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How to Optimize Collaboration with Clients: Professional Services Report Preview

How to Optimize Collaboration with Clients: Professional Services Report Preview

Thanks to technology, the professional services industry is booming.

According to the Professional Services Market Global Report, it’s forecasted to grow by 5.4% by 2020, reaching almost $5 trillion. This means teams face more competition than ever before and need to find ways to differentiate themselves in the growing market.

Professional services teams can no longer rely on being highly skilled in their field — they need to be collaboration experts. While collaboration and work management is challenging for internal teams, working with external clients makes the balancing of process and structure with flexibility even more critical.

Beyond managing multiple projects and clients effectively, today’s professionals need tools to help them make the customer experience seamless. This includes being able to easily track billable hours and translate that time into measurable value.

One of our partners, Wrike, recently released an industry benchmark report, where they surveyed 1,000+ professional services leaders to understand their top work management challenges. Below is a sneak peek of the full report and the strategies and solutions it uncovers to help teams retain clients and rise above the competition.

Key areas of opportunity for professional services

Wrike’s survey identified 3 key areas of opportunity for professional service companies. Focusing on these 3 areas will improve customer retention, employee happiness, and boost scalability for your organization:

  1. Project planning and resource allocation
  2. Aligned processes that optimize collaboration
  3. Visibility into project status and progress

To stay at the forefront of innovation, your professional services company needs to understand how to benchmark and overcome these leading industry obstacles. In the report, Wrike covers all three, but here, we'll highlight the second point: Aligned processes that optimize collaboration.

Aligned processes that optimize collaboration

Even the most perfectly planned and resourced projects run into issues. As a project develops, communication and collaboration must keep pace. You might start a project totally aligned but, without the right tools and processes in place, quickly diverge.

While managing processes is difficult for all businesses, it’s especially challenging for professional services teams, who have to maintain their own internal processes, as well as adapt to clients’ needs. Some 40% of respondents find managing clients’ varying processes and workflows difficult or very difficult. 27% of all respondents said that this is among their top work challenges.

The ability to retain your processes and workflows while accommodating clients’ needs and how they like to organize their projects will set you apart from your competition. But it requires unprecedented levels of flexibility and communication.

Recall that one of the top reasons (25%) for customer churn is communication difficulties or delays. Similarly, 28% of respondents also say that project collaboration and execution are difficult or very difficult for them.

So where is communication breaking down? Why are processes so difficult to manage? It turns out your tools may be to blame.

More than half of respondents (52%) say they use 2 to 3 tools to manage projects and communicate with internal/external stakeholders. About 1 out of 10 (10%) said they use 4 or more tools.Wrike-Report-1

Using too many tools makes collaboration difficult for both clients and internal stakeholders. Details get lost across email, instant messages, and spreadsheets, causing miscommunication, confusion, and delays. Sloppy handoffs and version control issues ensue without a defined workflow and clear feedback and approval process. Accurate reporting and optimized outcomes become impossible with pieces of projects living across multiple platforms.

Companies using 5+ tools report experiencing more project delays than those with fewer tools. Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) companies using 5+ tools report that they “always” experience delays. In contrast, just 1 in 10 (8%) of those using 2-3 tools report projects always being delayed. That’s a 21% difference just by streamlining your tools!

What are some of the ways your business can align processes and streamline collaboration? Start by eliminating spreadsheets and email as primary project management tools and communication channels.

In Figure 1, we saw that 21% of respondents consider both “consolidating feedback and communication across email threads, spreadsheets, etc.” and “disconnected tools or manual work required to consolidate data across systems” to be their biggest work challenges. Our study shows that respondents are still primarily collaborating and communicating in spreadsheets (48%) and email (59%). The perpetrator for these top work challenges could be the heavy use of these two disconnected and rigid tools.

Wrike-Report-2Replace these tools with a centralized repository for all project-related information and collaboration. This work management platform should act as a single source of truth, eliminating the need to manually consolidate notes across systems and keeping all communication in context and chronological order.

It should also offer the flexibility needed to adapt to clients’ unique workflows and processes. Features like customizable folder structures and workflow statuses enable professional services teams to align with client processes while still adhering to project management best practices and organization standards.

Become a work management master

Download Wrike's full survey report to read about the other two areas of opportunity, benchmark your competitive standing, and learn work management strategies to help you rise above the competition.

Want to see how you can streamline your tools and improve collaboration? See how MediaValet and Wrike work together to bring together the best of DAM and project management.

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