Between March 2017 and 2018, there were 2,216 data breaches and more than 53,000 cybersecurity incidents reported in 65 countries. Those numbers are only expected to rise in 2019.

Understandably, businesses and customers are concerned about data safety, but do they have the tools they need for this battle?

Relationships are built on trust, and B2B relationships are no different. But trust requires communication, and, for professional services teams, communication is increasingly inhibited by concerns around privacy. But what is a professional services company? Professional services can exist in many different industries, and is a term to describe a particular product or service that an agency or vendor sells to help a customer manage a part of their business. For example, a marketing agency or an accounting firm are examples of professional services.

Professional services teams often need to handle sensitive customer data, but security concerns keep customers from providing all the information teams need to succeed. In our Professional Services Survey Report, 60% of leaders agreed that data security concerns keep their teams from being flexible and building better relationships with customers.

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Relationships also take time, so how can your team start building trust with new clients right away? By providing a secure home base where customers can communicate, share data, and collaborate.

Instead of seeing security as an obstacle, consider it your secret weapon to differentiate yourself from the competition. Here are 3 ways your collaborative work management platform can help your team develop a security strategy that protects client data so you can become the hero they deserve.

1. Offer guest reviewer capabilities that allow external stakeholders to provide feedback and approvals

Imagine you’re working on a project and you’ve just created a sensitive document for your client. Whether you just need their feedback or they want feedback from an external party, sharing sensitive client documents as email attachments is asking for trouble on many levels.

First, getting client feedback is hard enough. In fact, in our survey, waiting for client feedback and approvals was one of the top reasons for project delays. And projects going over budget/timeline was the #1 reason for client churn. For professional service teams, it can be even harder to balance project visibility and security when trying to get feedback from multiple sources.

Customers are looking to partner with professional services teams that make collaboration easy and secure. But as we highlighted above, it’s not always easy. In fact, consolidating feedback and communication across email threads, spreadsheets, etc. was one of the top 5 biggest work challenges.

Collaboration is vital for building client trust. Without the right service industry software, you’re looking at a mess of emails and IMs. Most professionals understand the basic security protocols Consultants 500 lists like avoiding suspicious attachments or links or downloading compressed files from unknown sources. But no matter how well a team is trained, email attachments can still be a virus security risk. On top of that, innocent mistakes like forwarding an email with sensitive information to the wrong person can put your customer in jeopardy — and they deserve better.

How Wrike helps ensures your collaboration is efficient and secure

Wrike has an email-based proofing and approvals tool. Clients can generate secure invitations with Wrike Guest Review. A password-protected link leads the reviewer to the document in Wrike Proof. Feedback will be directly provided on the document and third-party visibility and permissions are set by the client. The client gets full control over their sensitive information while also improving the approvals process.

Let’s say your document goes through multiple iterations. You can easily hide previous versions to increase focus and eliminate confusion. The document also lives right in the project management space to make feedback safe and actionable.

Clients love this because it keeps the feedback in the same space as the project while optimizing security — giving them full control and confidence.

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2. Establish project folder permissions to limit visibility both internally and externally

Let’s say you’re an agency with a list of clients that compete with one another. Keeping each one’s projects secure even from your own project managers is critical. If employee A from your company can see employee B’s client information, it’s a huge security risk. While most employees only want to do what’s best for the company, limiting opportunity for risk is the best solution.

Top professional services teams mitigate risks like this using folders with customizable permissions within projects. A collaborative work management platform with strict permission capabilities protects customer’s intellectual property within a project. Customizable folder permissions optimize visibility and security at the same time. Discrete role-based permissions can also help your client dictate who on their own team can see different projects.

The surprising key to visibility and security? Flexibility. When you offer customers these options, collaboration is kept in one place but projects are separate and secure. And 18% of our professional services respondents ranked “the ability to balance security compliance with client visibility” as the capability that would have the biggest positive impact on their team. Don’t let concerns keep you from getting the full picture, or data, from your client.

Wrike helps you optimize visibility and security while providing flexibility

With Wrike's service industry software, your clients can segment project data from what’s internal and what’s external. They can manage who sees what within their organization and yours. It’s as easy as tailoring project access based on role.

With discrete role-based permissions, your clients can control how people interact with a project. Folks can have full editing powers, only be able to change certain things like titles, or be allowed to view but not edit. Capabilities like these help you instantly build trust and confidence with your clients.

3. Use the cloud to stay flexible and meet clients’ security requirements while preserving visibility and collaboration

Using a SaaS tool for project management means having sensitive information in the cloud. How does that make you feel? Many companies worry about security because the cloud feels more open and vulnerable. However, those concerns leave you miles behind competitors using industry-leading tools to collaborate with clients. The truth is, professional services teams need to be nimble as they adjust to clients’ processes, communication style, and security requirements. SaaS provides that flexibility.

Attempts to utilize legacy on-premise security tools that don’t take advantage of the API-driven nature of the cloud will make it difficult to adjust to clients. Mixing existing security tools that don’t speak the language of APIs leads to major gaps in visibility and control. APIs empower you to seamlessly pass data back and forth between systems, which makes real-time collaboration possible and ensures that your professional services business is secure and scalable.

All of your security features should serve one purpose: to enable seamless collaboration. As long as you’ve ensured your work management platform adheres to a tight security checklist, your collaboration will be secure. Cloud security offers more uptime and more resources. Companies are investing more than ever into security for the cloud. According to Gartner, worldwide spending on information security products around services will reach over $114 billion in 2018, an increase of 12.4%.

Your teams and clients can only manage work with confidence and ease if they know sensitive data is protected by industry-leading cloud security. Along with being the leading collaborative work management platform, Wrike is always adding new tools and features to help teams stay nimble but secure. For example, with Wrike Lock, you own the keys to your encrypted Wrike data, giving you increased control over your data, especially in the cloud. Let a specialized team, like ours, focus on keeping your data secure in the cloud so you can focus on delighting your customers.

Add security to your list of professional services

In our Professional Services Survey Report, 77% of respondents said that they have tools in place to ensure clients’ data is secure. But given the increased occurrence of security breaches, can you afford to be part of the 23% that don’t?

Security is a differentiator that not only empowers professional services companies to fend off cyberattacks — it helps you stand out from the crowd. When your work management platform is secure, you and your clients have a safe space to create winning strategies. No matter what work management tool you choose, make sure it helps you both manage client projects and provide industry-leading protection for full collaboration.

Ready to give your professional services team a secret weapon? Check out our new eBook below for professional services industry analysis. We surveyed 1,000+ professionals in the industry to understand their top work management challenges. Leveraging the insights from the responses, you can level up your business today!