Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 3/2/12

by Jeff V. on March 2, 2012

Can a Consulting Company Have Soul?

If most people’s experience is any indication, you’d think such a notion is totally bananas. In a lot of ways, consulting has become a bad word, synonymous with expensive, often mediocre talent, political finger-pointing and projects that might finish on time and within budget, but don’t meet the organization’s goals. Selecting a consulting firm is too-often a price-driven endeavor, a mechanical gyration used by CIOs and IT Directors to get help on a project that can’t be approached with internal resources alone.

The game is typically a grinding selection process on which many people stake their names and, sometimes, reputations. It’s getting 120-page RFP responses from a dozen vendors, not having the time to really read any of them, and creating a decision matrix from your vendors’ pricing tables and resumes at 10 PM the night before orals invites. Sure, every vendor hopes you read the RFP responses cover-to-cover, as if they were as entertaining as a new Stieg Laarson book, but we know that doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. Who has time to read thousands of pages?

It’s because of this analytical, rushed, political selection process that companies don’t consider the soul of a consulting firm. Soul might seem a crazy word to toss around in this context, but hear me out: soul begets culture, and culture begets character. When your project is ripping through milestones and nearing go-live, these things matter. They matter more than many people realize.

They matter most when it’s time to confront difficulties or make hard decisions to keep the project on track.

We could take you to lunch and tell you all the times we lost a consulting deal to a cheaper competitor, only to be called in when the project is in flames and people are cancelling vacations because of nearly-daily project implosions. We come in, clean up, and gently tell the stakeholders that price can’t be the only decision driver for consulting help on key projects. Like anything else, if you play exclusively off the bottom line, you just might get what you pay for.

We’ve talked on this blog about our culture — a mix of big-shop talent and methodology mixed with boutique accessibility and communication — dozens of times. We’ve gone on and on about one of our key precepts: our abilty to tell our clients what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. We’re often apolitical in the larger sense, and we’re thanked for it continually — our testimonial library grows monthly.

But a lot of that doesn’t matter to a lot of people. We think that’s too bad, because when it comes to successful projects — on-time, under budget and actually aligned with the company goals — the gods often live in the details.

How does culture translate into client satisfaction? Ambiguously, you say? You’re right — unless you do something to put a metric on how effectively ‘soul’ can be measured in terms of happy clients.

Which we’ve done since day one.

We poll our clients twice a year with the Net Promoter Score methodology, which asks them one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend MIPRO Consulting to a friend or colleague?” The answer scale is ranged 0-10 (not at all likely to very likely), and from the aggregate answers we get a percentage score. Anything over 50% is considered excellent, the rarified air of customer satisfaction.

Our most recent score was 76%, which places us between Apple and Costco in terms of happy clients. Nice company to keep, yes?

For an Oracle consulting shop, it’s amazing. After all, we don’t make iPhones or sell amazing pasta sauce in 24-jar flats. We’re boring, remember?

Or are we?

Unanimously, our customers thank us for being a distinct departure from the consulting companies they know. They call us ‘human’ and ‘accessible’. Many still call us a key partner, even though their project finished long ago.

We don’t get 76% on our NPS score because we’re the cheapest. Or because we take buyers out golfing more than anyone else. We get it because we started this in 2005 with culture and soul as a cornerstone, and people are noticing.

If all this sounds crazy to you, well, you’re probably not alone. If you want to simply chat with us to see what we mean, drop us a line. Let us know what you’ve got cooking. Maybe we can help, maybe we can’t. But we’re always happy to talk. No sales pitch, no BS.

So, all that said, you’re probably here for some good Friday links, which — finally! — we have right here.

Jesse Thorn’s 12-point program for absolutely, positively, 1000% no-fail guaranteed success.

The popularity of Apple’s FaceTime video calling has encouraged a Washington D.C.-area plastic surgeon to create what he calls the ‘FaceTime facelift’, designed to specifically address how people look on video calls. Is it me, or does this remind anyone else of David Foster Wallace’s immortal words on the vanity of video calling?

Julien Smith’s excellent Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books. Great summaries in 140 characters.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Pez March 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Very nice. Well said. Honest. To the point. True. Folks, I sure hope you read this and are NOT a past or present client of mipro. Why? Because if you were, you wouldn’t need to read this to know it. The part that strikes a chord with me is that hideous RFP and ensuing selection process. What a joke for most organizations. You really need to consider “what will make this project successful?”. And I tell you, it is not the price. The price on any proposal is never the actual price paid. So don’t bother. We finally got to a point where price became a factor in our scoring matrix, but a very low factor. And we added a “fit” category that became one of the m popular discussin points. Most companies look for a good “fit” when hiring employees, but iforget to consider it when hiring consultants. Why? I argue that is even more important since it’s typically a higher profile decision. No fit leads to confusion, frustration, in-fighting, and implosion. This was immediately noticeable the first time I met the mipro team. And it worked out great for us. Even though I am no longer at an Oracle shop, I still stay in contact with hopes I can utilize them in the future…and maybe for that lunch you mentioned!! ;-)

Chris Pez March 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

…note to self…don’t make long blog comments from your smartphone, especially typing frantically because you are so passionate about the topic.
Here is a redo as I’m a little embarrassed by my seemingly incompetent typing and grammar skills…

Very nice. Well said. Honest. To the point. True. Folks, I sure hope you read this and are NOT a past or present client of mipro. Why? Because if you were, you wouldn’t need to read this to know it. The part that strikes a chord with me is that hideous RFP and ensuing selection process. What a joke for most organizations. You really need to consider “what will make this project successful?” And I tell you, it is not the price. The price on any proposal is never the actual price paid. So don’t bother. We finally got to a point where price became a factor in our scoring matrix, but a very low factor. And we added a “fit” category that became one of the most popular discussion points. Most companies look for a good “fit” when hiring employees, but forget to consider it when hiring consultants. Why? I argue that is even more important since it’s typically a higher profile decision. No fit leads to confusion, frustration, in-fighting, and implosion. A great fit was immediately noticeable the first time I met the mipro team and it worked out great for us. Even though I am no longer at an Oracle shop, I still stay in contact with hopes I can utilize them in the future…and maybe for that lunch you mentioned!! ;-)

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