Do you need someone on your side?
When you are dealing with a website, IT system provider or marketing agency, you and your managers may be very clear about what you need, but not always satisfied with the results.
Many businesses report:
- A system or website falls short of their requirements or has become dated and expensive to improve
- If they had known about alternatives, they would not have wasted money on X development
- Because of their supplier contract, the cost of making changes to their website mount up due to seemingly endless revisions
- Its very hard to tell if the business will get value for money from a given web development, or marketing through Social Media for example
- Ultimately, when looking to build a new website or customer quote and buy system, who do you trust?
SME’s are at a disadvantage
People are experts in their business specialisation, but often need independent help to understand what is available if they are looking for business tools, web systems and online marketing services. Its very easy to become reliant upon promises made by a consultant from a systems vendor who is rewarded for making a sale rather truly understanding your business. Equally, questions surrounding internet security, and potential exposure to hacking has now become a concern at board level due to new tougher penalties for the loss of personal data.
Question. Do you think it might be a good idea to get a second opinion from people who are experts in their field before investing in a system or web development?
This is a difficult area for many small to medium size businesses, They cannot afford to employ specialists to only deal with issues that come up from time to time. Companies will engage lawyers and accountants to independently examine a new contract or deal. They can have external experts on a retainer to look at regulation and to keep their compliance processes FCA friendly. However, even prudent businesses will often leave the definition and delivery of a system upon which the business depends, to an internal project team running a tender process.
Question. Would you like to ensure that your project team has truly explored the options available to them, rather than just what they have been told (sold) by prospective providers?
Many project teams complain of ‘mission creep’ as the system they first defined becomes compromised with an ever growing list of requirements. Most of these additional requirements develop as part of a learning process within a company. It leads to a growth of understanding regarding what is possible and the improvements a new web or IT system could deliver. How much better would it be to know this from the outset.
IT managers, who are precise people by nature, despair of endless mid and post project requests, particularly from marketing and operations people (sorry), who seemingly ask for an extraordinary number of changes and add on’s that were not specified at the outset.
Question. Before your company is ‘on the hook’ for a given system, would you prefer an expert to tell you how the system actually works and offer you an independent opinion as to its efficacy?
People rarely buy a car without checking expert reviews. They like to know they are buying the right car and would not just rely on what the dealer told them. However, virtually everyone you will speak to about a system, or on-line marketing campaign, is on commission or has a financial interest in the sale. The same frequently applies to system changes and upgrades. It is also very hard to negotiate with an existing provider when the subject is technical and the other side know infinitely more about it than you. What you need is expert help on your side, in short an advocate.
Advocates make sure you are heard
It is possible for the voice of the business when explaining it’s requirements to be drowned out by talk of exciting new possibilities put forward by the vendors and become overwhelmed with the technicalities. You need to be heard.
Conversely quiet negotiations with system providers can be frustrating because they frequently present things in their terms, that simply do not match your understanding. At times is seems they are speaking a foreign language. You need someone to interpret for you and to ensure the message you want to convey gets through. However, the value of a true client advocate is to help you avoid costly mistakes resulting from such misunderstandings or failures in communication.
A day of research by an advocate working for you, followed by a discussion about their findings, could offer you the insight you require to cut through the chatter and avoid your business making a serious mistake. For example, this may not be the system itself, but related to internet security, which could prevent you from doing business with certain underwriters. Does your company use social media effectively, or has it been relegated to the latest intern to manage? If so, you may have unwittingly created a regulatory and reputational risk that could be nipped in the bud with the right process.
Client advocates at work
The main trigger for hiring a client advocate is business change. You want someone on your side when dealing with issues that are important to your business, especially when you, or a member of your team, are not experts in the subject. For example, this can be the case when specifying a new system to replace existing processes, or building an on-line business model to launch a new product. Because there is always a time imperative, it is easy to rush into a potentially expensive ‘me-to solution’ without appreciating all of the implications. Most importantly, you need to understand the alternatives that are available, and any compromises due to budget.
You want assistance to understand the business risk and the potential impact on internal processes before making a financial commitment. On other occasions, you may simply need an advocate to sort out a costly contract with a supplier and to be ‘in your corner’ when dealing with the nitty gritty of renegotiation.
Some client advocates are called in to deal with specific issues, others to undertake a quality check and then assist a team write a specification for a new system/website/on-line marketing strategy. Ultimately they are there to make your business more efficient and save you money.
Client Advocate service
Jointly with Areoff.com, Dennis Haggerty Consulting offers an advocate service for small to medium size businesses that need help with web sites / systems, internet marketing and social media.
Whilst offering joint expertise in these areas, to avoid any potential conflict of interest, neither will tender or offer to undertake the work / development they recommend. They will help manage these into your business, working alongside you and your team in areas where they can add value. Such as; identifying and explaining options, specifying systems, websites, customer journey, content marketing, social media and negotiating with suppliers.
During February 2015 they are offering a free service to Protect Association members to identify issues with member websites. This is a free offer to raise the profile of their advocacy service with Protect member companies. Please click on the following link for details: Free offer for Protect Association members
Examples and how much
To see instances of the different type of Client Advocacy work please use the following link. This linked page also gives you several examples of how Client Advocacy works and typical pricing. Please go to Client advocacy in action