I recently viewed a brilliant McKinsey Quarterly video by Don Tapscott talking about the failures of traditional knowledge management (it’s just 5 minutes and highly recommended). He argues that new social media tools used WITHIN the organisation provide a plethora of opportunities for improved internal communication, collaboration and sharing.
What’s really interesting from a strategic client management perspective is using these tools to share knowledge, intelligence and perspectives around the firm-client relationship. It means going beyond logging a record of interactions in the firm’s CRM system, posting the latest copy of their organisational chart and sharing a static client engagement plan. Rather it’s about facilitating an ongoing strategic dialogue amongst all those in the firm involved in the firm-client relationship, or, as I like to call it, “the client community”. This dialogue could relate to a vast range of issues and opportunities, for example:
- What are the distinguishing aspects of client ABC’s culture we should truly understand and respect?
- How do we best demonstrate alignment with their culture and organisational values?
- ABC’s has a major cost reduction and business simplification push in three of their four divisions. What else could we do to help?
- The XYZ Division of ABC seems to be wedded to our key competitor, 666. What are the chinks in 666‘s armour?
- We’ve done all the usual entertainment events/engagement activities with ABC’s executive team. What are some fresh ideas that they would really value and that could also showcase some our expertise and new people?
- It appears that the CFO sees us “overly expensive”. What can we do to make him see us as “expensive but worth it”?
- If we had a joint firm-client strategic innovation workshop what items would you add to the agenda?
- Our in our current cost-to-serve benchmarking ABC is in 4th quartile (i.e. more costly than most). What elements of our offer could be removed or reduced without comprising our quality standards and client perceptions of value?
- Currently we have lots of data around the firm-client relationship, including operational, financial, sales pipeline, people performance and client feedback data. If we had to join all these islands of data and mine it for fresh insights, what questions should we ask? Where should our data miners go prospecting?
One Australian professional services firm is experimenting using Yammer to facilitate a strategic dialogue around one or two priority client relationships. They state that one of the main benefits of using Yammer is the quality and simplicity of the user-interface and the fact that people can post, comment and share on multiple devices including their smartphones. This has widened the client community and involved a much broader cross section of practices, functional areas and office locations. They are still working through how to moderate member input to avoid defamation and confidentiality issues, but these are slowly being addressed.
The beauty of these tools is that they allow a much wider audience to contribute continuously to problem solving and strategising. In the past, this thinking was the exclusive domain of client relationship partners/managers with selected input on a periodic basis from other senior practitioners. Capturing the perspective of everyone who interacts with the client – from the senior partner, to the BD manager, to the accounts clerk – ensures a much richer and potentially more valuable outcome.
Your call to action from the post is to reflect on what processes you have in your firm to share insight and intelligence around key clients. If you’re using traditional knowledge management approaches, according to Tapscott, you’re probably failing.