July 24, 2019 ON24
While the professional industry is highly skilled, various elements of the work carried out by companies can be repetitive, tedious and resource-intensive. Estimates suggest that close to two-fifths (37%) of time in the professional services industry is spent on one of the most mundane tasks: collecting and synthesizing information. Additionally, the large amount of manual work required to compile data between systems was identified as a top challenge by executives from service-centric industries.
Technology adoption in the professional services space has largely focused on efficiency, with the accounting sector leading the charge by investing in automating the audit and account preparation processes. Other professions, such as legal services, have been lagging behind but automation is slowly filtering through.
Why of AI in Professional Services
Increasing pressure from clients to deliver value at competitive prices – essentially do more with less – means that the sector needs to explore how disruptive technologies can transform the way they operate and deliver services. Applications driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have the potential to create efficiencies and broaden the types of services offered to clients. Spending several days reviewing documents or contracts is a thing of the past; AI-based tools can carry out routine but complex tasks in a matter of minutes.
With AI industry-specific use cases proliferating at a staggering rate, professional services companies will be able to play a key role in contextualizing insight and identifying opportunities in a nimble way rather than just processing information, managing regulatory risk or streamlining operations.
Digital’s Growing Impact
The industry seems to already be adept at turning investments in cognitive technologies into financial benefits. A Deloitte study revealed that AI investment delivered slightly higher returns for professional services companies than the median ROI of 17% across all industries. Along with tech, media and telecom companies, professional services firms have made the highest investments and realized the highest returns. In the UK legal services sector alone, AI and automation are expected to accelerate productivity to almost twice its current rate by 2038, with large firms benefiting the most.
Chatbots are making headway in the professional services industry as they are increasingly used to pre-qualify leads by directing inquiries to relevant information in real-time, and then using that information to fuel personalized follow-up conversations. One example is Parker, an Australian law firm chatbot developed to give basic answers to questions related to changes to data protection and privacy laws, before directing prospects who need detailed information to three fixed price legal advice packages. The chatbot was responsible for selling $15,000 of different types of advice in its first 24 hours.
Tech Adoption is Accelerating
Professional services providers are often cited as slow adopters of technology, but this is changing as increased competition continues to be one of the most significant business pressures. However, investment in a shiny new tool, whether it is AI-powered or not, is not enough. Companies need to understand the business case and formulate robust strategies to take advantage of the opportunity.
A lack of investment in the right skills, which we’ll explore in more detail in the following section, is an area that professional companies will need to address. While the world’s largest professional services and consulting firms average 5,000 to 15,000 in-house analytics professionals, it is estimated that fewer than 8% of these are data scientists.7 Value will be derived from investing in cognitive technologies along with upskilling and recruiting new talent to unlock the opportunity they offer.