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People overestimate the change that will occur on a two year basis, & underestimate the pace of change on a ten year basis. ... successful professional organizations will be those who can adapt to rapidly evolving trends.

Many professional service firms have brought Jim in as a keynote speaker to kick off their corporate or association event, including Ernst & Young • Brownstein Hyatt Farber Legal • Accenture • American Marketing Association • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) • American Society for Quality • Aronson & Company • IGAF Worldwide • Greenburg Taurig • CGI • Collins Barrow • Deloitte • Ernst & Young • IREV (Swedish Accounting Association) • International Financial Executives Conference • International Lawyers Network • Barlow Research • Deloitte Consulting • KPMG • Price Waterhouse • Society of Management Accountants • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants • Society of Management Accountants • Towers Perrin • US Committee on State Taxation .

Professional Service Trends

Recent Posts in the Professional Services category


upcomingevents.jpgMy June is shaping up to be a tremendously busy month. Based on the bookings that are in, it’s clear that innovation continues to be at the top of the CEO agenda, despite some economic challenges.

In most of my upcoming keynotes, I’ll be spending time putting into perspective how executives should be thinking about future trends within their industry, and will take a look at the innovative strategies they might pursue.

Each of these talks is pretty tightly focused; I’ll be zipping from the insurance industry to optometry; from the future of global wealth management to high-velocity innovation in the banking sector; from opportunities in dealing with the new consumer 2.0 mindset, to how massive skills specialization will affect the world economy in the future. There’s been a tremendous amount of research underway as I prepare for each session; most of these talks get pretty darned specific in terms of industry issues.

Some of the unique topics that are unfolding include:

  • the new risk” : a keynote for the US Association of Actuaries that will take a look at how the insurance industry will the rapid emergence of new risk, and the impact of the “new analytics” on the global economy.
  • the new market” : how can a leading manufacturer transition to a market where it is not competing on price, but on brand, quality, image and value : in other words, “what do they do after the world is flat?”
  • the new customer” — how do we sell to the new 2.0 consumer, in this era of the wired-up-no-attention-span Gen-Connect demographic? The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. What innovations do we need to think about when it comes to selling today?
  • the new investor“: Dubai and Singapore have “money-velocity.” Where is the investment world going, and how does a wealth management firm innovate to stay at the leading edge?
  • the new workforce” : how does a major global professional services firm transition into a new world of micro-skills and knowledge niches?
  • the new agent” : what comes next for the insurance industry? This one is a a keynote and a workshop for about 200 senior executives from the insurance industry, on behalf of LOMA, a major global insurance group.
  • the new collaborative team“: how can a leading bank outpace, outlast and outperform the competition?

I’ll be posting observations from the road, as there are powerful innovation lessons to be learned and shared from each situation.

gen-connect.jpgTake a look at this kid.

He’s your next employee. How are you going to recruit, retain, manage, interest and amuse this fellow? What’s your workforce going to look like in 2012, 2020, or beyond?

There’s quite a bit of focus on trends relating to the future of the organization — and organizations are seeing innovative strategies to cope with the world of high velocity change that we find ourselves in.

Last week I was the opening keynote speaker, and a panelist later in the day, for an offsite of one of the world’s largest professional services firms. Tomorrow, I keynote a get-together of key clients of a multi-billion insurance/financial services company. A few months ago, I ran a Board of Directors/CEO level meeting on the issue for a major industrial company.

If you don’t have this issue figured out yet, you’d better start thinking about it in a hurry.

There are certain things we know for a fact that relate to the future of the organization.

  • there is a huge amount of expertise walking out of the economy. In 2010, 3 people will leave the economy for every person that enters it; by 2012, 4. By 2016, 6 people will leave for every new worker that joins. Those are staggering realities.
  • the current generation entering the workforce is completely rejecting the concept of a traditional career. More than 50% of young people in a US survey indicated they believe self-employment to be more secure than a full time job. They don’t want to work for big organizations. They’ll be nomadic, contingent workers, entrepreneurial and global.
  • skills are fragmenting and specializing at a furious pace. Knowledge half-lives in most industries are compressing to a matter of just a few years. Knowledge extinction is real, and massive skills fragmentation is occurring at an extreme velocity. The result is that most organizations will find future failure will come from an inability to get specialized skills. A strategy that is focused on global access to extremely specialized skills will be a transformative factor for winning.

