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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#215: Cutting Through the Media Clutter

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 8, 2010
Updated: Friday, January 8, 2010
This wasn't a specific question but a recurring theme with management consultants: how to quickly scan for current news and emerging trends in media that leaves you both satisfied and educated without the exhaustion and confusion.

There are several ways to aggregate contemporary information online: RSS feeds, newsgroups, Google Alerts, clipping services, newsfeeds, specialty content aggregation sites (usually around a single industry, profession or region), are common examples. Each one is designed for the single purpose user in mind, but there are few applications that format a broad aggregation of current news and trends in a way that lets you scan quickly and make informed selections. We have available ingenious applications for aggregating data but aggregation is only half of the equation in using information. We are missing the part that presents content in a rich format to aid in choosing what to consume.

Consider the supermarket, a great idea to aggregate all types of household food and related items in one location. Now think of how difficult it would be if you had to shop using just written descriptions of the items. We shop for food in a different way than we read aggregated content, by scanning the aisles for items, reading labels, but also using taste, smell, and touch. Now imagine how great it would be to actually see media in its native format rather than reduced to a stream of letters.

Google has improved on simple aggregation in its FastFlip application. FastFlip assembles groups of media content, including some customizable sources, by showing you the actual images of the sources. You can quickly scan, just like in a supermarket, to see what piques your interest. It is now added to my "Check Daily" bookmark, letting me check the newspapers, magazines, business journals and selected other sources in about 20 minutes. As a warning, just like you shouldn't shop when you are hungry, you shouldn’t use FastFlip unless you impose some discipline - it can become addictive.

Tip: Consider the supermarket scenario the next time you present information to a client. How appealing do you think page after page of text is to a client when you could be leaving them with a rich visual feast like in FastFlip? Some clients only read selected parts of your reports because they can be so tiresome. Your findings and recommendations will have more influence if they draw the reader in (note: this tip will make more sense after you experience FastFlip).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  knowledge assets  learning  presentations  writing 

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#202: Client Info Overload

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I like to send my clients all kinds of things, e.g., articles from professional journals, thoughts, recent news, specific recommendations, and all sorts of things I believe will be helpful. My concern is that they don't read it all. How do I deal with this?

We are all on information overload and your clients are no different. Part of our service is to make the client's life easier, pointing them to the right information at the right time. Don't assume just because something is interesting to you that it will also be for your client. Also, be sure this is something that can be used, whether by themselves or their staff. What they don't need is something that is just a fact, trend or summary that they have to think hard about how to use it (these are data but not information, and certainly not knowledge).

Tip: Start by being judicious about who gets what. You probably don't have more than a dozen really close relationships with clients. Limit your sendouts to just those you know well and are current on their needs. When you do send something, tell the client why it is worth reading, and help them to not read it by telling the client what the major relevant point is for their business. If you are really articulate and know them well, you can summarize the main points and let them use the item for backup. Make sure the recipient knows immediately from the headline and summary what is nice to know vs. what is important, critical to their business.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  consultant role  information management  knowledge assets 

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#189: Making Your Recommendations Useful in the Long Run

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 3, 2009
Updated: Thursday, December 3, 2009
Clients vary in their requests for final project briefings and reports, both in terms of content and format. I don't like writing long reports and wonder how useful they are to the client anyway? If a client wants "everything" in the final report, how much is it worth pushing back.

This is certainly something to negotiate at the outset of the engagement. Some clients are OK with no report and a final briefing. Any final report should satisfy three criteria:
  • Present complete information about the client's condition and your recommendations.
  • Support your findings and recommendations with verified data and logic
  • Be clear and unambiguous as to how to use the recommendations
If you can achieve these three outcomes in a final briefing or through shadowing of client staff during the engagement, you may be able to not need a final report. In any case, discuss these requirements with your client, who may have others.

Tip: Remember in designing your final reports to consider how well they will "age." Think about how, a year after you have departed, the format and content of the report will be usable to the client. Will the recommendations be "outdated" or misunderstood without the benefit of being involved in the change process? Will the client know under what conditions the recommendations you offered are no longer appropriate? Have you indicated the point at which additional consulting services may be useful? To the extent possible, design your final report to not become obsolete weeks after your departure.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  information management  writing 

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#168: Are Your Clients Measuring Numbers Rather Than Results?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 4, 2009
We help our clients design and implement sophisticated performance measurement systems. However, it is always a struggle to keep these from being hijacked by the finance departments, who focus on month to month data and not long term goals.

Performance measurement systems are affected by the culture of the group designing and using them. There is nothing wrong with a financial reporting system, but this should not be confused with a performance management system. The latter is intended to guide an organization to results. The finance function, however, is grounded in a culture of risk avoidance and control. The effect of that perspective is to focus on process, accuracy of predictions and variance with expected data.

How much variation in month to month results are typical for your industry? Are long-term trends heading in the right direction? Does your executive team have evidence that past variance with plans is a good predictor of failure to meet goals? Is there a basis to believe this is the case now? Is the finance function being given undue influence over business operations? Remember, accounting is a trailing indicator and, while a provider of important data, it is a supporting function, not a business driver.

Tip: Discuss with your client during performance measurement system design what the specific culture, perspective and impact each department will have on providing data and interpreting those data. Talk about how decisions will be made if one set of data are well outside of expected predictions. How are accountabilities to be set, i.e., how much allowance is appropriate for variance and who is accountable for "fixing" that variance? Have these conversations during the design phase so that your client is not embroiled in conflict about a number rather than measuring progress against long-term organizational objectives.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  business culture  communication  information management  planning 

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#149: Keeping Up With Your Industry Through News Feeds

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 8, 2009
I have recently discovered news feeds for major industry groups as a way to keep up with news without reading a lot of sources. How can I customize a news feed for my specialized areas of interest?

The specialization of trade press has tremendously increased the volume and detail in news and research data about even the most arcane corners of business. However, this increased detail creates a more difficult job of sifting through sources. Online availability improves access but does not reduce the volume.

This is where news feeds come in. A news feed is an aggregation of news items published by many different online sources, which is then updated constantly. When used with a news reader (many are available for free as standalone applications or can be added to a browser or to email clients like Outlook), news feeds can collect the most up to date news about a specified topic and deliver it to your desktop, saving you considerable time and providing a wider collection of content than you could get by searching manually.

You asked about custom news feeds. There are now a few sources where you can design your own feeds. Although not an endorsement of any one source, News Feed Maker and Feedzilla are good places to start. Both services allow you to specify keywords on which the feed software will work to aggregate news to your needs. You can place these as widgets in a variety of formats on your website or just as news sources for your own use.

Tip: You may find tremendous value in news feeds for daily digests of content you need to stay ahead of your profession, discipline or industry. Create several feeds using keywords related to your current or prospective consulting practice. You will quickly figure out which sets of keywords are producing the highest value news. Once you have fine tuned your feeds, you can begin passing along timely and relevant news to your clients. Given that most news feeds are updated at 15 minute intervals, you may well be the first one to notify a client about an industry trend or event related to a competitor. Keeping a client abreast of breaking news is one service expected of a trusted advisor.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  information management  innovation  learning  market research  marketing 

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