Professional services strategic_planning_for_today_jun2011


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For Professional Services Firms the rules of strategy setting are different. Without knowing the differences instantly sets your firm into a dilemma and causes untold damage to turnover and growth as well as individual partner/director career development.

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Professional services strategic_planning_for_today_jun2011

  1. 1. Professional ServicesStrategic Planning For TodayBy CEI ComplianceFor Professional Services Firms the rules of strategysetting are different. Without knowing the differencesinstantly sets your firm into a dilemma and causesuntold damage to turnover and growth as well asindividual partner/director career development. Lee Werrell CEI Compliance Limited
  2. 2. Strategic Planning For Today By Lee Werrell FInstSMM Chartered MCSI CertPFSTypically, many professional services firms are often so preoccupied with assisting their clientswith regulatory issues, business demands and time pressure issues that they lose sight of theirultimate business objectives. With major landscape shifts on the horizon with the RDR, move of theFSA to the FCA as well as the backdraft of the banks financial crisis and governments austeritycombating measures, is precisely where a facilitated business review for the preparation of a strategicplan is more than a virtual necessity; it is a critical necessity. Corporate Strategy may not be a recipebook for any professional services company and their success, but without clear direction, planning,awareness of external impacts as well as internal issues, partner/director career paths, fiscal andresource crises, as well as staff and HR challenges a business is much more likely to fail.The main problem with most professional services and their strategy setting is that if you took theirstrategy statements along with about 50 others, they will almost all be interchangeable and will, otherthan branding and stylizing provide a bland “to target this type of client in this industry/sector andprovide them with this level of service.” Not that there is anything wrong with the intention and thereis nothing wrong with the goals being written clearly. The problem will arise where they all have thesame client list to target, all have the same service offering in that industry/sector and all aspire toprovide an exemplary level of service.Often failing in what our American brethren would say is “Strategy Setting Course 101” whereby thegoal is to provide a set of actions consistently to make the firm’s service or support more valuable toclients than that of the competition; you can see that they have barely turned the front cover.The support you receive from CEI Compliance Consultancy is targeted at corporate development,corporate strategy planning, strategic managementand strategy consulting and will involve the following.  Planning: strategic thinking and strategic business planning identify where the new opportunities lie.  Positioning: Strategy consulting gives your company the insight to be perfectly placed to exploit each opportunity to the full.  Process: putting in place a strategic management process ensures that your company is constantly primed to use events to its best advantage.As the cat in Alice in Wonderland states; “If you don’tknow where you are going, it doesn’t matter which roadyou take.”A sound plan should be simply that once a desirablemarket, level of engagement and market size isestablished and defined, the firms must then turn to the not so straightforward task of decidingspecifically how it will compete.This would mean, to the more astute of you that the time has come to move away from the marketingtactics, intelligence, research or other evidential gathering mechanisms and move to a more creativeStrategic Planning For today Page 1
  3. 3. Strategic Planning For Today By Lee Werrell FInstSMM Chartered MCSI CertPFSand innovative methodology. It is time to concentrate on the internal, operational, administrative anddelivery systems so that clients can derive additional and thus pertinent and relevant benefits over andabove the competitors offering.Below we will provide potential areas that may provide more value to clients but not to create a“perfect” answer for all the areas, but pick on two to five areas that they understand they are lackingdynamism in and brainstorm the ways to perfect these areas to provide a perceived extra value to theirclients.Your strategic plan should not be confused with a business plan. The former is likely to be a shortdocument whereas a business plan is usually a much more substantial and detailed document. Astrategic plan can provide the foundation and frame work for a business plan, providing vision andidentify the gaps and obstacles that the business plan needs to address.A strategic plan is different from an operational plan. The strategic plan should bevisionary, conceptual and directional in contrast to an operational plan which is likelyto be shorter term, tactical, perimeter focused, implementable and easily measurable. As anexample, compare the strategic process of planning a holiday (where, when, duration, budget, whogoes, how travel are all strategic issues) with the final operational preparations (tasks, deadlines,funding, weather, packing, transport and so on).A clear, carefully stepped corporate strategy invigorates your business, energizes your team andputs your long-term goals within you and your team’s reach Basic Approach to Strategic Planning I challenge you to disagree, but there is a tendency in professional firms to augment their strategy development by inputting the desire to focus on new things. These range from new markets to new clients; new services and products and even opening new premises (the panacea of expansion at all costs). Most of these activities are designed to, but usually fail in, providing additional revenue, substantial additional profitability or increased market share due to some convoluted formula that dilutes existing markets and redistributes the share to the new venture.Most fail to realize that without specific expertise in those areas, a strong support to the newproducts or services plus the periphery requirements of resource, licenses, IT etc then for most itmeans redeployment, reallocation and reduced work on their core business.The key element that most firms overlook is that the attitude and focus as well as behavior of thepartners/directors will also need to change significantly to make radical changes which are at bestdisruptive and uncomfortable for most people and at worst politically charged and disruptive toexisting teams and career plans of senior management. All the sound and considered reasoningcoupled with strategic diversity and suggested actions are usually merely pebbles thrown in a pond,and like the ripples made, soon forgotten.Strategic Planning For today Page 2
