Help in adopting artificial intelligence

Larger firms are investing in AI, but mid-sized firms are mostly cautious or uncertain over how and where to implement technological change.

Government is eager that professional firms should make greater use of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and data analytics, as this helps us become more innovative, productive, successful and able to compete internationally.

Larger firms are investing, but mid-sized firms are mostly cautious or uncertain over how and where to implement technological change due to their size, the threat of competition and limited resources.

As key opinion formers for smaller firms, the regional mid-market is therefore the segment where Government intervention will have maximum impact on the continued success of our sector.

It is risky to rely on others to develop these technologies given their tight integration into core business processes. The leadership team also has to have the authority, confidence and knowledge to persuade partners to embrace new ways of working. Sounds familiar?

The Managing Partners’ Forum (the sister body of PM Forum) recently partnered with Sheffield, Manchester and Lancaster business schools and the University of the Arts London to apply for £1m of Government funding under the Next Generation Services Challenge Fund. As you may have read, we were successful.

Our project seeks to help mid-sized law and accountancy firms adopt new technologies through design thinking, a technique widely used to structure problems, engage stakeholders and iterative solution-making.

Rather than focusing solely on the opportunities and threats of new technologies, the project aims to provide strategies and business solutions based on a human-centric role for technologies. This involves us researching engagement levels, the outcomes provided to clients, and the business processes and predictions being deployed.

We intend the findings to be relevant to professional firms of every size and sector. The funding is also described by Government as ‘pioneer’ so, if deemed successful, could well be extended to other sectors.

Only 2% of the 600 or so law and accountancy firms with UK revenues between £5m and £250m will be directly involved in the project. To help the 98%, the Forum has formed three AI Consortia. Their primary purpose is to accelerate the cascade of knowledge from visionaries to pragmatists to conservatives. They will also inform the project, road-test emerging issues and disseminate its findings.

Many large firms are contributing their AI expertise to the Consortia. Please encourage your people to participate.
 Finally, the findings could also be used to ‘teach your clients how to fish’ given many are probably local mid-sized services businesses with leaders who are also cautious or uncertain over how and where to implement technological change. So help resolve the UK’s productivity problem while enhancing relationships and revenues. Magic!

Richard Chaplin, Founder and Chief Executive, PM Forum