Global Shifts Shaping Services in T&T
January 14th, 2024
By Kieran Andrew Khan
Radical technological shifts and unprecedented changes due to globalisation are impacting how services are delivered. Where some see threats, others see opportunities. Pria Narinesingh encourages us to focus on the latter.
What is the five-year outlook for Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T’s) professional services and management consultancy industry?
It can be a resoundingly positive outlook given the bench strength of our private sector and our relatively lower professional services costs, but we must acknowledge the challenges too. These include but are not limited to the performance of the local economy, the crime situation, the ease of doing business, access to foreign exchange, and external factors such as the growth or decline of foreign economies, global inflation, rising commodity prices, supply chain challenges and even international wars. There is an immense opportunity to help our clients and governments navigate these issues, capitalise on opportunities and modernise how we live and do business.
What is your viewpoint on continued globalisation, virtual offices, and hybrid working arrangements?
For professional services firms, the trend toward globalisation isn’t going to slow down – this structure is necessary to serve global businesses. The infrastructure and investment needed to develop new digital tools and methodologies are complex and costly. Therefore a global scale makes better business sense. That being said, depending on how regulatory and independence requirement frameworks evolve, there could be a trend to more niche, boutique or specialised versus multi-disciplinary firms. We believe a hybrid working environment is positive; it helps with work-life balance, reduces time spent in traffic and other stressors, and it is here to stay, but this comes with parameters. There are increased cybersecurity risks, new regulations governing data use, privacy and sharing, and then there is the sensitive nature of the industry in which we operate. We also have to balance the needs of our employees in a way that serves the firm, our clients, and the individual fairly. There are some roles where remote work can and should be the standard. However, there are others that benefit substantially from an office or client environment which embraces the collaborative aspects of networking, corridor conversations, brainstorming, learning, and teaming differently.
How are firms creating a tech-enabled culture?
Over the past five years, there has been a constant shift in how we work across all disciplines, primarily aimed at enhancing speed and convenience and lowering costs. For businesses to traverse these changes, new careers are being formalised and kicked off every day, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. Workplaces now require skillsets more aligned with data science, software development, digital marketing, Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) engineering and UX (user experience)/UI (user interface) design, cybersecurity and many other technological and digital disciplines. We must retool and scale our skills and human capital to meet these needs. As a professional services organisation, ongoing training and development programmes must be constant and extensive. Successful professionals will need to embrace a mindset that they must continually retool and learn to stay ahead and develop excellent solutions.
How do you price smartly and drive value in this service sector?
Rules and regulations will drive the type of pricing that we can apply. However, for non-audit clients, we regularly engage in value-based pricing as permitted. Clients are partial to this option, as it establishes a win-win approach to projects. Where we must apply fixed-based pricing models, this is linked to estimated budgets for the time by rates for the respective professional based on experience levels and expertise. We continuously challenge ourselves to drive efficiency and to manage hours as tightly as possible even when dealing, for example, with changes in audit and accounting standards and methodologies which drive hours up. Managing these hours is a crucial factor – not only in helping to keep costs down for our clients but also in improving talent retention and achieving work-life balance.
What is the potential for growth of the sector in T&T?
In T&T and other Caribbean territories, we have a good formal education system, though, as mentioned, we must evolve this to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Relative to the developed markets, our cost levels are still lower, and this, together with being English-speaking and in a similar time zone, presents opportunities to provide services including outsourcing and earn foreign exchange. Improving the overall attractiveness of T&T will directly result in successfully building these businesses. For our traditional business, while we are able to recruit at the university graduate level, the challenge is retention. In addition, while we are focused on improving the work-life balance aspects of the job, the rising crime situation in T&T is one of the most significant impediments to the retention of experienced resources.