Technology as an Enabler or Competitive Differentiator For Services Firms? Hmmm…
I was recently conducting several market overview sessions on the #Professional_Services industry for my peers. One question everyone wants the answer to is “what is top of mind for business owners and management in this industry?” In my many years of experience (don’t want to date myself!), it seems that the concerns and challenges that will remain constant for services businesses are:
· People: How do I attract the right talent and how do I retain them?
· Customers: Are we delivering what the client expects and will I continue to be their service provider of choice?
· Services: How do I know I am delivering the right services and differentiating myself from the competition?
20 years ago, many firms saw technology as a tool to become more efficient at executing business processes. Technology has become so much more advanced. Those that were paying attention, and saw the value of the investment, began to see technology as a game changer for their firm.
I had the good fortune of spending time with Michael Friess, VP of Corporate IT Strategy at Day & Zimmermann at a few #SAP events lately. It was evident from speaking with Michael, that he and his company viewed technology as a competitive differentiator. I was intrigued because what I see is that many firms want to get to the place that Day & Zimmermann has gotten to, but struggle to get there. I asked and Michael graciously agreed to spend some more time with me discussing this topic.
One theme that came through repeatedly in our subsequent conversation is that, at Day & Zimmermann, “knowledge is power”. It is clear that from the top down of this company, creating and using information to run their business more effectively is a key business goal.
People: Michael talked about the importance of knowing your workforce, your employees and your subcontractors. “People are our inventory in this business so we must create a predictable and positive work experience and provide them the tools to do their jobs most effectively”. One of the many ways that Day & Zimmermann does this is through the use of #Mobility to keep their workforce connected and informed.
Customers: You need to deliver predictable services and be a true business partner. “You need to make yourself so valuable to your customer that they cannot afford to look elsewhere” according to Michael Friess. One of the ways to do this is to use technology and systems to create the best customer experience. I could not agree more.
Services: If you know what it costs to deliver your services, you will price your work effectively and you will be more profitable. You need reliable data from multiple sources to accomplish this and, with the right infrastructure, it is possible. Furthermore, proper planning is the key to efficient execution. As Michael said, “Planning for the unplanned” is equally as important. If you do this well, you will set yourself apart from the competition. Day & Zimmermann sees their fully integrated operational and financial systerms as a foundation for differentiation.
The last topic I asked Michael about is how Day & Zimmermann addresses change management. This is always a challenge when new technology is introduced, and since his company is regularly deploying new technology to the business users, I was very interested in their approach. It is really quite simple. As Michael said, “you bring the concept to the business users and let them bring the detail. That way they feel ownership and are invested from the beginning”. Simple yet highly effective!
If you would like to meet Michael Friess in person, he will be speaking at #SAP annual user conference, #SAPPHIRE, in Orlando, May 14th -16th.
Thank you again to Michael Friess of Day & Zimmermann for spending time with me and sharing your experiences. You and your team are forward thinking and insightful and it was a real pleasure.