  4. 4. Strategic Planning For Today By Lee Werrell FInstSMM Chartered MCSI CertPFSSo what should we target?This is a suggested list that can be adapted. It is not intended to be exhaustive and can be extendedaccording to your needs.Table 1-1  How can we develop an innovative approach to attract the best hires so we are seen as employers of choice and providing higher caliber solutions over our competition?  How can we develop distinct and innovative ways to manage our assignments/ contracts/projects so we are more thorough in delivery yet maintain accuracy?  How can we best train our staff to understand client perspectives and maintain meaningful dialogue with our clients, effectively providing a counseling advice service?  How can we lead with skilled and specialised people that are perceived as extremely valuable subject matter experts to the market and our peer group?  Can we become more valuable to our clients in the marketplace by listening to what they say and what they don’t say: understanding their business as well as they do?  How can we ensure that our professional technical advisers and consultants become more valuable to our client by increasing their breadth and depth of knowledge?The Biggest MythSorry to report this, but the strategy in a professional services firm is not best set by the seniormanagement in a top down exercise. That may well be the best way for industry and productiondivisions, but where each partner/director is in control of their subdivision or team and they maynot necessarily buy into a strategic plan set by their peers and fellow professionals. The variancebetween subgroups and their specialties will be such that there will be a level of interest initially,then as soon as an element does not apply or is difficult to adapt, the whole plan is dropped andthey all return to business as usual.Additionally different disciplines will also clash, such as a litigation department of a law firm willwant different things to the family law or conveyancing division. You would find it extremely difficultto find any professional services firm that was considered by their clients to be vastly superior in allaspects of their service compared to other firms. Dictating strategy from the top down andexpecting whole firms and their sub-practices or disciplines to all develop the same way, will bedoomed to failure before the ink is dry.Additionally the move would be foolhardy as the different practice groups have alreadydifferentiated themselves to a degree, by working in their recognized fields in such a way thatexploits or leverages on their different offering. To force them to all toe the line and operate as asingle front with new and changed business practices, would quickly result in an exodus of thepractice heads and their teams.Simply put, in these businesses, where a professional service is being offered, the best strategicplans are those formulated by the professionals that are carving out the practice and their careersStrategic Planning For today Page 3
  5. 5. Strategic Planning For Today By Lee Werrell FInstSMM Chartered MCSI CertPFSwithin that work. These should not be given free rein to come up with their strategic plan, butrather facilitated with probing and thought provoking questions to help them understand what theirunique points may be.Table 2Again this is not an exhaustive list but the stance of Devil’s Advocate helps test and challenge therobustness of the plans. Questions along the lines of;  What special or unique capabilities do you have or plan to obtain that your closest competitors will be unable to match?  What makes them so unique?  What do you have to do to put these capabilities in place?  What do you think the clients will like about your changes?  What field testing or evidence do you base it on?  Who is responsible for implementing each component/stage of your plans?  Who was involved in this development? Who was consulted/not consulted?  What three main criteria are needed for this to work?  What are the closest competitors likely to be developing and how do you propose to counter this?  If they come up with a really clever angle, how will you leverage that idea? How quickly?  In what way do you see that you need assistance from across the firm?  How will you contribute to other parts of the firm with the lessons learned?  What are the staffing implications of your approach?  How will you know the plan is working? What evidence will be produced and when?  What could go wrong and how will you tell at an early stage?These questions need to be asked after the first pass of the team’s strategy planning and then theyshould be sent away to prepare their responses for use at a second meeting. When all of thesepoints have been challenged, answered and accepted for each team, the management is now in aposition to offer selective investment/funding to help the best of the opportunities and to confirm ahigh level plan for the company.The whole process of strategy setting in this way provides a level of responsiveness for theorganization that is rarely equaled by any other company in the same marketplace. Most companiesare staffed by people that have come from large companies and will always revert to their comfortzone of installing a strategy on everyone.Returns are Many FoldNot only will have you have an edge over the competitors that are funding new offices, expensiveStrategic Planning For today Page 4
  6. 6. Strategic Planning For Today By Lee Werrell FInstSMM Chartered MCSI CertPFSrecruitment campaigns and posturing in the market purporting themselves as experts in their newfields, but a second, more fundamental and better benefit is obtained, whilst at the same timebringing better commitment and “buy in” from the practice heads.Each practice head is always planning their career, building it to provide a better future forthemselves and their clients. By utilizing this methodology, each practice head is more focused ontheir team’s development, achievements for themselves, and healthy competition within the firm aseach head tries to better his peers.There is no point in diversifying and spreading yourself too thinly as a company unless you have theresource and skills to capitalize on a niche area. By re-engineering what you already have to providea better level of service, support or advice to clients will also lock them into your new caring,streamlined and efficient systems that they would never even think of leaving you. Companies we have been involved with in the last 10 years; CEI Compliance can help provide a full compliance support service, reducing required management time, ensuring all areas are up to date and working for your firm’s long term benefit. Call 0800 689 9 689 today or go online at This whitepaper was written by Lee Werrell FInstSMM Chartered MCSI Cert PFS, founder of CEI Compliance Limited. Avoid S166 Skilled Persons Reports – download our free guide hereStrategic Planning For today Page 5