Lowe: Professional service firms are very client-oriented. But in order for this social networking paradigm shift to occur, it's got to be the client of the professional service firms who wants to work differently, or who wants to receive value differently. Will the clients of law firms, accounting firms, architecture firms be willing to receive value differently; value that they collaboratively develop with their professional service providers?
Gilchrist: Either in product development or service delivery, you have 'x' number of staff who are smart about such-and-such. That level of experience and intelligence stays relatively the same, even as the company progresses in time. If you engage in a social networking-like exchange of knowledge [like Microengagement's Virtual Executive Roundtable], you stand to geometrically increase the amount of knowledge you can deliver to your customer. And, you gain the advantage of stepping outside the boundaries of the company and bringing ideas in. That is a lot about what 'crowdsourcing' social media is. It starts very organically, with people who are willing to exchange knowledge rather than the people who are forced into a dog and pony show. Social networking is based on a partnership mindset; it's not anything that is staged.
Fisher: There are many different avenues today – some more focused than others – to try and access subject matter experts. [An example of social networking could be a brainstorming session [in which a] business leader has access to four or five trusted friends or colleagues. One perspective might be customers or consumers. Another might be distribution channels. Another perspective might be from an organizational development standpoint. You could bring these people together and spend a couple of hours bouncing ideas off of them, not only getting their individual perspectives, but getting their discussion among themselves that adds value to their perspectives. From the result of that conversation, you are a whole lot smarter about specific issues.
Monday: Will social networking change the way professional services are purchased?