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Thwarting Business Challenges with Technology

By Saeed Fotovat, CIO, Navigant

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Saeed Fotovat, CIO, Navigant

The professional services industry is constantly evolving as our people and clients face transformational change and significant regulatory and legal issues. Technology solutions has the power to improve our productivity, deliver standardization and enable innovation for professional services firms if providers are able build an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution to support our unique needs.

“The technology and platforms that allow us to find and retain strong talent are becoming critical to our business”

Technology providers are not familiar with the challenges of our industry and we are forced to change our business requirements, develop work arounds and settle for less while enduring a long and costly integration. The professional services industry needs an ERP solution that is built from the ground up supporting recruiting, human resource process automation, project management, resource management, knowledge and document management, and other core modules. Today, we are forced to either implement point solutions for each of these processes, then spend time and resources to integrate them, or implement large ERP solutions that are not built for our industry and customize the platform.

Offering Customers a 360 Degree Data View

Data integration is not an easy task and it is becoming increasingly difficult as we combine and integrate structured and unstructured data, while dealing with data quality challenges. That said, the tools and technologies have improved to consume large amounts of data and identify trends and patterns. We can now analyze unstructured data through text analytics and have access to technologies that can analyze and make sense of live data streams. By leveraging these tools, we can use data science to combine our customer data with the other data sources, filling in the gaps and creating a complete picture of the customers, their needs and behaviors.

Right Talent with Right Efficiency

The success of a professional services firm hinges on the talent and expertise of their people. The ability to hire, retain and deploy those talents is critical to the longevity of a firm. The technology and platforms that allow us to find and retain strong talent are critical to the business. The next generation of resource management and human resource information systems (HRIS) should include data analytics to identify the skill gaps, as well as a reports that predicts employee disengagement to improve retention.

A Rescue from Pain Points

There are solutions in the market place to address some of our business challenges, but they lack interoperability and maturity. I am seeing a lot of new and innovative technologies for productivity improvement and in the security space, but these tools do not work together. For example, a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tool that is supposed to work seamlessly on a client’s machine is causing performance issues and does not work smoothly with our office products, these challenges effects the productivity of our professionals and becomes roadblocks in delivering client services. I am seeing some interesting Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud-based solutions to address collaboration challenges, but they also have several compatibility and integration issues that need to be resolved.

Like any other industries, professional services is impacted by big data analytics and cloud services. Every day, we are trying to improve our operational efficiency and addressing our clients’ needs by leveraging analytics against structured and unstructured data. Cloud services will fundamentally change our clients’ businesses and how they receive, analyze, and store business data. The conversation about public and private clouds creates opportunities and risks for our company and our clients.

Understanding the Indispensable Role of Technology

Technology is a critical aspect of every business, and while I understand and advocate the importance of technology for any business to succeed, we should remember that it is the application of IT that matters and can be an enabler for business success. When we look at the professional services industry, we know that our business needs to be agile, lean and quick in adopting market conditions. The underlying building block of agility, lean processes and change management is useful deployment of technology. I want to emphasize that although I do not believe technology is a competitive advantage for a business, I do believe it is the platform to build the competitive advantage.

IT as a Business Partner

Navigant is changing as our business demands are changing. IT needs to elevate itself from being a utility and commodity service provider to being a true a business partner; a Center of Excellence for enablement and innovation. With that evolution, the role of the CIO needs to drastically change. The utility function needs to be built into the organization, but to move toward a more recognized business partner, the CIO needs to be a strategic and operational business advisor to the business leaders and other corporate functions.

A successful CIO in the professional services organization should understand the business and how the company generates value. They need to spend significant time with practitioners at all levels to understand the complexity and challenges of various segments and practices. In fact, it may not be a bad idea to get involved in delivering client work; it’s different and fun if you have not done it in the past and is a great way to establish those key relationships within the business.

Navigant’s IT team is in the early stages of our journey, but we have taken steps to establish a more collaborative approach toward our internal and external clients. IT is participating in major enterprise-wide business transformation initiatives; we are working collaboratively with our business units to help build new services and improve existing services. We have a lot more to do, but I believe we are moving in the right direction.

Security domain is very important and should be an integral part of IT services. We protect our data and our client’s data and put a lot of effort and investment toward these goals. We have a dedicated team and resources that work closely with the business units to establish the needed processes to improve our security measures.

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