Business Consulting in the Digital Era
The business world is moving at a breakneck speed, and innovation will only drive business to become more efficient and fast-paced. We’re more connected than ever with everything we need at our fingertips.
While this rapid-paced world may be great for instant gratification, it presents a challenge to business consultants. Independent business consultants are small business owners – and implementing new technologies can be time consuming and daunting. It's worth it to focus on efficencies that make the greatest impact for your client.
Whether you’re consulting on career development, HR solutions, leadership development, team building, or otherwise, knowing how to communicate in the digital era is essential because it is how you can keep your business competitive. Beyond that, it's important to know how to effectively change processes when technologies and best practices around you are constantly upgrading and evolving. These four tips can help.
Hit the Ground Running
Consulting projects can last for a few weeks, months, or years – and you can’t afford to waste a single minute of that time. Your first in-office visit should not be a getting-to-know-you visit where you take care of any preliminary paperwork, forms, or maintenance items. All those tasks need to be taken care of before your first office visit so you can come in and get right to work.
Doing your homework before you make that first office visit is a must, as is remaining flexible once you enter the playing field. ComputerWeekly notes it’s essential for today’s consultants to be:
- Familiar with each client’s industry in the way of industry terminology and operations
- Adaptable to various management styles of various project managers
- Ready to dive into the project, applying technical skills to every project
- Able to integrate rapidly into the company team
As soon as you’re working on a new project, stay efficient in your communication – respond quickly so that clients feel that their time is being valued by you. Stay organized, take care of preliminaries before your first office visit, and spend your first visit focusing on issues and implementation.
Communicate with Technology, Stay Connected
Communication starts as soon as you begin working on a new project, and it needs to remain a key ingredient throughout the entire duration. Stay connected between in-office visits by scheduling ongoing virtual meetings. Find out and use your client’s preferred communication method, whether it’s phone calls, emails, video conferencing, or a specific messaging system.
Also discuss how you’ll share documents. Emailed attachments can often be too large, get lost or deleted, and have limited abilities. Software platforms like Google Drive and Microsoft OneNote allow you to easily collaborate with document sharing and save all changes made by authorized parties.
As you grow your consultancy and have a larger database of clients, it'll be important to keep detailed notes on preferred methods of communication in your CRM (customer relationship management software) as you maintain the relationship or work on future projects together.
Tailor Consulting to Your Audience
Who are you working with? Is this person a millennial who typically engages in progressive, flexible consulting practices and shares ideas through messaging and text? Or maybe you’re working with someone close to retirement age with a preference for phone calls over email and traditional hierarchies over free-for-all idea generation.
Using a behavioral assessment (such as The Birkman Method) with your key point person(s) may be helpful in the early phase of working on a new project, as you can learn their interaction style, areas for potential miscommunication, and potential blind spots. If the consulting project is involved and lengthy, there may be benefits to implementing an assessment on a larger scale to understand your client's departmental or company culture.
How long a person has been in their position will also play a part in how you communicate, whether they’re fresh on the scene or have been with the company for decades. You’ll need to effectively communicate both in-person and digitally with your contacts on any given project in any given manner that clicks with them.
The key is to determine the individual’s personality and strengths and then adapt your style accordingly. Knowing your own strengths allows you to adapt easily by drawing upon them as needed. Be willing to collaborate rather than dictate, and make sure you have a cache of innovative ideas based on the latest technology and trends in the industry.
Implement at Faster Speeds
As the business world moves at a faster pace, management expects changes at a faster pace, too. Set firm expectations for deadlines, and then stick to them. Don’t place deadlines too far out into the future, so you can stay on track for incremental phases of the project.
While traditional technology roadmaps outlined a three to five-year plan, Cognizant says the new benchmark for achieving engagement goals is 30 to 90 days. That’s it, and that’s fast. Meeting such tight deadlines typically involves rapid ideation and fail-fast prototyping, where designs, plans, and strategies are tested quickly to see if they just as quickly fail or are likely to meet with success.
Super-fast implementation allows room for fast innovations, as effective implementations should be continuously built upon and amended for even greater success moving forward.
The one thing to remember is that the end goal for business consulting has not changed. What’s changed is how we get there. Your goal is still to help guide and improve a business by seamlessly meeting their needs. That goal remains attainable in the digital era with the right strategies, attitude, and communication techniques that help you meet the mark each and every time.
About the Author | Trish Harris
Trish, who interestingly has a degree in maritime administration and experience sailing between international ports, now works hard navigating our account management, business development, and more. In addition to steering all of that, she works hard as a mom and enjoys spending her spare time with her son, Connor. Together, they cheer on the Astros and Skeeters baseball teams, visit the Dixie Dude Ranch, and obsess over superhero movies.