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Service delivery in 2021: Three trends here to stay

2020 was a year of dramatic change for most businesses–forced to adapt fast and make swift decisions in an uncertain environment created by the pandemic. Services organizations transitioned to a remote delivery model, but that was just one of the most visible shifts. Other changes occurred throughout the delivery process, with everything from project structures to customer experience being reevaluated. 

Which three dominant trends will remain a constant for 2021? 

Three services trends here to stay in 2021
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Based on findings from TSIA research and conversations with leading professional services leaders, those trends were revealed and discussed in detail during last week’s TSIA webinar Service Delivery in 2021: Three Trends Here to Stay.

John Ragsdale, Distinguished VP of Technology Research, TSIA, chatted with Ferny Bengali, Managing Director of Cordoba Solutions Group, and Greg Smith, Product Marketing Director at Certinia about each of these 2021 trends and key actions required to ensure services organizations can adapt and thrive in the new year. Here’s a recap. 

1. There will be a continued shift to remote projects and fixed price offers. 

On the remote project front, COVID-19 is the latest, most drastic indicator that services organizations must adapt to virtual service delivery models to keep their organizations running smoothly and consistently. It will be more important than ever in 2021 to virtually gather and store information that can be easily shared across teams, partners, and customers.   

  • Centralize customer knowledge: Develop a cross-functional knowledgebase of every customer touchpoint. Use built-in communities and workspaces where teams can easily share and store all customer and project related information.  

  • Create collaborative customization: Deliver tailored outcomes based on a series of standardized offerings. This allows you to give customers an out of the box project with pieces that can be customized to their unique business. 

  • Standardize risk management: Deploy a full-cycle risk management process where you can easily spot delivery threats and take immediate action. 

Ragsdale points out that 97% of services organizations will continue remote delivery once the world returns to “normal”. 

Fixed price offerings will also continue as long as we have uncertain markets and a volatile economy. You eliminate over-customization, lower the cost of ownership for customers, and it’s easier to continually improve project quality and margins. But it will require some planning adjustments.

  • Create detailed, prescriptive project plans: No longer will you be able to act on the fly. Project plans should be carefully detailed and fine-tuned so that you can hand the plan to anyone involved in the project and they know exactly what to do. 

  • Capture tacit knowledge: It’s crucial you have knowledge management that you can easily access, to help you continually refine and streamline future projects. 

2. The role of professional services in customer success is increasing.

The professional services team is involved in multiple aspects of customer success: training and onboarding, accelerating adoption, realizing outcomes, and driving renewals. They are often first to uncover what is most unique to each customer. According to TSIA research, professional services teams play a 25% shared role in onboarding and training. Yet 65% say they have no methodology or plan in place to increase adoption of products by existing customers. The opportunities to expand the footprint could be great but you’ll need to make an effort to build a stronger customer success strategy around it.

  • Build deeper customer relationships: It is much more expensive to acquire new customers than retain them. It’s critical you create positive experiences and successful end results. 

  • Organize around customers: Ensure your professional service and customer success teams have the same view into customer activities. Create a customer 360 view so both groups know exactly what the other is doing.  

  • Incorporate customer success managers into professional services engagements: Leverage the existing delivery assurance programs and structured check-points and include these as part of your customer success strategy.

  • Leverage community workspaces (customers or partners): Enable project collaboration and real-time engagement where you empower customers with self-service capabilities and real-time information about project status, financials, and deliverables. 

As highlighted by Ferny Bengali, the line between customer success and professional services is now blurred, with teams working in unison to drive value for the customer. 

3. Forecasting resources is critical as projects evolve.

As project types evolve, so do hiring profiles. New products, new industries, and new geographies will each require a whole new set of hiring profiles. Effective remote delivery requires one set of skills, while predefined projects thrive with a whole different set of skills than T&E projects. It’s imperative you can identify the skills, experience, and certifications that will be required six, 12, and 18 months in the future. 

  • Forecast demand and project staffing: Understand all aspects of a resource schedule — project time, backlog, skills, PTO, non-billable time — to better predict needs and optimize staffing. 

  • Pull the staffing process closer to the sales cycle: Ensure sales and services teams have the same visibility to scope projects and services always knows when to recruit, hire, and train. 

  • Look toward professional services automation (PSA) solutions to help: Forecasting resource management is a core component of many of the leading PSAs and services organizations will need to leverage that to address the elevated forecasting need.

Ragsdale pointed out how PSA solutions are key in driving accurate, timely resource forecasting and that top PSAs can pinpoint staffing needs in weeks, months, and even years ahead. He also predicts that the resource management component in a PSA implementation could/should shift from a phase two stage to a phase one priority. 

These are just the highlights of this important discussion about what will shape the professional services industry in 2021. You can listen to the whole webinar discussion here

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