The PS Dilemma of Managing Just-In-Time Talent

Many Professional Service (PS) Businesses have taken a page from product manufacturing’s cost reduction book and “leaned out” their inventory. In the case of PS businesses, the inventory being referred to and leaned-out is Talent capacity and by default capability. The result is having to do more just-in-time (JIT) hiring and deployment to meet client program/project demand. And while those that have taken this action may have obtained some financial gains, we believe most PS businesses did not also implement a corresponding JIT business/operating model to ensure additional gains are achieved and client obligations are met efficiently.

It is very difficult to manage staffing capacity – and capability – in this JIT model, and you likely find yourselves understaffed and operationally inefficient during peaks in demand. Therefore, leveraging JIT talent can lead to two challenges without having a corresponding operating model.

1. Delivery Excellence – As you know, PS Businesses strive for efficient program and project delivery (i.e., the mantra is to be ahead of time and under budget) because delays significantly affect the client’s time to value and target outcomes. In turn, the reputational and financial risk of sub-par performance to a PS Business is extremely high and significantly impacts its future success.

Subcontracting talent on a just-in-time basis can increase risk and costs on a business that is already margin constrained. Why? Even though billable utilization remains high for your employed core staff, reliance on JIT staffing limits program and project teams’ ability to readily meet demand and achieve delivery excellence, which increases “hidden” costs such as:

    • Important “tribal knowledge”, IP and expertise leaving after each project.
    • Onboarding and teaming issues and elongated time to productivity (i.e., longer storming and norming period).
    • Needing to re-do work even though projects are similar – and repeatable – from client to client.

2. Financial Performance – Naturally, a PS Business’ near-term financial performance is negatively impacted via inefficient delivery. Longer term financial performance is also negatively impacted as:

    • Fewer clients are referenceable should client delivery decline (see #1 above).
    • Traditional PS leveraged talent pyramids are no longer in use; you may have an upside-down pyramid as your remaining employed billable staff is likely very experienced and therefore highly compensated SMEs and when their billable utilization is 90+% your organization loses their ability to focus on client management and upselling/account expansion.
    • Ultimately, the billable utilization targets are high since there is not enough bench strength (i.e., capacity); the cycle of contracting/releasing Talent keeps utilization high but puts overall performance at risk (i.e., high billable utilization is a “false positive”).

Overcoming the Dilemma

Please note we are not advocating against JIT Talent. Rather, it can be highly effective given a corresponding model to operationalize and optimize it. We believe the best way to overcome the obstacles listed above is by adapting what we are calling a “factory model”. A factory is defined as “a person, group, or institution that continually produces a great quantity of something specified”.

Being factory-like infuses repeatability, configurability, consistency, and predictability into what is inherently dynamic to a PS Business. Therefore, having a successful JIT Talent model requires implementing a corresponding factory model with defined standards, tools, methods, and processes. An important note – you will need to have the ability to reconfigure the factory as needed to meet the specific needs of both your business and clients. Therefore, a configurable PS Factory model includes:

    1. Creating Playbooks: Organize and document Service offers into playbooks to provide a clear plan for how the delivery teams will operate, stay focused, be organized, remain accountable, and get things done.
    2. Making Visuals/ Video Content: Make them available on-demand to enable JIT delivery resources to obtain key project delivery refreshers in real time.
    3. Providing Checklists and “Cheat Sheets”: To be easily accessed and leveraged.
    4. Continuously Managing the JIT Talent Pipeline: To be done while forecasting client demand.
    5. Maintaining Core Business Processes: To enable and support the model; may include PSA application, Project management, Pricing/ cost models, etc.

The factory foundation is the first step to delivering optimal results to you and your client time and time again. In our next blog, we will discuss “how” a PS Businesses should implement a factory model, examples of how it can work in your business and the best approach.

Written by: Mark Slotnik

About the Author:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Our Role as a Guide in Professional Services Client Management – Part 3

In our previous blogs, we introduced the idea that Client Management does not “just happen”…it must be deliberate and proactive in order to be effective. And while there are many key roles needed for success of a PS business, there is an overarching role that is important for every consulting professional: your role as a guide. This role is more of a mindset, and we often find it is helpful and valuable to think of PS as a guide to communicate to others why Client Management skills are necessary and how they get applied in the real world.

