Consulting and service firm roles

Service firms, like attorneys, accountants and business consultants have a simpler set of roles as compared to manufacturers.  Because they tend to be Task Cultures, each person's role is defined by their particular skill and skill level.  Projects are staffed by people with different skills appropriate to the task.  Still, there are a couple of different roles:

  • Knowledge workers (Skill Staff): At a law firm, these are the lawyers and associates; at an accounting firms, it's the accountants.  The staff are differentiated not just on how much expertise they have, but the kind of expertise.  So a law firm may have corporate lawyers, or tax lawyers, or estate lawyers, or criminal lawyers, etc.  A firm that builds websites could have business strategists, website designers, user interface experts, online commerce experts and database programmers.  Some may be entry-level people, others may be world-known experts.
  • Account executives: Many service firms have determined that their skilled staff are excellent at what they do, but they are lousy project managers.  It's a completely different skill, so they hire account managers whose job it is to recruit and organize the different kinds of expertise in the firm needed to solve the client's problem.  The AE also serves as the central point of contact for the project, so if there is a problem the client doesn't have to figure out who on the project is responsible for the resolution.  The AEs are also responsible for preparing, and defending if necessary, the invoices to the client.
  • Sales and Marketing: Some firms rely on the partners and senior skill staff to find new business, or they have 'super-AE's' who have that responsibility.  Others recognize that technical expertise and project management skills don't equate to finding and signing new customers.  Being a sales person in a service organization can be a tricky business though.  The salespeople have to understand enough of the client's problems and the firm's expertise to be able to match them up, but they don't have the depth of knowledge to actually address the problem.