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Self-Diagnostic to Improve the Management of Your Consulting Spend

Do you currently employ consultants on a regular basis? Perhaps you consider consultants a negligible part of your budget and overall business strategy—there for small, niche projects when you need them and gone as soon as that business is concluded. However, from our experience, consulting spend can represent millions of dollars for companies, and if not properly managed (or managed at all), you’ll miss out on the strategic opportunities a consultant can provide.

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Lean Banking Can Transform Your Institution. Don’t ignore it.

Let’s start with the great news – financial institutions that are leveraging Lean banking operations achieve up to 30% cost reduction within 2 years, and are maintaining cost-efficient operations better than the average in the industry.
Lean processes are being adopted globally by organizations prone to inefficiency that are negatively affecting their earnings.

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3 Essentials When You Present Your Proposal to the Client

Sweat trickled down Bernie’s neck.
He sat in the lobby with his briefcase balanced on his knees, panicking.
His meeting with the client was scheduled for 3pm. It was now 3.09 and no sign of the client. None of this waiting around was doing his nerves any good. The longer he waited, the more time he had to forget his practiced lines and get his thoughts jumbled.
Bernie was a top-notch consultant. His clients loved him. Whether it was improving processes, cutting costs, or finding efficiencies in already super-streamlined processes; Bernie worked magic on his clients’ businesses.
His firm held him out to their other employees as the bright light; the example that everyone else should follow. They proudly shared feedback they had received from customers about the projects Bernie had worked on. Not a year had passed where Bernie hadn’t been the recipient of a huge bonus.
People who had worked with Bernie knew he was good, but they also knew about his weakness.
Bernie was deathly scared of public speaking. When it came time to do presentations, Bernie went from hero to zero. And this was a big problem… Because, for Bernie to work his consulting magic, he first had to present the client with a proposal and convince them that he had some magic tricks to share.
That’s where Bernie found himself right now. Sweating up a storm in the lead up to a presentation to convince a client he was the confident, self-assured guy for the job. The thought of “being confident” brought the sweat in gushes.
At 3.14 the receptionist called his name. “Apologies for the wait, Mr. Jones. Mr. Grisham will see you now in room 3.”
Bernie’s heart rate shifted from “fast” to “gallop”. He picked up his things, dropped his briefcase, picked it up again, and then made his way to meeting room 3.
*
Unless he’s very lucky, Bernie’s presentation is going to be a tough one. Have you ever found yourself in Bernie’s position? Feeling as though if you could just get past the presentation part, everything else would be a breeze?
Next time you have a proposal presentation coming up, focus less on your anxiety about public speaking and your fear around making mistakes. Focus instead on the people you are speaking to and how you can help them. This will not only improve your presentation, it will also reduce your nerves.
If you want to get your next proposal accepted by the client, here are 3 essentials for your presentation:
1. Empathize with your listeners
When you have a presentation to do it can be tempting to just want to “get it done”. You rush through it as fast as possible because you know you’re going to feel more comfortable when you get to the end.
There’s a big problem with this approach. You’re focused on yourself, not your audience.
When you focus on yourself in a presentation– how you feel, who’s judging you, how embarrassing this is –the message of who you care about is transmitted loud and clear to your audience.
When the audience understands you don’t care about them, and that you’re just trying to “get it done”, they disengage from you and your message.
To keep the audience with you, to influence and persuade them, you need to empathize with them.
That means focus on them. Forget about how you feel and focus on how they feel.
In the lead up to, and during, your presentation, think about the audience. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. When you do this your presentation will be better received.
2. Clearly outline the benefits of your proposal
If you don’t tell the client what’s in it for them you give them no reason to listen to you.
You start out with their undivided attention, so don’t squander it by not showing them explicitly how their lives will be better.
Talk about the benefits of your proposal rather than the features.
Let’s look at a TV remote as an example.
Imagine you’re selling TV remotes, back when they were first introduced.
Selling on features sounds like, “This button changes the channel. This button switches the TV on and off. The infra-red beam has a range of 10 feet.”
Selling on benefits sounds like, “Now when you want to change channels you can do it while you sit in your comfortable sofa, enjoying your beer.“
Benefits beat features because you’re building an image in your customer’s mind about how their life is going to improve.
3. Contrast before and after
Another way to paint a clear picture for your client is to contrast before and after.
Outline for your client the problems that they are currently experiencing and then show them what they can expect once they have accepted your proposal.
In summary, when you empathize with your client, you show them how they can benefit from your proposal, and you contrast before and after you set the stage for a winning bid.

A new way to look at top consulting firms?

Attention executives: if you are considering outsourcing a project to a consulting firm, whether or not you have hired consultants before, we have great news—there’s a new way to view the value of the right consultant.
Did you know that executives who pay close attention, beginning with the procurement of the consultant through the completion of the project (including debriefing and follow-up), have a bonus waiting for them? It is that partnering with the right top consulting firm on a project offers unexpected key business lessons.
First, let’s look at what we mean by a “top consulting firm.”
You have heard the saying, “you can’t eat prestige.” Prestige has its place, but let’s face it: you can procure high-quality consulting services at a cost that fits into the budget of any enterprise. Creating a company budget crisis by opting for a global-brand consultant simply makes no practical sense. That consulting firm may offer one solution while putting a large enough dent in your budget, so that other projects suffer.
So where does that leave your consulting procurement? Actually in a better place! Here’s why.
A top consulting firm is one that has the skills and experience to meet your current project needs as well as complement your company’s culture and budget. The right firm may be a smaller boutique firm that specializes in just the type of project you have at hand, or a larger firm with the sub-specialty that you seek.
A top firm, then, has a track record of being in the right place for the right project, solid working relationships, flexibility, adaptable solutions, and great follow-up.
Happily, this leads us directly to lesson number one.

Source Consultants

Optimizing indirect costs is an evergreen topic. Many companies have already regrouped their indirect procurement to better manage expenses.