As a reminder, the best and most impactful guides all have the same commonalities. They:

      1. Build Rapport
      2. Provide Vision
      3. Embrace Problems
      4. Grow Accounts (i.e., expand relationships)

A successful guide must Embrace Problems rather than whine about them or make them someone else’s to deal with even if they are caused by someone else. And when caused by us, naturally it is important to take client feedback to heart. Some actions to embrace problems include:

      • Bringing a positive attitude to each problem
      • Leveraging creative members of your team to assist in creating solution alternatives
      • Burning the midnight oil solving problems—no matter who caused them
      • Identifying chronic problems caused by the client and bringing them up in your “looking down the road” role with the account
      • Treating all feedback about your team and yourself as important and meaningful; You never know…they might be right

A successful guide must also Grow Accounts. After all, the best guides are those that successfully complete the current journey but also identify and create the desire for more.  PS is no different. It is also one of the biggest challenges because most PS folks are uncomfortable “selling” or have no desire to do so – i.e., “I am not a sales rep”. Hence, this is typically one of the largest development gaps that needs to be filled. Some actions to take to grow accounts include:

      • Identifying ideas for up-sell, cross-sell, and pull-through opportunities
      • Relating ideas to client business issues
      • Developing champions and building momentum for those ideas
      • Coordinating resources for proposals and sales activities
      • Determining who the buyers are for the ideas

In summary, possessing the “Guide” mindset provides the foundation for what it is like to be a “consultant” and can serve as a reminder to the important but oftentimes difficult and misunderstood role PS professionals play to provide the outcomes and deliver on the promise(s) made to clients.

Written by: Mark Slotnik

About the Author:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Our Role as a Guide in Professional Services Client Management – Part 2

In a previous blog, we introduced the idea that Client Management does not “just happen”…it must be deliberate and proactive in order to be effective. And while there are many key roles needed for the success of a PS business, there is an overarching role that is important for every consulting professional: your role as a guide. This role is more of a mindset, and we often find it is helpful and valuable to think of PS as a guide to communicate to others why Client Management skills are necessary and how they get applied in the real world.

As we stated in our previous blog, the best and most impactful guides all have the same commonalities. They:

  1. Build Rapport
  2. Provide Vision
  3. Embrace Problems
  4. Grow Accounts (i.e., expand relationships)

A successful guide must Build Rapport, and a key way to do this is to not waste a client’s time and to ensure that you add value to every conversation, regardless of the level of the person you are speaking to. Another effective way to build rapport and to reach your client is by picking up on his or her queues (i.e., likes a positive approach, likes a factual approach, is easily frustrated with details) and adapting your own natural communication style to meet your audience’s needs. Additional actions to build rapport with your clients are:

      • Listening and having a sincere interest in each person as an individual
      • Touching base frequently with people on the same level and assuring open dialog
      • Not using jargon and being careful not to be arrogant
      • Following through on all commitments – even minor ones

A successful guide must also Provide Vision. Remember, as a PS professional you are there to provide advice and guidance. It does no good if you shy away from providing your opinions. However, it also does little good if in doing so you alienate the client. Some actions to take to provide vision include:

      • Providing mid-term vision to project meetings – For example, “In three months we need to be doing X. If the project continues behind schedule, I suggest we do Y. And I have some ideas of how to do Y if needed”.
      • Providing workarounds for immediate issues
      • Providing encouragement throughout a difficult implementation
      • Provide an aura of “we know what we are doing and can be relied upon to get you through this”
      • Providing ancillary advice not directly related to the project
      • Being assertive with your opinions – the PS professional is there to provide advice

As a reminder, possessing the “Guide” mindset provides the foundation for what it is like to be a “consultant”. In the next blog on this topic, we will discuss the remaining two characteristics – Embrace Problems and Grow Accounts – in more detail.

Written by: Mark Slotnik

About the Author:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Our Role as a Guide in Professional Services Client Management

Client Management does not “just happen”… it must be deliberate and proactive in order to be effective. For those of you reading this and our other blogs, by now you are likely not surprised by seeing and reading that statement.

Professionals in our industry – whether you refer to it as Consulting, Advisory Services, Professional Services, etc. – play many roles and wear many hats. We also must sell work, manage work, manage people and of course deliver on the promise to drive successful outcomes for our Clients. This requires a broad skillset and a personality motivated by managing our Clients through it all.

