The future seems to hold the promise of increased international expansion, supported at least in part by the adoption of more flexible workforces. Global enterprises will offer high quality services, leveraging empowering digital communication to blend external niche expertise with a core of more traditional employees. That said, whatever the chances awaiting these businesses, it’s also clear that these changes will bring significant new operational pressures – for both management and IT.

Get ready
Any professional service business looking to continue its development and achieve growth will likely have these two areas on their strategic radar. With that in mind, what should they be doing to ensure they are ready to profit from these trends when relevant opportunities appear? How can you prepare your company for a journey in either or both of these directions? How do you compete successfully against the other companies that leverage these trends successfully?

Choose software with international support
Working in an international environment will ask a great deal from your company, both strategically and operationally. HR alone, with employees in different countries, from different backgrounds and speaking different languages will be a major challenge. And then there’s the financial side – cross-border data management and reporting, with overall co-ordination of financial results to follow at the top level.

Accounts payable and receivable may need to be managed in multi-currency, with transactions not always directly related to the country they’re realized in. How will you handle sending a Spanish consultant to a project in the UK? Invest in ERP that can support multi language, multi legislation and manage central master data from across multiple subsidiaries and you’ll be off to a great start.

Choose software with full integration
Project management and administration will also need to work smoothly with the ERP system, integrated with financials to ensure minimum information leakage and maximum insight across the company. Strong control mechanisms will need to be in place, as will powerful solutions for planning and resource management to ensure you know who’s doing what, when. It will help ensure people are optimally deployed on the projects that are underway, and that it’s clear who is available for the ones sitting in the pipe. Maybe you’ve got a consultant in France looking for work, and a project in Africa short on capacity. You need to be able to put 2 and 2 together to ensure efficient profitable use of resources.

Internationalization and flexibility – perhaps the two key themes shaping the future of professional services operations. The future of your company may well rest in hands outside your country, hands that perhaps aren’t even on your direct payroll. Taking time to ensure the right IT structure is in place will enable businesses to benefit from the exciting opportunities these changes in the market space will certainly offer.