This is part 2 of a two-part blog about how your business can improve client experience (CX). Read part 1 on communication and consistency here.
Nowadays more than ever in this new period of remote work for all, collaboration is vitally important. How do you connect distributed stakeholders when some of the traditional means of working together on project-based work (e.g. in-person meetings) are no longer viable options? It’s important to make sure everyone has the right tools available to them in order to be the most effective at completing their tasks. This applies not only to the internal project stakeholders, but also to incorporating effective collaboration with the client, which provides excellent CX by providing instant visibility to all parties involved.
There are a number of different tools and methods available to promote collaboration and much of it comes down to the level of detail required for an individual activity. For example, think of a tool like Slack, which is prevalent across the technology industry (including here at Mavenlink). It’s ideal for quick, instant communication, such as pinging a group of colleagues who may not be involved in your project to answer a short question on product functionality. This type of communication doesn’t need to be memorialized in a standard project deliverable, or broadcast to the project team or the client. You can also think of checklist items, in order to complete a specific task on the project plan, there may be a handful of smaller activities that need to be finished. It’s personal preference, but many project managers may not include these detailed subtasks in their Work-Breakdown Structure (WBS), instead relying on team members to manage these items individually. Again, the finished product needs to be marked as complete but the steps to get there may not matter.
However, for any task which does require more than one person to complete, it is ideal to have instant visibility to all parties involved so that they can understand what’s needed, how much time is required, and what work is remaining. This is a perfect opportunity to assign all relevant stakeholders to these tasks, and have a process to alert them to updates or changes, or an action requiring their attention. Being able to access this data in real-time, in a single location, makes it easily accessible for anyone to answer the question “what is the status of this task?” That’s true collaboration in a self-service manner. No need for multiple emails, chats, phone calls, or project plans being sent back and forth.
Efficiency is closely related to consistency, but there is a key difference as it relates to improving your customer experience.
That is, how can you allow your team to focus on what really matters, providing top notch service to your clients, as opposed to spending time working on activities that don’t add value overall. There are many examples that come to mind when thinking of the daily life of someone in professional services depending on the role you play within an organization. If you’re a consultant, you more than likely have to enter your timesheets, potentially at a very detailed level related to the tasks you’re working on. You also have to spend time managing those tasks themselves, providing a level of effort, working on subtasks, and accounting for progress along the way. If you’re in more of a delivery management role, such as a project manager, the administrative burden jumps quickly. Not only are you responsible for keeping your team on task with their deliverables and project health, managing timelines and completeness of work, but if you have financial responsibility then you also need to track actuals, budget, profitability, expenses, and potentially even invoices and payments. For any decent sized project, that time can easily add up to multiple hours in the course of a week, and for a larger program where there are multiple project managers delivering parallel workstreams under the guidance of an overall program manager, the time can be measured in the hundreds or even thousands of hours.
Everyone will agree that the deliverables produced by this output (timesheets, status reports, project health, and financial reporting) are crucial, but where the efficiency is lost is by having to work across multiple disconnected systems, manually processing data offline or in spreadsheets, and spending time aggregating results. By the time all of this effort is done, half of the information is already out of date, and the whole process needs to start over again. Needless to say, adopting technology to smooth this process will allow you to orient your business processes much more effectively to regain that lost time, some of which could potentially turn into billable time for your customers and increase top line revenue and profitability.
How do you tie all of this together? All of the best practices that we’ve discussed don’t matter if they aren’t adapted across the entire organization. By providing the tools and technology as a general foundation, you have a good starting point, but it’s only going to work if you change the overall culture to really change the way your fundamental day-to-day processes work.
Almost everyone who works in delivery has had their clients ask the question, “what are the things we need to do in order to make this project successful?” Usually, you would expect the answer to be focused around the deliverables, or the technology being used. At Mavenlink, we look at this differently. Our answer to this question is always “successful change management.” If you nail the reasons why people need to change, how it will impact them, what it means to their day-to-day, and outline the journey for them to collectively get on board and feel invested in the new process, then the rest of the initiative will mostly take care of itself. Yes, the technology also needs to be adopted correctly and needs to have the functionality to cover the core business needs, but if you need to engage hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of individuals to change the way they spend their time working day to day, they really need to be bought in on the benefits. Tell them that it will create more work? That they need to log in to three new systems? That the data they need is in five different places and needs to be pulled together manually? Clearly, none of those are selling points, but those are exactly the outcomes that occur with some technology. Now, turn that around the other way and alleviate those pain points, and that’s a very compelling story.
The final point I’d like to make around adoption relates to overall business process maturity.
There are some organizations that have created benchmarks for levels of professional services maturity across a number of different dimensions. We do believe it’s important to take the time to do an honest, thorough assessment of where your organization is currently before undergoing any sort of large transformation initiative. You can’t change what you can’t measure, as the saying goes. Doing this assessment, but more importantly, carrying it through your entire lifecycle of the transformation initiative with regular checkpoints and follow-through to ensure compliance and improvement are key. Most organizations can do the upfront work, but the real gains come from the persistence of continuing to stay on top of this process over time. Force yourself to revisit the initial assumptions not only every six months, but into perpetuity.
Your business will continue to change and evolve over time, so why shouldn’t your measurements of success?
Take Your Processes to the Next Level
Learn what you can do to make the most of your processes through our ebook, The Five Steps to More Profitable Projects.