Consulting Tools and Tips

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  • Work Smart and Quickly with Internet Research
    • What's the first thing you do when learning something new? Internet, of course. So, if you have a new client, in a new industry that you don't know a lot about, where should you start? Learn the first 10 steps you should take to learn the company's business, financials, and industry trends. Work smart.
  • Understand Industry Supply Chain Dynamics
    • All companies and organizations sit within an industry landscape; they have suppliers, customers, rivals, and even new entrants (new competitors). What's the power dynamics among those players and who has the leverage? Professor Michael Porter famously said that "strategy is how you cope with competition." How can your client create barriers to entry and dig an "economic moat" around their business profits?
  • Create Data Through Surveys and Observations
    • Consultants require useful data to make persuasive recommendations. Some of that data is available in ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and IT databases. However, some other data doesn't exist; you need to create it through client interviews, surveys, observations, benchmarking, or other methods. It's a beautiful thing when consultants are able to drive correlation between the disparate pieces of "data" and tell a coherent story.
  • Use Benchmarks as a Starting Point
    • Benchmarking is the simple idea of comparing performance against others. When you go to the doctor and they measure your vital signs (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate) against your peer group (e.g., women in their 50s), this is benchmarking. It's also a commonly used consulting tool because a) clients often want to know how they are performing relative to their peers, and 2) it's a convenient way for consultants to identify gaps in performance. While the concept is simple, it's incredibly difficult to do well. It's vulnerable to bias and manipulation. As a consultant, it can get you in trouble, and you should use it wisely.
  • Use Excel to Model the Results
    • Management consultants use Excel daily. They need to organize, analyze, and uncover correlations between data. So, consultants practice Excel hygiene to keep their file useful: a) don't hard code values, b) keep a copy of your source data, c) document assumptions, d) don't merge cells. However, once you get past these beginner tips, you should consider who the audience is for the file before you spend too much time "making it pretty." For example, your manager wants to quickly understand and audit your work. Your client wants you to use the Excel model to show them your thinking and make a recommendation.