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This issue of Notable News comes with a range of stories that we hope will help you as the economy transitions from white water rapids to calmer flows over the next several months. That's why we've focused on the economy. Most likely, both you and your clients have felt the effects of this wild ride, and now it's time to look at what the future will bring.
Below you'll find a look at economic trends and what they mean for consultants and their clients. Then we'll take a more detailed look at the current and future transformation of the consulting industry - and what you'll need to do to remain competitive. We'll also be talking with Bill Enloe of Los Alamos National Bank to get his take on the banking industry and his recommendations for consultants working in this sector.
So take a few minutes during your day to read the stories that interest you most. And don't forget to take a look at the monthly joke - we could all use some laughs!
|HERE'S THE BEEF
| Simfony Beefs Up its System Mapping Process TM
Six months ago, we started revamping our five-year-old System MappingTM online process, from top to bottom. Now our Questionnaire and Snapshot System MapTM are better than ever! For those of you using our process, expect greater flexibility, better data collection and the ability to work with up to 20 demographic groups at a time. The process still has the same great easy-to-use graphic interface, but now it's even more attractive, with a sleek, streamlined look.
But wait! That's not all!
On March 15th, we will unveil our next phase: the Action Planning System MapTM. This System Map will allow you to take a closer look at your clients' issues, determine the impact those issues are having on the entire organization, trace the root causes and complete an action plan to deal with those issues. A complete process - from interviews to action plan - within two weeks. All this with the same great graphic interface that makes it easy-to-use and easy for your clients to understand.
For those consultants who want to become certified, we will begin training for the Action Planning System MapTM, as well as our updated Questionnaire and Snapshot System MapTM, during our April certification. To celebrate the launch of these System Maps, we are offering 20% off of the certification fee to the first 20 consultants to sign up. Sign up now by clicking here.
For those of you not familiar with our System MappingTM
process, click here
for more information.
|The Party's Over - And What a Headache!
If there weren't so many lessons to learn from the last decade, we'd be better off taking a couple of aspirin, forgetting all the economic pain and continuing with our lives. The problem is that there is much to learn, and the way forward will be very different from the decade we just left behind. As Neil Irwin recently wrote in the Washington Post, "The past decade has been the worst for the US economy in modern times, a sharp reversal from a long period of prosperity that is leading economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation's growth."
Let's reflect back, for a moment. In 1999 we thought we had aced all things economic and that recessions were troublesome things of the past, things we no longer had to worry about. Housing was booming, consumers were relying on loans, credit cards and home equity to purchase the latest techno toys and McMansions. Life was good, the ground felt solid and, as everyone knew, house values could only go up.
Fast forward to today.
According to many economists, the biggest lesson of the decade is that debt is not a bottomless well from which to build equity. To return to stable footing, debt must be controlled and managed responsibly, whether you are on an assembly line or the CEO of Bear Stearns. Sustainable growth only happens when the fundamentals are followed: capital should be used to fuel business to increase economic output and job growth. Instead, capital was used to fuel bubbles, and unemployment is now soaring.
Student of economics will be analyzing the cause and effects of the last decade for decades to come, and there will be more insights into how we ended up where we are now. But the fundamentals won't change. Although things are looking up, we have to ask ourselves: have we learned the big lesson or are we heading toward another bubble?
But what does today's economy mean for consultants? As businesses begin to pick themselves up and take stock of their current situation, they will need consultants who can see the big picture. They will want to know what areas of their company need support and what issues are holding the company back. Simfony's System MappingTM process is ideal for these types of problems. Because it's based on Systems Thinking, its emphasis is on "whole company" sustainable solutions, not partial band-aids. And because it is a real-time process, your clients receive relevant information when they need it.
|The Transformation of Consulting
What a ride! The past ten years have seen the consulting industry ride a roller coaster of changes that are not likely to end soon. Think of the demise of Arthur Anderson, the slashing of consultancy fee rates, the ups and downs of demand for consultancy services, the devastating economy, and on and on. Take a deep breath, then take a look at what the future holds.
