Professional Services In A Social and Mobile World

Business growth in professional services firms largely depends on people with bright ideas having the intellectual and financial means and the self-confidence to apply them without fear of failure. Yet when it comes to creating the right “technological environment”, management fears seems to hinder, not help the situation. The”fear” expressed is more often than not about: security, regulatory, productivity risks or a combination of two or all of those issues. Yet when top management are challenged there is often very little substantive evidence to support their decision. It comes down to the implied “trust” they have in their internal or external experts advice. When many of those managers don’t have a peer-level or trusting relationship with those individuals, is it any wonder that they err on the side of caution.

Here are what my best clients are doing:

1. A Firm-wide conscious effort to raise awareness of what is possible. Key people are held accountable for generating new innovative ideas, not just problem solving, where technology can heighten the quality of the firm’s relationship with its’ clients. It forms part of any personal accountability plans.

2. Time is physically scheduled in group and individual monthly calendars to generate and review new ideas and to push those along to a submitted proposal stage or bring the investigation to a close.

3. Reward and recognise great ideas and great behaviours. For example, one professional service firm has a policy of a £500 monthly award (or the local currency equivalent) to a family member, not the employee, for expenditure on IT hardware, software or training. The link with the family member is expressly to reinforce the priority the firm gives to education in the home.

4. A forced “strategic choice”. Any decision made must include “what”, “where”, “when” and “why” is the client better off and be supported by hard evidence or strong anecdotal observations. They don’t confuse the tactical decisions about “how” best to communicate or respond rapidly to the client’s expressed need (in person, by phone, by email or social media).

5. They take the emotion out of the logical decision-making process. For example, they are aware of and take personal biases out of the conversation (past experiences, vested interests, personal technological prowess or fears about “risk”). They equally don’t allow meeting times to be hijacked into a debate about the efficacy or use of technology in the office environment (use of Facebook or Instagram), which largely moves onto the terrain of employee grievances.

6. “Quick Wins” given top priority. One client, automatically, places at the top of the list any technological advancement that demonstrably will have an impact on clients within 3 months or less.

7. Senior Managers expected to act as “exemplars” of the right behaviours. For example, a global actuarial firm’s partners actively encouraged information to be exchanged by technology, not the creation of spurious need for meetings. The result a 70% elimination of internal meetings in a six month period. A law firm set expectations with clients that all Partners and Fee Earners would respond within maximum 2 hour response time to calls and routine email, 4 hour response to more in-depth questions. An insurance brokerage’s hiring requirements for mid and senior level Account Manager positions demands open-minded candidates with a track record of success bringing new innovative ideas to harness technology as a “means” to enable, not replace a higher quality relationship with their past clients.

There is no excuse for top management in professional service firms not creating the right technological environment to facilitate more impressive client relationships. What it does requires is that the firm has a “process”, not a collection of random actions which make little or no sense to the customer, the business partner, the employee or any other key constituent.

©    James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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