In previous blogs, we have discussed a few key roles needed for success of a PS business (Account Lead, Delivery Leader). Regardless of your specific role, there is an overarching role that is important for every consulting professional: your role as a guide. This role is more of a mindset, and we often find it is helpful and valuable to think of PS as a guide to communicate to others why Client Management skills are necessary and how they get applied in the real world.

Consider the best guides you have personally experienced over time. They might be professional in nature such as mentors, teachers, and business partners. They can also be more personal – a tour guide or a white-water rafting guide. The best and most impactful guides all have the same commonalities. They:

    1. Build Rapport
    2. Provide Vision
    3. Embrace Problems
    4. Grow Accounts (i.e., expand relationships)

Possessing this mindset provides the foundation for what it is like to be a “consultant”. In coming blogs, we will discuss each of these four characteristics in more detail.

Written by: Mark Slotnik and Sarah Cushman

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Sarah Cushman is a Manager with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.

Why Succession Planning Goes Wrong – and What to Do About It

Why Succession Planning Goes Wrong – and What to Do About It

Introduction to the TOPS Model

Our recent blogs have focused on the importance of talent, specifically in a professional services environment. In this blog, we take a wider lens approach to talent and talk about a pressing topic impacting companies of all sizes, types, and industries: succession planning.

Poor succession management is one of the greatest, most costly threats challenging companies today – ineffective CEO and C-Suite transitions in the S&P 1500 costs companies nearly $1 trillion per year.[1] Additionally, succession planning is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue as the average age of the executive team continues to climb; between 2005 and 2009, the average CEO age increased by 14 years.[2]

Though companies acknowledge the need for a proactive and deliberate succession plan, many struggle to build and maintain them. In fact, 49% of companies don’t have a succession plan at all. For those that do, many delay planning until a clear need occurs and are therefore, caught off-guard. They hire ill-suited external replacements. They think up casual plans for high-level roles in their heads, ignoring the implications of transitioning internal successors out of their current duties.

Through our succession planning work, we have determined an approach and process to talent planning that enable organizations to 1) anticipate organizational risks and 2) build a plan to manage risk and ensure coverage for the whole organization. Our Talent Optimization Program and System (TOPS) provides a practical, comprehensive approach to succession planning and management:

In this blog series, we will focus on the core of succession planning, comprised of three components:

  • Attrition Risk Analysis – Heat map to understand risks from attrition based on the ability to fill vacancies. Analyzed annually with event-driven updates between cycles.
  • Succession Landscape – A storyboard on the state of the union to minimize strategic talent retention risks with actionable, measurable details on each position
  • Progress Measurement & Evaluation – Real-time tracking of development plans and talent needs to ensure progress and respond to new risks and events.

Building the core relies on a process that should be conducted annually. Through the following 7 steps, companies can implement a repeatable program to manage attrition risk as talent becomes an increasingly contested resource. The completion of these steps enables companies to have a clear view of their attrition risk, succession landscape, and key steps necessary to continuously develop new talent.

In the next blog, we will discuss the first three steps in the process, defining the path forward for effective succession management.

[1] Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Gregory Nagel, and Carrie Green, “The High Cost of Poor Succession Planning,” Harvard Business Review, May-June 2021.

[2] Aaron Schnoor, “The Problem of the Aging CEO,” Medium.com, February 6, 2020.

