Given the often complex structures in Client organisations, much of the contact information about its people is usually held on a firm's databases; however, any specific data about the interrelationships and hierarchies is generally held by the relationship partner/manager. Reaching the right people who make or influence decisions is often difficult, so some form of organisation chart is usually needed.
Client Mapping is a technique that is often used when trying to understand a prospect or Client organisation structure. It helps to unearth the multiple layers that may exist and helps to avoid the pitfalls of not knowing the influences and levels in the Client organisation. The approach and process of Client mapping is quite straightforward. Usually the Client contacts are shown in one shape and those in the firm in a different shape. The seniority within the hierarchy on both sides is shown by numbers. The strengths of influence and relationships, where known, are shown by arrows. These maps are relatively easy to produce once some information is known about the Client's organisation. Once drawn, the gaps become clear. An example map, attributed to my colleagues in Marketing Improvements Group, is shown in Figure 2.2.
Figure 2.2 Client Mapping Tool
HOW TO DRAW A CLIENT MAP
• Involve everyone that has knowledge of, and relationships with, the Client's organisation.
• Explain to them the idea and benefits of Client maps.
• Ask everyone with knowledge of the Client to write down their understanding of their structure.
• It is then useful to start by drawing symbols on a flip chart to represent the Client's organisation and hierarchy. This is shown by triangles in Figure 2.2. Names and job titles are added; seniority is then added using numbers relating to level of management. For international Clients, country locations should be added.
• The next step involves placing other symbols, say rectangles, to represent the people in your firm who know the Client. Again, if international Clients are being mapped, member firm contacts can be added by country.
• The next step requires some knowledge of the influence between the Client's people. This is shown by single headed arrows showing the direction and strength of influence.
• The final step is to use double headed arrows to indicate the strength of relationship between and within the two organisations. The thicker arrows indicate the stronger relationships.
Once the map is drawn, it becomes clearer to the firm where action is required to improve the strength of relationships, understand the hierarchy and plan to fill any gaps. Different colors for Clients and the firm can be used if this makes it easier to understand the symbols.
From Figure 2.2 it can be seen that Client person I has a strong influence over two of his colleagues, and a slightly less influence over a third. Our person A has a strong relationship with Client person at seniority level 3, but our relationships with higher levels in the Client are weaker. Our team member B has a stronger relationship with team member C than with A. There appears to be no relationship at the highest level.
Getting to Know Your Peers in the Client's Organisation
Given the relatively complex nature of the purchasing of professional services, it is considered best practice in larger engagements to arrange for suppliers to meet their peers over time to better understand the culture and organisation structure of their Client. Although the matter, project or assignment is often carried out between specialist advisers and a particular department or division, it is useful for top executives in the firm and the
Client to meet each other for the more strategic, broader discussions. Even informal events are effective in this context. Given today's advances in technology, it would also seem logical for the IT heads to meet at some point. As an example, this interaction could facilitate the linkages of systems to share data and reduce paperwork between organisations. Some firms arrange meetings of their human resources heads to compare ways of attracting and retaining the best talent. This form of contacting and relationship building takes time, but the investment pays off not only in terms of opportunities for other projects but also raises the barrier to competitor entry. The recent Client Care Survey revealed that this form of peer interaction is often limited to the people involved in the workstream.