posted 2 May 2006 in Volume 9 Issue 8
Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships by Ross Dawson
Review by Mark Collins
I confess that I am often easily put off by a book’s title or cover. This book has a somewhat laborious title and a nondescript cityscape on its cover. When it comes to knowledge management (KM) books, I want something I can take back to the office and use, either to sell the idea to others or to guide the implementation of a particular initiative.
So, you may ask, what about this book? Yes, once I got beyond the cover and the title, it was full of real-world insights and practical, detailed case studies. It provides a very useful (some might say crucial) slant on KM for professional services firms. On the downside, it is a little heavy on jargon and theory. A measure of the book’s usefulness, however, is the large number of yellow ‘sticky notes’ that now poke out from my copy, complete with my scribbled annotations.
What’s in the book?
The book is split into three parts. Part one, Client Leadership, defines the author’s fundamental thesis. In the world of professional services, of price pressures and client-driven commoditisation, the better way to serve your clients is, quite simply, to know them better. Understand why they do what they do, enhance your service accordingly, add clear value to the client’s business activity, gain more of their trust and ultimately more of their purse.
This is the crux of the book, but it sometimes gets lost in too much theory, description rather analysis, definitions and diagrams. The best bit about this part (and the book as a whole) is the clear analysis of why this is important – the pressures of the market, the need to compete and how in reality firms should differentiate themselves. Doing good work is simply not enough.
Part two, Adding Value with Knowledge, builds on this thesis and explains how getting to know your client better can add value. This is set out in three chapters – Adding Value to Information, Adding Value to Client Decision Making and Adding Value to Client Capabilities. I found this the least satisfying part of the book. There are no sticky notes stuck in this part. I feel that these ideas could have easily been shortened and incorporated into part one or as a brief introduction to part three.
Part three is entitled Implementation.
Chapters six to 12 cover how to do it and give practical examples of where it has been done successfully elsewhere. These chapters cover how to implement a key client programme, communication, leadership, relationship building, partnerships and new revenue models.
The case studies are all genuine and from named organisations, and are drawn from across the professional services spectrum. But they have obvious application to all sectors. The key is to tailor the analysis and guidance to your market, key clients and your own organisation’s culture and business model. In this part, the yellow sticky notes abound. It provides plenty of detail and plenty of names to ‘Google for further information.
Should you buy it?
Yes, buy it. In his inimitably succinct fashion, Professor Richard Susskind, quoted on the back cover, sums up not only the value but also the challenges of this book: "For those prepared to study and change, [the book] can provide off-the-shelf competitive advantage".
I agree that there is real value here, but for it to be released requires; first, an element of study (not mere reading) and; second, cultural change.
To the persevering reader, this book is a significant piece of work and something that could make the difference between a firm’s profitable expansion or its ultimate downfall. Don’t be put off by the title (or the cover).
Mark Collins is the knowledge partner at international law firm Davies Arnold Cooper. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships: Leadership in Professional Services
Author: Ross Dawson