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#234: How Automated is Your Consulting Practice?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 04, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 04, 2010
Being a small consulting firm, we lack the overhead of large firms, but also the support infrastructure and scale economies. How can we leverage our size without having our consultants spending time on what is normally considering support functions?

This calls for a complex answer but consider three general themes. First, focus on what you do best - providing professional advice. One reason you may resent having to do administrative work is that this is neither your expertise nor interest. Look for virtual assistant or hire a part time administrator. Second, alter the nature of your work. There are clients who are looking for pure consulting and others who are looking for heavy process, research or staff augmentation services. These latter projects can require considerable administrative, graphics, and support services. A large firm can absorb these needs easily within their large cost base, something you are structurally unable to do easily. Tilt your practice toward projects and clients for whom these administrative components are minimal.

The third strategy is something consultants should consider more rigorously. Although many of your engagements are customized ("every client is unique"), there are probably many opportunities to automate a lot of your processes. Look back at your past few projects and you'll notice similarities where you did many of the same tasks or approached them in the same way. For example, your project kickoff meeting, project team charters, process mapping, and customer assessments all share elements that you can record, evaluate and improve.

Tip: Large firms create intellectual property and processes, assets they advertise as benefits to clients. Just because you have advantages of agility and high touch doesn't mean you can't leverage technology or automation. Use a simple process mapping tool like MindManager or Visio to lay out the similarities in your consulting services from project to project. Start to build a library of approaches, processes, templates, checklist and resources. Over time, not only will you get up to speed faster on projects, you will begin to find opportunities to devote more time to the deep thinking you prefer.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  engagement management  learning  performance improvement  practice management  product development  your consulting practice 

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