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Balancing resources.
You have made the decision to pivot to a consultant as a way to solve a problem and, at the same time, manage your overhead. Why then jeopardize that balancing act with a consultant out of your price range?
Instead, opt for a consulting services advisor with a depth of experience in matching enterprises with high-quality consulting services at the right price point. As an added bonus, your procurement team will save time, since a highly efficient advisor will have accessed, reviewed, and rated a broad range of consulting services for you in advance.
Implied in balancing resources, of course, is the idea of adequate resources. Before you choose a consultant, prepare thoroughly the scoping and the phasing of the project, and the necessary associated resources. You may realize that you don’t need the same resources for the different phases, and thus, decide to buy the phases separately. When you have chosen a consulting team, observe it during both the planning phase and the implementation phase of the project with a focus on balancing resources.
The planning phase is a strategic mapping session that identifies objectives, stakeholders, participants, and steps to success. Negotiating what constitutes adequate project resources (beyond procuring the consultant) is a key part of this phase.

Balancing resources in this phase often means applying some creativity in optimizing internal company resources at hand. Let’s say the consultant suggests that a person with a specific skill is needed for the project. Is there a person elsewhere in your company who has the right skill, perhaps from a prior workplace or career, and who is able to participate?
Now for implementation. Notice how the consulting team balances the utilization of people available to them on the project—and also within their own consulting team. That’s an example of project team leadership which manages to avoid burnout and staff turnover while getting the job done on time and within (a balanced) budget.
Notice, too, how the consultant encourages your team to share and conserve resources, and to be creative to resolve resource issues.
Marrying current knowledge plus experience
Lesson number two is about the value of taking a range of experiences and marrying them to the latest knowledge in the field.
Experience alone does not always optimize results. Do you want your child to be taught by a teacher who has taught for twenty years and who has “always done it this way”? Better to have a teacher with half the experience who stays current with the latest field-test results on pedagogical approaches.
Top consulting firms tend to have systems in place to ensure that team members share both knowledge and experiences.

They actively access—or contribute to—emerging thought leadership.

They debrief past projects internally (maintaining client confidentiality) to cull lessons.

Then they connect the dots from those experiences and ideas to your project.

Watch how your consultant draws on both her experience and her access to current intelligence in the field to fashion a solution that fits your needs perfectly. It looks something like this:
At a specific crossroad in the project, the consultant might say, Oh yes, I’ve seen this issue before. Company A handled it this way last year, but I just read where Company B solved it in a much more integrated way which would work well here, too.
Other examples will emerge as you debrief your consultant. It’s all about retaining knowledge, sharing it, and then connecting the dots to apply it appropriately.
Now it’s your turn: what is your takeaway lesson on marrying current knowledge and experience, and how will you apply that lesson across your enterprise?
The unforeseen significance of debriefing
Stifle that yawn.
Debriefing a project with a top consultant sometimes yields unforeseen golden nuggets if you know how to uncover them. For example:

Working on the project may have revealed talents among your employees that you had not been aware they possessed. Perhaps an employee’s leadership skills emerged.

Maybe a new way to reach potential customers or interface with current customers bubbled to the surface. How do you get that information to the marketing and sales teams?

Possibly the data provided to the project team also revealed tangential information that may be helpful to your company in another arena.

There is a simple way to ensure your access to these golden nuggets: insert into the consulting contract a paragraph requesting that the consultant document these types of data, even though they may be ancillary to the goals of the consulting project, and highlight them in her debriefing.
Working with a top consultant is an efficient way to meet your company’s current needs but it can offer a much richer value for the observant executive: new ways to think about balancing resources, marrying experience and ideas, and identifying new information during debriefings which, although ancillary to the specific project completed, may be significant to the company as a whole.
We now have reached bonus lesson number four:
Procuring the right consultant matters in more ways than it seemed before.
Competition among consulting teams currently is tighter than ever, but Consulting Quest has braved those choppy waters and stands ready to identify the perfect fit for your project and your company.

How to enjoy the value creation process

Welcome Professionals…
…as a top management consultant, we all want to create perfect results for our clients. But striving for perfectionism can actually constrain our value creation process.
For a long time in consulting business, I concentrated on achieving perfect results. At my former employer, we were especially great at pointing the attention to areas that were not perfect, yet. Each time when my project leader or partner or eventually the client found some flaws in my work, I used to beat myself up for that. I interpreted every necessary additional iteration loop as a defeat. I was striving for perfectionism.
Years later I was able to discover the drivers behind this behaviour and change my point of view. I recognized that it makes me very unhappy over time to strive for the perfect end product. The end product will never be perfect and if it was, I would already be busy with the next big thing. By having this tendency, it would be impossible for me to stop working and feel satisfied about it.
Today my motivation is different. I commit to delivering the best value I can in a given amount of time. I set time slots for me to work on a specific project and then do the best I can. I embrace opportunities for iteration, because it helps me improve my work. As an additional positive effect, it takes my client on a journey through my value creation process. Communicating intermediate steps and results makes my client value the work much more.
Everyday I try hard to concentrate on the value creation process! I am not attempting to create a perfect end product, but to give my best. Hopefully, that comes close in the end.

Safari in Consulting #1: CAUSA Consulting

Company Background
CAUSA is a small management consultancy specialized in strategic consultancy, sales enablement and communication. with offices in Berlin, Brussels and Wiesbaden, the company has extensive experience working with clients in commerce and politics on a European scale as well as on an international basis.

The company’s activities focused on innovative growth strategies and their analytical, structure and communication-oriented aspects. Having an international network with consultants in Brussels, Copenhagen and Washington D.C., as well as other partner organizations guarantees qualified support on the spot and an on-going exchange of experience.
The staffs have many years of experience in the public sector, as well as knowledge and competence acquired in private enterprise. The company’s clients include international and export-oriented SMEs, public institutions and listed companies.

Interview with Dr. Schössler, Managing Partner, Co-Founder

With decades of experiences working in both the public and the private sector, I developed the expertise in commercial, industrial and political consultancy. I founded CAUSA to better assist both sides with their growth and development initiatives.

Dr. Martin Schössler
CEO of Managing Partner, Co-Founder

Why did you found CAUSA and what were you driven by?

