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How Consultants Capitalize on Social Business
September 8, 2012
Alan Radding, Big4.com Guest Blogger
(A book is the best way to build a consulting practice: ask about ghostwriting your book)
Consultants increasingly help their clients utilize social networking in their own business as a professional service, which promises to be a growth opportunity going forward. But consultants also can adopt social business technologies to enrich their own professional practices. Or, ideally, leverage the experience as a social business practitioner to help other businesses master social business.
This is the lesson you can take from McKinsey, which transformed its own consulting engagements process using social technologies, specifically IBM Connections 4, for rapid asset reuse and access to customers in real-time. Today McKinsey’s social deployment involves 30,000 users enterprise-wide. It allows them to better capitalize on best practices and collective intelligence by organizing communities of interest. As a result McKinsey consultants can respond faster to their customers and gain access to them sooner, often in real time. The upshot: improved productivity along with greater reuse of intellectual property.
Social business pays off. A contractor using IBM Connections saw a 50% improvement in sales efficiency through social business. A manufacturer cut product development time to market by one-third. IBM even drinks its own Kool-Aid when it comes to social business. The company reports over $110 million in annual savings from leveraging social capabilities in service of clients. Still others are tapping gamification, a variation on rewards and incentive programs, to spur efforts to achieve goals.
A large insurance company, for instance, found that social business could handle its demanding compliance issues even as it was facilitating better customer communications and interaction. It actually could achieve real-time compliance at the transaction level. Thousands of its financial services agents were communicating directly with clients through social networking while all the communications could be audited, archived, searched, and accessed. Compliance satisfied.
For consultants, of course, project management is a natural for social business. It combines communications, direct interaction, and information to not only manage the project in nearly real time but to enable the team to perform the work of the project at the same time.
Social business gives consultants five capabilities they have never had before, at least not at such a large scale:
- In-context views of critical activity—see what’s happening and all the related information in ECM fashion
- Engage with and respond to customers and prospects in near real-time—enables project to advance faster and progress more smoothly
- Expand the scope of your interaction and activities on behalf of customers and prospects—this happens by building a 360-degree social view of the customer and the related communities of interest, both inside and outside the organization
- Engage and interact anytime, anywhere, through any format—social encompasses all forms of mobile communications, applications, and data
- Gain instant access—receive and deliver the expertise and content needed to resolve an issue or capture the opportunity now
Admittedly, some of this doesn’t sound appealing. Social exacerbates the blurring of boundaries between the consultant’s professional and personal life. This, however, is nothing new to consultants, at least not since the telephone and pager arrived on the scene decades ago. You will have to learn to set limits and enforce boundaries if you haven’t already.
On the positive side, social enables you to engage and collaborate with customers and partners in richer ways that have not been practical before. In the end, you stand to do more and do it better, which can be immensely satisfying and rewarding.