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Forbes Technology Council: How Automation Can Help Professional Services Employees Work Less And Achieve More

Although cities around the world are in different stages of re-opening, Covid-19 has left an indelible mark on the business world. In particular, the topic of automation is receiving a great deal of attention.

While some businesses may return to the office, it is likely that many will remain remote for the foreseeable future given the uncertainty with the pandemic. This means working from home will continue to be the norm for countless individuals.

Companies should enact measures that go beyond giving employees hardware and collaboration tools — meaning that they should consider making long-term investments in employee productivity and satisfaction. Automating low-level and mundane tasks that take up employees’ time and reduce morale will be an easy win in this respect.

In my experience as a developer of AI-powered productivity solutions for law firms, I believe that implementing and adopting automation solutions can ultimately lead to major cost savings for professional services firms and more satisfied employees.

Why Professional Services Firms Should Automate More Administrative Processes

Companies globally are feeling the impact of the pandemic, and professional services firms are not immune. From my perspective in the case of law firms, as many large law firms are making the difficult decision to lay off administrative staff, the ratio of assistants to attorneys becomes much higher. For many lawyers, particularly associates, this means they are likely taking on more administrative tasks, such as document filing and time entry. Automation could help law firms to continue to function, without inundating their lawyers with mindless administrative or mundane tasks.

The reasons for automation within professional services go beyond layoffs. With entire industries like hospitality and travel suffering from the standstill that the global pandemic has brought on, many firms that provide services to these businesses, like accountants and consultants, which often bill by the hour, are seeing a major impact to their bottom line. Every dollar counts in this environment; automated solutions, such as time capture, can be effective toward helping these firms see more revenue this year by ensuring that all time worked can be billed for, with minimal effort on the part of the professional.

How Professional Services Firms Can Start Reducing Administrative Friction With Smart Automation

For many professional services firms, it feels like the future has come too soon. Despite the writing that has been on the wall for the past decade and the widespread availability of technology to automate mundane administrative tasks, many companies have dragged their feet.

The pandemic has brought with it newfound urgency, but the task of ensuring that productivity and morale do not suffer may seem daunting, particularly while many companies are still in survival mode. The steps below can help firms assess where they can find new efficiencies with the use of technology.

  1. Map out your processes. Start by speaking with the professionals at your firm and looking at a day in their lives. Apart from servicing clients, how do these employees spend their time at work? What is required of them in the day-to-day? You will likely find that professionals spend a great deal of time on administrative work, much of which is done manually.
  2. Find points of friction. What processes are taking up a significant amount of time without generating revenue in and of themselves? Many administrative tasks, like records management and billing, will fall into this category.
  3. Identify the necessary resources to solve your problem. For example, as referenced above, many professional services firms rely on billable hours to price their matters. If the professionals at your firm face challenges with time capture, your firm may miss out on potential revenue per year. In some cases, the problem may lie with your professionals not entering their time frequently enough, so encouraging daily time entry may be sufficient to make strides toward solving this problem. In other cases where daily time entry is encouraged but professionals are still struggling to capture their time, a technology solution that can capture time passively and remove the friction from this process may be effective.
  4. If the solution involves technology, put together a pilot program. Some technology may look great in a demo environment but may not work at your firm. Before deploying it widely, it is important to see how it fits into your users’ workflows and whether it provides meaningful benefits. Participants in a pilot should be representative of the firm’s professionals and should not be restricted to a single demographic.  

Will Professionals Be Replaced By Robots?

Despite the hard times that many professional services firms might fall upon, it is clear that the work of professionals will not be automated in the near future. Rather, the right technology will automate the tasks that professionals find most onerous and time-consuming — the ones that create little value for the business but a lot of frustration for the executor.

Businesses that use this opportunity to deploy such technology will not only experience revenue preservation at a time when it is most important, but will also likely have happier employees.

This piece was originally featured in Forbes Technology Council.