Just couple of days ago I came across with an interesting post by Mary Abraham from the Above and Beyond KM blog. She raises the very important issue of best practices in her post called Just Tell Me What Works! We can see a lot of different best practices all over the Internet for every discipline, but the question is: “Should we blindly follow those best practices?”  We don’t know the author of this best practice and even if we did know them, they wouldn’t provide any guarantees on whether we should use it or not.

We had an interesting discussion with Mary regarding this issue in comments to her blog post. I strongly believe that the best practices are mostly not just there to be followed blindly but rather to help us open our mind to new ideas on what can be changed.

­­But what should be done if the person (or company) is lacking experience in the field where they want to make some improvements? The potential risks of doing something wrong are pretty high, so the best practices might be useful, but still you have to think twice before you follow them.

But for those who already have some experience, best practices are also useful. As you have some experience you likely have invented some useful practices so you should share your best practice. By sharing your practice you can even improve it, as you will get feedback from other professionals.

Regardless of your experience I think that best practices shouldn’t be followed blindly. They could be followed exactly the way they’re written but you have to be sure that every single step of these best practices will gain the desired result within your particular organization.


McKinsey, one of the leading consulting firms for various industry practices, posted its survey on how companies are benefiting from Web 2.0 just recently. This is the third annual survey and nearly 1,700 executives from around the world responded this year.

There are lots of comments on this report in the blogosphere and I want to add my own, but I would still recommend you read the report on your own and form your own opinion about it.

One of the findings I was a bit surprised by is this:

Regardless of industry, executives at companies that use more Web 2.0 technologies also report greater benefits. Comparing respondents’ industries, those at high-technology companies are most likely to report measurable benefits from Web 2.0 across the board, followed by those at companies offering business, legal, and professional services. Companies with revenues exceeding $1 billion—along with business-to-business organizations—are more likely to report benefits than are smaller companies or consumer companies….

IT executives, in general, are more focused on using Web tools to achieve internal improvements, while business development and sales functions often rely on the technologies to deliver better insights into markets or to interact with consumers.

In my opinion, small companies should benefit more from the adoption of Web 2.0 tools. With their small structure, it is more likely they can integrate wikis, blogs, and collaborative suites into their workflows. Here is Oliver Marks’ comment on the fact that big companies are reporting more benefits of Web 2.0 adoption:

The bigger question—and the challenge for the new generation consultant community of which I am a part—is differentiating from these more conservative players to demonstrate greater business value. The DNA of older firms like McKinsey have ‘old school’ written large throughout, but the new game of identifying and delivering business value in the specific ‘Web 2.0 in business’ context is rapidly changing what businesses seeking competitive advantage are looking for.

Web 2.0 tools adoption of Professional Service Firms 2.0 will be a key differentiation for them and enable a new level of Client Collaboration: being responsive 24/7 and engaging clients for collaboration throughout the entire interaction process.

I posted my thoughts on Professional Service Firm 2.0 just recently. The idea of PSF 2.0 is becoming more and more realistic. But there is a huge gap between just a regular firm with its email, phone and fax, and a brand new and innovative service provider with plenty of Enterprise 2.0 tools and employees all over the world. How should this switch be made?

Enterprise 2.0 implementation is always an adventure! The CEO is thinking, “How innovative will my company be?” The CTO is thinking, “Yeah, this is really a cool thing!” The investors are happy that the implementation costs nothing because a SaaS product was chosen. Everything looks fine? We have forgotten about the regular employee who wonders why he should use online sharing tools when he can send a file via email, and why he has to publish his report online, instead of just sending a Word doc.

Implementing Enterprise 2.0 takes time and energy and enormous commitment from everyone involved. To make the implementation process smoother, the application chosen for some types of specific business needs must be fine-tuned exactly. Of course you can dig with an axle, but it won’t be as effective as if you use a spade. As Aaron Fulkerson of MindTouch says, “…social software is not solving business problems.”  So be sure each of your tools is simple, straightforward and has a user friendly interface (especially if you are going to interact with your clients using this tool).

But the main switch should be made in your mind. Thomas Watson from IBM once stated, “How long does it take you to create in business? One second!” One second only to make this little switch in your mind, but it could happen that this second will be one of the toughest seconds of your life. You are one second behind PSF 2.0, so just sit down and start using Enterprise 2.0!

All of us are living in the Web 2.0 era (OK, not all of us; there are still a very few guys with paper and pencils) and there is a lot of talk about it. Web 2.0 is a really cool thing. I like it, I love it and do you know why? I love Web 2.0 because I am doing only what I want!

But getting back to business, I found an interesting interview with Elizabeth P. Kessler, Partner-in-Charge of Jones Day’s Columbus office, by Albert W. Driver, editor of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. In the article, “We Are All About Client Service,” Albert asks questions on general topics but the best answer is about company history and culture. A company with 2,400 attorneys in 32 locations all over the world working as if it is a single office – now that is cool!

