Quarterly Update – 1998 Qtr 1

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I have recently begun thinking about the difference between what clients want, and what clients need. This is an important distinction, because a successful marketer provides what a client wants, while a successful professional delivers what the client needs. This distinction is especially true in consulting services, where the client can generally describe a problem and the desired end result, but may not know how to achieve the result. For example, a client with a diverse product line may want to determine product line profitability, but does not know that an activity-based costing project is the service needed.

Process needs can often masquerade as systems wants. For example, a manufacturing client wanted to integrate its manufacturing transactions into its accounting systems to reduce the likelihood of a major physical inventory shrinkage. Although this project was undertaken as a systems integration project, the real need was for a thorough review of the shop floor processes, the transactions created by these processes, and the accounting for these transactions – which a systems integration project would require.

Conversely, process wants may reflect systems needs. For example, a manufacturing client recently asked us to help review and resolve causes of inaccurate production reporting and tracking. Early in our work, we noticed several systems-related issues, including several telltale signs that indicated the client had a much larger problem – a significant, pervasive Year 2000 problem. After confirming this problem, our engagement changed to a system selection project. This type of need – where we are brought in to address one problem, but find another – is hard to predict in advance, and can thus surprise the client.

Perhaps the quality of any service is the degree to which the perceived wants and the true needs of a client are both satisfied. This perception of quality is difficult to measure, so we take a different approach that assesses the delivery of our services. And the only way to determine these assessments is to ask the opinions of the people that matter most – our clients.

To solicit these opinions, our Service Quality Questionnaire was developed several years ago. It is based on examples in Delivering Quality Service and measures items in the following areas:

  • Tangibles
  • Reliability
  • Responsiveness
  • Assurance
  • Uniqueness

I believe that the essence of a true professional is the ability to reconcile what clients want with what clients need, and deliver services that achieve both objectives. This is difficult and challenging, but it remains our goal.


Todd L. Herman

Todd L. Herman

Client Project Update:

I am pleased to provide you with an update on our client projects. Projects we have completed over this period are...

Identified Procedural and System Issues for a Hosiery Manufactuer

Reviewed the inventory tracking and recording for a hosiery manufacturer, identifying procedural and systems issues affecting the accuracy of inventory information.

Implemented Purchasing and Accounts Payable Modules

Implemented the remaining portions of the Purchasing and Accounts Payable modules of a financial suite for a health insurer, assisting the client with process changes, project management, integration, and training.

Evaluated and Summarized Options to Connect Job Sites

Evaluated and summarized options to connect job sites and regional offices to the home office of a janitorial services company, allowing top management to evaluate the costs and benefits of each option.

Developed a Lotus Notes Application

Developed a Lotus Notes application to allow a paper products distributor to send product information to its field sales representatives, reducing the cost and increasing the timeliness of information distribution.

Future projects we are planning include...

Identify, Screen & Evaluate System Vendors

Identify, screen, and evaluate systems vendors for a hosiery manufacturer, helping the company replace legacy systems having significant, pervasive Year 2000 problems.

Implement General Ledger Module

Implement the General Ledger module of a financial suite for an insurance company, assisting with process changes, interface design, project management, and user documentation.

Enhance Functionality of Budget Template

Enhance the functionality of a Microsoft Excel based budget template for an insurance company, allowing managers to easily budget operating expenses, estimate the quantity of cost drivers for key activities, and describe the linkage of expense and cost drivers to the department and company operating plans.

Track New Customer Programs

Design and develop a Lotus Notes database to track new customer programs for a printing company, allowing previously separate quote and order entry documents to be shared securely and to be easily tracked and updated.

Request New Vendors

Enhance a Lotus Notes purchase order application to allow users to request new vendors for a real estate operating company, enforcing consistent information in these requests and using workflow to enable vendor approval and creation.

Enhance Lotus Notes Budgeting Database

Enhance a Lotus Notes budgeting database for a university, enabling a form to be used over the Web and thus allowing department heads to efficiently prepare key budget information using a browser.