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Articles: How people and technology can work together

20 March 2017

Tony Young , Partner, Business Services |

Technology is changing the way many industries operate, and professional services firms are not immune to its effects. It is a challenge that these firms can overcome and benefit from, but they've got to be open to explore and understand its various impacts. For most professional services firms, IT hasn’t been seen as a core competency and they are now looking to simplify their IT capabilities by moving some processes to the cloud and streamlining their infrastructure. In a number of cases this is through outsourcing and offshoring.  

A big discussion point during my course at the Harvard Business School was the impact of technology on the professional workforce. Across most firms there will be a range of generations - from recent graduates for whom technology is second nature, and employees from other generations that have seen technology evolve ever since the first fax machine was installed in the office. That would be me! 

These groups have different mindsets when it comes to technology, so firms need to ensure there's communication between them. It may need to be a case of reverse mentoring, where the older generations stand to learn just as much from the recent graduates and the way technology shapes and enhances their roles. This trend is changing the way people learn in a business as well. Continuous learning is hugely important to the success of these organisations and leaders have to realise that it is now going to be a much more collaborative process than it was before. Our people expect it.

Successful professional services firms are also giving all employees access to the information and systems they need wherever they are and whenever they need it, allowing them to perform their jobs to their full potential whilst still being flexible.

What people learn, study and bring to a firm is going to have to evolve as well, especially as some of the skills they are currently learning in tertiary studies could be either offshored or performed by technology. However, no matter what functions the technology is performing, the next generation of staff will still need to know the fundamentals of their profession. For tertiary providers and firms, there will be a tough balance to strike between teaching people thefundamentals and helping them adapt in a world that's constantly evolving.