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‘Data’ is the Engine That Will Drive Business Strategy and Business Development in Professional Services Firms in 2022

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During the height of the pandemic in 2020, organisations intuitively weathered the uncertainty, breaking free from traditional approaches to business operation, including for business development and marketing. 2021 brought on newer challenges such as labour shortages, the Great Resignation, supply chain issues, and inflationary trends. As we go into 2022, coined the “hang over” year, in the hope of economic recovery and stability, the professional services firms, like every organisation in every other industry, will need to evaluate the lessons learnt and ‘level up’ so that they are well placed to meet the demands of the coming year and beyond.


Fiona Jackson, Client Advisor, at LexisNexis InterAction, shares her thoughts on business development (BD) trends in the professional services sectors in 2022:


· Data taxonomy for BD will be a business priority


In today’s noisy information-overloaded digital environment, clients expect “personalised” information and services, for which accurate, current and quality data is indispensable. This in turn requires sophisticated, real-time data capture and analytics capability – not only for externally focused activities such as marketing and BD, but also operational intelligence, strategic insight and indeed, client servicing.


To enable all this, as a core part of their data capture and data management strategy, professional services firms will create and apply a data taxonomy that specifically meets the requirements of BD in its broadest scope (including marketing and sales), ensuring that data flows seamlessly across the organisation regardless of its point of entry into the business – be that a matter inception, system, a practice management system, a CRM system, or any of other such application. This will be critical to ensuring that the firm has ready access to real-time, flexible and customised reporting and analytics, upon which to base decision-making.


· A new ‘C-level’ executive will join the Board to drive data-driven business strategy


The pandemic has put paid to any hesitation that professional services firms may have had for an all-out data-driven approach to business operation. Research shows that the firms that saw high growth during the pandemic were the ones that used data insight to help steer their BD efforts.


Moving forward, to meaningfully define and support a well-rounded data-driven business strategy, firms will look to employ a variety of data-related skills, in job roles from the top down – Chief Data Officers (CDO) at the Board level through to data architects, data engineers and data analysts. Firms will need sophisticated data interrogation and interpretation skills for several reasons. Foremost, to support lawyers in establishing themselves as ‘trusted advisors’. Providing timely intelligence will enable lawyers to foresee client-related business issues and proactively offer solutions for mitigation. Secondly, to interrogate business data in real time to provide performance insight so that the firm can concurrently course correct to meets its strategic objectives. Lastly, firms will need a mechanism to identify broader market trends to drive longer term commercial decisions.


· Professional development of BD executives will be a key component of marketing and BD investment


Despite all the uncertainty that professional services firms faced during the height of the pandemic, BD executives have proved their value. They rose to the challenge, intuitively changed course adopting new ways of undertaking their function and positively contributed to business performance. The result? The majority of firms survived, and a significant proportion also thrived.


Now, with the pivot to hybrid working, and the need for more innovative approaches in a considerably changed business landscape, further skills development of BD executives will form a key component of firms’ investment in these functions. As BD professionals pursue unchartered methods, in addition to their existing skills, these teams will need the capability to expertly interrogate and analyse commercial data from a BD perspective. Furthermore, they will need an in-depth understanding of the mechanics of data capture and data workflow so that they can re-evaluate the current BD and marketing technology applications in order to appropriately re-configure and re-position systems to meet unfamiliar business requirements.

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