as compared with 9.4 percent in Americas and 6.7 percent in EMEA.
In the report, SPI shares four key pointers to help PSOs win the talent war:
Concentrate on attracting and then optimising talent. It’s not sufficient to woo high-performing project personnel to your organisation, you need to make sure you make efficient use of them once they’re on board. Part of that process is ensuring PSO staff have complete, real-time access to all relevant project information at any time and from any device. This is achieved by adopting professional services automation (PSA) software tightly integrated to financial, human resources (HR), sales and marketing applications or via a comprehensive services resource planning (SRP) solution which unites all those applications in a single suite.
Align project marketing, sales and service delivery. Lay the groundwork to ensure your talented project team are engaged in the right kind of opportunities which will both play to their strengths and help continue to burnish your company’s reputation. This is done by marketing and sales working closely together so marketing targets customers with projects that are a good fit with previous deliverables and then sales continues that process and then hands off to the project team.
Establish service delivery methodologies and technologies. By creating and continually evolving best and standard practices for how projects will be tackled, you are again helping to set the stage for successful engagements between your project talent and your customers.
Solve the people problem. While salary increases and additional bonuses are one way to tackle employee retention, it’s necessary to take a more creative approach. Invest in your talent through ongoing training and make use of flexible and innovative work policies and rewarding work cultures to maintain and develop the talent resource pool. “Continuous learning is no longer a nice-to-have; it has become a precondition of survival,” report states.
Successful PSOs, according to SPI, are those which are using a ‘secret sauce’ – a combination of attracting and retaining talented employees, establishing and continually optimizing best practices and methodologies, and implementing integrated systems – PSA or SRP – to gain real-time visibility across all aspects of their PS operations.