The Client/Consultant Relationship: An Interview with Mark Crist, Part 3
This is the third in a three-part series of interviews with Mark Crist, Chief Delivery Officer, 1218 Global. The series explores the critically important client/consultant relationship and how to properly balance resources, maintain open communication, and deliver successful implementation and upgrade results.
Mark’s career began on a dual track of Human Resources and Information Systems at The Stroh Brewery Company in Detroit, Michigan. Starting with the company as a Programmer/Analyst, Mark quickly grew through the ranks to the position of Vice President, Human Resources and then Vice President, Information Systems and Services. In 2000, Mark became Vice President, Information Systems at Staffmark in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Mark helped steer the organization through the replacement of its aging legacy systems to the newly released PeopleSoft Staffing Solution. It was during the course of this project that Mark met and worked alongside many of the core team of individuals who make up Regents Consulting Group and 1218 Global.
Mark began his consulting career at Crestone International in 2004. He joined Newbury Consulting Group in 2006, focusing on project management and delivery and also leading many large project implementations and upgrades. In addition to direct project management, he also functioned as the head of implementation services overseeing pre-sales implementation strategy, coordinating new project and team startups, and providing on-going project team guidance at multiple clients. In 2011, Mark Co-Founded Regents Consulting Group and in 2014, advanced to Chief Delivery Officer, 1218 Global.
What do you say to your team when launching a new project?
It really depends on the overall make-up of the team. We like to pull everybody in to talk about basic needs such as client office locations, airports, hotel accommodations, and the travel rules that are in place for the project. Everybody needs to clearly understand what is included in the scope of the project and what is not, and also what each person’s role is. For example, we will identify a PayBill Functional Lead who will be working hand in hand with the client’s functional resource. Those connections and responsibilities are made early in the process. It’s all about setting the stage for people so they’ll know exactly what they need to do and with whom they will work.
We also discuss specific client rules that are not immediately obvious such as only eat in the cafeteria, not at your desk or be sure to use the words “professional services” in place of the word “staffing”. We are very cognizant of our client’s culture and want to do everything we can to respect it.
Describe the dynamics of a Project Team in action
The people I work within the 1218 Global Family of Companies are very, very good at what they do. I don’t have to tell them how to do their jobs. They know their jobs. Especially, the people who have been working together for 10 or 15 and in some cases 20 years. We have a special working relationship. We know how we react and how we do things. I generally do not lay out a lot of ground rules. I do want everybody to know that my door is always open. It’s not unusual for a Lead or anybody on the project team to come in, close the door, and tell me they just need to unload a bit. If it turns out that there’s something we need to address, then, we will address it. Oftentimes, though, it’s just being able to talk through an issue that gets things back on track.
Our job is to come in and help solve client problems. We are there to implement as well as integrate systems and be a change maker for the client. Clients typically want some form of transformation to take place. Our people believe in that and they go in with the attitude that they have a job to do, they need to get it done, and they need to push forward to deliver the best results. This requires that we tell clients like it is and we are very truthful and transparent in our communications. There are some clients who embrace that, who love that. There are others who live in a more political environment where political points have to be earned and there seems to be opposing sides everywhere you turn. It’s very difficult to get things done in that kind of environment. For us, the bottom line is that we are there to help. We are there to tell them the truth. And, we leave the internal politics to them.
If I can, I want to unburden our client from unproductive team angst that might arise. For example, let’s say that during the design phase, one of our consultants believes that the team should go in one direction and another disagrees. Those differences in opinion should not take place in front of the client. I want to get that resolved as a team. The team needs to reflect on the issue and make a decision on an approach that can be presented to the client as a recommendation or as available options. When issues come up, the team works through them together. Then, we can engage in a dialog with the client as to what option we’re going to take.
One thing that I have found productive in an active project is getting our Project Managers or Leads off-site once in a while with their client counterparts to a dinner environment or somewhere relaxed where they can talk about how things are going on the project or in life. It adds personal equity to the project and strengthens relationships within the team.
In the end, a successful installation is a direct reflection on the strength and effectiveness of the team that drives it. It’s a fun part of my job to see our consultants and our client working together. There are always things to deal with, issues to resolve, and problems to solve. But, when there is a spirit of cooperation and support maintained throughout the life of the project, there can really be no doubt that a successful outcome will be achieved.
If you would like to get in touch with Mark, please send him an email to email@example.com