While working for The Economist Intelligence Unit (Martin was responsible for the Government and Financial Sector in Germany) I noticed that many clients wanted to go “beyond thought leadership” and not solely rely on whitepapers and studies. I was driven by the interest to establish a novel, hybrid business model in between the private and public sector where strategy consulting and outreach measures can be brought to the full effect for our clients. We also followed the request of our first client, SAP, to help them position one of their products for the public sector.

How does the company keep its niche positioning in the market and continuously generate values?

We need to constantly innovate. Over the years we have continuously progressed in our portfolio which includes now also digital assets and brand / platform development (for example https://www.luftfahrtistinnovation.de/ ) and we have also been of course challenged in a positive way by our clients which have quite complex tasks at hand, operate in a global context and need to keep track with the digital transformation. Very often, for instance when we won our first mandate from a top global Chinese IT company, we had to very quickly deliver results while still getting to know the finer cultural aspects which are quite important when you work so closely together. We spend a lot of time looking for the right people for our organization and we have started to focus more on C-level assignments and larger transformative projects where we support our clients for several years, including sparring and coaching elements.

What is the top piece of insight you have for the Safari in consulting readers -many of them are executives of companies and consultancies?

The business impact of government is often overlooked, yet the second most impactful element when it comes to business success. Executives should spend more time with government representatives and vice versa, the cultural divide is surprisingly large and growing due to the ongoing specialization in both sectors. The public sector is also a much more interesting and rewarding client when it comes to services and products that can be offered from the private sector in contrast to the public image. It is also able to provide an excellent context to large-scale implementation of new services and platforms, especially in IT which at this scale is simply not possible in the private sector. So at first i would suggest raising the level of interaction with public sector and government representatives, and second increase the effort to sell to the public sector – the reward will be substantial and also the learning when it comes to societal and foreign policy and security policy issues.

How do you see the future of CAUSA? What hopes/expectations do you have for the company?

We will further expand our portfolio to establish our own platform where we can deliver much improved law impact prognosis for our clients, organized in agenda streams, like automotive etc. This will be a separate business that we will launch in 2018, so we are happy to welcome the first beta testers from early summer. My aim is also to add more skilled partners at the company and expand our business to add mandates in the SME space. We will also expand our sales enablement platform where we have generated substantial new mandates which we will be able to announce in April.

Lastly, what advice do you have for students who are hoping to launch a career in Consulting?

Try to establish your own business before joining a larger firm or work / serve in a versatile field like government or even sports or the military. Also, in your studies, don´t stop at the Bachelor level and do a maximum of two – but meaningful – internships. Try to publish your ideas on how to improve specific items of public interest and engage in political debates early on to get an impression of the full societal spectrum. Also, everything you ever thought about as a kid is now possible as a job ,-)

For more information about the company, visit http://www.causa-c.de.
Are you a niche consulting firm that would like to be featured? Or do you know any interesting consulting firms we should reach out to? Let us know! Contact us at: info@consultingquest.com
For more specialist consulting firms, you can check out our Global Directory –with over 3000+ consulting firms around the world.

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The African Market Structure is still driven by the large Companies

Welcome to the fourth issue of our Blog Series -“Exploring the African Consulting Industry”. In this series, you will learn “everything-you-need-to-know” about the African Consulting market through a set of fun infographics. In the previous issue, we discussed that the Top Three Capabilities in the African consulting market are Strategy, Human Capital and Operations. The total number of capabilities covered on average is 2.5 and almost a quarter of the consulting firms is specialized in only one capability.
In this issue, we will take a look at the top Consulting industries the region and how they compare to those on a global scale.

The Industries
According to Consulting Quest’s research and data from the Global Directory, the Top Three Industries of the African Consulting market are 1) Financial Services; 2) Health & Life Sciences and 3) Energy & Environment. Interestingly, the consulting offering does not reflect the local needs, which are primarily rooted in Agriculture, Natural Resources and  Financial Services.
In addition, over 14% of the consulting firms in Africa are specialized in one industry, yet the total industries covered on average is 6.3. This finding is congruent with our previous observation that large global Consulting Firms are over-represented in the region compared to the rest of the world.
This post concludes our series on the African consulting market. In the next series, we will shift our focus to the Consulting market in Asia-Pacific and explore the unique consulting offering there. Stay tuned!

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Consulting Quest Global Directory

Consulting Quest Global Directory is the World’s Largest Professionally-Managed Directory in the Consulting Industry. Searchable by consultancy name or by region, capability or industry, it lists and describes more than 6000 consultancies worldwide, with links to their websites and social media channels. With such a powerful database, we decided to dig deeper into the directory and analyzed the consulting offering in each of the following regions of the world: North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacifics and LATAM.

The African Consulting Market is focused on Strategy and Human Capital

Welcome to the fourth issue of our New Blog Series – “Exploring the African Consulting Industry”. In this series, you will learn “everything-you-need-to-know” about the African Consulting market through a set of fun infographics.
In the previous issue, we discussed that Large Consulting Firms (with 1000+ employees) make up one-third of the consulting firms in Africa. Despite the strong presence of foreign companies in the region, 57% of the consulting firms are in fact only based in Africa, and almost half of the companies have less than 50 employees.
In this issue, we will take a look at the top capabilities of the Consulting Firms in the region and how the figure compares to that on a global scale.

The Capabilities
According to Consulting Quest’s research and data from the Global Directory, the Top Three Capabilities in the African consulting market are Strategy, Human Capital and Operations. Technology, being the most common capability among large companies (with 1000+ Employees), is the #4 biggest capability in the region, while it is only ranked #6 globally.
The total number of capabilities covered on average is 2.5. Interestingly, however, almost a quarter of the consulting firms in Africa is specialized in only one capability. Niche, local and small consulting firms are on the rise.
In the next issue we will dive into the Industries of the consulting offering and explain how the overall consulting offering is not reflecting yet the local needs.
 

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Consulting Quest Global Directory

Consulting Quest Global Directory is the World’s Largest Professionally-Managed Directory in the Consulting Industry. Searchable by consultancy name or by region, capability or industry, it lists and describes more than 6000 consultancies worldwide, with links to their websites and social media channels. With such a powerful database, we decided to dig deeper into the directory and analyzed the consulting offering in each of the following regions of the world: North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacifics and LATAM.

