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Innovation: Innovations that Impact Clients

Synopsis

Innovation, the twelfth element of the Client Management Model™, explains:

• the importance of innovation by professional services firms;

• innovations that characterise the most enlightened of today's professional services firms;

• the importance of having a project management capability in professional services firms;

• innovative mergers;

• current practices in corporate responsibility and partner development;

• innovative service development.

THOUGHT STARTERS

• How can we encourage innovation in our firm?

• How do we capture innovation in our employees?

• What innovations have we introduced for Clients?

• Which innovations are the most lucrative?

Most Clients expect their suppliers to be innovative and to demonstrate examples of their creativity when bidding for new work. This section covers the following areas of innovation seen in many firms:

• Project management.

• Mergers.

• Corporate social responsibility.

• Services developed with Clients.

Project Management

In recent years there have been many surveys on the extent of project management in professional services firms. As assignments and matters become more complex, the number of activities increases. Effective project management can significantly improve quality and reduce the overall time, and thus cost, to complete such assignments. Having project management disciplines and competences in place is now becoming a key requirement when Clients select firms. It is worth reviewing what this means in today's business environment. The elements of project management are as follows:

• Clear definition of the project in terms of outcomes.

• Clear overall project management responsibility.

• Project scoping.

• The project breakdown structure - showing the key building blocks.

• The tasks within the project breakdown structure.

• Task scheduling.

• Task time duration.

• Task responsibility.

• Team management.

• Budgetary control.

• Identification and management of key stakeholders.

• The 'critical path' timeline.

• Understanding those elements on the 'critical path'.

• Dealing with changes in project scope.

• Dealing with project 'creep'.

• Risk management.

• Communications management.

Those firms using Client project management effectively can expect increased assignment efficiency improved communications across and between organisations, added value and more rewarding Client relationships. Although often understated by Clients and prospects, a clear demonstration of project management skills can often be a differentiating factor when selecting a firm. Many RFPs now ask detailed questions about the level of project management skill that exists in the supplying organisation. Clients that see benefits from the time savings that can accrue through the application of project management processes by its suppliers are likely to buy further services.

When assigned complex work, many firms assign a project manager at the outset. There are many supporting technologies to enable the process to be carried out consistently. Most proposals use timelines in the form of bar charts to show prospects and Clients how the assignment will be managed over time. However, the use of critical path network planning enables a clearer understanding of those tasks that are the most important to complete on time. Any tasks on the critical path that run late will affect the overall project completion time accordingly. Network planning also clearly shows dependencies between tasks.

With costs under pressure, it is possible to assign tasks with specific codes to enable improved budgetary control and transparency over the project's duration.

In international assignments across many borders, project management is an essential part of the Client management process. Many Clients use project management techniques and processes in their own businesses, so it is not surprising that they may demand evidence of such skills of their suppliers. One of the key elements is project scope, as it is not unusual for stakeholder requirements to change - often known as project 'creep' - without proper communication of the consequences in terms of the three variables of quality, cost and time.

 
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