Where Next for Professional Service Firms?

Most professional service firms (accountants, management consultants, etc.) are happy captives of a very powerful idea articulated by management guru David Maister.  He claimed that an ideal positioning of a professional service firm (PSF) was as a "trusted advisor" to its clients.

Today, that's table stakes, and in fact, has been for a long while.  So why is "trusted advisor" still an aspirational positioning for many professional service firms?  Logic says one is needed, as "trusted advisor", however worthy, indicates competitive parity at best.  There is no differentiator present that drives up customer willingness to pay.  So of course conversations gravitate to price, and firms look increasingly homogeneous.

What exists beyond "trusted advisor"?  These days, I think companies need "active advocates", that not only fulfill basic mandates in their core disciplines, but increasingly, act as an outside provider of R&D about things that their clients don't know about or don't understand.  That's where the PSF's networks matter. 

So in the future, the winning PSF is more than just a provider of trained people to fulfill a particular mandate.  They will be network brokers, validating experts who are affiliated but not employed by them, and who contribute an increasing part of the intellectual DNA that the PSF will need to remain relevant to those it serves.


Image source: See-ming Lee ζŽζ€ζ˜Ž SML

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