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Connect with other Consulting Buyer to step up your game

Among many professionals, the temptation to work alone, without the support of peers, is high. Innovative business people understand the need for connections with peers, with consultants, with journalists, and with the public at large. Great professionals need to build a network of peers, learn from experience of others, reach collective critical mass, get sparring partners, cherry pick best practices, and stay current on the latest trends.
The situation of procurement professionals and particularly the one of those in charge of procuring consulting services falls into this category. Procuring consulting services is quite different from procuring goods. Consulting is a complex industry often described as a matrix of capabilities and industries. Just add a layer a hard and soft skills. A zest of fee structure. And you have got yourself in the shoes of many Consulting Procurement leaders. They need to connect with peers to be able to exchange about their daily challenges with people who can actually understand what they are facing.

Source Consultants

The easiest solution is to look into your pool of existing providers, and choose pick from them. However, the best consultant for one project is not necessary the best for the next one.

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1. Build a Network of Peers
Even though Companies can have a significant budget for Consulting Projects, most Consulting Procurement executives handle a limited number of project in relative isolation.  Many of them have been trained with core-business procurement, or indirect procurement. So, when facing consulting projects, they are very tempted to reinvent the wheel each time, or to just apply the sound principles that they have learned in their previous jobs. Just like this procurement leader, working in a railway company, who insisted in adding a 10-year guarantee clause in a consulting agreement, “because that is the company policy”.
Rather than just seeking consulting procurement information through only books and online material, find ways to connect with peers in your industry. Trade shows, a community of practice, professional organizations, and firms who specialize in networking consultants with clients are all important tools to connect with peers.
2. Learn from the experience of others
Exchanges with peers from diverse backgrounds, culture and activities give professionals the ability to discover new perspectives on consulting procurement, and learn about cases that you haven’t face yet. Increasing your surface of exchange will increase your exposure to the variety of situations faced by your peers.

And who knows. Someone in your network may have faced the same challenge…
This increased surface area multiplies the opportunities for growing as procurement leader by learning from practical cases, sharing challenges and identifying best practices. You can learn from peers, academics, journalists, as well as consultants. This community of learning empowers you to not only increase learning, but facilitates the reach of critical mass.
3. Reach Critical Mass Collectively
Many rare skills, such as consulting procurement, are acquired and maintained on the field through facing again and again the same issues. As a business professional, your services are limited by your ability to access enough information to identify trends and best practices in your field. It is hard to reach that critical mass of information to allows you to master your skill.
With more peers around the table, you accelerate the building process and guarantee that you are able to reach that critical mass collectively. Through your peers, you each gain momentum and reach the critical mass necessary to succeed faster.
4. Get Yourself Sparring Partners
Not only does collaboration increase learning about specific situations and projects, it helps you improve your internal processes at a faster rate as well. Two heads are better than one, and two sets of hands go faster. Although it feels risky for business leaders to open themselves up to even one peer, let alone a network of peers, the open source revolution in software and computing shows the power of collaboration in a field which was driven by secrets and control for many years.
Sharing about Consulting Procurement does not mean you risk to lose your competitive advantage or breach confidentiality, because you can just decide what you share. Good networking merely takes others’ work and integrates it with your own business so that everyone is empowered to grow more. Networking defines relationships based upon the level of connectedness you have with your peers: the more connected you become, the more meaningful the interactions become.
5. Cherry Pick best practices
A key part of building a network of peers and increasing your collaborative processes is to be able to identify the best practices as a group. Before integrating in your own processes, think about how it would fit with your strategy, your organization and your existing policies and what impact it would have on other processes.
Let’s say you have heard that Wenowatwedoo, a leader in your industry, is using independent consultants for their needs for marketing excellence. You immediately think you should do the same. But what you don’t know is that Wenowatwedoo has a dedicated team in charge of Marketing Excellence made of former consultants. So for that specific needs, they merely need arms and legs to complement their team, where your company would need the whole team of marketing excellence. Excellent best practice, but not for you.
Cherry picking on what consulting other companies have used might be the most difficult exercise as it requires a fit with your context and strategy but there are many other process elements that can garner tremendous value without presenting the same challenge. But on managing confidentiality, scoping projects, sourcing, selecting consultants, negotiating fees, using creative fee structures or measuring consultants’ performance, there are many levers that can help you to professionalize your own practices.
6. Stay current on the latest trends
Your needs for consulting are changing every year to adapt to new strategic context, to new opportunities opened by new technologies, etc. You have to stay current on the latest trend and be connected with academics and thought leaders. This will give you the ability to spots threats and opportunities early on, and anticipate the impact on your field.
Besides, keeping up-to-date with your industry is key for building expert power and earn the trust and respect of the other executives in your company.
Connecting with peers is part of your development as a professional, it will help you in getting better at your job, become the go-to partner for the executives of your company, and provide you with sparring partners to call when you are facing a tough challenge. It will give you the keys to enable deliver quality procurement services for your business, to get more value of your consulting spend and to create more value for your company. On a personal level, you will have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with your peers.
So now the question is … what are you waiting for?

