There is abundant noise and information about disruption, innovation and technology, all to be found via numerous, disparate channels. We’ve decided to collect the relevant research and evidence-driven reports in one place, with an overview and synopsis of why we like each piece.
Our aim is to make it easier for you to understand what your clients are thinking about, which technologies are being adapted and their resulting impact, how business models are changing in reality and how to implement best practice around innovation for the future.
We’d recommend you delve into the following reports, but here’s a brief summary of some key overall messages
- Drivers of change are evolving client demands, shifting demographics, digital technology, new competitors harnessing technology, increasing regulation, and new, emerging markets.
- To address these drivers of changes, professional firms need to embrace disruptive, digital technology and innovate by transforming their business models to retain and attract clients with relevant, value-for-money propositions and streamlined processes that build the client relationship.
- In this environment of constant change, skills and mindsets are also essential to professional firms’ success in adapting to change. Key skills highlighted include agility, creativity, problem solving, communication, collaboration and data analysis.
- On balance, across these reports, accountancy and management consultancy are embracing technology more than the legal sector. Whilst accounts and management consultants are seeing technology take over some of their traditional work, this is seen as an opportunity to add more high-value advisory services.
- Management consultancy has generally diversified with success to address the pressing need for technological and digital consultancy, and many have started their own implementation practices.
- In contrast, the property sector is at an earlier stage of remaining competitive by addressing new entrants and business models, which are exemplified in the growing ‘PropTech’ sector.
Explore our recommended reports, by sector:
This PwC report looks at how auditors are experimenting with automation today before looking ahead to imagine how emerging technologies will enhance the audit in the next few years. It also explores the impact of these technologies on human auditors.
Why we like it: Succinct summary of automation technologies transforming audit (including AI and VR) and implications for audit in future and human auditors (technology will ultimately enhance their role, enabling focus on creativity and judgment).
ICAEW’s report looks at the rise of artificial intelligence, its impact on the accountancy profession and how it can be utilised by accountants. This report outlines a framework for embracing the opportunities created by increasingly intelligent systems, based on a long-term vision for AI and the profession (focused on solving business problems), how AI and humans will collaborate, and accountants’ ability to apply AI capabilities.
Why we like it: A detailed analysis of the future of AI in accountancy balanced with a set of recommendations on how accountants can embrace the future of AI. You can experience AI in real time as you can chat to ICAEW’s own AI assistant about the report on the homepage/link below.
This ACCA report explores what lies behind business model innovation. It discusses a number of the key trends that are shaping the global economy that demand new approaches from organisations as they rethink their business models. It considers the importance of understanding the impact of systems when assessing how value is created. It examines common characteristics that are being combined in multiple ways by organisations as they reappraise their business models.
Why we like it: Call to action for accountants to adopt and develop certain mindsets, including thinking systemically and creatively for the long-term, to build new sources of value, now and into the future. Also defines the 12 traits required for business models to thrive in future and gives examples of these traits in real organisations.
Sage’s Practice of Now 2018 report analyses the findings and discusses key topics raised with 3000 accountants worldwide, topics such as AI, skills and the evolving needs of clients. It provides advice on how to keep pace and thrive with shifts in the accounting profession, and highlights the key changes in results compared to 2017.
Why we like it: Useful snapshot of accountancy landscape, including an overall view of financial performance, uptake of cloud and automation technologies, expectations of accountancy clients and the pervasive turn towards AI. Overall view is that accountants are embracing technology and investing in AI.
Written from the perspective of the in-house lawyer focusing on the legal aspects of their organisation’s adoption and use of AI, this white paper is authored by one of the world's top IT lawyers, Richard Kemp. Kemp provides a detailed overview of AI, its technologies and applications, case studies, the legal implications for using these technologies, and finally, the ethical and and governance considerations of using AI.
Why we like it: This white paper has everything you need to know if you're an in-house lawyer whose organisation is currently using or planning to adopt AI.
The law profession is currently seen by many as an over-regulated, but under-represented profession, with many smaller law firms feeling disenfranchised by the very bodies put in place to represent and regulate them.
But with one such body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), who are making significant regulatory changes, this could be dangerous, resulting in a lack of action or even awareness from the profession, putting them – and their livelihoods – at risk.
Why we like it: This report explores how the legal profession is dealing with the changes on the horizon and whether it is prepared and protected to face what’s coming next.
