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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#984: Fail Fast and Cheap

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 11, 2009
What should I be concerned about when developing new services in response to evolving client needs? I don't know where to start.

Business changes fast and consultants need to change with it or, better yet, stay one step ahead of it. This means working hard to develop new products and services in response to evolving client needs. Green technologies are quickly becoming the foundation of business investment. Cash and credit management are new essentials for most businesses. Talent management is increasingly critical for organizations whose executives are retiring. How will your practice respond to these trends?

Are there risks to developing new services that may not be effective? Is it wrong to roll out new services without testing and confirmation of their effectiveness? Should you do a lot of research and development before using your ideas on clients? The answer to all these questions is a resounding yes. However, this doesn’t mean the alternative of using outdated methods or techniques is not also counterproductive.

Tip: The rule for developing new products, in business as well as in consulting, is to “fail fast and cheap.” Identify emerging challenges facing your clients, lay out some ideas about how you might better serve your members, do some research on how these services might work, run it by some of your current clients for their reaction and, for those ideas that have merit, test them in practice. If your research or testing (done carefully and usually at no incremental cost to clients) has merit, then continue to develop them. If not, take good notes and move on quickly to try other ideas.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  intellectual property  learning  product development  your consulting practice 

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#980: Bringing Innovation Into Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 5, 2009
I am looking to create new services and products in my practice. What are some simple ways to put me in a position to do so?

Much has been written about creativity in individuals and formal processes to foster innovation in companies. What you seem to be talking about is in between, where you want to create a space for your company but where you are the company.

An adaptation of the Center for Creative Leadership's principles for innovation, which might help your consulting practice create new services:
  1. Convert problems to ideas: The stimulus for new ideas comes from being forced to focus on solving a problem. In almost every case, there are better ways to solve, or avoid, a problem. See problems as needing a new approach, not just something to power through using common wisdom.
  2. Create an innovation system: Creativity exists in all organizations and in all individuals, but it is rarely channeled and deliberate. Make innovation intentional. Set up a time and set of steps to think about the nature of problems, the inputs and processes commonly used to solve them and the satisfaction of the outcomes. Where are alternatives possible?
  3. Make your sense of pain or urgency drive innovation: New ideas may be spontaneous but translating them into actionable processes or products requires emotional attachment. You have to see excitement or promise in new ideas to move them from thought to action.
  4. Hang out with other creative people and/or people who have the same problems you face: The same thinking yields the same results. Innovation is most fertile when several disciplines come together. Make it a point to get to know consultants who work in other industries or disciplines and ask how they would solve a common problem.
Tip: Make innovation a deliberate part of your consulting strategy. Considering that professional services has about a three year life (at least that was conventional wisdom a few years ago), you need to replace or refresh a third of your services every year. Write down a few problems you'd like to solve or services you'd like to introduce. Introduce yourself to a steady stream of new consultants to discuss these ideas and help them innovate as well. This is a big reason why IMC is such a fertile generator of new consulting services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  practice management 

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#978: Your Rights to Work You Created for Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Over the past few years, during client assignments, I have developed what I think is a novel and powerful set of processes to provide client services. Is there any reason why I can't use these to write a book or sell to other clients?

In most cases, the work you create belongs to you. However, a more general rule is that work belongs to the person who paid for its development. For instance, any methodologies, research or ideas you create while on your own time and dime belong to you. If you are working for a public sector agency, your work products belong to the sponsoring agency and the public of the state or country whose tax dollars paid for it. If you are working for a private sector client, the disposition of the materials depends on the contract you signed.

Many consulting contracts contain a clause that relates to works for hire. It usually grants you a nonexclusive license to use the products developed at the client's expense but may have more or fewer restrictions. In some cases, you have no right to use your work (you should object to and avoid this kind of contract if possible). In other cases, you may be able to use materials with the client's permission. In the best case, you are free to use your material, even though it is a work for hire, as you see fit. Be sure to clarify this with your client.

Tip: If you believe you are developing intellectual property of potential value to you, discuss this with your clients and consulting colleagues before you begin work. This is particularly important if you jointly develop IP with colleagues because, even if the client releases you from any work for hire prohibition on use, you are still bound to obligations to your colleagues. Paragraph 12 of the IMC USA Code of Ethics deals specifically with this situation. It states, "I will respect the rights of consulting colleagues and consulting firms and will not use their proprietary information or methodologies without permission."

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  goodwill  intellectual property  knowledge assets  professionalism 

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#933: Letting Your IP Go To Waste

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Updated: Friday, December 5, 2008
Over the years, I have neglected to capture the Intellectual Property I have developed. Now that I am writing a book, it is a painstaking process to recreate it. Is there a shortcut?

A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, IP has a shelf life and the value of your IP to you and to the market may differ. Your IP from ten years ago may not be as valuable as you think and maybe not worth the effort to recreate it. You may believe you have created something unprecedented and unique. Or you may believe that there is nothing new under the sun but there is good money to be made repackaging old material. Whatever way you think, as long as it is something you created without benefit of someone else's work, it is your IP and you have a right to package it into a book. Your editor and buyers can decide if it is valuable to them.

Second, it is easier to retain IP than to regenerate it. Most consultants have a fatal habit of finishing a project and running off to the next one. All the processes, data, relationships, graphics, text, workshop or seminar materials, letters, talking points, models and survey data you created rests, unstructured, on your hard drive and in your lateral files. It is likely, as the months go by, you will forget what was critical and what was not, and the task of doing file storage triage may become more daunting than you want to bear, so you don't so it. This is where your IP went (it is still there if you care to go get it).

Tip: Build into a project, even if you classify it as administration or R&D, enough time to do an after action review (also called a post mortem) on your project. Here is where you write up the project, secure references, return proprietary materials, discard duplicates, organize highest value materials, file original graphics/slides/collateral that you could repurpose, and organize project materials for easy retrieval. Next time you won't mourn the loss of you IP.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  practice management 

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