The Hottest Applications in AI

Artificial Intelligence and its application is no longer a far-fetched future, but more and more an everyday reality. All kinds of technologies will adopt AI components and procedures and various industries will experience its tremendous impact.
Greater efficiency in all types of sectors, unbridled creativity, reduced human error, much higher productivity are some of the key contributions AI will inevitably deliver.
The main areas of application of AI include:
1. More Effective Decision Management
AI systems operate on rules and logic. They are especially suitable in a wide variety of enterprise applications, assisting in or performing automated decision-making. Some of the  vendors in that area are Advanced Systems Concepts, Informatica, Maana, and Pegasystems.
2. Biometrics – The Interaction of Machines and Humans
Biometrics is still in its early stages, but it has a solid future ahead. Mainly there is a lot of improvement to be made in how people and machines interact. That includes imaging, touch recognition, speech recognition, and reading body language. Some of the companies developing the applications currently are Affectiva, Agnitio, FaceFirst, Sensory and Tahzoo.
3. NLP: Natural language processing (NLP) and Text Analytics
Facilitating the understanding of a sentence structure, meaning, emotion, and intent via statistical and machine learning methods is currently under development. The areas that will benefit the most are fraud detection and security, automated assistants, and mining unstructured data. Companies working in that field currently are Basis Technology, Coveo, Expert System, Indico, Knime, Lexalytics, Linguamatics, Mindbreeze, Sinequa, Stratifyd, and Synapsify.
4. Deep Learning Platforms – Artificial neural networks with multiple abstraction layers
Currently primarily used in pattern recognition and classification applications supported by very large data sets. Ersatz Labs, MathWorks, Peltarion, Saffron Technology, and Sentient Technologies are currently developing applications.
5. Robotic Process Automation
The task here is how to automate human action using scripts to support efficiently business processes. Currently these applications are used where it’s too expensive or inefficient for humans to execute a task. Main vendors in that field include: Advanced Systems Concepts, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, UiPath, and WorkFusion.
Despite the many business benefits AI technologies can deliver, there are certainly obstacles to AI adoption. Some companies and industries are reluctant to invest or are just not very interested in AI. These are sectors and jobs where machines will not be able to replace humans as easily.

Consulting Playbook: How a Merger Achieved Synergy in the Product Development Process

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #11
One of the leading Aerospace and Defense companies undertook a major transformation when a merger of several companies took place. To ensure the successful integration, the Head of Integration needed help. The main priorities of the company were secure: Integration of the overall organization, Increase Corporate Performance, and Enable efficiency and collaboration on all levels.
To speed up and facilitate the process, they requested external support in the definition and application of a new Product Development Process reference that would allow a proper alignment on through a backbone process of the company.
A 3-Step Approach to Deliver the Desired Results
The Consultant focused their efforts on building a collaborative environment and helping all parties understand the process with the application of stage gates and dedicated development phases.
A Multi-Step Approach was applied to achieve the desired objectives:

Definition of the development timeframe, with specific sequence in stage gates
Synchronization of the development, design and delivery of key components and systems
Implementation of collaborative approaches to manage concurrent development, product lifecycle and interdependencies.
Review the main criteria to determine each stage gate adjustments to the sub-processes to achieve the expected performance (lead time, reliability, etc.) through multiple sub-projects involving experts of all legacy companies.

This new approach was implemented on the new strategic project from the company embarking employees from all legacy companies in the journey.
Beneficial Impact of the Consultancy, Following the Merger
The successful completion of the project, to the client’s satisfaction, achieved the following:

The new Product Development Process accomplished reduction of development lead times, more effective and realistic expectations, better collaboration of various teams
Improved planning and management of development programs in collaboration with functions
An overall cost reduction of 20% vs. previous similar projects.

Additional Information

New Product Development in 4 Simple Stages
Companies and entrepreneurs often feel the need to introduce new products. And depending on the industry you are in; the process might be less or quite complex. But without new products, extension line of existing products and innovation, it is tough to stay competitive, relevant and profitable in the long run. As technology constantly evolves, so are customers’ needs.
Let’s look at a typical new product development stages and what is the most efficient way to proceed with new product idea.

Generation and Evaluation of Product Ideas

To greenlight an idea, it’s best to have a few brainstorm sessions with your team, and the people whose decisions and opinions matter, decide on the best idea, then go to the next stage. Your new product ideas can come from a variety of sources such as: your employees, your boss, competitors, and even customers. Evaluate carefully the pros and cons of each idea, and then decide on the feasibility of pursuing it. It’s estimated that a third of new product ideas originate from users and customers. At this initial stage, often a niche market research is required, to get a deeper understanding of the potential of the new product idea.

Testing

The journey of the great new idea to the market, continues with development of a Product concept. Once you have this ready, you can test the sample with consumers and team members, capture their reactions and make further adjustments as necessary. After the testing is completed and the product features finalized, the new product can scale up into production.

Customized Marketing Strategy

Even the greatest product can fail without a well-planned marketing strategy and sufficient support to promote it. The marketing strategy typically will consist of: identification of the target market and demographics, branding and positioning, sales and market share projections for the first one or two years. It’s essential to also identify the main distribution channels, pricing, marketing budget, and profit goals.

Mass production and Commercialization of the New product

With the marketing strategy set, and the Business analysis completed, the Management team will decide on the next and final stage – commercialization of the new product. The cost of manufacturing, marketing and advertising of a new product, can be quite high, so the Management should consider all the factors like timing, region, logistics, important events, etc, for the official launch and initial distribution of the new product.
Since for many companies, time is of the essence, a new and more flexible approach is being introduced: close collaboration and simultaneous development of the new product by the parties involved, to complete it and launch sooner.
Saving time and money is always a winning proposition to businesses and customers alike when developing new products.
 
For Further Reading:

This is how Apple’s top secret product development process works
Eight Simple Steps for New Product Development
8 Step Process Perfects New Product Development

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About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

How to choose between Generalist or Specialist Consultants?

Executives often wonder how to approach the decision to hire a consultant who specializes in one aspect of their industry, or a consultant who has proven results in most areas, but who doesn’t have any specific niche experience. After all, the population of consultants has exponentially increased in response to corporate belt-tightening in the area of permanent staffing.
If you’re looking for the right consultant, there are several factors that will help you decide whether a specialist or a generalist is right for your needs. First of those considerations are the pros of both types. But there are also some important decisions you’ll need to make before you start searching.

Source Consultants

So, if you’re wondering how to find a consultant who can provide the outcome you’re looking for, here are a few tips
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Strategic Considerations
Before you begin your search for the consultant who best fits your needs and your company’s needs, there are two important things you must do:

Be clear about the problem you are trying to solve by hiring a consultant.

The more clearly you understand the problem you’re facing, and the better you can articulate it, the better equipped you’ll be to make the decision between a generalist and a specialist.

Balance your resource allocation.

