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Archive for August, 2009

Consulting Excellence: Objective Internal Measures

August 27, 2009 3 comments

In a previous post, I briefly mention performance and promised more discussion around objective targets.  So, I am going to write a four part series on how to objectively measure the performance of individual team members in a consultancy.  The four areas I will cover are:

  1. Financial Performance
  2. Client Satisfaction
  3. Knowledge
  4. Contribution to the Team

In my opinion, no other valid, meaningful measures exist outside of the above, with valid and meaningful being defined as those that create value for the client or the organization.

Each posting will address the definition of the measure group; provide specific calculations and benchmarks; and discuss methods for collecting and reporting on the data. 

Bad Client! Bad, Bad Client!

August 26, 2009 1 comment

In a previous post, I came down hard on consultants who hide behind the phrase “I did my job” when, at the end of the day, we have a seriously damaged client relationship.  But, in that post, I ignored one precious and important fact of life:

Some people are assholes.  And some of them are your clients.

We all know the signs and behaviors. They never do anything wrong; its always your fault.  They never deliver anything of poor quality; you just didn’t explain it right. They are never late on deadlines; you just weren’t clear on when you needed it.  They don’t think your training was worth anything, but they didn’t pay attention in class.  They second guess every recommendation you make,  but never have any useful input.  The cancel meetings at the last minute, but won’t sign the change request to approve the cost overruns that causes.  They sign a contract with you, but then don’t abide by the terms.  They always want something for free.  They don’t pay bills on time, abuse you and your staff and generally make your work life a misery.

Well, here’s how you fix that problem:

Fire them. 

That’s right, fire them.  This is about the only time you’ll see me give advice that doesn’t entail some degree of “the consultant needs to up their game and do better”.  You can’t fix these people.  They have some kind of deep rooted need to make you feel like crap and, if you drill down on it, they probably do it to everyone else they work with.  Most likely, they have empty and lonely lives and leave work only to be greeted by a houseful of neurotic, asthmatic cats.  But, whatever the cause, you can’t fix them and life is too short to continue working with them NO MATTER what they generate in revenue.

So, give yourself a break, get rid of them, and spend your newly free, relaxing time finding someone who really gets the value you provide and who will be a good partner.

“I did my job” – “Yeah, but we suck”

August 25, 2009 6 comments

It is inevitable that someone occupying my position is going to deal with escalated client issues from time to time.  To determine the root cause of the escalation, I spend a lot of time with staff, project management and their counterparts on the client’s side discussing what happened, when and why. I work very hard to be objective, non-threatening and non-defensive in these discussion.  But, what I notice is that I reach an inevitable stopping point where everyone gets to essentially the same comment, i.e.:  “I did my job”.  Maybe, but I’ve got a pissed off client who is not going to pay their bill.  Therefore, we didn’t get the job done and, therefore, we suck.

Here’s the most important things I think we can do to avoid this trap:

1. Relationship build:  As doctors can tell you, if your client likes you, you don’t get sued.  In our industry, having a strong personal relationship with a client almost guarantees a reduction in finger-pointing and a faster, quicker resolution to problems. At the end of the day, if you hit your targets (“I did my job”) but the client doesn’t like you, you’ll never see the client again (“You suck”).

2. Admit Mistakes, but Present Solutions:  Recently, I badly mis-scoped a BI project.  When it became apparent, I sat down with the two primary business owners for the project, admitted my mistake (“I suck”), told them how I was going to fix it, the financial ramification to them (in this case, none), and what I needed to help me hit the reset target.  Were they annoyed, yes.  Did we get the job done and are they a reference:  absolutely.  I didn’t say “Hey, I did my job”;  I admitted the mistake and told them how I’d fix it (“So we can suck less”).

2. The Scope, Only the Scope and Nothing But the Scope:  Immediately after taking over my current position, I had a conversation with two senior teammates about a significant client sat issue.  They told me that we had gone beyond the call of duty on multiple occasions to move the project along when the client wasn’t getting the work done. Therefore, we “did our job”.  Actually, what we did was enable continued poor delivery discipline for the client, spent their money in the form of project overruns without asking for permission, and stepped outside of our legal framework by delivering services for which they had not contracted (“We sucked”).  If you need to pick up a client’s slack, ALWAYS make certain you clearly advise them of the problem (“Your not getting things done”) and resolution (“I can do it for you for an extra $x”).

3. Don’t Hold the Grenade:  If you see something going wrong in a project, raise your hand.  If you are going to be late, let the team know.  If you don’t understand what you are doing, ask for help.   Whatever you do, don’t stay silent, burrow in or plow through since everyone around will assume everything is okay when its not.  Put simply, communicate, communicate, communicate.

4. Mistakes Don’t Mean You’re Bad, Just Human:  This is tough.  If the client is an ass, or your company’s culture doesn’t support learning from mistakes, admitting you made one can drop a world of hurt on your shoulders.  In the long run, acknowledging the mistake (or better, finding it and surfacing it yourself) then learning how not to make it in the future will increase your future performance (“10% less sucking this week and every week”).

5.  Lastly, Remember Why We Got Hired:  At the end of the day, the client doesn’t hire us because we know the technology.  The client hires us because they believe we will make their business life easier and more productive since they won’t need to worry about doing this project by themselves.  If, as consultants, we don’t constantly reinforce that feeling (and this is really what “Doing our job” means), then we will always suck.

Vertical focus only makes sense for Microsoft

August 19, 2009 12 comments

Author:  Curtis Beebe

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Microsoft’s “verticalization” of their Dynamics channel makes all the sense in the world from a Microsoft channel management perspective.    The designation of vertical specialties gives Microsoft an objective approach to resolving channel conflict, assigning leads, and providing sales & marketing support.    At first glance, this is one of those “blinding flashes of the obvious” that will enable partners to sell better, reduce sales cycle time, reduce the cost of sales, and stay focused in a specific area of expertise.

 The problem is that it doesn’t work.  The first issue is that the Dynamics products, just like all of the Microsoft products, are horizontal by nature and design.  Sure there are some ISV’s that provide a bit of industry specialization, but ERP and CRM solutions are inherently NOT vertical solutions.  They are designed to provide processes and functionality across a range of business types.

 That brings us to the second problem.  Because they’ve been selling horizontal products, most partners have grown their businesses horizontally.   Some of the savvy partners have developed industry specific knowledge and terminology to help them sell, but the solutions remain fundamentally horizontal.   As a result of the horizontal approach, partners tend to look at their customer’s businesses based upon the business process groups that are being automated: process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing, professional services, wholesale distribution, depot management, etc.   

The big disconnect is that Microsoft is trying to define the customer’s business based upon SIC codes.   The SIC codes are focused on the type of product being manufactured, sold, or distributed, rather than the general business process group:  one business process could map to dozens of different SIC codes.  The result is that partners are trying to manipulate the lead distribution system by selecting all of the hot, unassigned SIC codes within their geographies rather than truly focusing their business.

This effort is doomed to become just lip service that partners pay to Microsoft in order to ensure they get their share of distributed leads.

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