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Practice Management

Professional practice skills must be deployed to develop, maintain and renew a successful professional practice enterprise.

Overview

Author(s): Thomas Clarke

Traditionally, professions have been organised in practices. That is, small offices where several or more professionals conduct their work as a commercial entity. In some cases, professional partnerships are formed, in others the professional practice is run as a small business. Over time some of these professional practices have grown into large corporations delivering professional services internationally. Other professions have been absorbed into large entities such as government, health, or universities. Broderick estimates that there are over one million professional service firms internationally, generating over two trillion dollars in revenue.

Each profession will be applying a different set of skills to varying sets of objectives within different regulatory frameworks. Therefore, the operations of their professional practice will have particular and sometimes unique features. For example, an architectural professional practice will be focused on architectural design development within its own regulatory and customary practice management frameworks. However regardless of whether it is a small professional practice or part of a large organisation, the management function will include some common key skills and objectives.

In some respects, these will be the same essential management functions that apply to all businesses, yet there are some important distinctions about professional practices. Firstly, as a profession, higher standards will be demanded in all the principles outlined in earlier chapters including professional integrity, ethics and conduct, regulation and governance, risk management, and professional qualifications and certification. Secondly, the ultimate ideals and objectives of the profession must always be at the forefront of everything the professional practice does. Deviation from these core ideals and objectives cannot be tolerated even in the face of potentially lucrative outcomes. The core principles of the profession must be upheld by the practice at all costs.

It is sometimes said by those in the professions, that they are well trained and prepared to engage in their work, but lack the business and management knowledge and skills to run the practice. For this reason, often professional managers will be employed to run the practice, though in turn, they need to understand the principles of the profession when exercising their specialised management skills and functions. Professional service firms such as law firms, accounting firms, consultancies and medical practices, are all facing increasing competition, and rapid technological change with increased demand for services and higher client expectations. The professional service business model is fully engaged in processes of improvement and transformation as traditional models of service delivery are found to be ill-equipped to meet client demands.

This analysis of Professional Practice Management discusses the following issues:

  • The range of professional practice management skills;
  • Professional practice main functions; and
  • How the professional practice skills and functions can be integrated into effective management.