You want to procure the right consultant to create new solutions—not to create new financial problems. And obviously, correctly identifying the problem helps balance your resource allocation. Misidentifying your problem can be costly: remember that old saying, “We cut it three times and it’s still too short?”
Consultants—whether generalists or specialists—essentially have one strategic function: optimizing your ROI or expanding your customer base. The consultant you select must understand that she is fulfilling that function, and bring to the table the skillset and experience that will address one of those strategic functions.
Which projects are generalists best for? Which projects are specialists right for? Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each:

The Generalist
Generalists, broadly speaking, tend to work in smaller, boutique consulting firms, but also play strong roles in large, global consulting firms. They may be new to consulting or new to the business world, but not necessarily. Typically they have broad-based knowledge and a willingness to adapt flexibly to an enterprise’s needs. Here are the main characteristics of generalist consultants:

They work well in teams, especially with other generalists, as they tend to have strengths in seeing both the forest and the trees, and the interrelationships between the two. In other words, they can connect the dots between the problem you are trying to solve and how potential solutions may affect the rest of your enterprise.

They tend to be a good fit for broader, larger-scale consulting projects for that reason: their types of experiences lead directly to their ability to connect all the dots and offer the most fitting solution.

Generalists excel at analysis, whether the presented problem is the “real” one to be solved or whether it is masking an underlying issue that needs to be solved first.

On the solutions side, generalists may have experience with a range of types of solutions. They tend not to offer cookie-cutter fixes. Instead, they custom tailor a solution for your enterprise. As a bonus, they may be able to draw upon former experience and apply it to current your problem in a way that is innovative.

Generalists may want to solve by themselves issues that could be better addressed by specialist consultants, and thus lack the right knowledge and/or expertise.
They might prove to be a costly solution if their contribution is limited to managing other consultants on your behalf

To sum up, generalists are effective in teams and ideal at tailoring solutions, especially for management-level issues or larger-scale, complex projects. Note, too, that if you think a longer-term partnership with a consultant is on the horizon, go with a generalist who can always find a specialist when needed.
The Specialist
Specialists typically have chosen to concentrate their efforts and abilities in a more narrow arena such as energy, IT, or finance, or in a particular industry, such as healthcare or pharmaceuticals. Many specialists have jumped from years of employment in their field of expertise to the world of consulting.
Major consulting firms usually have a range of specialists who are highly trained and deeply experienced in their chosen fields, but boutique firms also may specialize in a given industry or knowledge field. Here are some of the key benefits that specialists can bring to the table:

Specialists are passionate about their field or industry. They keep current on new findings and industry news. They understand the competitive pressures within their specialized industry.

They also provide solutions for enterprises. With their high levels of training and experience, specialists may be able to zoom in on and implement solutions quickly, which may conserve resources for the company.
Specialists love to transfer their knowledge, and will immediately be recognized by your teams on a dimension they comprehend.
They can see all problems through their area of expertise. As popularized by Abraham Maslow, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
Specialists will bring to you the state of the industry but might reuse at least for statistic purposes some of your data. That is the unsaid rule of the game.

The key to successfully using a specialist is the executive’s ability to correctly identify and articulate the problem that needs a resolution. If the scope of the problem is limited to the rapid advancement of IT changes, for instance, a specialist is the natural place to turn. If the problem at hand is limited to circuit board assembly supply chains, turning to an industry specialist makes great sense in terms of both outcomes and resources.
Ultimately, there is a role for both generalists and specialists in the world of consulting. Each type of consultant successfully helps executives find solutions, given the right situation.
Take heart if you find yourself at a crossroads and need to turn to a consultant. There is great news: a consulting brokerage firm has already done all the heavy lifting of assessing a wide range of high-quality consulting firms globally to fit every type of enterprise, budget, and project. They can be a savior in assisting you to select the right type of consulting firm.
Executives who initially turn to a global consulting brokerage company may find they assistance they need to identify which type of consultant will be most likely to optimize ROI or expand their customer base.
Consulting Quest specializes in identifying consulting solutions that boost your competitive edge. Let us know how we can assist you.

Consulting Playbook: Lean Transformation and Effective Measurement of Performance

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #22
A leading organization with a dozen plants and about 20,000 workers needed help in achieving its performance targets. They had implemented improvement initiatives in all the plants. Every plant was equipped with SAP systems; however, there were discrepancies between the plants in different countries. It became necessary to promptly design a new set of KPIs with definitions, performance, scope/granularity, and frequency set. A dashboard had to be set up in every plant using each local variable—capabilities, ensuring consistency, etc.—to enable cross sites benchmark, centralize the consolidation process, and meet the management’s objectives. The head of manufacturing decided to ask for the help of an external consultant. The goal of the project was to design an effective process to cover the Lean central reporting and to measure the success of the Lean transformation. The issue that prompted this change was the new Lean Initiative rolling out in all the plants without the corresponding KPIs updated
Creating a Dashboard Reflecting the New Performance KPIs
During the first phase, the team gathered both external and internal resources to analyze what measurement system was used by the various plants. Understanding the rationale for this choice along with the differences across sites, what measures could be replicated, and what measures were unique was essential to completing phase 1. This task was completed within 2 to 3 weeks.   The second phase kicked off with a workshop where the outcomes of phase 1 were presented. Teams could understand the extent of the work that had been done and learn from the other sites’ experiences, but they also realized that definitions used from one site to another were not allowing any internal benchmark. During the following 3 months, Lean KPIs were developed, value stream mappings were performed to understand the sources of waste, and Inventory management was reviewed and optimized enabling the optimization of logistic costs. Among the KPIs developed we could find:

Process efficiency KPIs: OEE, Yield, Downtime, Takt Time
Supply Chain Efficiency KPIs: On Time Delivery, Inventory Turnover, Capacity Utilization, Unit Cost
Quality KPIs: Right First Time, Reject Ratio

The newly defined KPIs were then introduced to all the plants. The First Monthly Performance Dashboard was consolidated, creating the baseline to measure future progress and a great support to the visual management. The implementation of those indicators was automated to focus on higher-value activities
A Path Moving Forward Created
The dashboard was created, and the reporting process was set accordingly. A handbook was developed to ensure a proper alignment of practices and definitions, as well as smooth on-boarding of newcomers. But, more importantly, this was the first collective step in the Lean transformation journey. Thanks to the contribution of all the teams in the creation of this joint referential, the mindset change had been initiated. And, thanks to the visual management implemented, this change was made visible to all parties. The Global Lean initiative ultimately exceeded expectations, leading to reduced manufacturing costs and working capital requirements by more than 7% in two years.

