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In Stave Three of ‘A Professional Services Christmas Carol‘ taking the client’s perspective, we look at the key issues at the forefront of their minds when working with a professional services firm. We further examine the prevailing culture of firms and the effect this might have on junior employees and we highlight some of the issues firms must face up to regarding technological change in the years to come.

At 1am, the church clock wakes Scrooge from his sleep mid-snore. Scrooge notices a bright light streaming in from an adjacent room. He wanders in and discovers the second spirit waiting for him.

The figure, a majestic giant clad in green robes, sits atop a throne made of a gourmet feast. In a booming voice, the spirit announces himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present and orders Scrooge to touch his robes. As he does, the room vanishes instantly and Scrooge appears in the middle of the party to which he had earlier been invited by his client Winifred.

Scrooge notices that many of his other clients are at the drinks reception – wishing each other a Merry Christmas!

Scrooge overhears Winifred talking to some of her senior colleagues: “No, Scrooge couldn’t make it. Apparently, he’s too busy. To be honest, I think it’s time we looked for another professional services advisor in the new year”

“Really?” asks one of Winifred’s colleagues (Scrooge recognises him as the FD of Winifred’s company), “That’s a bit risky – no one ever got fired for hiring Scrooge and Marley!”

“That used to be true, but simply relying on their brand and reputation isn’t enough for me anymore. Their brand name can’t be a substitute for results.

“There’s plenty of smaller, ‘non-traditional’ boutique Firms who are just as capable. I’ve heard they employ alumni of larger Firms and use better technology. I think they’ll also be more cost effective. Why do we need to use one Firm to provide all of our services anyway – we’re more than capable of finding a different service provider for each project.”

“I think it’s time Scrooge put himself in our shoes. His Firm are so difficult to work with and they just seem to be stuck in the past. Yes, they’re a well-known brand but that will not cut it anymore. I honestly think that they still believe that price is an indication of quality.”

“I also really dislike the way Scrooge continues to charge us by the hour. I’d have thought it was obvious to him by now I’m interested in outputs and results, not how long it’s taken them to do the work!

I’m fed up with him allocating people to our project based on who he thinks we can ‘afford’ and not who can most effectively solve the problem! What’s more, the faster they solve the problem for us, the less Scrooge earns – so where’s the incentive for him to be efficient! Also, I hate calling them for advice because I’ll just be charged for the time.

To be honest, he would probably have billed us for his time at this party!!!

I’m sure we can do better. Merry Christmas everybody – thanks for all your efforts this year.”

Scrooge is mortified. Winifred’s company have been a client of his for many years.

Next the phantom takes Scrooge to the home of Junior Associate, Rob Cratchit. It’s still Christmas Eve and Rob is having a heated discussion with Mrs Cratchit. They are both madly wrapping presents. Tiny Tim misses his dad.

“I thought you said you’d be able to leave a bit earlier today Rob – it’s Christmas Eve!” shouts Mrs Cratchit exasperatedly. “I couldn’t help it – I had to submit my time sheet,” argues Rob, “How am I supposed to get my bonus if I don’t meet my targets?

“I’m sorry I keep letting you down. It’s going to change in the new year. I’ve decided that I’m going to start looking for a job somewhere else.

I was told that it was worth putting in all these hours to ‘make Partner’ but to be honest, the sacrifice isn’t worth it. Their culture isn’t for me.

I want to work for a Firm with remote working and flexible hours, that invests in new technology to help its workforce, that gives me the chance to do some professional development and develop skills I’m going to need in my future career. I want to be rewarded for my effectiveness and results – not just how many hours I’ve worked!

There are plenty of new Firms looking to recruit people like me who will let me work remotely and give me the flexibility and freedom I want. Even some of our larger clients are looking to recruit alumni of traditional Firms into their internal strategy groups and management functions”

With that, the spirit tells Scrooge that if Mr Cratchit cannot find another role, given the current conditions in the Cratchit household, Mrs Cratchit will likely ensure there is an empty chair at next year’s Christmas dinner…

Rob’s.

Finally, Scrooge and the ghost find themselves back in the desolate office of Scrooge and Marley. It’s dark, apart from a light shining from the Firm’s server room.

Inside, Scrooge finds the Firm’s Practice Manager, desperately trying to keep the Firm’s legacy IT systems running over the Christmas break and cursing Scrooge under his breath.

Scrooge inquires if nothing can be done to help the poor man. Mockingly, the ghost quotes Scrooge’s earlier retort, “The only ‘charity’ I’m willing to support is the one that ensures my profit share at the end of the year!”

As the clock strikes midnight, the spirit disappears and Scrooge eyes a hooded phantom coming toward him…

Read Stave Four: The Last of The Spirits – The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Image from Flickr “Datacenter Work” by Leonardo Rizzi used under Creative Commons license.

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