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Outsourced Information Services: Client Relations Success Factors.

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Presentation on theme: "Outsourced Information Services: Client Relations Success Factors."— Presentation transcript:

1 Outsourced Information Services: Client Relations Success Factors

2 Annie Joan Olesen A9 Consulting, Denmark Ulla de Stricker de Stricker Associates, Canada

3 When outsourcing information services is a success … what are the factors? Seasoned consultants asked themselves: It cant just be coincidence, can it? Seasoned consultants asked themselves: It cant just be coincidence, can it? Annie (the consummate entrepreneur) obtained funding for a pilot study Annie (the consummate entrepreneur) obtained funding for a pilot study Recruited fellow consultants willing to be interviewed (2004) Recruited fellow consultants willing to be interviewed (2004) Clients were interviewed in 2005 Clients were interviewed in 2005

4 Information Consultants Interviewed We approached those in an advisory role, offering CI, BI, research, and other strategic services We approached those in an advisory role, offering CI, BI, research, and other strategic services As opposed to e.g. outsourced tech services As opposed to e.g. outsourced tech services

5 Two modes of consulting: Independent consulting practice Independent consulting practice Consulting done as part of a team in larger firm (e.g. Accenture) Consulting done as part of a team in larger firm (e.g. Accenture) Similar themes emerged Similar themes emerged

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8 Overriding Themes The Degree is only the beginning Formal education does not equip for managing the client relationship Our profession is a mystery to our clients Oh, surprise!

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11 THE INDEPENDENT Interviewees focused strongly on the client relationship (as opposed to professional skills we take for granted) Interviewees focused strongly on the client relationship (as opposed to professional skills we take for granted) Know and understand the customer Know and understand the customer Client must perceive true value for money Client must perceive true value for money That was not a course in school That was not a course in school

12 Key Points Clarity about the Business Arrangement Rapport and Consideration Trust and Reliability Marketing

13 Clarity about the Business Arrangement … Can feel awkward to spell out in great detail what will be delivered, but it is a must Range from coverage/scope of a report to time frame for return calls (etc) Forestalls snags later on Different consulting roles bring up different details (temporary staff vs. miracle worker)

14 Specifically … 1. Elasticity of consultants availability 2. Contingency plans 3. Subcontractors 4. Milestone / time lines 5. Amount of conferring and checking in 6. Room for departing from original plan if new information or opportunity comes to light

15 Rapport and Consideration A successful relationship calls for a higher standard of professional virtues... we are in effect psychologists A successful relationship calls for a higher standard of professional virtues... we are in effect psychologists Breaking a challenge into manageable parts Breaking a challenge into manageable parts Listening skills: The client is worried Listening skills: The client is worried Awareness of team dynamics Awareness of team dynamics Interpersonal appropriateness Interpersonal appropriateness Gauging clients work style Gauging clients work style Bringing humanity to bear Bringing humanity to bear

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17 Trust and Reliability Imperative client has total trust in our ability to deliver – and then some Imperative client has total trust in our ability to deliver – and then some You know you have built a good relationship when the client instinctively turns to you no matter what the subject You know you have built a good relationship when the client instinctively turns to you no matter what the subject Build a reputation as someone who can be counted on … no matter what Build a reputation as someone who can be counted on … no matter what

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19 Marketing Its not as if we are selling something everyone is clamoring for Its not as if we are selling something everyone is clamoring for No text books on marketing information consulting No text books on marketing information consulting Trial and error (just as with price setting, contract negotiation, budgeting) Trial and error (just as with price setting, contract negotiation, budgeting)

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22 CONSULTANT IN A LARGER ENTITY Common constraint: Common constraint: Business needs of the firm may limit the scope and depth of what can be offered to client Business needs of the firm may limit the scope and depth of what can be offered to client A huge challenge for librarians who traditionally over-service A huge challenge for librarians who traditionally over-service

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24 Large House Culture is Demanding A challenge to be lone info specialist among cadre of Mgmt/IT consultants focusing on selling large contracts A challenge to be lone info specialist among cadre of Mgmt/IT consultants focusing on selling large contracts Mgmt/IT consultants often accustomed to working somewhat superficially (we arent) Mgmt/IT consultants often accustomed to working somewhat superficially (we arent) Conversely: Support of colleagues, no need to sell to end client Conversely: Support of colleagues, no need to sell to end client BUT: A need to market to the house consultants to get them to include us in their bids BUT: A need to market to the house consultants to get them to include us in their bids