Additional Information

Major KPIs for Managers Beyond Manufacturing  
As a manager of any size team, you are likely aware how important KPIs are. In their essence KPIs are indicators measuring your team’s performance. They can also help you understand where your team excels and delivers as expected and where it falls short of expectations or standard. We have created a brief list of essential KPIs to look at when evaluating performance.

Financial Metrics

– Profit – it’s important to evaluate both gross and net profit to get a clear idea of how successful your team is. – Cost – it’s the best indicator of effectiveness and the incentive to make reducing and managing your costs a top priority. – Sales by region – this metric will show which regions are meeting their sales objectives and which are not; a sufficient analysis can allow you to improve these numbers. – LOB Revenue vs Target – it’s necessary to compare your actual revenue vs the projected revenue. – LOB Expenses vs Budget – this is the comparison between your actual overhead and your forecasted budget. If there are any discrepancies, you can revise the plan, improve the team’s performance, and develop a better plan for the department’s budget.

Customer Metrics

– CLV – Customer Lifetime Value – this is not just about minimizing costs and trying to optimize customer acquisition. It’s about a clear understanding of the value your organization gets from each customer long-term. – CAC – Customer Acquisition Cost is another very important metric, which is determined by dividing the total acquisition costs by the number of new customers for a given period. – Customers Satisfaction and Retention – this is a bit broader indicator as you can measure various metrics to evaluate how happy your customers are. There might be underlying and deeper issues that are not entirely under your control, but the goal is clear – have more repeat customers, offer more incentives and long-term customer loyalty programs, and develop customized products, special offers, and services to make sure your customers’ needs are fully met.

People Metrics

– ETR – Employee Turnover Rate – if you like to get a clear idea of how well you are doing in this area, divide the number of employees who have left by the average number of employees, and see if this number seems appropriate. A higher number should prompt you to evaluate working culture, employment remuneration packages, work environment, employee satisfaction, and the like. – Rate of Response to Open Positions – a high percentage of qualified applicants shows that you are getting the best exposure to the job-seeking market. This will give you the best chance of hiring the right candidates and of optimizing your team’s success. – Employees’ Satisfaction – a major and broad indicator, which requires periodic surveys and interviews to determine how you can improve your employees’ well-being, and thus expect their best performance in return.  
For further reading

Key Concepts for Winning Strategies
Top Warehouse Performance KPIs
Five Rules for Selecting the Best KPIs to Drive Operational Improvement
The Value of Key Performance Indicators in a Lean Transformation
18 Key Performance Indicator Examples Defined For Managers

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About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

Consulting Playbook: Lean Manufacturing is Critical to Your Success

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #1
Real Life Practices Situation –
A large industrial manufacturer was facing serious production issues at one of their plants. The CEO was forced to declare the plant’s current layout and working methods unsustainable. Defects would flow through the whole process spread on multiple manufacturing lines, resulting in an 18-month waiting list, decreasing profitability and unhappy customers.
In addition to the manufacturing lines, the company was dealing with an inflexible union and antiquated labor agreements making the changes needed to take place, difficult to implement and to maneuver.  The CEO asked the VP of Operations to analyze two possible scenarios:
A) Keep the plant or B) Create a new one in a lower cost region.
They brought in a third party to analyze the two options before them and after a careful review, decided to launch a transformation on the existing facilities.
With increased pressure on profitability and the displacement of thousands of jobs at stake, there were difficult choices that had to be made in the best interest of the company and its employees.
The Better Plan of Action –
After a quick diagnostic showed opportunities to reduce waste, standardize activities and significantly increase the quality level, the consultant and the management team came to the conclusion that the plant, as well as several other plants in the region, could be saved through a Lean Manufacturing Transformation.
However, the journey was only starting as they now had to carry out the change without disrupting the operations. The key principle was to shift from the top-down operating model to a new scheme where the operators generating the value were supported by the rest of the organization.
The consultant worked with the top management on that vision, shared the diagnostic, made sure that everyone was on-board with the rationale for change and general direction, and then worked with them to lay out the plan to reach their goals.
A large-scale, collaborative plan identifying improvement opportunities was put in place. Along with that, a specific training for operators to simulate the new work environment preparing them for the change ahead, was put in place. The consultant also developed specific methods for the leadership to support, and champion the change.  The change process and continuous improvement initiatives incorporated different team members at every level of the organization, ensuring the project’s success and fluidity.
The Results and the Benefits –
The new and more efficient plant was designed to boast the same production volume with only two thirds of the previous workforce.  The adjustments made spurred huge cost savings contributing to an increase in the overall profit margins, and sending the stock price soaring over the next 3 years. They were also able to reduce the manufacturing surfaces by more than half, as well as revise the existing labor agreements to more beneficial ones.

Additional Information

What is Lean Manufacturing?
The simplest definition of it is – system of methods designed to eliminate waste within a manufacturing process. Lean Manufacturing or lean production centers around three main components:

Elimination of waste (“Muda”) within a manufacturing system
Control over waste created through overburden (“Muri”)
Waste created through inconsistency in workloads (“Mura”)

Essentially, lean manufacturing is all about adding value and reducing everything else – expense, time, efforts, and so on. In today’s fast paced world of business, communication and commerce, Lean manufacturing is an extremely powerful approach to secure an organization’s success.
Main Lean Production Principles
They originated in the Japanese manufacturing industry. The term was first coined by John Krafcik in his 1988 article, “Triumph of the Lean Production System,” based on his master’s thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Toyota’s view is that the main method of lean is not the tools, but the reduction of three types of waste: muda (“non-value-adding work”), muri (“overburden”), and mura (“unevenness”) exposing this way any problems or inefficiencies in the process.
Lean implementation focuses on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve the perfect work flow, while reducing waste and being flexible and willing to change. These concepts however need to be understood, and embraced by the whole organization’s team.
The single point behind “Lean” is to make the work simple enough to understand, to do and manage.
Lean Manufacturing strongly depends on implementing all the core principles through Lean Thinking and the role Lean Leadership plays in overseeing that.
For further reading:

What is Lean?
Lean Manufacturing Transformation
Manufacturing Transformation
Lean Manufacturing Transformation: A Holistic Approach

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About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

An African Consulting Market already significant and with huge Potential

Welcome to the first issue of our New Blog Series – “Exploring the African Consulting Industry”. In this series, you will learn “everything-you-need-to-know” about the African Consulting market through a set of fun infographics.

