Better Business Practices For Management Consulting Firms – 7 Phases In The Consulting Process

We live in a strange society. Any society that calls itself capitalist should have a flexible framework in which to operate businesses. Management consultants are at the forefront of any business evolution. Without a clear process our clients are directly affected and penalized by our inefficient solution-delivery.

Management schools across the country breed new generations of business thinkers one after the other. But they rarely provide them with the framework in which to think and deliver ideas. After graduate school, those same thinkers end up, in large percentages, at management consulting firms. There again, a framework is too often lacking.

Instead of teaching new consultants a way to deliver advice, they are rather thrown into the lion’s den with no more than a pat on the back and a “Go get’em tiger!” with the expectation that they will learn on the job. However, the quality of the On the Job Training, or OJT as it’s called, depends largely on the senior consultant supervising the project. Too often, the pace of the work prohibits the effective teaching the new consultant should be entitled to.

The “what” of management consulting, (I.e.: Generating ideas, finding solutions, and implementing those solutions inside the client’s business) can’t happen in a vacuum. When it comes to management consulting, the delivery process or the “how” should be what primes. Because, given a step-by-step process any business school graduate can think his way through a problem. Sadly without such a process, too often the final recommendation rarely offers a long-term solution for the client.

Therefore, I would like to propose a new basic process. This process can be used regardless of the type of project, or the industry in which consulting. This process is what the consultants at Tumiza Strategy Consulting, LLC use to ensure quality delivery and implementation of business solutions.

Here are the seven fundamental phases of this process:

Phase 1: Making First Contact/Entry

First Contact: This is the first contact with the client.

Discussion: At this phase the Business Analyst is identifying who the client is and what motivation there is to bring about change. (WILL-logical & WANT-emotional FACTORS)

Negotiation: Here the Business Analyst is exploring the potential for working together with the client. This step also includes specifying the desired outcomes (general scope), deciding who is going to do what, agreeing on style, costs, timing and accountability. It’s also at this stage that an agreement is reached to move to the next phase.

Phase 2: Survey

Preliminary Analysis: The Business Analyst(s) collects the data needed from the client and analyzes it in view of improving Quality, Sales & Marketing, Operations and Administration of the corporate endeavor. The actual analysis performed normally includes a series of studies I.e.: Financial Ratio Analysis – Business Efficiency Analysis – Business Growth Analysis, etc.

Functional Findings Meeting: At this meeting the Business Analyst (or team of Business Analysts) presents the findings to the client in a report format. The report highlights the issues as encountered by analyst(s), the concerns the client may have, proposed solutions, possible improvements, and anticipated results and estimated net benefits of solution implementation, and cost of consulting services to install the improvements.

Proposal: Based on the findings, a proposal is drafted to show possible improvements, estimated net benefits to client, and cost of consulting services to install the improvements.

Phase 3: Management Consulting

Opening Meeting: At this meeting the Business Analyst introduces the client to the Management Consulting team, which normally includes a Project Director and one of more Management Consultant. During the meeting the client and consulting team ask clarifying questions to ensure full understanding of both parties’ expectations and sought outcomes. The different roles of all stakeholders are delineated including the role of the Project Sponsor. Also, at the meeting both parties agree on the Functional Project Requirements and clients Key Decision Criteria are identified to ensure successful project completion – Estimated duration: 90 minutes or less.

Discovery: During the discovery process the Management Consulting team’s job is to breakdown the functional findings and project requirements into a technical structure so that tasks can be allocated. This process involves an in-depth primary analysis. Estimated duration: 2 days or less.

Project Plan: The project director drafts a Project Plan that confirms the expectations of the client. The document lists all major functional activities and objectives of the project. Once agreed upon, the Project Plan becomes the blueprint used by all in the achievement of the objectives.

Phase 4: Execution

Implementation: At this stage, the client (Project Sponsor) is given assistance in specifying what it is he wants and when he wants it. The interaction between the client’s employees and the Management Consulting team continues, solutions are sought and implemented. Also, at this step the work is planned in terms of who will do what, when, where, how and with what resources. The Project Plan is then carried out.

Initiation/Research: All parties involved get to know one another better. Bonding relationships are formed. The Management Consulting team continues to gather and analyze information to properly hone the project.

Execution: At this stage solutions are being implemented. Solutions may take several shapes including: trainings, standardizations, procedures, improvements, re-organizations, documentations, etc.

Phase 5: Evaluation

Evaluation: In an ongoing fashion, the client and the Management Consultant team look over the project and their relationship and make adjustments to ensure satisfaction of client based on Key Decision Criteria.

Recommendations: Regularly, throughout the project, the Management Consulting team presents its findings, recommendations and proposed execution plan to the Project Sponsor.

Status Reports: On a regular basis the Project Director drafts Status Reports and meets with the Project Sponsor to share the progress of the project and to re-align the objectives as necessary.

Phase 6: Termination

Termination: The Project Director and the Project Sponsor agree to conclude the project. The final objectives are decided and concluded in the allotted timeframe.

Closing Letter: Project Sponsor shares all comments in an official letter addressed to the executive management of Tumiza Strategy Consulting.

Closing Questionnaire: Project Sponsor fills out a closing questionnaire.

Phase 7: Revision

Progress Review: About 3-6 months after the project, the management at Tumiza contacts the client to inquire about the project installations and their effects on the business. Additional solutions may be proposed.

In summary

The world of business is becoming more intricate daily. The rapid rate of absorption of new technologies and the minimization of barriers between economies make the expansion of business easier and more affordable than ever before. Even small and medium sized businesses can now compete with the giants of past days.

The knowledge and wisdom of our management consultants cautiously reserved for the business elites of before is now made available to small and medium sized businesses as well. These smaller clients can’t afford any inefficiency – their budgets can’t permit it. Therefore our industry needs to improve and streamline its processes to ensure that we can serve all our clients in the most optimized way.

M. Joseph Roberts,

[email protected]

PS: And always remember: If you are not having fun, you are not serious enough!

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