Tools for Professional Services Managers

I've been transitioning some of the operational parts of the business to our team lead. This has given me reason to review the tools I use to manage the Professional Services organization. There's one tool that I use above all others - something I pick up many times in the same hour even when I'm not in the office.

A checklist.

A checklist is a easy to understand tool - there's some words, and a check box. The checklist doesn't interfere with the work and doesn't need training. I can also see if I've finished a task, and thus not worry if I've forgotten something for a client. This matters when managing a dozen clients or projects in the same day.

My particular checklist system is somewhat sophisticated. It runs on my watch, my phone, my tablets, and my various computers. If I were in the habit of carrying a notebook, I could have achieved the same level of sophistication with paper. What matters is that there's one master copy and it's always available.

There are three reasons a checklist works for managing most client interactions with a Professional Services organization.

Most clients engagements are similar and need the same basic set of tasks. 
    * Schedule the gig
    * Assign the consultant
    * Remind the customer when the consultant is arriving
    * Remind the customer about any prerequisites
    * Remind the consultant about any unique bits in the Statement of Work
    * etc. 
It's possible to develop a simple template that covers all the permutations for a given line of business. I've also developed boilerplate copy & paste emails based on what's worked before. New lines of business get new checklist templates only once there's enough common tasks.

A checklist also forces a certain degree of discipline, because the tasks must be complete a given due date. Many of the routine tasks associated with a client are dull and dry. It often doesn't matter how I feel about a task, provided the task is compete on a given day before close of business. It's possible to thus look at the checklist and then batch dull tasks for late in the afternoon. Tasks that need more attention or a phone call can thus be scheduled for early in the day when I have executive function to spare.

The last advantage of a checklist is that it's possible to see when a task was finished. This matters for PS Managers who are also members of a Project Management Office and need to report on their tasks to the client. Being able to report on the date a task was done makes producing a weekly progress report easier, with minimal overhead.

Consider starting with simple tools first if you're an individual Professional Services Manager. I've yet to need much more than a checklist for managing ten direct reports and several subcontracting organizations. 

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