25 Cost of Good Info Work Not Well Understood House consultants may pressure for lower price House consultants may pressure for lower price Info consultant must be a good negotiator and explain ROI clearly Info consultant must be a good negotiator and explain ROI clearly

26 THE CLIENTS SPEAK A variety of clients were asked to comment on their experience with consultants overall A variety of clients were asked to comment on their experience with consultants overall Not a rating exercise! Not a rating exercise!

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28 Clients Focus Most clients interviewed focused on the consulting assignment PROCESS Most clients interviewed focused on the consulting assignment PROCESS Some key comments were made concerning the SALES process Some key comments were made concerning the SALES process

29 What we asked What was the motivation for requesting external help? How did you go about finding the right consultant? What was the motivation for requesting external help? How did you go about finding the right consultant? What was your experience with the process from start to finish? What was your experience with the process from start to finish? What are some key consultant qualities that make for success? What are some key consultant qualities that make for success? Looking back, what would you do differently or the same way, and why? Looking back, what would you do differently or the same way, and why?

30 Clients echo consultants but raise important environmental aspects Clients are often in situations that are not straightforward (internal change, competing organizational priorities, etc) Clients are often in situations that are not straightforward (internal change, competing organizational priorities, etc) The assignment may therefore have elements that are not clear cut The assignment may therefore have elements that are not clear cut Or the presenting symptoms may be associated with a deeper set of challenges (icebergs) Or the presenting symptoms may be associated with a deeper set of challenges (icebergs)

31 Clients Background Challenges The direct client may face challenges associated with the overall organizational IM/KM (etc) approach The direct client may face challenges associated with the overall organizational IM/KM (etc) approach There can be artifical limitations to the budget for the project (etc etc) There can be artifical limitations to the budget for the project (etc etc)

32 Distinction bw Purchase and Help Clients may want a clear cut delivery of X product without further complexity Clients may want a clear cut delivery of X product without further complexity But may want extensive assistance in defining issues, approach, etc But may want extensive assistance in defining issues, approach, etc

33 Clients Point of Departure Lack of time or expertise are frequent motivators, but … Lack of time or expertise are frequent motivators, but … The client may know or suspect a need for change/repair/planning/opportunity taking The client may know or suspect a need for change/repair/planning/opportunity taking Project may encompass a discovery phase before firm project parameters can be established Project may encompass a discovery phase before firm project parameters can be established In other words, the consultant consults about the project before the project (can be an advantage for the consultant – IF the money corresponds!) In other words, the consultant consults about the project before the project (can be an advantage for the consultant – IF the money corresponds!)

34 Clients Selection Process Word of mouth remains a powerful mechanism – how do we support it and make sure the clients hear about us? Word of mouth remains a powerful mechanism – how do we support it and make sure the clients hear about us? Where RFPs are mandated, the process of writing it can be a challenge in itself if project parameters are fluid or open to consultant input (so that consultants have difficulty responding!) Where RFPs are mandated, the process of writing it can be a challenge in itself if project parameters are fluid or open to consultant input (so that consultants have difficulty responding!)

35 The Project Process: Challenges #1: Ensuring the consultant is thoroughly oriented about all the details with a bearing (lack of time was an issue to begin with!) #1: Ensuring the consultant is thoroughly oriented about all the details with a bearing (lack of time was an issue to begin with!) #2: Ensuring the c. understands the CULTURE in the organization #2: Ensuring the c. understands the CULTURE in the organization #3: Risk of misunderstanding if consultant lacks detailed knowledge of the industry or activity domain – effort can be expended but `that was not quite what was needed #3: Risk of misunderstanding if consultant lacks detailed knowledge of the industry or activity domain – effort can be expended but `that was not quite what was needed

