The Chief Commercial Officer as a Growth Differentiator Part 2

In our previous blog in this series, we introduced the notion that the Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) role is a growth differentiator to enable businesses to harness the entire commercial power of the organization. Given this premise, the roles and responsibilities of a CCO differ between a Chief Revenue Officer (i.e., Sales Leader) and the Chief Marketing Officer. Please note that this comparison does not mean that one role is more important than others; rather it is intended to highlight the key differences between them.

The Expectations of the CCO

To get us started on the differences between the 3 roles, let’s focus on what is expected of the CCO. Organizations expect their CCOs to be transformational and drive value in at least three main ways:

  • Synthesize and act on information across internal and external functions/stakeholders, while addressing the complaints/issues that affect the ability to get meaningful revenue.
  • Fill a gap in the CEOs’ own commercial experience, particularly when a CEO did not come from a go-to-market role and therefore wants a stronger voice in charge.
  • Address a rapidly shifting world and market. Buyers do their own due-diligence and competitors rapidly replicate new product improvements, fueling the commoditization cycle to a pace never seen before.

Hence, successful CCOs hold all the pieces to leverage a consolidated commercial strategy. They direct how to interface with the market, what portfolio to pursue, the go-to-market model, and the organizational structure that creates revenue. In other words, the holder of this position is involved with the entire product/service cycle and the development of the associated strategies beginning with R&D and product development, transitions to marketing and sales, and finishes with customer experience and customer service.

Aren’t the Responsibilities the Same as a Chief Revenue Officer (i.e., Sales Leader)?

In short, the answer is “no”. Traditionally, the Chief Revenue Officer is tasked with deploying a team to best meet the revenue objectives of the business. This includes the overall organization of the sales team, usually encompassing the:

  • Design of the sales team mix of direct sales, inside sales, channel/partner, etc.
  • Alignment of the sales team to geographies, products, services, or segments
  • Enablement of the sales organization (training, tools such as CRM, focus, goals)
  • Compensation plans and bonuses
  • Sales leadership development and structure to support the sales people and deals
  • Management of the pipeline and deal flow
  • Communication of forecast to corporate leadership and broader organization

In general, the Chief Revenue Officer is focused later in the product/service cycle than the CCO, where sales are actively being made or solicited. They are tasked with growing revenue through developing short-term actionable strategies that pertain to selling established products and/or services to new customers or upselling to current customers. In summary, this role is directly associated with one important strategy of the company – the sales strategy.

Aren’t the Responsibilities the Same as a Chief Marketing Officer?

In short, again the answer is “no”. Traditionally, the Chief Marketing Officer is tasked with deploying a team to best meet the marketing objectives of the business – grow the business through marketing and outreach. This includes the overall organization of the marketing team, usually encompassing the:

  • Design of the marketing team structure
  • Company’s advertising and branding strategy and plan to support and enable the selling strategy
  • Approval of marketing campaign ideas and coordinating marketing efforts with the company’s financial and branding goals
  • Market research studies and analysis of the results to better understand the market and customer tastes
  • Pricing strategies
  • Selection of the most lucrative marketing channels and curate company content to tell a compelling brand story
  • Analysis of revenue sources and predict how advertising could help them generate the highest possible return on their investment

In general, the Chief Marketing Officer is focused on designing and implementing strategies that 1) support the selling cycle for current products and services and 2) inform the portfolio strategy for future products and services. In summary, this role is directly associated with one important strategy of the company – the marketing strategy.

Some readers may take offense and/or disagree with these role generalities. Again, the point we are trying to make is that although these are included in the broader Chief Commercial Officer role, the CCO through his or her cross-functional and departmental influence, has additional responsibilities and associated metrics. The CCO owns the vision of how to create and focus revenue over a longer period. CCOs’ typical responsibilities span across commercial functions: From research and development to product management and strategy, to strategic and tactical marketing, and sales. To execute on this expanded charter, the CCO requires additional tools and capabilities as well. This integration removes barriers and gives the CEO one point of contact to drive commercial success.

In our next blog on the CCO role, we will share some of the more explicit strategic questions and aspects that a CCO is tasked with addressing to drive growth for their organization.

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.  

The Chief Commercial Officer as a Growth Differentiator

Driving organic growth is consistently one of the top goals of for-profit businesses or organizations. Other goals such as quality, customer and employee satisfaction, research and other investment, cash flow, and capital deployment are also important depending on the industry and customer expectations. However, many of these goals are ultimately derived from a healthy growth profile that is a key focal point for increasing a company’s valuation.

The Growth Dilemma

The typical growth path is to 1) provide a unique, differentiated product or service that meets an unmet need in the market and then 2) leverage that initial success to extend into an adjacent product and service, and so on. At some point, however, that initial growth curve begins to flatten as competition and commoditization sets in. Therefore, companies must:

  • Move their business model from “simple” (i.e., sell products and related services) to a more complex one (i.e., services and solution-led, services-followed, services aside, etc.) to maintain and/or reignite their growth curve.
  • Recognize and accept they are on a longer strategic journey that is more than making a few acquisitions to become a technology focused company (i.e., software).