Know the Market
In 2016, the Consulting Industry in Africa was valued at $2.2 billion. Although the market is relatively small in terms of size from a global perspective, it has grown strongly over the past years, with a 6.3% growth rate. The African consulting market is bigger in size than many of the European markets such as that of Spain and Italy.
Consulting services can be found in over 30 markets in Africa. The Top 3 Locations with the greatest number of consulting firms are: 1) South Africa, 2) Nigeria and 3) Morocco.
Among these regions, Southern Africa alone makes up around two thirds of the Africa’s entire consulting market. Africa continues to position itself as an attractive geography with a double-digit growth in West Africa, particularly in Nigeria, and East Africa, benefiting from the reduced attractiveness of the Asian countries.
The African market as a whole is forecasted to continue its impressive growth, thanks to the rapidly growing economy and governmental push on innovation. Despite of being a market with a huge potential, there are risks for consulting business in the region including political stability and difficulty in getting paid.

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Consulting Quest Global Directory

Consulting Quest Global Directory is the World’s Largest Professionally-Managed Directory in the Consulting Industry. Searchable by consultancy name or by region, capability or industry, it lists and describes more than 6000 consultancies worldwide, with links to their websites and social media channels. With such a powerful database, we decided to dig deeper into the directory and analyzed the consulting offering in each of the following regions of the world: North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacifics and LATAM.

Bring In The Right People To Help Your Business Grow

Last year, Inc. cited several example scenarios of what happens when a consultant’s own brand of ideas conflicts with the company’s values. We’ll spare you the horror and summarize that many of the scenarios led to arguments and stunned reactions from gawking office staff.
No one wants to see that. 
Before hiring a consultant, ask yourself one question: Have your usual consultants the right answer to this specific challenge?
Can Business Consultants Be The Remedy To Stagnation?
Hiring a consultant who has successfully worked for many other companies helps you and your team gain a different perspective. Assuming your own team already has many years working with you, they’ve perhaps fallen into a creative rut on how to approach new challenges.
When you hire a consultant, you’re setting up the promise of bringing more extensive knowledge to areas where you lack knowledge.

Outside knowledge helps you fill in when your own team hasn’t kept up on the latest changes in various aspects of business. Consultants work with every company imaginable and know the realities of what’s going on in the outer world. 
Finding fast solutions is another reason to hire a consultant when your own team feels exhausted in finding creative solutions. Burnout is so easy with in-house employees, especially with few windows of vacation time in marketing departments. Consultants have continual knowledge of new methodologies and are always brainstorming. Creativity is at a higher level, which means faster implementation. 
Consultants diagnose problems as a form of business audit. They scope out issues you may’ve preferred sweeping under the rug, and then they find proper solutions. 
You gain access to a team focused exclusively on your problem, rather than relying on your own team members who are preoccupied by their daily work. By having a team that doesn’t have to worry about their other duties in your company, you can utilize the flexibility and availability of a group of consultants whose entire job is to help solve your business problems.

There is no question about it, using consultants can help you go faster and higher. But the main question remains: How to find the right one ?

Use Consultant Strategically

So, how do you find the right consultant? How do you know if they can actually do what they say they can? What are the real benefits of using a consultant?

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Vetting Your Business Consultant: Finding The One
Finding the right consultant in today’s overcrowded market of consultancies can be a major challenge and a time-intensive project. What you’re looking for is a consultant who is capable, who listens and who is ready to dig in, understand how your business is structured, and strategize for how to solve your most challenging business problems. 
Consulting Quest was started because we saw too many businesses hiring the wrong consultant for the job. We saw hasty consultant hires made at a price that was not appropriate to the value given. Frankly put: the consultants were too expensive for the value they offered. 
We advise you through the hiring process based on what industry you’re in and what capabilities you need help with. Whether it be in the field of energy and utilities or public services, we match you with the most appropriate consultant.
The scoping process of matching the consultant’s capabilities to your needs is an exacting one. Many businesses only need help in a particular area in order to help them flourish.  Consultants are already pre-qualified to take on any category. We’ll help you select the right consultant from the very best candidates. It’s a vetting and selection process like no other.

Our system brings competence and savings for the company, ensuring that you receive the right value for what you have paid. We vet the consultants and make them compete to get the project, guaranteeing through that process that they will provide you their best price. 
We professionalize the searching and hiring of a business consultant for you. We also improve her performance through feedback and analysis. The consultant is evaluated (essentially, our own form of Yelp), so that you can use that consultant again and help other businesses in their future searches, too. 
It’s never too late to start doing things differently
Since far too many hires occurred out of desperation when things were falling apart, or without scoping out whether the consultant’s skills fit correctly with the company’s goals, we developed our system to ensure that not only do you get the best value for your money, but that you find the right consultant the right way in a time efficient manner. Our teams have an extensive experience and the most efficient toolbox when it comes to purchasing consulting.
It’s never too late to start doing things differently, Wherever you are already engaged in the process or only thinking about hiring consultants, do not hesitate to contact Consulting Quest – The smartest way to buy consulting.

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Lean Banking Can Transform Your Institution. Don’t ignore it.

Let’s start with the great news – financial institutions that are leveraging Lean banking operations achieve up to 30% cost reduction within 2 years, and are maintaining cost-efficient operations better than the average in the industry.
Lean processes are being adopted globally by organizations prone to inefficiency that are negatively affecting their earnings.

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Top 5 Articles

Lean Banking Can Transform Your Institution. Don’t ignore it.

Let’s start with the great news – financial institutions that are leveraging Lean banking operations achieve up to 30% cost reduction within 2 years, and are maintaining cost-efficient operations better than the average in the industry.
Lean processes are being adopted globally by organizations prone to inefficiency that are negatively affecting their earnings.

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