antipaucity

fighting the lack of good ideas

i’m not technical

I am. But not really.

To paraphrase my prelicensing class instructor, “95% of consulting is not technical work – it’s psychological”. 5% of consulting is delivery. The remainder is listening, empathizing, training, selling, encouraging, improving, and a whole bunch more gerunds.

I’m an unlicensed psychiatrist dabbling in technology -just call me Frasier Malone – the single person every consultant has to be (even though on Cheers they were two people).

Part of the Art of Consulting™ is conveying ROI in the right terms to your current audience. My job as an automation consultant, project manager, and team lead is to convince customers (at all levels) that the tools I’m there to deliver, configure, and utilize are not “taking their jobs away” (in the wrong sense of the term). Ideally, my customers not only see me as their Trusted Advisor, but as someone who has “been there, done that” just like they have, and that I truly am there to help them: to help them save time (for engineers), to save headcount (for managers), and to save money (for executives).

Good consultants are, in many ways, like bartenders – they listen to the problems their customers have, and hand them things they hope will help. Like a good bartender, you need to deliver what has been agreed to. And like a good bartender, you need to know when to tell your customer “that’s not the best option – try this instead”. And like a good bartender, you need to know when to tell your customer “no”.

what should a professional services group’s goal(s) be?

Should it be as a revenue stream? Or can it be far, far more?

Every place I have worked since getting into professional services back in early 2008 has viewed the goal of the organization as making money by performing services. Whether or not the customer was happy, something useful was delivered, whether a relationship was engendered and cultivated, and whether there were any future opportunities to do work with the given customer were at best secondary, and often viewed as completely unimportant.

I recently spoke with a company about their nascent proserve wing, and heard a view I’ve had niggling at the edges of my thoughts about how the previously-described environments fail, but couldn’t quite word myself. They view their work as enabling the customer. Proserve engineers spend as much time on this team delivering educational resources and engaging disparate teams from customers as they do actually “working”.

This company, which shall remain nameless for now, doesn’t worry about billable hours for their consultants – they worry about making sure that their customers are benefiting from the product they have purchased. Services aren’t free, but they don’t exist to “make money” – they exist to support, extend, and empower customers to use the product better in their environment. Positive side effects of this approach include bringing new techniques and applications back to the team from various places, and a low-pressure feel (though in a highly-involved and solidly-booked team) to every engagement, as much as possible.

Because the company’s goal is to assist their customers, product engineering, support, proserve, and sales are all working together as a team to get stuff done. Everyone is contributing because it’s vital to get customers happy. They’re already using some of the concepts I outlined in my advice on creating a successful support organization, but are taking them further by applying those ideas and approaches across internal structural divides to make the whole company as effective as it can be.

The organizational mindset that believes everyone is onboard to make customer experiences as good as they can be is one that needs to be adopted by every company across every team.