Lawgeex’ comprehensive guide to the top technology solutions in the legal sector and how to decide which solutions are right for you. The guide features 16 categories of legal technology, from contract drafting, eDiscovery, and digital signature, to prediction and litigation technology. Insights take the form of interviews with the world’s leading in-house teams at global companies, experts and the latest research on the market.
Why we like it: Makes a point to provide “jargon-free explanations”, simplify the complex landscape of legal technology through practical advice and real legal buyers’ past decisions/ testimonials, and includes a pricing guide for technologies.
Law Society’s report reveals a legal sector that is on the one hand, increasingly engaging with advanced automation, and on the other, hesitant to innovate until new technologies are proven. The report examines those firms/solicitors on the front line of technological change who are pioneering new opportunities across products, processes and strategies.
Why we like it: Research-driven report that explores the different drivers of innovation and presents real-life applications of digital technology and innovation, with an aim to inspire lawyers to address legal problems in non-traditional ways.
Due to client needs and demands, technological and workforce changes are becoming more frequent, PwC’s 2017 Law Firms' survey shows that the need for law firms to change is accelerating. The survey report examines global financial performance, UK financial performance, along with the themes of business support, people and risk across the legal sector. The report then discusses the law firm of the future, how it will look in terms of the impact of globalisation/competition, technological enablement, client demands and workforce needs.
Why we like it: Provides detailed, quantitative context, across financial performance (UK and global), business support, people and risk, in which to understand the changing nature (/need to change) of law firms. Also poses a clear framework for the law firm of the future.
The Law Firms in Transition Survey polled Managing Partners and Chairs at 398 US law firms with 50 or more lawyers, including 45% of the 500 largest US law firms and 52% of the Am Law 200. The complete survey report covers industry trends, market demand and competition, productivity, profitability, pricing, efficiency of legal service delivery, lawyer staffing strategies and economic performance.
Why we like it: In-depth look at US management in top law firms and their attitude towards change (generally resistant, unmotivated, myopic) and their recommendations to law firms for change.
Through a series of in-depth interviews with their leading banking clients, Pinsent Masons’ report uncovers the realities of legal technology uptake by the major banks and highlights market best practice and the key challenges faced. Despite differing visions of the future, there is a strong consensus that the future of the legal function is digitisation.
Why we like it: Clear analysis of how banks are progressing on their digital transformation journey, captured by a legal technology maturity curve. Specifies which legal technologies are being used most or least and provides potential solutions to challenges highlighted.
A&O’s survey report on how the delivery of and appetite for new legal services is changing around the world, based on the views of almost 200 senior buyers of legal services at companies with a collective annual legal budget of nearly GBP3.5 billion.
Why we like it: Concisely highlights trends in the changing delivery of legal services, including a move towards non-traditional providers, the different service providers available, more work done in-house, and how these themes all vary slightly from a regional perspective.
This LexisNexis report comprises a series of authored articles that approach technology from a people angle, focusing on the relationships between the lawyer and their clients, how technology has changed the way we work and how professionals at any stage of their careers can equip themselves for the future.
Why we like it: If you’re looking for in-depth perspectives from academics and legal and innovation experts at firms like Pinsent Masons, Olswang, Lawyers on Demand, etc., each of these articles presents a strong point of view and opportunity for learning. In one article, Kings College academics tackle the question of risks and liability of technological adoption, ie “Could developers be held responsible for damage suffered by a law firm using their technology”?
Herbert Smith Freehills’ report provides an overview of clients’ expectations when it comes to the adoption and integration of AI. These expectations are grouped into three distinct areas: (1) Recast the relationship dynamic (clients want their law firms to drive enhanced engagement and a collaborative relationship through AI), (2) Embrace new business models (clients expect law firms to evolve their business model), and (3) Reshape the talent pool (clients expect law firms to still deliver best-in-class talent).
Why we like it: If you’re looking for broad, easily digestible insight into what your clients want, this is a good starting point to understand their expectations and motivations relating to AI.
The purpose of this report, published by IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit, is to investigate various changes occurring within the legal profession and the forces that might be driving, or obstructing, these changes. It also analyses the potential consequences of innovation for consumers and legal services providers, particularly law firms. It makes recommendations for law firms, namely that they commit to innovation to maintain market share or become market leaders.
Why we like it: Uses Professor Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation in The Innovator’s Dilemma to frame an analysis of change in the legal profession over time, from the creation of the corporate GC function to law ‘start-ups’ to alternative business structures.
A survey of legal tech companies by US PR and marketing agency Baretz + Brunelle shows that few have a solid ‘go-to-market strategy’ and most don’t know whom in a legal organisation they should be selling to.