Fiona Czerniawska, author of six books on the consulting industry and a recognized authority, has pointed out some trends that we also see on the horizon. Most notable to us is the focus on value. According to Czerniawska, value pricing is a key to surviving the changing industry. Instead, many consultants are scrambling to get work and are offering deep discounts of the well-worn time and materials model. This has several ramifications for the future, the most obvious being that the model actually devalues a consultant's services. But how do you compete with a value pricing model - one that prices a client engagement according to the value the client receives - if you can't measure that success? Measurement then becomes crucial to value pricing.
Another trend is collaboration. In the future, there will be less emphasis on the one-stop consultancies and the mega projects as clients look for multi-sourced specialists to handle aspects of a project. This is already happening. The consultancies who are able to form strategic partnerships with other specialist firms are the ones who will benefit from this trend. They will be able to offer their clients a solid team with the skills their clients actually need, and provide more value.
Innovation is another key piece of the future puzzle. The past 18 months in particular have been frightening to consultants as they try to hold on to their clients. But this is not a good time to fall back on the tried and true. Clients are grappling with finding new ways to cut costs and make their businesses more productive and competitive, and so should consultants. If you don't, someone else will. Technology offers a myriad of possibilities as companies become more global and internet-sophisticated.
As companies continue to outsource and become more global, understanding how to work with diverse teams scattered across the country - and the globe - becomes more important. How do you consult to management clients when half their team is located in the US and the other half is in Asia? And how do you deliver your services consistently to these different groups? Understanding how to include the correct technology in your toolkit is key.
So, what do these trends tell us? It's time to think outside the consultancy-model box and reframe the industry.
Simfony is a great fit with the changes we are seeing in the marketplace today. Our web-based System MappingTM process enables you to get better, faster and more reliable results for your clients. In addition, it allows you to measure real change within any organization, a key to value pricing and an important component for your clients.
Being a member of our consultant ensemble allows you to collaborate with other consultants who are innovative and forward thinking like you. Because the process is web-based it transcends distance and makes remote collaboration on projects easy, whether your consultants are located in different states, different countries or different continents.
Now, that's a real competitive edge!
A Look at the Financial Sector: What's Changed?
Even those consultants working closely with clients in the Financial Services industry may find the turmoil of the last 18 months to be confusing. What help do these financial companies need? What has changed, and what do consultants need to be aware of when working with these companies in the future?
To find out the inside story, we talked with Bill Enloe, President and Chief Executive Officer of Los Alamos National Bank, a prominent regional bank in New Mexico. He has a wealth of experience in the Financial Services sector and is a graduate of the School of Banking at the University of Colorado. In 2008, Mr. Enloe was appointed to serve as a director for the Federal Reserve Board in Denver.
Here's what he had to say:
The last two years have been tumultuous for the Financial Services sector; what do you think the industry has learned from what happened?
I am not sure the industry has learned anything new. I think the community banks will continue to serve the markets they have served in the past with few changes. The large international banks conduct a different business altogether. Those international banks' business models have more do with currencies, government, mergers and securitization than traditional banking. They will continue that business and develop new instruments to accomplish their transactions.
What we have learned is that international economies are intertwined more than ever and that mistakes that large financial institutions make can cause a worldwide depression. Yes, I said depression. The only thing that averted one this time was quick and dramatic intervention by governments in many countries to shore up the large intuitions that made these mistakes.
I would like to say the large institutions have learned their lessons and will not repeat these mistakes, but I do not believe that. The only way we are going to prevent a reoccurrence of this type of activity is the development of a strong international regulatory system. I have seen no indication of that happening. Most countries agree a regulatory system needs to be established, but they have not been able to agree on how to accomplish it.
How do you think this will change the way that the industry operates?