36 Process Challenges Managing ongoing communication with consultant and keeping project on track Managing ongoing communication with consultant and keeping project on track Managing staff perceptions and attitudes (e.g. anxiety) – using trusted staff representative as liaison can be helpful Managing staff perceptions and attitudes (e.g. anxiety) – using trusted staff representative as liaison can be helpful Ensuring everyone maintains an open mind toward possible solutions Ensuring everyone maintains an open mind toward possible solutions Dealing appropriately with related findings appearing in association with the project Dealing appropriately with related findings appearing in association with the project

37 Management of the Deliverable (`the Report) 3-page summary vs. 60-page report 3-page summary vs. 60-page report Dont leave me to dig through a long report – help me decide Dont leave me to dig through a long report – help me decide 24 bullets: Tell me what to do 24 bullets: Tell me what to do 8 – background 8 – background 8 – what was done/discarded 8 – what was done/discarded 8 – what to do now 8 – what to do now Appendices are handy Appendices are handy

38 Clients Perception of Our Value Ongoing relationship & support: Distinguish between relationship and transactions Ongoing relationship & support: Distinguish between relationship and transactions Objectivity and fearlessness in telling it like it is – point out the true issues Objectivity and fearlessness in telling it like it is – point out the true issues Previous experience & fresh approach Previous experience & fresh approach Flexibility (meetings, date changes, etc – it can be a challenge for consultants to limit their willingness to jump) Flexibility (meetings, date changes, etc – it can be a challenge for consultants to limit their willingness to jump) Effectiveness in presenting to and dealing with senior management (who may be surprised at the project outcome) Effectiveness in presenting to and dealing with senior management (who may be surprised at the project outcome)

39 Clients comment on the Sales Process: A Key Lesson Key takeaway: Some clients are not worth the effort and aggravation! Key takeaway: Some clients are not worth the effort and aggravation! Consultants can be tempted to allow the back-and-forth sales process to continue far beyond what is appropriate Consultants can be tempted to allow the back-and-forth sales process to continue far beyond what is appropriate Consultants may lack strong skills in determining Consultants may lack strong skills in determining who is a buyer (or at least receptive to the pitch) who is a buyer (or at least receptive to the pitch) whether the decision makers are ready for change whether the decision makers are ready for change Whether there is budget and commitment Whether there is budget and commitment

40 The Sales Process Concept of earning the right to sell by: Concept of earning the right to sell by: Documenting how the offered services have helped the competition (or analogous organizations) Documenting how the offered services have helped the competition (or analogous organizations) Documenting an understanding of the client organizations issues … BEFORE making the pitch! Documenting an understanding of the client organizations issues … BEFORE making the pitch! Being a lodestar vs a bearer of water: Dont spill the water on the way to the customer (AJO) Being a lodestar vs a bearer of water: Dont spill the water on the way to the customer (AJO)

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42 IMPLICATIONS FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENMT Business Savvy is of course needed Business Savvy is of course needed But soft skills are crucial But soft skills are crucial

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45 Soft Skills: How To … Gain trust and respect of executives Gain trust and respect of executives Inspire confidence in others Inspire confidence in others Create rapport and comfort to support clear communication Create rapport and comfort to support clear communication Deliver value at all levels of the business interaction Deliver value at all levels of the business interaction Leverage whole person thinking Leverage whole person thinking

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47 Call for a Curriculum Launch and Management of an Info Consulting Practice Launch and Management of an Info Consulting Practice Marketing and Sales Management & Business Development Marketing and Sales Management & Business Development Client Prospecting Client Prospecting Client Relations Management Client Relations Management

48 A Thank You to our Colleagues Mary Ellen Bates Mary Ellen Bates Trine Sand Bjerrum Trine Sand Bjerrum Richard Hulser Richard Hulser Kirsten Eva Jensen Kirsten Eva Jensen Cynthia Lesky Cynthia Lesky Rikke McKenzie Rikke McKenzie Annette Ostenfeld Annette Ostenfeld … more … more

49 … continued Sylvia Piggott Sylvia Piggott Suzanne Sabroski Suzanne Sabroski Deborah Schwarz Deborah Schwarz Deborah Seys Deborah Seys Xenia Stanford Xenia Stanford Louise Temkin Louise Temkin Grace Villamora Grace Villamora

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51 Thank You – feel free to be in touch!


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