The whole issue is massive, and is one of the areas in which innovative thinking is needed now. It’s a CEO / Board level issue. It’s transformative. It’s urgent.

  • What’s Happening with Our Workforce: Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Skills
  • Critical Trends: 10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills

genconnect-lawyer.jpgSome weeks back, I spent a full day with about 40 senior lawyers with a major government agency, with the main focus both on the rapidity of change of legal skills, as well as rapid change with legal issues.

We took a look at the future of the profession, and had a workshop that examined issues of agility, rapid response and complexity of skills.

I put together a summary, based on a previous post here, that outlines both the challenges and opportunities faced by the profession.

The highlights of the document, available as a PDF, takes a look at such issues as generational warfare, evidentiary challenges, rapid change and specialization, and risk minimization, to name but a few.

Of the latter, I write that “One side impact of generational warfare is that “going underground” will become more acceptable. In the last few years we saw a fascinating battle between music companies and Kazaa, the music sharing organization, which used extra-territorial jurisdictional issues to provide itself some shelter against legal action. That type of activity is going to become the norm, not the exception, in the future. Indeed, going legal-underground is about to go mainstream.”

  • read 10 Big Trends for the Legal Profession: High-Velocity Change Providing Challenges and Opportunities adobe.gif
Where is the insight?
April 19th, 2007

insight.gifThere are quite a few people out there who talk about innovation, all of whom have a very different background: some with design experience, others who are from the product marketing world; yet others from the university research sector.

I’m unique, in that my innovation insight, gained through the last 15 years of private consulting and speaking, also comes from the reality that prior to that, I spent 15 years with the world’s largest accounting firm, with a client base in industry, health care, government, retail, consumer goods, financial service and insurance, and many more.

I’m still a professional Chartered Accountant ; though I don’t practice accounting on a daily basis, I still provide deep insight into the financial issues that are increasingly important in the high velocity economy. That reality has boosted my credibility in the minds of many of the Fortune 1000 clients who book me.

Why is this so? I often talk about innovation in the context of the ability of an organization possessing the agility necessary to respond to a world of rapid change. Innovation is not just a design issue; it is an operational, structural and analysis-capability issue.

In one of my regular columns for CAMagazine, which goes to about 110,000 Chartered Accountants, I wrote of the criticality of instant insight and what an organization needs to survive today’s fast paced markets: ” immediate customized detailed insight into what is working in the field and what is not; where the product introduction is succeeding and where it is failing; data on regional breakouts of market success and factors that could help replicate that success. They needed financial numbers, real numbers — important numbers.”

There are tremendous opportunities for innovation in the way an organization deals with market and operational rapidity. As I note in the column: “Call it financial insight for market rapidity. Shouldn’t that be the goal of the financial systems we are putting in place?”

The article goes on to tell a great story of how a US manufacturing organization used the concept of deep-insight to deal with a very unique market challenge. I still think it is one of the greatest innovation success stories I have ever seen.

Innovation = insight. It’s an important concept, and one well worth pondering.

Read the article adobe.gif

accountant.jpgI’m off to Halifax, Nova Scotia today; tomorrow, I’ll be the luncheon keynote speaker for an annual get together of Certified Management Accountants.

The overall conference theme is “accountability” : the profession is immersed in the throes of the Enron fallout, as companies wrestle with the new focus on corporate ethics and responsibility. Kurt Eichenwald, author of Conspiracy of Fools, a fabulous saga of the Enron story, is the opening speaker.

The entire conference is focused around the “accountability” theme. I take them in a different direction — what do we do after we deal with the accountability issue? Accountability is critical, but I think what is even more important is that accounting professionals need to a new set of responsibilities in the high velocity economy.

I captured some of those requirements in my post on The New Face of Manufacturing: Agility, Insight and Execution.” If you extend the thinking there, you can see that the real strategic opportunity for accounting professionals is to provide, manage and actively be involved in the critical insight needed to take an organization forward.

