Professional Service Firm Management and the Management of Professionals
Professional services are one of the fastest growing sectors in the modern economy. Often these services are provided by professional service firms, many of which are managed as partnerships—an unusual form of governance.
Understanding how professionals are organized and managed by national and international professional service firms and by organizations dominated by professionals is the focus of researchers in the Centre for Professional Service Firm Management in the School of Business. An area of particular research interest is the dynamics and consequences of change at all levels of a firm.
Specific research themes include partnership forms of governance, strategic planning processes, human resource management, knowledge management, marketing and financial control systems, relations with clients, and the processes of investing in new, especially global, markets. These themes are studied in the context of changing economic conditions and the challenges to traditional conceptions of professionalism and partnership and the appropriate ways of organizing professionals. The researchers are also examining the processes of judgment and decision making by professionals and conducting comparative research into the management of professionals in non-professional settings.
The group has earned international recognition and built a network of scholars around the world, with strong links in Australia, the US, and the UK. To prove the point, the University's School of Business has consistently been ranked by the Financial Times of London as among the top 50 business schools in the world in terms of research. "When many of the schools have billion dollar endowments—the Harvards, the Stanfords—for us as a publicly-funded institution to be that successful is really an accomplishment, and there is a commitment that the faculty members here deserve to be congratulated for," says Dr Michael Percy, Dean of the University of Alberta School of Business. Being on the list is no mean feat, considering the requirements, Percy noted. There are 2,500 business schools worldwide.
A recent book on the restructuring of the professions, edited with international collaborators, marked a significant point in the development of that field. Projects in progress include: an investigation of changing strategic management practices, including entrepreneurial behaviours (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council); the use of group software as a way of integrating the management systems of accounting firms (funded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta); a study of negotiations between auditors and clients over the content of financial reports issued by investors (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council); and an analysis of how investment banks choose alliance partners.