Why we like it: Offers concise insight into the emerging field of legal tech: how the procurement of legal technology inside law firms, and corporates, is underdeveloped/unclear, which is reflected by the lack of coherent ‘go-to-market strategies’ overall across legal tech firms.
The ‘Client-led Innovation in Legal Services’ report by George Beaton surveyed 154 clients of Australian law firms on their perceptions of law firm ‘innovation’. The key message is that clients do care about innovation that helps them, but they are not seeing enough of it from law firms.
Why we like it: Whilst the Beaton report requires purchase, the artificiallawyer.com provides a helpful overview of its key points. Clearly outlines the client perspective on innovation, and openness to it.
Artificiallawyer.com highlights a few findings from Thomson Reuter’s report on the State of Corporate Law Departments, namely that the traditional law firm business model is under pressure due to increasing work done in-house, partner and paralegal rates are weak/have flatlined, and the high client expectation that technology simplifies workflows and manual processes.
Why we like it: Artificiallawyer.com distils the issues/threats that are and have been facing the traditional law firm business model for some time. Meanwhile, for more detail, the long form Thomson Reuter’s report examines the modern legal department, its goals, challenges and how they are increasingly data-driven, embracing innovation and collaborative work with other parties in the legal ecosystem.
Management and strategy consultancy
Authored by IBM professionals, this article provides an overview of the changing role of consultants in a world transformed by digital technology and clients seeking to understand how to apply technology and innovation.
What we like: Short article (5 min to read) that highlights the client driven need for consultants to become experts in strategic technology as opposed to purely strategy.
Discusses how consulting firms hedged against potential disruption by leveraging software and technology-based analytics and tools, as seen in the creation of McKinsey Solutions. Also looks to lessons from the legal sector, including the disaggregation of traditional law firms and new competitors like Axiom and Lawyers on Demand.
What we like: Whilst this HBR article is from 2013, most insights remain highly pertinent and many have been borne out in reality.
CBInsights report explores the disruption of management consulting, starting from its own emergence as an industry to a detailed examination of its key areas that make it vulnerable to disruption: information, insight, execution, and expertise.
What we like: Breaks down the key value proposition of management consultancies (citing real example of management consultancies’ work and deliverables) and their potential to be disrupted. Highlights growth of technology consulting.
MCA report highlights digital disruption to consulting industry and wider economy (such as growth of digital consultancy and more specialised, niche consultancy firms), warns of possible recession, criticises Government’s approach to Brexit (given 25% of UK consulting revenues come from overseas, and about half of that from the EU) and points to lack of serious public sector reform agenda.
What we like: The press release and public summary version outline the key points of the main report (purchasable by non-MCA members) and include insight interviews from consulting firm partners/heads, including KPMG, Arup, PwC and more specialist consulting firms.
This white paper authored by World Economic Forum and Accenture provides an assessment of digital disruption in professional services by focusing on its impact on business model, operating model and competitive leader board. It concludes that the industry’s business model is being disrupted the most, and the leader board the least. Opinions differed about the extent of change to the sector’s operating model, potentially due to the varying degree of disruption across segments within professional services (with Accounting and Audit the most affected, and Big Law the least).
Why we like it: Comprehensive breakdown of industry context and key technology trends, including business model transformation, intelligent automation, digital agility and talent empowerment, across the industry segments of professional services. Also provides a series of compelling, demonstrative case studies.
Series of four Papers co-authored by Stephen Newton, Meridian West and Nigel Spencer, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford that explores how a firm’s leaders can partner strategically with their Learning & Development functions to create competitive advantage, enabling their businesses to navigate complex change, build innovative mindsets, and create the sustainable and successful firms of the future.
Why we like it: Practical tools and lessons based on the real-world experience of Managing Partners and Heads of L&D, underpinned by University of Oxford’s academic evidence, Meridian West’s expertise in client-focused strategies, and their combined experience in professional services.
Paper 1: Designing your firm of the future
This paper considers how best to align L&D’s work with the firm’s business strategy, creating capabilities to meet changing client expectations and maintaining a future-focused curriculum. One effective method is establishing close connections between innovation teams and L&D to ensure that the firm’s organisational learning strategy is planning for future skill-sets, roles and career paths and embeds the client perspective.
Paper 2: Leading strategic change
This paper examines the practical delivery of firm-level change projects, especially how L&D can help a firm maximise opportunities to innovate at times of strategic change. The innovation lifecycle and design thinking are highlighted as processes to enable innovation and creative insight, especially to embrace the client perspective and find innovative ways to deepen client relationships.
