Professional services firms are moving towards subscription-based products that require less human involvement. On the radar are technologies such as AI, machine learning, virtual agents, and more.

By Wayne Davies

The business model of the new economy is characterized by a combination of people and services on demand, driven by technology. I am no economist but it seems that businesses that aren’t evolving at pace, run the risk of being left behind.

Businesses of the future are keeping a sharp focus on proactive and targeted transformation tools. When it comes to future tech, artificial intelligence is now a topic of hot discussion. From chatbots to machine learning, let’s look at what should at least be on your radar.

The new economy calls for new thinking

Business models as we know it are changing – again. Covid has forced this transformation in almost every way. Historically, the ‘new economy’ had been used to describe those changes because of the internet and going digital.

Fast forward a few years and we have the ‘gig’ economy which is the evolution of the new economy within our lifestyles, for example, using digital platforms to connect to services like freelancers, ride-hailing apps (Uber), food delivery services (Just Eat) and holiday rentals (Airbnb).

We see this in the professional services firms now too as they move from the traditional ‘pay-by-the-hour’ business models towards subscription-based products and services that require less human involvement. Examples might be a blockchain facility that automates tax processes, legal bots that provide advice, or analytics packages that do the kind of complex modelling undertaken by consultants today. Inevitably, the most exciting innovation will happen when professional services firms partner with technology companies to meet the needs of the evolving marketplace. Arguably, this is where the differentiation of the future in this industry will be.

Client expectations and technology

Client increasingly use technology and automation for obtaining services and knowledge. This can be in the form of marketplaces for services (we mentioned Uber and Airbnb already), via knowledge sharing and crowdsourcing models or through virtual advisors backed by technology and artificial intelligence. They love these services because they like and expect immediacy. They also like the price transparency.

Businesses also love these services. It’s closing the information gap between them and their clients – and at a far quicker pace. It is giving businesses back time to focus on building their relationships, improving their processes and automating tasks further.

The role of artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is the theory and development of systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. AI can be applied to highly complex tasks, processes, and decisions in many fields including accounting, legal, and consulting to improve the way and the quality of services provided to clients.

For example, historically, lawyers had a limited number of mainly paper-based documents to review, while nowadays they are faced with large quantities of data in different formats. This is an area where AI can do the hard work of reading and analyzing vast amounts of data, opinions, and research and dramatically save time. An AI powered system could be trained to empower legal professionals to quickly answer specific types of questions of the documents given, e.g. “How many contracts related to the issue of XYZ are under English governing law?”. AI can search and index, interpret and analyze, and then even present results in a visualized way.

What AI tools are on the radar in professional services?

Machine learning

Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. It is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns, and make decisions with minimal human intervention. While artificial intelligence (AI) is the broad science of mimicking human abilities, machine learning is a specific subset of AI that trains a machine how to learn.

Deep learning

Deep learning is a type of machine learning that trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as recognizing speech, identifying images, or making predictions. Instead of organizing data to run through predefined equations, deep learning sets up basic parameters about the data and trains the computer to learn on its own by recognizing patterns using many layers of processing.

The exciting possibilities of AI really come together here. Access to real-time data will move the advisory approach from problem-solving towards preventative as potential problems can be identified earlier in the process.

Natural language processing (NLP)

Most AI examples that you hear about today – for example self-driving cars – rely heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. Using these technologies, computers can be trained to accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.

NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret, and manipulate human language. NLP helps computers communicate with humans in their own language, making it possible for computers to read text, hear speech, interpret it, measure sentiment, and determine which parts are important.

Virtual agents

A virtual agent refers to a computer agent or a program that can interact effectively with humans. Virtual agents are popular within customer service – for example chatbots. Chatbots are popular because they can automatically respond and deal with queries or issues without the need for human intervention. As a result, time is freed up for employees to work on more complex and high value tasks whilst the agent performs the more monotonous and otherwise manual tasks at an efficient rate.

Microsoft has developed a technology called Power Virtual Agent which is made up of Power AutomatePower BI, and Power Apps. It is popular because it is what the techies call no-code to low-code, allowing you to build applications without the need to write code line by line.

Future ready

Due to the labour-intensive nature of the professional services sector, there is no shortage of where and how technology can improve efficiencies, productivity, and client experience. At, we are helping professional services organisations become cloud-first businesses, using technology to realize greater value at speed and scale. Talk to us about how we can help support you on your digital transformation journey.