Measuring the 3 Fundamentals of PS Success

One of the first questions I usually get asked when I start talking about professional services is "how do you exactly measure the success of a professional services team?". For some reason, many organizations find it difficult to measure professional services teams.

Some organizations measure PS much like any other profit center: purely on the dollars generated by PS work. It's definitely an objective measure, but there are many confounding variables that make measuring profit exclusively an exercise in folly. Consider this: your client could pay you for the work you've completed, but if your team's work is shoddy, response slow, and attitude poor, the money you book for that project will be the last you will ever see from that client. If that client does not want you to step foot in their office again, then that measurement is terribly short-sighted, and objectively useless as a measure of a successful PS engagement.

Let's take a look at the polar opposite of the above example. One of my colleagues was so trusted by her client that, on the eve of the client's major app release, she was approached by the client to help solve a problem with their own in-store app. The app had nothing to do with her work with the client, but the client had such a high degree of implicit trust in her ability to solve problems that they would rather entrust her to fix the problem than their own internal team. A couple months after solving that problem, she and her team was invited to their headquarters where they were feted with a quarterly partnership award. The high level of implicit trust developed and maintained by my colleague was instrumental in a continuous cycle of identifying and solving business pains.


That's a great success story, but how can we objectively measure how she was able to achieve that level of success?

In my first post, I outlined the 3 fundamental principles of a great professional services team (what I affectionately call the PS raisons d'être). They are:

  • Understand the true client pain, 
  • Objectively solve that pain as the client's trusted advisor, and
  • Build long-lasting partnerships

It dawned on me: if those are the core principles of professional services, then our measurements should be based on them.

(It's important to note that what we're doing here is measuring team success, and how well we are tracking to those fundamentals. What we're NOT doing is measuring individual performance or skills... which would be another great article for the future.)

To keep a PS team on track to fundamental success, we can keep asking ourselves the following questions based on the three fundamental principles: 

1. How well are we in diagnosing client pain? 

Client pain isn't always evident. Often, the true pain lies beneath the initial ask and requires an astute inquisitor to question over and over again until the root pain is established. We can objectively by asking: 

  • Can we accurately identify why a client has asked for a particular solution, or are we just delivering what they are asking for mindlessly?
  • Can we cite a client's root objective and how they are being measured, or are we simply defining success as getting the project done and delivered?

Measuring the above is as simple as answering yes or no. It becomes a fairly objective metric to run down a list of clients and their projects to figure out if we are taking client requests at face value or truly understanding what the client needs to succeed. 

2. Are we being objective trusted advisors in solving client pain?

When a solution pitch turns into a sales pitch, it turns off our clients because it seems as though we're ignoring their pain and steamrolling them with a predetermined solution. Remaining objective and honing in on solving client pain is critical to gaining client trust. To that end, we can objectively measure ourselves by asking:

  • Are our solutions actually tailored to solve the client's core problem, or are we trying to fit a template solution for a problem that doesn't call for it?
  • Are our solutions well-planned to anticipate future needs and problems, or do they devolve into uncontrolled and uncomfortable scope changes?

Doing a good job here means that we understand the root pain of our clients, and our solutions don't cause more headaches in the future. 

3. Are our clients coming back for more, regardless of circumstance?

A telltale sign that we are tracking well on the third fundamental is if our client continuously approach us with new challenges. Think about it, if they keep on saying "You're doing a great job right now, so let's just keep the status quo", they could very well be stalling for time while they find another trusted advisor. Objectively measure the strength of your long-term partnerships by asking:

  • Are our clients continuously challenging us with net-new problems that have material effects to how they are being measured?
  • Do our clients approach us with problems that seemingly have nothing to do with our core competencies because they implicitly trust our ability to solve any problem?

Measurements are successful if they are easily understood and simply measurable. If our team knows how they're being measured and see metrics that are challenging but achievable, those measurements become motivators. Measurements don't have to be an enigma... it helps to have clear fundamentals to measure against.