This report, co-published by BPS Birmingham and the Sheffield University Management School, is based on 34 in-depth semi-structured interviews with senior partners and/or innovation officers in mid-tier and large legal and accountancy firms. The findings focus on the external factors driving innovation in these firms (client-led or regulatory); the power of data in driving competitive advantage; the barriers of partnership structures, cost, capacity and risk; and the nature of different types of innovation in terms of impact.
Why we like it: Broad, clear overview across legal and accountancy sectors of the key issues faced when it comes to innovating and adapting technologies. Highlights the importance of legal and accounting firms as part of the professional services sector, which is a key component of the UK economy, and therefore has the support of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy.
Economist Intelligence Unit report that surveyed 307 senior executives from companies with HQs in the US, UK and Europe, with annual revenue of US$1bn+. This report shows that growing demand for digital skills and specialist capabilities is creating opportunities for multinationals to consider smaller, niche suppliers and new tech-savvy firms over incumbent service providers. This will also create challenges of sourcing and vetting new kinds of service providers and managing a larger portfolio of suppliers.
Why we like it: Reveals the appetite of PSF buyers to use more specialised providers and disaggregated services and highlights potential for procurement function to play a greater role. Also explores value in the eyes of PSF buyers and how they go about sourcing external providers (largely through industry directories and events, or searching online).
To understand the global real estate sector’s attitudes to PropTech and the steps that organisations are taking to adapt to the digital age, KPMG conducted a survey of more than 330 real estate decision makers from 36 countries across EMEA (46%), Americas (29%) and ASPAC (25%). This survey highlights the need for property organisations to develop, implement and integrate a clear digital strategy if they are to remain competitive in a rapidly changing environment.
What we like: Reveals that the property sector is slow to adopt PropTech, with few investing in technology and innovation although most recognise this as a crucial area, and breaks it all down by region. Readable summary of how property views disruption and its plan for the future, along with KPMG’s recommended characteristics needed for real estate organisations to adopt PropTech successfully.
In-depth Deloitte report that describes how real estate companies can maximise value creation and growth by prioritising the following four themes: accelerate business by unlocking the value of REITs; avail alternative capital options by focusing on RE fintech start-ups; augment productivity by embracing robotic and cognitive automation, and advance people by reimagining talent and culture.
What we like: Concrete, research-based recommendations on how RE companies can embrace change and adapt for the future, highlighting opportunities to create value and generate growth in the face of disruption
PwC’s and the Urban Land Institute’s joint survey reveals an industry that is becoming more complex, yet more transparent and accessible. Whatever the outcome, it argues the industry will need new skill sets, new ways of collaborating outside traditional industry boundaries and new business models to survive and compete in the new real estate ecosystem.
What we like: Detailed examination of real estate investment, market prospects and political context across Europe (broken down by country and top cities) along with the key trends across real estate, such as technology and occupier behaviours.
Altus Group report based on a survey with 400 CRE executives at firms with assets under management of at least US $250 million representing a total of over US $2 trillion. Shows a large majority of executives report their firms have benefited from technology investments made over the past two years. However, when presented with six rapidly emerging disruptive technologies, only a minority of respondents recognised them as having the potential for major disruptive impact.
What we like: Explores the appetite for change and investments/progress to date so far regarding technology in the commercial real estate sector. Concludes with key actions recommended for CRE executives and their firms: having a strategic, big picture view of the impact of technology on industry as a whole; proactively managing performance and using benchmarking; and investing in people.
Forbes article that provides examples of the startups that are transforming CRE through innovation and by making data transparent and ubiquitous, across asset classes of real estate including workspaces, retail shopping centers, distribution centers, and offices.
What we like: Short article that briefly highlights what disruption looks like in CRE for different asset classes.
Authored by property expert and professor Andrew Baum of Oxford Saïd Business School, this report is based on interviews with over 50 real estate professionals, entrepreneurs and capital providers. It maps emerging PropTech sector and focusses in particular on the impact of tech change on the character of this asset class.
What we like: Recommend if you are looking to understand PropTech and the PropTech landscape in much greater detail, with numerous case studies. This is Said Business School’s first real estate research report that provides a thorough examination of the PropTech sector, from its definition, scope, background and the key drivers, along with the PropTech subsectors: smart real estate, the sharing economy, real estate fintech, and finally, looks at the applicability of blockchain and AI to real estate.