The Need for a CCO

The introduction of the Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) for companies both small and large has resulted from the need to help businesses harness the entire commercial power of the organization.  Before the advent of the CCO, sales responsibilities were (and to some extent, still are) centered on the Executive Vice President of Sales or “Head of Sales” who reports directly to a key C-level leader in the organization like the CEO or COO.  At first glance, the responsibilities of the CCO and sales leader seem similar. However, there are key differences in the roles beyond reporting structure and elevation to CxO status.

The Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) is key to addressing the uncertainty in the B2B market and guiding companies through the growth challenges of a complex marketplace. The position’s existence attests to an organization’s need for a single leader focused solely on the commercial side who can orchestrate all the moving parts – strategy, innovation, product development, marketing, and sales – across all platforms, both digital and brick-and-mortar.

The Role of a CCO

The CCO is a different leader in the sense they have the skills to design, build, and implement a new business operating model that spans numerous functions and drives outcomes across multiple – and new – metrics. For example:

Business/Operating Model Changes Business Impact
Portfolio strategy

Segmentation of markets and accounts

Complex accounts and account management

Simultaneously run multiple sales motions – complex solutions, transactional, services-led, etc.

Update talent and human capital

New product/service/solution launch

Growth: revenue, margin, market share

New Logos

Reduced churn, leakage

ROI improvement on Go-To-Market, marketing, sales force, product and service development

Improved access to customer executives

Improved customer intimacy and consistency in the commercial life cycle, thus improving the customer experience

The Chief Commercial Officer should be the internal strategist and external spokesperson for how the company interfaces with its customers to drive current and future growth. The CCO’s interaction and contemplation on customers is not only financial or growth-driven but holistic.  The CCO looks at account relationships and positioning, customer executive-level bonding (i.e., customer intimacy), and offering and product footprints at clients and in the marketplace.  They are truly the chief in charge of the revenue model and its execution for the business.

In our next blog, we will share the expectations of the CCO and how the role and responsibilities differ from a Chief Revenue Officer (i.e., Sales Leader) and the Chief Marketing Officer.

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.  

The PS Dilemma of Managing Just-In-Time Talent – Part 2

As discussed in a previous blog  (The PS Dilemma of Managing Just-In-Time Talent), leveraging a Just-In-Time (JIT) Professional Services (PS) Talent staffing without having a corresponding operating model can lead to increased risk to both delivery excellence and financial performance.

Smoothing the natural peaks and valleys of a JIT model is key and many manufacturing organizations have accomplished this via their manufacturing/assembly facilities – i.e., their Factory, which is defined as a person, group, or institution that continually produces a great quantity of something specified in a predictable and efficient manner.

Overcoming the Dilemma – A Factory Model as “The Way Out”

Therefore, we believe the best way to reduce the JIT PS Talent model risks is by leveraging a “factory” model. Factory success requires defined standards, tools, methods and processes, and your JIT PS Talent Factory model will include:

  • Organizing and documenting Service Offers into Playbooks to provide a clear plan for how the delivery teams will operate, stay focused, be organized and accountable and get things done
  • Making visual/video content available on-demand to enable JIT delivery resources to obtain key project delivery refreshers
  • Providing checklists, “cheat sheets” and other simple reminders that are easily accessed and leveraged
  • Continuously managing a Talent Pipeline while forecasting customer demand
  • Core business processes and infrastructure to enable and support the model: e.g., Professional Services Automation application, project management, COVID requirements, pricing/cost models, direct vs. 3rd party, standard contracts/Statements of Work, etc.

Lastly, the model and all the operating components should be configurable so you can adjust and ensure optimized and repeatable results for you and your clients. The visual below depicts a summary of these elements working together:

In summary, a Factory with playbooks, visual content and standard checklists make it easier to manage a dynamic JIT PS Talent staffing model on a repeatable basis by:

  • Defining roles, responsibilities, and decision rights of the Book-to-Bill business process
  • Pre-defining the repeatable and known installation/implementation “plays” to allow your core key experts to focus on 1) the unique client situational exceptions rather than training newly formed teams on every activity and task on a project plan and 2) client management
  • Having clearly defined talent needs for each step
  • Onboarding contracted SMEs more efficiently

Results include:

  • Improved financial performance
    • Time to revenue for both your organization and your clients
    • Improve margins
  • De-risked delivery: Start at getting involved early with sales and account teams – true PS value is the execution piece and anything PS can do to shape deals and educate sellers is ideal; frees up capacity and reduces non-billable time
  • Freed up leadership time to work on the business rather than in the business – e.g., define and plan for aspirational goals of the PS business
  • The potential to create new lines of business and revenue streams (e.g., staff augmentation, PS-as-a-Service) by leveraging the foundational investment of having a “more ready and available” bench

In our next and final blog on this topic, we will provide a Factory construct example and an approach to take to apply this to your business.

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.  

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.