How do people in professional services feel about technology?

During the round table sessions for the digital disruption in professional services project, I asked participants to complete a quick, individual emapthy mapping exercise. They were asked to describe attitudes towards technology of the professionals they work with – what did they want, need, like and dislike. The purpose of this activity was to help ground this research in a user-centred approach, in order to examine the impact of digital disruption on the people working in professional services rather than a theoretical discussion about the firms or the industry itself.

I have now analysed all the individual empathy maps, including using a simple affinity mapping techniques to look at themes and trends. These are summarised in the following slide:

DDPS Empathy Map

If you work or have worked in professional services, hopefully these descriptions will not be that surprising. Usability appeared as a consistent theme across all the empathy maps, even if someone was describing a graduate or someone senior. The opposing issue of reputation and privilege attributed to experienced professionals reflects that fact that is not as simple to describe them (all) as technology laggards. In this respect I think it is fairer to recognise that the industry includes both progressive users of technology and a smaller – but often influential, because of their position – group of people who resist. This reluctance to embrace technology goes to the extent of preferring or wishing that a human would just look after it for them.

When considered with the other research completed during this project, the empathy mapping presents some interesting challenges and opportunities for the sector. We know that there is a history of poor technology performance experienced by many people in professional services – it is perceived as unpredictable, unreliable, or something that just ends up creating extra work (this also came up in my original interviews). This creates an overwhelming desire to make technology easy to use or implemented in a way that creates the least disruption.

Personally I am not sure we can create a perfect technology environment or that firms are able or willing to invest the amount of time and money needed to reach that goal. To mitigate this, I think it is worth thinking about also focusing on improving personal digital capabilities, in order to create resilience around the digital ecosystem of tools being used.

But the focus on avoiding disruption may leave firms and individuals unprepared for a future where either traditional practice is expected to be augmented by technology or career opportunities exist in new businesses that use technology to serve new markets and clients that have rejected the established models.