When all's said and done and it’s time to pack up and leave, what do we leave behind?
There is a real difference between a purely transactional engagement with a client on the one hand – delivering on the commercial agreements and exiting at the conclusion confident in the knowledge that a quality outcome has been delivered – and a more strategic relationship with enduring value and benefits.
As a professional services organisation, we know that to be successful, we have to exceed mere contractual obligations and provide additional value that meets clients’ increasingly sophisticated expectations. Our clients have increasingly sophisticated expectations of the ICT capabilities that underpin their business services and so we need to search for those sometimes elusive elements that demonstrate we are better than the rest, that value beyond the letter of the contract is delivered, and that those elements are recognised after the project or engagement is over. So what can – and do – we do to be better, to challenge the norm, lift the bar and delight our clients? What do we leave behind?
Taking a variety of forms
One of those enduring differentiators is sharing and embedding knowledge within our client organisations. This can take a variety of forms, one of them being the provision of supplementary outputs that enable the client to be more self-sufficient. Take for example an application Proof of Concept testing project where Assurity was engaged to run and monitor a set of performance tests to assess the behaviour of the application under test. The agreed scope was to develop a performance test plan and test scenarios, implement the test environment monitoring solution, execute the plan and analyse and report on the results. This scope was delivered, along with an immediate supplementary cost benefit realised through identifying that the client already owned a fully licensed fit-for-purpose tool, negating the need for additional spend on software licences. It was apparent though that the client did not have the capability in-house to use the tool to run future tests. Rather than leverage this dependency on external capability, the Assurity team responded by developing and providing a handover pack for the client.
The pack – created outside of the engagement scope – contained the installation package, execution instructions (including videos) and Assurity’s workload modelling overview and performance testing requirements templates. This enabled the client to be self-sufficient in running future tests to perform objective comparisons and evaluation of the impact of further changes made to the application, and is an example of embedding and sharing knowledge in the client organisation. The handover pack and internal capability were left behind.
Sharing and growing
Another model is where sharing and growing knowledge and capability within the client organisation is fundamentally part of what we do and why we’re engaged. This typically comprises a variety of KPI’s to measure and track the benefits inherent in sharing knowledge among the co-located supplier and client teams with the purpose of elevating the client’s internal capability. The scorecard approach focuses on a number of key areas, including Continuous Improvement, education and knowledge sharing.
This drives and encourages constant consideration of opportunities to improve the way testing is done, to innovate and positively challenge established approaches and methods, and to actively find new and better ways of delivering better outcomes in support of strategic business objectives. With this approach, the strategy is to work alongside the client teams to build their internal capability, to increase productivity, knowledge management and retention, and to improve internal economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
This is driven in through a variety of forms including tips, techniques, tools, methods, informal learning, formal education and a regular assessment of progress in achieving the desired outcomes. This way of working becomes a way of life and is not something that happens when time permits (when does time ever permit?) or as a separate phase of activity. Coaching and mentoring for both teams and individuals is a core element of embedding new skills into the internal capability, giving them the confidence to apply new techniques and prove their benefits. The by-products of an engagement like this are in the valuable and less tangible assets associated with the relationships and trust that builds, the values that are shared and the culture of innovation and discovery that is encouraged. It’s amazing to witness the transformation when the right skills are applied at the right time and in the right place in an environment where there is a desire to learn, adapt and grow.
Sharing and embedding knowledge in our client organisations allows us all to grow and creates a valuable asset. “Knowledge is power, and knowledge shared is power multiplied” (Robert Noyce). Leaving something behind isn’t a loss, it’s a journey and a discovery and it’s what we do and why we exist.