The global response to COVID-19 fundamentally and dramatically changed the delivery of professional service projects. Our experience in Crowe was typical of responses throughout the accounting, finance, consulting and legal services sectors: We adapted to delivering complex evaluative assignments, organisational development projects and other client services in new ways, often without ever being in the same building with our clients or our colleagues. The experiment has been a success, but like with any pilot study, there are lessons to learn.
A lot has been written and spoken about the likely future impact on working practices for individuals, and as the corporate world transitions to some form of blended working model, we have begun to consider what our projects will look like in the future. It will be important to learn lessons from our experiences since March 2020, reflecting on what worked well and what we lost by moving to fully online client relationships.
What have we lost?
While there have been efficiencies gained, there is also no question that not all of the transition to online working has been positive:
The future delivery model for client work needs to maintain the high-value benefits of our recent experiences and reduce the negative experiences of fully remote online working with clients.
In most professional service sectors, the approach to project management shares several common features and objectives essential to ensuring that clients are happy with the service they receive:
In the future, there will be a crucial addition to this list:
There will also need to be a renewed emphasis on the allocation and management of project resources.
Moving into a world of work with more time spent remote from colleagues and clients, where we look to use technology to add value to our work and to reduce dead time, means that we will need to consciously focus on tailoring the mode of work to clients’ needs. A hybrid project approach will allow us to reintroduce the high-value activities which have been lost in the past 15 months and sustain the high-value activities that we have learned throughout the pandemic.
Firstly, we are keen to restore face-to-face interactions with our clients for the important milestones within our relationships:
The formality and sense of ceremony attached to these engagements is important to establish and maintain client relationships.
We now know that regular information- and decision-rich virtual engagements with our clients add a great deal of value to advisory projects. We will continue to use video conferencing to manage day-to-day work with clients and to keep in regular contact.
We will also continue with other strategies to improve the usefulness of remote engagement, including:
While the concept of a blended learning environment is common in universities and schools nowadays, the idea of a blended workspace is less familiar. We will continue to develop our technological capacity to use shared online workspaces and tools to collaborate and communicate online. This will include:
Crowe’s consulting department has extensive experience managing complex stakeholder projects and advising clients in Ireland across diverse sectors, from multinational organisations and major public bodies to local businesses and not-for-profit entities.