Some Local Authority ICT units tell us they sometimes struggle with other departments pigeon-holing them for offering a particular service. This can cause them to work reactively and not always to the full extent of their ability. Given the chance, they believe they could contribute greater solutions and be more proactive in the support they give colleagues. The challenge though is how to change the way those departments see them.
As a reaction to this, a number of ICT units are altering their focus to change the perceptions of others. Their first step is to view those departments as ‘clients’. From this perspective, they plan an approach which seeks to build a closer relationships with their clients — one which:
- Helps them understand the priorities, challenges, future plans and ways of working that the client department is experiencing
- Puts them in a stronger position to anticipate requirements and plan solutions that meet these
- Helps them to organise their resources more effectively due to an earlier involvement in projects.
So how are such relationships formed?
We’ve seen some units start by asking who are their key clients and allocating specific teams to developing a relationship with each one. This enables the unit to focus its time and energies more effectively and manage an often numerous client base more efficiently.
Fundamental to relationships are people and the trust and esteem they have for each other. In having dedicated individuals allotted to specific departments (and usually chosen for their potential fit with that department), the units start to offer continuity and greater insight for their key client contacts.
Having formulated their dedicated clients teams, the ICT units then formulate plans to get close to each client. This may involve a communications campaign — feeding specific client contacts with information to build their interest so they want to talk to the unit’s representatives. Other clients may be already happy to talk to the unit and bring them up to speed on their challenges and opportunities.
Either route leads to a situation where the client team invests time to get to know the client. The success of this dialogue is often aided by training the team in client relationship management techniques and skills. The information they gain helps the client teams to start to develop the most appropriate solutions. In doing so they maintain regular contact with the clients to check that they’ve understood the requirements correctly, check for any changes and keep them informed of developments.
The positive feedback these units are gaining from their clients, demonstrates that the time and energy they are investing in key client management and client relationship skills is paying off. They are involved more strategically and are able to be more proactive about their work. They are being seen in a new light.
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