Professional Services Talent – The Talent Pyramid

Professional Services (PS) organizations often do not leverage common functional or organizational structure to accomplish their mission. This means that direct-line reporting relationships between individual contributors and managers typically do not exist, instead it is a matrixed project-based structure. For embedding PS teams, this is different than most other groups within the organization and, therefore, needs to be better understood to allow PS to employ best practices. The difference between true success of a PS business is the use of proven best practices. Unfortunately, many of these are counterintuitive to the rest of the organization.
PS team members work in a 100% project environment – they work for different managers as projects are formed and completed. Also, as mentioned in a prior blog, this work usually requires working intimately with client personnel. Furthermore, it is inefficient and ineffective to attempt to keep project teams consistent across different engagements (creating a semi-permanent team). The fast pace and intense nature of PS means that teams do not have the time to go through storming and norming for each new project.
Therefore, PS requires a unique structures and systems to ensure success. In some ways, it can be compared to a baseball team – each player must know what to do in each situation. Although, it is inherently more complex because, unlike in baseball, a PS team member might play different roles in different projects (e.g., project lead, SME, project contributor). There are several structures that support this different business model, including (but not limited to): extensive professional development and training, talent pyramid, feedback loops, up-or-out model, etc.
In this blog, we want to discuss the Talent Pyramid and how it supports the PS organization. The Talent Pyramid solves several issues for the PS organization.
1. Forces the appropriate leverage and final management for the business. For example, ensuring the right mix of expensive versus inexpensive resources on a project. This mix ensures that the best work is done in the most effective, but profitable, manner.
2. Provides clear career pathing and what is expected at each level. Clarity on expectations for each level and the necessary skills to move up within the organization typically motivates and enables staff members.
3. Supports the up-or-out model for the business. Ideally, each year consultants are either promoted, given a year to improve, or let go based on stagnant or diminishing performance. For the purposes of this discussion assume there are 2 -3 minor levels within the major levels of the Pyramid (pictured below). This ensures that appropriate movement occurs between levels and no movement forces the tough decisions to be made. That being said, it is ultimately the responsibility of the PS organization to enable and develop staff and, in cases where movement is not possible, support and facilitate team members finding new roles inside or outside the organization.
4. Reinforces appropriate coaching (and training) for consultants as they progress. The ability to coach staff is its own skillset needed by leaders to progress up the ladder as well.

Unfortunately, we often see PS organizations that are structured more like a diamond (see image below), instead of pyramid, with bloating in the center and shrinkage at the bottom. This structure causes several issues:

  • Leverage is non-existent and, therefore, new talent is not being properly developed and all layers are at risk of burnout.
  • The middle layer is forced to working on assignments below their skill level, instead of focusing on building skills to move up in the organization.
  • Experts become too important and can hold PS group hostage.
  • Projects are not organized properly to drive outcomes and profitability.
  • Instead of PS behaviors being reinforced, heroism is honored.

Although the structures and systems of Professional Services (particularly the Talent Pyramid) are unique to the rest of the organization, it is imperative that PS obey the best practices for its business.  Otherwise, it can not grow in a predicable manner and fulfill its broader role for the company.  We will address other key structures and tools that are needed for PS in future Blogs.

 


Written by: Dean McMann

More from this Author

About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

Characteristics of a Best-in-Class Delivery Leader

In this blog series about professional services talent, we have introduced two integral roles – the Account Lead role and the Delivery Leader role. Both roles are central to successfully delivering an engagement, therefore, identifying the right resources to play these roles can greatly impact client and project outcomes. Understanding the distinct characteristics and capabilities required of each PS role can help leaders allocate resources, identify hiring gaps, and build focused talent development plans. In this blog, we focus on the characteristics of a best-in-class Delivery Leader – the role responsible for understanding the client situation and objectives, building an integrated project plan, and managing the project to success.

Delivery Leaders are common to every engagement and are responsible for the effective planning and execution of current and future engagements of a client journey. This role blends the “art” and “science” of motivating a team to achieve the engagement’s target outcomes. The role must effectively manage the people and the plan; therefore, a diverse set of attributes can increase the Delivery Leader’s overall success:

  1. Organizational Skills – A project must be organized into milestones, phases, activities, and tasks. Therefore, possessing the skills to sift through an abundance of information and shape it into a manageable, realistic plan is a core competency of an effective Delivery Leader.
  2. Delegation Skills – Once the project is organized, a Delivery Leader must be able to assign clear tasks and activities, set expectations, and embed accountability into their team. A Delivery Leader entrusts activities to their team and supports them in achieving outcomes while avoiding micromanagement.
  3. Communication Skills –Delivery Leaders are charged with gathering and disseminating information to drive understanding and buy-in. Therefore, proactive, transparent, and effective (i.e., clear, concise) communication is key to meeting the needs of their team, the individual client(s), and the client organization.
  4. Problem Solving Skills – Challenges and roadblocks arise over the course of nearly every project. The Delivery Leader must be able to anticipate and solve a variety of problems – related to the client, team, and plan – quickly and efficiently.
  5. Time Management – Delivery Leaders can be bombarded with requests from all parties and must be able to prioritize and effectively allocate their time to the most pressing, strategically important matters.
  6. Financial Management – An important and often overlooked aspect of this role is the need to have financial management proficiency at both the project level and client level. This allows for more informed decision making during both selling/scoping new projects as well as delivery. It is also an important aspect when providing feedback to sales, account leaders and others when determining professional fees.
  7. Domain Knowledge – The best Delivery Leaders are great player coaches that bring an element of “been there, done that” experience. Domain knowledge can be technical, solution specific, or business process expertise. Regardless of what form it is in, subject matter expertise adds credibility and trust to someone in this role.

