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The Iceberg Model for a Professional Services Firm

When thinking about the systems hierarchy used to manage a professional services firm, I regularly speak about the concept of the ‘Iceberg Model’ for how the elements fit together.

Near the top of the iceberg, you’ve got your mission and strategy, and accounting and financials, “the P&L”. At the middle, you have your job and practice management (or ‘matters’, if you are a legal firm). There’s a level of detail within a job and practice management system whereby it becomes overly admin-intensive to maintain in your job system - this is the line defined by each firm between what goes into their job system, and what goes into supporting systems, processes and individual tools to ‘get the work done’.

As an example for how we do this in our firm, we have employed the following cloud systems, with the defined boundaries between them in how they are used:

  • Hubspot - CRM and Sales Pipeline management

  • Xero - Accounting & Financial management

  • WorkflowMax - Practice and Job management

  • Asana - Task management and Detailed Work Planning

Of course there are further supporting systems in use, however the above illustrates a high-level architectural decision.

The interface between Xero and WorkflowMax: Job-level detail.

The interface between WorkflowMax and Asana - Task level detail.

It’s important to have the right level of detail for the system, that a) supports the ‘metrics that matter’ to measure how the business is going and b) is the minimum required to operate the business - for example for streamlined quoting and invoicing your clients to ensure the cash is coming in the door!

The key point, is the above were carefully chosen and configured based on our business processes, and aligning this to our business systems. We didn’t try and use Xero for something that WorkflowMax is better at, nor WorkflowMax for something that Asana makes more sense to do. It was important to limit double-up of effort where possible, and get the iceberg well-defined both above and below the line.