April 23, 2020

Four Ways Consulting Firms Are Innovating to Deliver in a COVID-19 World

During times of crisis, ingenuity can make the difference between weathering the storm and succumbing to the storm. This is especially true of the high-end professional services industry that relies heavily on face-to-face contact to conduct projects, audits, oversight, and assessments, among other functions. While some regulation has been levied to assist professional services during this time, it will not be enough to sustain long-term viability. In response to these concerns, we’ve seen professional services companies innovating their practices internally on several fronts.

  1. Innovating Through Holistic Advice: Now more than ever, business owners are seeking trusted financial and strategic advice from consulting firms. These businesses are facing unexpected challenges including how to acquire emergency funding, transition to a virtual workforce, and ensure enterprise cybersecurity. Consulting firms are meeting this demand by leveraging knowledge from their client network and using the experience of previous engagements to the best of their abilities. Firms have set up websites dedicated strictly to COVID-19 to provide a central location for real-time market updates on the impact of the virus and mitigation strategies during the pandemic. Many of these consulting firms are reimaging what it means to be a trusted advisor during a dynamic crisis affecting all industries in every part of the world.


  1. Innovating User Experience: Beyond setting up consolidated COVID-19 resource webpages for clients, professional services firms are materially innovating their interactions with clients through virtual tools and increased communication streams. Video teleconferencing platforms were among the first adaptations professional services firms utilized to transition interviews, product demos, and consultations to a virtual model. This extends even further to include the use of screen sharing, virtual desktop assistance, participant tracking, and whiteboarding. We have also seen increased interest in moving to “virtual assistance” tools including the use of bots and 24/7 service lines to ensure that clients can receive the advice they need when they need it. These tools are not new, but the scale in which they are being used is unprecedented. Various features used on virtual tools continue to smooth out pain points that naturally occur when communicating virtually. As the exact date for the end of social distancing continues to remain uncertain, these tools remain imperative in helping clients through the pandemic.


  1. Innovating Data Management and Transfer: For professional services firms that provide financial and data analytics advice, the facilitation of data management and transfer is particularly challenged by COVID-19. On-premises software not connected to the cloud or not easily transferred to a virtual work environment is now rendered impractical. To solve this problem, many professional services firms are looking to invest heavily in cloud-enabled file and data transfer platforms. These investments will not only help teams work more efficiently, but clients will also benefit from the added flexibility of many of these new platforms. The key will be to design or choose systems with the client in mind, with security and user experience as top priorities.


  1. Innovating Cybersecurity: As virtual tools are employed at every level, the overarching concern for professional services firms is cybersecurity. COVID-19 has elevated the necessity of cybersecurity by increasing the sheer number of interactions that now take place online, many of which concern private information. To combat these concerns, professional services firms are turning to managed security service providers (MSSPs) to secure their remote workforce. MSSPs are useful for implementing security measures such as VPNs, multi-factor authentication, real-time network monitoring, and identity and access management. As data is shared more quickly and in larger volumes remotely, cybersecurity structure becomes critical for clients’ sensitive data.


These innovations are just some of many professional services firms are implementing as they adapt to COVID-19. We expect these new and / or continued innovation strategies to cause a structural change in the professional services industry in a post-COVID world. It will be heavily skewed toward having the infrastructure for remote workplace mobilization, cloud-enabled delivery, and top-notch cybersecurity defense.