Possessing this unique set of skills can effectively position someone to play the role of the Delivery Leader. In coming blogs, we will discuss other critical PS team roles and how they interact to deliver a streamlined, outcomes-oriented journey with and for their clients.


Written by: Mark Slotnik and Sarah Cushman

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Sarah Cushman is a Manager with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.

The Impact of the Delivery Leader Role

In recent blogs, we have discussed the importance of clearly defined roles and responsibilities in driving success for Professional Services (PS) teams. Roles and responsibilities create clarity, foster accountability, and keep talent motivated toward fulfilling individual duties to deliver team outcomes. They enable teams to become “operationally ready” to execute a differentiated model. In our latest blog, we explore the critical role of the Account Lead, the owner of the account strategy and client relationship. In this blog, we will describe another integral position: The Delivery Leader.

The Delivery Leader role is common to every engagement and may also be referred to as the Project Manager, Engagement Lead, and/or Program Lead. Though engagement scope and type may vary, the core duties of the role remain consistent.  The Delivery Leader ensures the effective planning and execution of current and future engagements of a client journey.

A successful Delivery Leader must be able to blend and balance both the “art” and “science” of motivating a team to achieve the engagement’s target outcomes. Therefore, the following responsibilities are central to the role:

Understanding the Client Situation and Objectives – The Delivery Leader is responsible for learning about the client situation, understanding their desired outcomes, and anticipating (and planning for) challenges that affect the team’s ability and timing to achieve those outcomes.  By clarifying the project success criteria upfront, Delivery Leaders are poised to build an actionable plan to accomplish them.

Building an Integrated Project Plan – With the client objectives in mind, the Delivery Leader works with key client stakeholders and internal team members to create an actionable project plan that defines the activities, the resources, and the timeline that will guide the team’s efforts during implementation.

Managing the Project – The Delivery Leader oversees the day-to-day execution of the plan, ensuring that teammates are playing their roles and that milestones are being reached. They provide direction, enforce accountability, coordinate activities, mediate any conflicts, re-allocate resources as necessary, and work through organizational obstructions to keep the Client journey ahead of plan and under budget (while today you might be on plan and budget but something can happen tomorrow that puts the project behind and makes it more costly). They ensure that a high-quality work product and outcomes are being delivered to the Client, from day 1.

In addition to engagement delivery responsibilities, the Delivery Leader has important commercial duties. For example, the Deliver Leader:

  • Coordinates with Sales and Account Leads to ensure value proposition integration with delivery and understanding of the client’s specific circumstances,
  • Recommends the most impactful pull-through opportunities to Sales and Account Leads,
  • Supports the Account Lead in crafting and executing the communication plan to presell the pull-through opportunity, and
  • Helps execute the opportunity strategy – and often positions – the opportunity Idea to the client.

In the next blog, we will discuss the characteristics that enable a Delivery Leader to be effective in this multifaceted role.


Written by: Mark Slotnik and Sarah Cushman

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Sarah Cushman is a Manager with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.

Characteristics of a Best-In-Class Account Lead

In our recent blog post, we defined one of the most crucial – and most overlooked – roles: The Account Lead. As we discussed, the Account Lead owns the overall strategy and coordination of engaging the client; they establish and grow the client relationship at an executive level. Their role is extremely visible to the client and integral to driving the account journey. Ultimately, Account Leads are the most important driver in growing share of wallet at a given account, as a result of larger purchases and deeper relationships with clients. Therefore, ensuring the individual playing the role possesses a key set of attributes is important to the role’s (and the PS team’s) success.

The following include the common characteristics of a best-in-class Account Lead:

  • Consultative – The ability to provide advice and guidance on a range of strategic topics.
  • Service-Oriented – The willingness to go above and beyond for a client.
  • Flexible – The capability of adapting to new situations and ever-changing environments.
  • Problem-Solving Skills – The aptitude for thinking outside the box to overcome challenges.
  • Proactive – The ability to think ahead and plan for the long-term, while staying organized and deliberate in all near-term actions along the journey.
  • Executive Presence – The skill of projecting (and inspiring) confidence and high levels of competency, even under pressure.
  • Outcomes-oriented – The ability to maintain a consistent focus on results.

