Use tools that help your clients achieve success and get you repeat business
In the consulting world, the most important thing for our repeat and referral business is to be the person who helps clients ‘get things done’; someone who walks out the door after the plan is complete and gets asked back because our client actually achieved their goals; someone who works with leadership to ensure everyone sees themselves both contributing to and executing the organizational plan.
Our consulting and facilitating roles have changed over the last decade. For many years we were treated as the sages of the business world. Our highest ranks were populated with people who had worked at top-level companies and had guided organizations through amazing growth or a revolutionary product release ex. Intel, Apple, etc. But that ‘expertise’ has shifted back to the workforce as everyone really begins to leverage the power of information and a plethora of cloud-based applications. Now, it’s not a long, drawn-out product launch or organizational change that distinguishes good leadership, its responsiveness, and the ability to quickly adapt to changing markets and environments.
What the facilitated consultant does today will probably be drastically different even a year from now. But it’s important to leverage current tools to ensure our clients get real, executable plans.
Here are some examples of technology platforms that can really boost your success rate with clients by engaging, involving, and energizing teams to not only adapt but to execute quickly and effectively both in-person and remotely:
For Strategy Planning
Help Your Clients Keep Their Plans Flexible
Technology for the facilitation of strategic planning is one of the biggest game-changers in the consulting world. Introducing your clients to a cloud-based communication platform that is universal and available to everyone gives them a tool to engage and mobilize those who make the plan happen. The old practice of presenting our clients with elaborate tabbed binders as the output of a planning process is out of date. In addition to the fact that they were rarely looked at, a pricey printed output contributed to the impression that alterations to the plan would seem ‘wrong’ based on the perceived permanence of an expensive document. Not only is it unrealistic to assume that anyone’s plan will is 100% accurate, but it’s also not feasible to assume leadership can see everything the future will bring. Cloud-based platforms like MPOWR Envision make organic corrections and shifts much easier, allowing for adjustments and corrections when it’s necessary to be responsive to changes.
Help Your Clients Communicate Better and Faster
These types of tools also increase their ability to align distributed teams. When progress is made on a strategic project, those involved post that progress, and colleagues, inter and intra-departmental teams are informed in a quicker, more efficient manner. The time and accuracy of communications increases as does the ability to manage your operations. Many platforms also use color-coding so you can see at a glance what initiatives are healthy and what may need attention before they turn into real issues. Not only does this kind of communication collapse project timelines, but it also gives your client the pro-active ability to manage their organization.
Help You Provide Thorough Service to Your Clients for Repeat Business
As part of the team on the platform, you are able to have an eye on the progress toward plan goals. You can help your clients ensure they are staying on track and that they are still focusing on achieving what they set out to do. You are creating what the software world calls ‘stickiness’. The client sees you as a partner and part of the team. The more you are involved as the plan moves forward, the more likely you are to stay involved over the long term. This is a real boon for consultants who want to build a core level of repeat business.
Technology vs. Methodology
Remember, a technology platform is different than a methodology. A tech platform is a tool you and your clients use to help disseminate information, track progress, and execute a plan. A methodology is a process by which you use to ask your clients the hard questions that lead them to a particular strategy. There are many methodologies out there: Blue Ocean Strategy, Porter’s Five Forces, Balanced Scorecards, etc. are all approaches by which you can start the right conversations. But once you have that direction, you have to have a tool to communicate your vision, the paths to that vision, and the achievement of their measurable goals. A platform will not help your client think about strategy and direction. It will, however, be the most effective tool to actually execute plans.
For Facilitation and Transcription
In the past, we would gather in a conference room and engage our clients in discussions that would result in writing ideas, thoughts, directions, and goals upon a board. It legitimized what people were saying, it got everyone in the room thinking, and usually helped to move the conversation forward. The mark of a good facilitator is someone who can capture what everyone is saying at the same time as they ask the right questions, directing teams to solutions. But it’s a challenge for even the best out there. Online platforms help make that facilitation much easier.
Rather than coming with markers in hand, facilitating a discussion with a virtual whiteboard means typing rather than writing out by hand. In addition to being much faster, it makes it easier for everyone to contribute. In my facilitation, if I have a specific outcome I need to drive to – say getting people to formulate a vision – I discuss what elements the vision should have (outlines future state, is specific, can be measurable, etc.) and then give everyone 10 minutes to write ideas and/or a proposed vision statement on a space in the virtual whiteboard. People are free to create in what many are now calling ‘silent brainstorming’. Often times they come back with better ideas because they’ve been free to take the time to think and formulate their ideas without the pressure of coming up with immediate answers. They are also able to contribute in a way that engages them on a deeper level. It gets away from group wordsmithing (very tedious) and moves into an exchange of larger ideas that are more productive.
These virtual whiteboard platforms also are very helpful for transcription during your consulting sessions. Supporting notes as well as external links, flow charts and references can be included in a way that just can’t be done on a regular whiteboard or flip chart. In addition, you can share the whiteboard environment with people outside the planning team to get their input, ideas, and contributions. This is another functionality that’s difficult to do in a physical space.
For Project Management
When you are working with a client who needs to accomplish a specific task, project management software helps drive short term list of daily action items whose progress can be easily monitored. This kind of software is very useful when trying to manage and coordinate a discrete set of immediate goals.
It also engages people on a daily basis keeping lines of communication open, enabling teams to shortcut past silos of information and eliminate bottlenecks. Collaboration and communication keep project progress in real-time, with the potential of shortening the timeline.
But it’s important not to confuse project management with long-term or strategy planning. One handles the day-to-day tasks. The other rolls up a variety of different cross-functional projects and measures their success against longer-term strategic goals that move the organization in a very specific direction.
For those clients who are looking to manage day-to-day tasks to short term completion or something that has an ongoing, operational focus to it, project management software is a good fit.
Consultants – Embrace the Technology Train
Technology has literally put the power in the hands of the people like no other development before it. As a consultant, it’s important to recognize that and leverage it to your client’s advantage. I have noticed that some consultants are worried that these tools will make our services obsolete but that’s a short-sighted view of an incredibly useful development for our industry. From a practical perspective, it’s freeing to be released from printed material. From an efficacy perspective, technology helps us serve our customers more thoroughly by giving us the tools to communicate, track, and achieve goals. It also allows them to identify issues and problems before they happen.
Finally, it helps us to stay engaged in their teams and guide them through the progress they are making towards their goals. And as they progress towards the goals we helped them to define, our clients become our loyal customers. Get a demo of MPOWR Envision and discover how your consulting business can excel with a cloud-based strategy execution software.