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Service Firm Business Propositions

Among his many brilliant insights in Managing the Professional Service Firm, former Harvard Business School Professor David Maister suggested that clients expect, and service firms offer, varying business propositions based on the nature and scope of projects. Maister developed simple distinctions among these business propositions into a comprehensive analytic and structural framework that guides the entire spectrum of firm management. Although not specifically geared to the application of digital tools to practice, Maister's analysis easily supports well-informed technology strategy selections.

Projects that require first-time solutions to new problems or innovative solutions to old problems are best handled by service providers who emphasize expertise or brain power as their principal business proposition. Other projects, by their complexity and/or specialized nature, are best handled by folks with extensive prior experience in that project type (a quality Maister characterized as "gray-haired"). Clients with projects for which solution options are well-established, well-documented or, in Maister's terms, procedural, tend to seek efficiency as their service providers' principal business proposition.

Others have adapted Maister's expertise/experience/efficiency trinity to the specifics of AEC and infrastructure firms: most notably in the "strong ideas, strong service, strong delivery" formulation of the Coxe Group and in the "specialist, producer, generalist" approach espoused by Ellen Flynn-Heapes at the SPARKS Center for Strategic Planning.



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