Possessing this unique set of skills can effectively position someone to play the role of the Account Lead. In coming blogs, we will discuss other critical roles on the PS team and how they interact to deliver a streamlined, outcomes-oriented account journey.

Written by: Jackie McMann

Jackie McMann is a Senior Manager at McMann & Ransford with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 clients to transform their business models, develop differentiated portfolios, and inject best practices into professional services.

 

The Impact of the Account Lead Role

As discussed in previous blogs, talent is a driving force of success in a Professional Services (PS) organization, whether embedded into a larger product organization or standalone.  Therefore, clearly defined roles and responsibilities for such high-value talent becomes critical.  In this blog, we will touch on a handful of key PS roles but focus on one of the most crucial – and most overlooked – roles: The Account Lead.

In a team-based environment, roles help define the responsibilities and decisions rights at a particular client, in a particular engagement, at a particular point in time.  Roles always exist – so, it is important to be explicit about them.

Key Roles Overview

  1. Account Lead – Owns the overall strategy and coordination of engaging the client; Establishes and grows the client relationship at an executive level.
  2. Sales Lead – Provides and executes selling strategy and process at a specific account; Identifies (with Account Lead and Delivery Lead) and pursues the appropriate pull-through/up-sell opportunities.
  3. Delivery Lead – Ensures the effective planning and execution of projects & engagement; Typically serves as the Subject Matter Expert during sales pursuits.
  4. Delivery Consultant(s) – Manages or completes assigned project work at the direction of the Delivery Lead.

Key Considerations for PS Roles

  • Different job titles may fill a particular role for different opportunities based on the specific client circumstances, availability, pull-through opportunity, etc.
  • Role assignments may change in the course of a pursuit, but the decision to do so should be explicitly communicated amongst the team involved.
  • One individual may fill more than one role at a given time for a given client or opportunity.
  • Defining roles and updating the team as roles change is the responsibility of the entire team.

Exploring the Role of an Account Lead

Let’s breakdown the Account Lead (also occasionally referred to as “Client Lead”) into the two parts of the definition above:

  • Developing the account strategy – the Account Lead is responsible for determining the short-term and long-term goals of an account. In other blogs and whitepapers, we have referred to Account Journeys (the sequence of pre-planned deals at a given account) and Account Plans (the actionable set of steps to lead accounts on a deliberate journey) – the Account Lead is responsible for creating the journey and plan based on the high-level strategy.
  • Growing the Relationship – Although heavily supported by sales and delivery resources, the Account Lead is also ultimately responsible for executing the strategy. They should be focused on becoming a Trusted Advisor to the account, which provides the ability to grow the relationship and provide enhanced value.  This individual should build a close working relationship with the executive buyer(s) at the account; staying informed of any current engagements so they can represent the current status and value of the engagement and identifying opportunities to provide additional support to the account.

Unlike the other PS roles, the individual chosen to play this role should remain consistent throughout the entire account lifecycle. This role needs to be the explicit responsibility of one individual.  A common challenge that we see in PS organizations is that they are aware of the need for this role but allow the responsibilities to become disaggregated, spreading ownership across different members of team at different points in time.  This usually leads to inconsistencies in the way an account is managed, confusion from the client’s point-of-view, and ultimately the lack of ability to truly maintain a close partnership.

Despite that, the other PS roles  also have an important part to play in supporting the Account Lead and driving the account plan.  The Sales Lead owns securing the next deal, with strategic guidance and direction from the Account Lead. The Delivery Lead ensures that each engagement delivers on the promise and provides value to the client, while keeping the Account Lead informed and involved.  Furthermore, the Account Lead should join – and play a role in – sales meetings and delivery report-out meetings to maintain a presence with the client.

In our next blog, we will discuss the characteristics of a best-in-class Account Lead that enable them to effectively perform their role at and with the client.

Written by: Jackie McMann

Jackie McMann is a Senior Manager at McMann & Ransford with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 clients to transform their business models, develop differentiated portfolios, and inject best practices into professional services.