We don’t have satellite or branch offices; the office in which a Jones Day attorney is located does not matter. By dialing five digits I can call someone in Dubai or the office up the hall. <…>Clients can call me and I can connect them with someone in Milan or Shanghai. Being able to accommodate clients’ needs so readily is quite an asset.

This, it seems, is how Professional Service Firm 2.0 should work. So what does PSF 2.0 look like?

PSF 2.0 has no individual offices – instead there is a virtual office with a physical address for mail (find one at www.regus.com). PSF 2.0 has its own virtual phone system with no operator required (try www.ringcentral.com), but employees prefer to use Skype for their daily communications. PSF 2.0 employees care about the environment – this is why they are not printing business cards; instead they have LinkedIn for keeping their business contacts in order.

Their software has also changed. There are no longer MS Office applications (sorry, Bill). There is only one app – Firefox! Instead of Outlook there is Gmail. Instead of MS Word/Excel there is Google Docs. But some of the workers are still using MS PowerPoint… (Bill is happy). Companies are no longer buying software packages; instead they are subscribing to SaaS products.

PSF 2.0 is using tons of apps called Enterprise 2.0 – an easy to use product that helps with sharing, discussing, publishing and whatever a person wants to do with it. For a better understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is, please take a look at the presentation called “Meet Charlie: What is Enterprise 2.0?” by Scott Gavin. It was originally published something like three years ago, but remains current, with some updates on online collaboration tools.

Enterprise 2.0 had a huge impact on the business process itself, and actually Enterprise 2.0 made possible the new concept of PSF. How about you? Do you want to try the new way of providing extraordinary service by gathering the best professionals all over the world?

Often we evaluate service provided while standing behind counters. We evaluate the service our firm provides while sitting in a cozy chair in our office. I don’t think that your clients do this the same way because they seldom are sitting in your chair. This is why we have to put ourself into clients’ shoes in order to find out how your service looks to them.

Reid Trautz, the author of Reid My Blog!, shared his tips on improving your practice. In his article in the current issue of the ABA’s GPSOLO magazine, Reid shares his thoughts on topics such as Financial Management, Technology, Marketing, Office Systems and Processes, and, of course, Client Service.

The Client Service part is my favorite one:

  • Walk through the front door of your firm as if you were walking in as a client for the first time. What do you see? What do you feel? Go step-by-step, from the initial greeting through the end of the appointment. Are you satisfied with what you see, hear, and feel? What changes can you make to improve your clients’ experience? Draw up a list of improvements to make over the next few weeks or months.
  • Create an online client satisfaction survey and ask your clients to complete it when you send them your end-of-the-case thank you/disengagement letter.
  • Review and revise your engagement letter to meet ethical standards, and eliminate legal jargon. Read your jurisdiction’s ethics rules and craft your agreement to meet or exceed these standards.

It seems that there is a very good test to see how your evaluation of your service differs from your clients’ feelings. Go to point #2 of Reid’s tips and create survey, either online or offline, fill it out on your own, and then compare the results with your clients’.

Let me know how big the difference is!

“…two of the most spectacular successes in digital communication, e-mail and instant messaging, were originally designed in the ’60s to imitate analog formats.”

This is how Lars Rasmussen started his presentation, and then he asked, “What would e-mail look like if we set out to invent it today?” There will be tons of answers at Google’s I/O Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. But I like his answer the best!

His answer is Google Wave. It isn’t just another web application; it is a completely different category for how  people can communicate. I was impressed by its features! It is a powerful combination of e-mail, chat, wiki, photo sharing and whatever you can imagine. Google definitely has taken a great step forward in communication.

Many reviews already have been posted on the Web, so I am not going to repost Googles’ entire presentation because it is hard to describe what they did. Take some time to look at their presentation. I am sure you will be impressed, just like I was.

I am reading a lot of blogs that are mostly about client service. Unfortunately, there are few such blogs so I also read a couple of niche blogs for some professional services verticals. So why am I writing this post this way?

A week ago I came across a blog post of Dan Hull from WAC? about e-mailed thank you notes. Dan shows the importance of handwritten thank you notes. He is absolutely right about it! But don’t run to the nearest stationery shop to purchase some stuff.

As you know, I am a fan not only of client service blogs. One of the top positions is held by Matthew Homann from The Non Billable Hour . Matthew shared a very interesting service with us in his post Looking for Cool Ways to Connect with Clients? -(STOP)-. Have you ever thought about sending your clients telegrams?

All of us are used to email, instant messaging and skype calling. We like to send sms and to surf the web from iPhones and probably some of your clients are recieving handwritten thank you notes. But imagine old style telegrams! If you are brave enough to suggest your clients use online collaboration vs email discussions, be brave enough to send your clients telegrams in some cases. I am sure they will say a lot about you and your company to their friends!