The future of work: The present, the possibilities, the predicaments and the predictions


It’s 2028 and you have just had a meeting with the firm’s resident psychologist who has updated you on the current client buying behaviour trends. You now need to brief your team of Data Scientists, Process Engineers and Mathematicians to create the right Avatars to serve as purposeful touch points in the client sales journey.

Could it happen? Well, even professional services firms (some of which were once typically seen as traditional sectors) are experiencing rapid changes to their BDMC strategies.

These are just some of the audacious predictions that came out of our recent series of Future of Work sessions conducted around Australia at this year’s ICON APAC Professional Services BD & Marketing Conference. Now in its 30th year, the theme was ‘Driving the Change’ and Seldon Rosser was proud to be the Future Talent Sponsor.

We facilitated panel discussions in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane talking about the future of work with a diverse group of BDMC leaders from accounting, legal, engineering and IP firms. The discussions were robust, the insights were rich and predictions were sometimes unconventional (albeit, maybe just still imaginable).

The present

Before looking into the future, our panellists reflected on the present. What are the key challenges and trends shaping professional services firms in today’s climate and business landscape?

Here is a snapshot of the themes:

  • Higher client demands: Clients want more, different and better services, delivered faster – and at a lower cost.
  • Changing procurement model: Clients are increasingly purchasing services and products through procurement departments and processes, which is impacting firms’ business development strategies.
  • Extra services: Many firms have raised the bar by delivering extra value adds to clients. To remain sustainable, some firms may scale back to focus on core services.
  • Trust matters: Trust is paramount, with ethics and authentic relationships (on an individual and firm-wide basis) being critical.
  • Online interactions: A large part of the buyer decision-making process and sales funnel happens remotely (83 per cent) with only 17 per cent in person. This means that people in sales and marketing teams who are not typically client facing have a significant influence.

The possibilities (and a few predicaments)

Transformational change is here and ongoing. Our panelists framed and forecast the focuses of successful firms.

  • Transforming the tedium: We should not fear losing some repetitive tasks. We must see this as being liberated from these tasks. More automation means more time for critical thinking, ‘thinking slowly’, spotting opportunities, engaging clients and elevating the focus to strategic higher-value tasks.
  • The future is augmentation: The future brings together humans and AI. The skills still needed include emotional intelligence, critical and creative thinking, relationship building, coaching, facilitation skills and commercial skills.
  • Earlier skill development: We need to start developing these skills earlier in BDMC career journeys than before to add value.
  • Expertise in new technologies: English is the new and universal ‘code’ and we must become adept at prompting and leveraging technologies like ChatGPT.
  • ChatGPT ESG concerns: Maybe surprising but there are environmental impacts of using technologies like ChatGPT. One panellist shared that it uses 10 times more energy than Google! Possible solutions may come through quantum computing.
  • Disrupting jobs in low-cost centres: The activities that technologies will likely replace may well align with those activities being resourced in low-cost and/or offshore centres. Firms may need to consider their responsibility to these teams and be pro-active in upskilling professionals to move them into higher value roles.
  • Resourcing right: Properly resourcing your teams is critical if you want them to have time to think, to be creative and experiment.
  • Auditing activities: Leaders should assess team activities – what can the team stop, streamline or leverage better? Are your roles aligned to the business and team goals and outcomes? How can you enhance the responsibilities through technology and automation?
  • Client expectations: Clients expect their service providers to be at the forefront of technology developments and trends.
  • Data and insights teams expansion: Senior BD professionals must understand the necessary data – what data, its purpose and significance. Positioning these data driven insights with senior leaders will still require influencing and relational skills. But we need to still be aware of data overload and data debt. There is a risk of burnout if data requirements are not properly resourced, structured and commercially led.
  • The hybrid horizon: In Australia, the hybrid model seems to be here to stay. However, choices in hybrid working require individual accountability, focusing on diverse workplace ecosystems: including offices, homes, client sites and overseas locations for digital nomads.

The predictions

The fun and futuristic question was posed: ‘What’s the most audacious prediction you would dare to make about what a career in professional services BD/marketing will look like in 10 years’ time?’

Here are 13 audacious predictions:

  1. The Top 50 CMO in Australia will come from professional services.
  2. BDMC Leaders moving into CEO roles will be commonplace.
  3. Marketing Communications teams will be client facing and revenue generating. BD teams will generate revenue and be chargeable to clients.
  4. We will completely reimagine roles and job titles: Stop the job title farse with confusing labels. ‘CMOs who are not doing marketing. BDs who aren’t seeing clients and developing business.’
  5. Neuroscience will have a prominent place in BDMC and client engagement strategies. Firms will also foster ‘brain-friendly’ environments full of people with neurodiverse backgrounds.
  6. Hybrid model will include ‘Work from Client’ for BDMC teams.
  7. BD teams will include Data Scientists, Process Engineers and Mathematicians.
  8. Every client team will have a psychologist to understand client behaviour.
  9. Communications and Digital teams will behave like agencies within the firm.
  10. New C-level roles will appear. More firms will have Chief Strategy Officers, Chief Trust Officers (to deal with the business challenges in a post AI world and focused on building trust with clients and employees) and Chief Ethics Officers (ethics embedded at an organisational level and ingrained in culture).
  11. Some functions in BDMC teams will shift to project-based roles, moving between firms more regularly on highly-paid contracts.
  12. The gap between B2B and B2C BDMC will close.
  13. The hybrid and remote work model opens opportunities to engage with clients in diverse ways. Perhaps firms will meet tech clients in the Metaverse. Perhaps Avatars will be purposeful touch points in the sales journey?

What can you do to future proof your teams?

The best place to start is a review of your current BDMC function assessing the current skills and experience you have in the team and identifying the gaps. Every vacancy you have, or role you are creating, gives you an opportunity to move the dial. With our deep knowledge of the sector and up to date knowledge of how professional services are resourcing their BDMC teams, book in a time to speak with us – before you go to market – and we can help you assess the role and the candidate market.

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