The River and the Rock – Navigating Change in the Professional Services Industry

The professional services industry is a complex and dynamic field that is constantly evolving. Whether you are an accountant, lawyer, consultant, or any other professional, the demands of clients, changes in regulations, and technological advancements all require you to stay ahead of you competitors. In this article, we will explore the metaphor of the river and the rock, and how it to apply it to the professional services industry in more detail.

The metaphor of the river and the rock is a powerful analogy for understanding how professionals like you and by extension your clients, can respond to change. The rock represents traditional methods of working and service delivery, while the river represents new technologies, ways of working, and service delivery methods. Professionals who cling to the rock risk erosion of their business, practice, or client base, by the force of change, while those who flow with the river are better able to adapt to the changing landscape of their respective industries.

Just like a river that flows around rocks and changes course over time, the landscape of professional services is constantly evolving. Professionals who resist change risk getting left behind, like rocks in the river that refuse to budge. That’s why it’s essential to feel the flow of the river and embrace adaptability.

Let’s consider a few examples.


In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards cloud-based accounting software, which allows accountants to work more efficiently and collaborate with clients in real-time. In addition to this, specialist software has enabled accountants to automate repetitive tasks and provide more accurate data analysis. As a result, accountants who cling to traditional accounting methods risk being the rock and all that implies, such as obsolete processes and systems, in a field where technology is increasingly important. By contrast, accountants who embrace cloud-based software and other innovative technologies can position themselves to offer their clients innovative and efficient accounting solutions, as well as stay ahead of their competitors. Additionally, happy clients are less likely to search for another accountant.


The rise of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and e-discovery tools has changed the way legal services are delivered. Lawyers who are resistant to these changes risk their competitors leaping forward, in a field where technology is rapidly changing the delivery of legal services. By contrast, lawyers who embrace these technologies find themselves able to offer their clients innovative and efficient legal solutions, as well as stay ahead of the competitors. For example, document management and workstream software improves productivity, making it easier for lawyers to identify relevant information, meeting deadlines and clients satisfied. Leading to more higher paying work in the future.


The rise of remote work and video conferencing has changed the way consultants deliver thier services, with more firms offering virtual consulting services to clients. This has allowed consultants to work more efficiently and provide more flexible services to clients. Consulting firms that cling to traditional methods of working risk irrelevance in a field where flexibility and agility are increasingly important. By contrast, consulting firms that embrace new technologies and ways of working are better positioned to offer their clients innovative and efficient consulting solutions, as well as stay ahead of their competitors. For example, workstream software can help a busy consultant juggle many different clients on many projects, while ensuring that progress proceeds on all tasks in a timely manner. This has the benefit of keeping the consultant busy while ensuring the client is happy.


In the field of architecture, Building Information Modelling (BIM) has revolutionized the design process, allowing architects to create more accurate and efficient designs, reduce errors, and improve communication with clients and other stakeholders. Architects who cling to traditional design methods risk stagnation in a field where BIM is becoming increasingly prevalent. On the other hand, architects who embrace BIM and other productivity enhancements are better positioned to offer their clients innovative and efficient design solutions, as well as stay ahead of their competitors. For example, virtual reality enables the creation of 3D models of designs, allowing clients to visualize potential solutions and make more informed decisions.

Moving On

On the other hand, professionals who resist change risk becoming irrelevant or even obsolete. Whether it’s failing to adopt new technology, processes, sticking to outdated approaches, or simply refusing to change with the times, resistance to change can be a recipe for disaster. In today’s fast-paced world, industries change rapidly, and professionals who fail to adapt risk irrelevance.

No one technology or solution is applicable to all professional services, but knowing what works and what doesn’t is half the battle. Having a mindset that enables change, while not ignoring what already works leads to a situation which embraces change and productivity increases. As in all things, moderation is necessary. It doesn’t pay to be all river or all rock, business requires some of both. Making the technology work requires the right partner and the right mindset from management. But get it right and the productivity benefits are immense and the interaction with clients becomes more engaging and more profitable, for all parties.