Automated Professional Services: Your Very Own Digital Agent
As 21st century’s technology get cheaper, more powerful and more flexible, it is looking ever more likely that many of the traditional professional services will no longer need to be provided by actual humans. Automation services, building on the combined forces of big data, cloud technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are now prime to become the next big bang. Current solutions range from business intelligence and data processing to payroll assistance and cost analytics (insert link to s4it blog). Big players are already on the scene: Last October, KPMG and PwC both announced their first forays in the automation field, with KPMG introducing the KPMG Enterprise investment and Pwc launching their MyFinancePartner portal. With more products to be introduced later this year, we expect to see major disruptions in the market landscape very soon.
The case for an automated service suite has been around since at least the 2000s. It is well rooted in the lopsided pyramid structure of a typical service engagement, wherein the largest amount of cost and billing time is often expensed on the least value-adding activities. Automation therefore frees up valuable resources for the business: now engagements can be shorter and more affordable, meaning managers have more time and more effective budget to spend. These benefits also make automated services perfect alternatives for small-to-medium businesses (SMEs) who wanted quality services from top-tier providers but previously could not afford the accompanying premium price tag.
Given such cost-benefit profile of automation, it’s only a matter of time before automation services play a key role in every provider’s portfolio. However the real challenge would be to find the connection between them and other service lines. Afterall automation is only meant to whizz through the mundane and repetitive tasks of an engagement, and in most ways not to replace the integrity and sound judgment of human consultants. Algorithms are built first and foremost to model after what a typical consultant would do given the inputs, not to make his opinions obsolete. Therefore it would perhaps be in the best interest of both clients and service providers to include a strong link to further follow-up work, and in doing so transforming the automation suite into the constant touch point between the two sides.