Congress and the regulatory agencies have been aggressive in addressing some of the problems that developed from the overstimulation caused by the wide use of derivatives such as MBS's and CDO's. They were funded in large part by abusive underwriting in 1-4 family real estate loans. The loose and fraudulent underwriting has been stopped and I believe the more stringent underwriting will remain the standard into the future. The financial institutions that participated in loose and often fraudulent underwriting activities will have to find other ways to make money or go into new areas of lending to survive. The investment companies that created the securities and insurance instruments that facilitated the selling of those mortgages will also have to find another way to make money. Many of them have already closed or have merged with other companies to survive.
I think the rest of the financial industry will be required to hold significantly more capital and be less leveraged then they were in the past. These requirements will slow growth and inhibit merger and acquisition activities. Financial institutions are also going to be restricted on the levels of concentrations they have in different loan categories. This will also slow growth rates for many companies.
As CEO of a banking organization, what do you see as the major challenges facing your bank and other financial institutions in the year ahead?
Our major challenges will continue to be similar to what they have been in the past. Finding the best people to work for us is paramount. Our ability to understand our markets and provide the products our customers want is more complicated than it ever has been. This unprecedented recession has changed buying habits, created distrust of financial institutions, changed the competitive landscape and increased regulatory demands. It will take a very smart and dedicated staff to successfully navigate through the next five years.
From a client prospective, what advice would you give to business consultants working in the Financial Services sector about what they could do to meet the demands of the industry?
The successful consultants will be able to succinctly demonstrate the value they bring and be able to quantify the benefits to the bank. A thorough knowledge of the industry, the organization's history and financial condition. A dynamic approach to the new environment, and a plan on how to take advantage of the changes. I know that is a tall order, but as the industry changes so must the individuals that support it. The good ones are always ahead of the curve.
|THAT'S A LAUGH!
The Shepherd and the Consultant
It's good therapy to share a joke, especially when we can laugh about ourselves. Here's one to add to the growing list of "consultant jokes."
A shepherd is looking after his sheep on the side of a deserted road when suddenly a brand new Porsche screeches to a halt. The driver, a man dressed in an Armani suit, Cerutti shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses, TAG-Heuer wristwatch, and a Pierre Cardin tie, gets out and asks the Shepherd, "If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?"
Curious, the shepherd looks at the man and replies, "Okay."
The man opens his laptop, enters a NASA Webster, scans the ground using his GPS, opens a database with 60 Excel tables filled with logarithms and pivot tables, then prints out a 10-page report on his high-tech mini-printer. He turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1,586 sheep here."
The shepherd smiles. "That's correct; you can have your sheep."
The man makes his pick and puts it in the back seat of his Porsche.
The shepherd watches quietly, then asks, "If I guess your profession, will you return my animal to me?"
The young man answers, "Sure, why not."
The shepherd says, "You are a Management Consultant from a top consultancy."
How did you know?" asks the surprised man.
"Very simple," answers the shepherd. "First, you came here without being called. Second, you charged me a fee to tell me something I already knew. And third, you don't understand anything about my business . . . Now can I have my DOG back?"
If you have a favorite joke you'd like to share, please
. If we choose your joke to publish in our newsletter, we'll send you a nifty flash key.
If you are an organizational consultant looking for effective, sustainable results for your clients, we can help. Simfony's Suite of Solutions offers dynamic, real-time tools to give you that critical edge. Like a conductor, you will be able to hear, see and evaluate your client's business and rapidly identify ways to enhance its performance.
If you have questions about our System MappingTM process, check out our FAQs and Case Studies on our website. Or, better yet, give us a call or ;
we'd love to hear from you.
|20 / 20: SAVE 20% ON CERTIFICATION
|To celebrate the launch of our newly updated System Maps, we are offering 20% off of the certification fee to the first 20 consultants to sign up for certification in April. Consultant certification will take place on April 14-16 at La Posada in Santa Fe, NM.
Click here to sign up for our April Certification.
Click here to find out more about Simfony's Consultant Certification.