The key message: accountability is important, but I think everyone understands that. We need to start preparing for the next step.

(Did I say “we”? I did. My secret, as a fellow who focuses on innovation and creativity, is that I’m actually a professional accountant (and still am) … going back some 20+ years……)

In the last few years, I’ve spoken to a variety of professional service firms, including many legal organizations — including two of the largest national law firms in the US.

The intensity of curiosity drives the legal mind. As our world becomes more complex, the intensity increases, and so the need to question becomes even more intense too!

In addition, I’ve become an expert witness in a number of court cases, include a successful leave-to-appeal to the Supreme Court.

During this time, I’ve come to understand the big trends that the legal profession is faced with in the years to come, and have put together a list of these 10 trends:

  • Generational warfare: the predominant legal battles of tomorrow are already emerging today as small skirmishes, particularly in the world of entertainment. The younger generation, weaned on a massively interconnected global world, has rejected many of the accepted norms of legal principle when it comes to such legal principles as intellectual property, the role of government, censorship, and environmental matters. As they come to take over positions of authority in government and business, they will completely redefine our legal landscape — with the result that they will go to legal-war with their older, more conservative legal peers.
  • The underground goes mainstream: One side impact of this generational warfare is that we will see “going underground” becoming more acceptable. in the last few years, we saw a fascinating battle between music companies and Kazaa, the music sharing organization, which used extraterritorial jurisdictional issues to provide itself some shelter against legal action. That type of activity is going to become the norm, not the exception, in the future. Indeed, going legal-underground is about to go mainstream: we can expect to see a lot more of it in the future.
  • Risk minimization takes on priority: events of the last several years have made it clear that volatility is the new normal. Much of the focus of the legal profession — whether it involves corporate, M&A, tax, consumer law or other issues — will be aimed at risk minimization. In a world in which we truly don’t know “what comes next” in terms of new and complex risks, organizations, government and consumers will increasingly seek to protect themselves in advance, through the law.
  • Legal hyper-change becomes the rule, not the exception: as the pace of innovation and change continues to evolve at a furious pace in every industry, as product life cycles disappear, as new knowledge is generated, and as industries disappear and appear, there will be a flood of new legal issues, challenges and concerns. The essence of the challenge faced by the legal profession today is found in the infinite idea loop which now envelopes every aspect of our world
  • Just-in-time legal knowledge becomes the focus: The typical lawyer will find that their biggest day to day problem is simply trying to keep up with the ever more rapid evolution of law. The most critical and important new legal skill will be developing the ability to quickly immerse oneself in new legal issues, matters and knowledge, at the right time, for the right purpose, in the nick of the moment.
  • Rapid change and specialization: The result of this rapid change in the legal space is that we will see an even greater degree of legal specialization than we see today. Already highly stratified, we’ll see sub-specialties within specialties, and specialties within those specialties. The law will become so stratified that a hundred thousand professions will emerge in the profession of law.
  • A global battle for legal talent: This hyper-nicheing leads to a curious effect: a supply-demand shock, in which it will become the norm for only a very small number of lawyers who have any real knowledge of a very specialized area of the law. This will further increase the cost of basic legal services, and makes a battleground for access to talent the new competitive edge in the provision of global legal services.
  • Evidentiary challenges: whether they like it or not, the Internet is increasingly going to be accepted as evidence in the courtroom, and the issues of information validity and integrity are going to become huge, complex challenges. The next generation of lawyers knows that the evidentiary rules of the last 200 years no longer have any effect, and will use this reality in many high profile cases, to devastating effect.
  • Alternative empowerment: the legal consumer today is already dabbling with self-empowerment, seeking alternatives to traditional legal guidance. What we see today is minuscule to what we see tomorrow, when the generation of kids, weaned on global information, sets out to empower themselves with legal services in the same way they’ve empowered themselves with technology in so many other ways.
  • Quick response and agility become success factors: the legal profession, not known for moving at a fast pace, will find that glacial response to emerging issues no longer cuts it. The profession will seek a transformation in attitude, capability and adaptability, knowing that its future success will come from its’ ability to respond to the rapid rate of change that surrounds us.

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