Last Wednesday morning Will and I were lucky enough to host an intimate roundtable event with around 20 senior marketers coming together to hear the initial results of Spiranti's professional services innovation survey based on a significant piece of research involving 73 professional service companies. 

The results were broken down into 6 keys areas, following the Spiranti Six Essentials framework. See below our thoughts & analysis from the event: 

1. Leadership:

There is a tendency to short-termism in professional services. David Sales from St Johns Academy in Cambridge suggested in his opening gambit that the leaders within big professional services firms need to actually look outside the industry and start future-proofing by looking 5 years ahead.  It was suggested that this long-term outlook is also hindered by the partnership ownership model:  If the owners of the business are looking to maximise the here & now, then it is hard to plan long-term. 

However, this type of change is difficult to implement and the word 'scaremongering' was used a few times to try and drive the way that leaders think.  It was also agreed within the group of attendees that there needs to be a new word to replace the elephant in the room 'sales'

 Another participant cited that marketing & business development individuals need to be as respected and cherished as any lawyers. Getting rid of the term 'non-lawyer' would go a long way to helping them be seen as equals, as well as ensuring the CMO sits on the board. Marketing & BD are typically closer to the clients than anyone else - they should be helping to decide business strategy. To build a future business that is more than just a provider of human-to-human services and will productise itself in the future.

Finally, leadership needs to help change the culture in professional services with regards to failure - the success of start-ups and 'challengers' is in no small part down to their willingness to try & fail, without losing face. It produces a better long-term service and ensures that the client gets.

2. Investment

Ben Kent (Spiranti / Meridian West) mentioned that 51% of firms surveyed have a dedicated innovation budget but only 28% have set measurable KPIs around this. Moreover, the average percentage of firms overall marketing budget assigned for innovation was a measly 2%.  

As such, there is a general shift to innovate but one that arguably lacks structure and clearly defined objectives. The larger firms merely seem to be stealing a march in this area simply because they have larger budgets. 

A point worth adding to all of this is the language used around the investment in innovation.   It is not a cost but an investment in the longer-term future of the business. 

3. Innovation Processes

Change and driving innovation has always been a bit of a barrier in professional service firms especially with the traditional conservative mindset.  As a result, there are often pockets of change that spring up and look to fight the good fight on their own, rather than a firm-wide effort. Moreover, having a space which brings together the traditionally disparate parts of the firm is a nice way of making innovation easier for everyone e.g. A&O's Fuse Incubator space. 

Another good point highlighted was that change is easier if it is led by the firms' clients.  This might stop firms setting up divisions or products and services that they think clients want but find out they actually don't! 

4. Technology

It won't come as a surprise that most of the firms in attendance and in the recent Spiranti survey, saw themselves as Trend-followers or Enthusiasts in terms of the technology maturity curve.  Although it was widely agreed that firms were moving in the right direction.  

It was agreed that if the technology is implemented and created with specific clients in mind then the value-add will be much easier to track than any other method. 

5. Collaboration

Collaboration focused on how professional service firms are collaborating with technology and internally to present a full-service model.  Understandably some are finding it hard which mirrors the fact that there is so much more than just buying the tech to fix a problem.  There needs to be a real partnership in place with the vendor and, of course, a plan for adoption within the firm.  One company present have started addressing this very successfully by working with a number of small start-ups, sharing office space, advising on R&D and then rolling the product out if it is successful and is the right fit.  

Moreover, a number of larger firms are now putting quite significant budgets towards tech incubators and communal innovation spaces: it's infinitely easier to collaborate when there is a communal space to go and do it. e.g. A&O's Fuse.

6. People

Adoption of technology and innovation are important but can't really happen without behavioural change taking place within the firm.  The Spiranti survey pointed to 79% of firms having a culture in place to share ideas, however, it was widely agreed around the table that a long-term vision was imperative for transformation to be successful.  The 21st century lawyer was also an interesting discussion point- they need to change and there are now prerequisite skills that need to be in place. With the shift of law firms moving towards a 'productised' offering, "sales is now a necessary skill for lawyers in the 21st century." i.e. a range of soft-skills as technology makes the actual practice of the law much easier and the information more readily available than ever before, the human advantage will be those soft-skills in between. 

Another excellent point made was that there is a gap between the skills taught at university and the skills needed for the modern lawyer.

In conclusion, there will never be a one-size fits all for innovation, but if marketers consider these 6 key areas, then they will certainly be putting their firms in a good position to succeed.