Lightweight Project Planning for Consulting

For anything you do, there’s a tradeoff between staying organized (keeps you on track but takes time away from the actual work) and just focusing on the work itself (you make progress, but you might end up less sure of the schedule or whether you’re even working on the right thing).  This dilemma is especially true of most consulting projects, where you’re strapped for time from the get-go and you potentially have a lot of different balls in the air.

In general, I find that management consulting projects benefit from a moderate amount of project management overhead.  The same is not true of many information technology projects, where teams and scope are often much larger and the end deliverable may be much more complex. Continue reading Lightweight Project Planning for Consulting

Rules of Thumb for Business Analysis

I’ve been thinking about what makes a good business analyst, and in general the soft knowledge is harder to pick up in many cases than explicit knowledge like accounting or marketing.  To that point, here are a few of the rules of thumb I try to follow.  None of them is particularly sophisticated, but I include them because they are the issues that people tend to neglect when rushing to finish a project or a deliverable.  These more ambiguous thought processes are often what separate good analysts (and for that matter decision-makers) from great ones.

Continue reading Rules of Thumb for Business Analysis

A Practical Presentation Checklist

I recently wrote a guest post on Business Consulting Buzz on getting client buy-in, a critical skill for any consultant.  That piece covers the more process-oriented aspects of building trust and credibility with clients, but simply presenting well is also important.  For that reason, I thought I’d cover some presentation tips in this article.  This advice isn’t meant to be exhaustive or necessarily groundbreaking, but it does serve as a useful checklist to consider leading up to any presentation. Continue reading A Practical Presentation Checklist

How Consultants Create Value

I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes about management consultants (they borrow your watch to tell you the time, etc.), and there’s some truth to them.  Overall, though, organizations get a huge amount of value by working with high-quality consultants.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list of a few reasons why they can be so helpful, in my experience.

Painstaking analysis

A lot of businesses are run on gut feel.  Even at large corporations with massive reporting and analysis resources, there is a limit to how much analysis can be run and to how much executive time can be spent understanding it.  Consultants are most valuable when they help you shortcut this constraint.  I’ve heard war stories where consultants from high-powered firms have spent weeks driving around town to understand soda delivery routes and territory assignments, logging airline arrivals and departures to assess the best gate patterns, and talking to hundreds of building contractors to analyze buying behavior for garage doors.  Consultants are used to drilling down much deeper on topics than your team is, and they put highly capable people on it because brilliant insights can come out of this mind-numbing analysis if done well.

In a nutshell, a good consulting team will run through more data hoops than your internal team and do it faster.  They can help you understand aspects of your business that were never clear before. Continue reading How Consultants Create Value