I recently spoke at the Australian Restructuring, Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA) Queensland state conference on technology in professional services firms and this got me thinking about how this information may be of benefit to our Cathro and Partners network.
Professional Services has been relatively slow comparatively in adopting new technologies that are designed to increase efficiency and productivity within their practices.
In my experience it also improves the quality of the service provided and helps the business adapt to changing workforce demographics and market demands.
I believe there are two primary areas of technology relevant to professional services firms:
Each individual business will have differing delivery requirements and therefore are likely to use several differing software programs based on the businesses area of expertise. For example, an insolvency appointment management platform is going to differ significantly to a tax and account management platform. It may also differ within the relevant expertise areas depending on the size and type of appointment the business is engaged to undertake.
There are several core programs that generally overlap, namely the Microsoft office 365 suite, however given a number of these products are mass marketed and “off the shelf”, they aren’t always perfect in delivering the exact requirements of the business.
In our experience, where possible, it is essential for business owners to communicate actively with the relevant software developer to discuss the current and potential future capabilities of the relevant program and where appropriate, to request improvements in future updates of the software provider.
Whilst it can be time consuming to provide suggestions, enhanced collaboration between industry professionals and software developers often leads to more efficient and tailored solutions which offset the time costs incurred providing the relevant feedback to the provider. We have certainly been through this process with several providers and continue to work collaboratively with a number of them on an ongoing basis. This time has lead to a more tailored and better user experience for both our firm and the team overall.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
More recently, AI and machine learning have become more accessible to individual businesses and have the ability to revolutionise the way that professional services are undertaken and delivered in the years to come.
Taking an example of a task area where I can see this being of use in an investigation it is likely that trained machine learning will have the ability to review and analyse financial information or bank statements and identify unusual activity or suspicious transactions such as preferences or voidable transactions based on defined parameters.
AI will then likely be able to ingest that type of information and generate commentary around the process that could then be utilised in a report prepared to support that analysis.
In terms of real life examples relevant to professional services, ChatGPT can already assist in summarising case law and conducting research, while Microsoft 365 Copilot, once released later this year, will likely be able to analyse data and assist in the creation of reports, saving time and resources.
So what does all this mean for us all?
Though it is unlikely that these advances will be able to entirely replace human judgment and expertise in the short term, professionals should be ensuring that they and their teams are:
Learning their software packages, requesting development amendments are made by the relevant programs developers to improve functionality and efficiency on an ongoing basis;
Ensuring their teams are provided the training opportunities to understand any ongoing updates to the relevant programs that have been made by the provider;
Embracing AI and machine learning as it develops and considering where it may be appropriate to integrate those technologies into their systems and processes going forward.
By embracing these technologies professional services firms can ensure they are staying ahead of their competition, providing more complete services to their clients and ensure their expertise remains relevant and innovative in an ever-changing world.