Engagement Management: Superhero or a Villain?

By Drew West

Your firm’s superhero system wears a cape—not a mask. Who’d want valuable and trusted information kept incognito?

Imagine key information flying across Metropolis (your firm) with everyone gaining instant insight—like the exact cash flow status, the top revenue-producing engagements, or even the kinds of clients or services that drag your firm down. Imagine the action you could take with this kind of information.

The problem is—information in many firms today is seen as a villain, far from the superhero firms need it to be. But the REAL villain isn’t the information—it’s disconnected, ill-fitting systems that keep valuable insight hidden, forcing data conflicts across information silos, and pushing your people to make well-meaning yet misguided decisions instead. (Lois Lane is always found in some unplanned predicament—why let inaccurate information turn someone into your firm’s Lois?)

You could read all about it in the Daily Planet. Or, perhaps you’d rather trust a recent survey Deltek and Consulting Magazine jointly conducted, in which 50% of firms claimed to have 3 or more administrative or project-management systems. With so much information in so many different places, it’s time to oust the fragmentation villain in return for a connected, superhero approach to more profitable engagements, accelerated cash flow, and even happier clients.

See what makes a superhero management approach for your firm:

X-Ray Vision | To See Everything
Firms seeking profitable outcomes need complete visibility across clients, projects, resources and financials. But villainous fragmentation separates people from information. Managers can’t know true WIP status if time is recorded in a separate system.

Or business developers can’t determine service capacity if resource information isn’t connected to the opportunity forecast. Better is bringing all this information together into a single view of the organization. A true superhero approach connects the front-office with the back office, and gives everyone easy access to current work, past results, and even future forecasted business. Imagine how much more planning accuracy everyone—from staff to management—can have with appropriate self-service access to trusted information any time, anywhere.

Super-Human Strength | For Total Control

Unnatural boundaries between information and results nefariously guide your people to less-than-profitable decisions—bad tactical choices like accepting a change request or selecting high-cost engagement staff, or even misguided strategic decisions like cultivating unprofitable service lines. Without knowing that a high-cost resource replacement pushes the engagement over budget and under expected profit margin, who wouldn’t choose the best available talent?

The superhero approach connects decisions with results—even across the boundaries of service lines, offices or multinational locations. These connected cause-&-effect relationships establish structure, enforce discipline or trigger alerts – bringing total control over outcomes. Imagine the wiser decisions made by a consulting manager who, facing a staffing issue, now easily sees WIP status against the engagement budget, and is alerted that anticipated margin has fallen below an acceptable threshold. The connected approach swoops in to save crashing margin, guiding the manager to a best-choice, lower-cost resource.

Deep Wisdom | For Unmatched Knowledge
Redundant and conflicting data is rampant across fragmented management systems—a villain appearing as non-billable meeting time spent resolving information. And any kind of meaningful reporting must first be preceded by complex data extraction from a nasty web of information silos. Data, once reorganized from its original context, has no way to connect decisions with results—so deep insight stays tied to a chair.

A connected, superhero approach once again saves the day—by quite simply centralizing the entire firm’s information into a single repository of past results, current work and even future business.

From this “fortress of fortitude,” anyone can easily drill deeply into the data, connecting the path of decisions leading to the results—the kind of deep insight firms need to constantly improve results. Becoming a connected “superhero” firm can be much easier than descending from some obscure red planet. Look to management systems built especially for consulting organizations, designed to maximize the value of your people, their work and their time. Many of these are now available in the cloud—lots less difficult than changing in a phone booth, yet available almost as quickly.

Take a look around your firm to see where “villains” might be hiding, and consider a connected approach to makes yours a truly “superhero” organization.

Drew West is the Director, Product Marketing for Deltek.