Business consulting is one of the most sought-after business services these days. And no wonder – consulting firms support their clients in a wide range of activities: from defining their business model, opening new markets and innovating existing products to recruiting professionals and adopting new technology in the workplace. This is why even when the world economy is facing a crisis, consulting services stay in demand, serving as a life-vest that will help companies stay afloat.
It comes as no surprise that business consulting industry generates revenues ranging from $100 billion to $300 billion, depending on the definition used for framing the industry.
Nonetheless, consulting industry is facing major challenges that have a lot to do with the changing way of work, global transformation and specifics of the market. In order to stay successful, consulting firms need to adopt new strategies and take into considerations the new realities their clients are facing in business.
In this article we will discuss how Microsoft Teams can help business consulting firms address these challenges.
About business consulting
Business consulting has become one of the most diverse and mature sectors within professional service industry. It includes 6 main segments – Strategy Consulting, Operations Consulting, Management Consulting, HR Consulting, Financial Advisory and Technology Consulting – that overall encompass over 200 consulting areas.
Consulting is a complex process that requires joint effort of various stakeholders. Let’s see what the key activities in business consulting are.
This phase encompasses the moment of the first contact with a potential client till the acceptance of proposal.
Delivery is not only presenting the results of the research and proposing solutions to clients. Consultants should also deliver internally to their management, and then use their findings for further project. This ensures firm’s operational excellence.
The purpose of knowledge management is to organize the content gathered from research and project implementation to further reuse the deliverables. To do so, the organization needs to establish mechanisms that ensure that content is well-organized and shared.
Key account management
Key account management is a part of the sales process. Its main goal is to establish and maintain a good and trusting relationship with a client. Consulting firms can work on several projects with the same customer. The mission of key account manager here is to align the work of different consulting teams working with the same client.
Main collaboration challenges in business consulting
Operational excellence and quality of delivery
In order to ensure efficient functioning of the organization, consulting firms create a playbook. It is a set of guidelines that consultants should follow when undertaking a project. These playbooks help ensure operational excellence and improve the quality of delivery.
Consulting is a complex process that requires collective action. However, many companies struggle to structure the work of their teams. Organizing the work of teams with accordance to the playbook becomes a challenge that needs to be address with adequate planning tools.
Global market is gradually transforming under the influence of technological advancements and globalization. As a result, consulting projects are becoming more intricate, involving more stakeholders that are responsible for various spheres of business.
In these circumstances, consultants not only have to maintain effective communication between everyone involved. They also need to ensure that all the confidential client information is secured.
Consulting is all about active research and communication. There’s nothing like talking to your client face-to-face to present a project.
However, the world of work is constantly changing, including for consultants. And now that many of us are advised to work from home, they have to adapt to the new realities. Limited in their possibilities to travel, consultants must face the challenge of gathering information and delivering their project to multiple stakeholders online. In this case, having an effective communication solution is key to success.
Onboarding time and quality
Staff retention is one of the most common problems in consulting industry. At the same time, high churn has become a part of the hiring strategy of many elite consulting firms. Oftentimes they hire hundreds of successful fresh grads per year. The reason for that is simple – they are willing to work 24/7 in order to get a killer resume that will boost their career.
However, after getting their first experience and promotion, they leave. In fact, the Big 4 professional services companies – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – say their staff turnover can be as high as 15-20%.
For that reason, it is vital to make the onboarding process as smooth and efficient as possible. If your new hire will stay only for a year or so, you want to make sure you don’t lose valuable time on training and preparation. Luckily, the onboarding time can be significantly reduced, and its quality greatly improved with the right digital collaboration tools.
Being able to deliver the project timely and within the budget is one of the essentials of customer’ satisfaction and success of the consulting firm. However, as projects become more diverse, involving multiple stakeholders and multi-staged solutions, time is becoming one of the greatest constraints. Effective work organization and well-thought distribution of tasks is key to overcoming this challenge.
One of the very first steps to providing a consulting service is getting a deep understanding of the company, its activities and objectives, as well as current and foreseen problems. In this discovery phase it’s important to regularly communicate with clients to get as much insights as possible. Further on, they need to follow-up both with their own team, as well as with their customers.
Communication becomes a challenge as these days the ways of communication are transforming. Consultants have to rely on digital solutions to stay on the same page with customers and deliver outstanding results in shorter time.
How Microsoft Teams improves collaboration in business consulting
Microsoft Teams has numerous capabilities that can help business consulting companies improve their collaboration and address aforementioned challenges. Your consulting team can benefit from the use of Teams by sharing files, distributing tasks and working on them together right in the Teams. They can also set up video conferences with stakeholders both inside and outside the company, letting your employees stay in touch with the right people even when working remotely.
There’s a variety of teams that your company can create in Microsoft Teams, depending on your company’s size and scope of operations. You may want to have a BID Management team where your consultants will work on the sales process – from the first meeting with the client till final proposal; a Delivery Management team where you will focus on delivering the project with all its components; an Onboarding team, Audit practice team, Accounting practice team, and others.
Let us show you how your firm can use Teams in the example with Delivery management team.
Delivery Management Team in Microsoft Teams
Build a Delivery Management team, write a description explaining is purpose, and add your team members.
Consulting project requires different sets of action from different individuals. To keep your team structured and avoid confidential information leaks, you can create various channels where your team members will discuss specific topics. For example:
- Business reviews
- Internal meetings
- Knowledge Management
- Steering committee
Add tabs with files and apps
Here are some suggestions for what tabs you can include in each channel.
Deliverables: Add Planner tab and assign tasks for each deliverable.
Add deliverables’ templates from SharePoint.
Internal meetings: You can keep the wiki tab and add there agendas for the meeting; plus, add a calendar to schedule meetings easily. It can be an excel spreadsheet, planner or any other app that you wish to use for planning meetings.
Steering committee: Include calendar and relevant files.
Business reviews: Excel tab with spreadsheets around resource management.
Knowledge Management: Yammer tab and SharePoint library.
Build Consulting Playbook from intranet
We’ve already mentioned that many consulting firms rely on playbooks for improving their performance and collaboration. With Microsoft Teams you can make sure that everyone has easy access to these guidelines and completed the tasks accordingly.
Include your Playbook as a tab in your General Channel. Then, add Planner as an additional tab and assign corresponding tasks to each of your team members.
Assign Tasks with Planner
You can use Planner not only to monitor implementation of the playbook, but also to help your staff better organize their work. They can create their own tasks, set deadlines and assign specific team members to deliver. Additionally, you can prioritize different assignments and monitor the progress of their implementation.
Chat for Consulting
With Microsoft Teams you can not only send private messages, but also have chats in different channels and in meetings. This can be especially useful for sharing notes, links and any other information during a conference call.
Audio and video conferencing
You can also keep in touch with your team members, as well as other members of the company or external parties through phone calls and video conferences directly in Microsoft Teams.
For example, you can have an online meeting with external stakeholders in your Steering Committee channel, by sending email invitations to the right email address. They will be added as guests of the meeting and will be able to join once you grant them permission.
Use Whiteboard app during the call to get the most out of your brainstorming sessions. This way, everyone will be able to add their notes and then share them in the right channel after the meeting.
Another useful feature is the ability to record your meetings. In case some of your team members can’t participate in the call, you can easily share the recording with them, and keep all the parties up-t-date with the discussions.
Microsoft Teams also allows you to give killer presentations online with the capability of sharing slides. This way you don’t have to worry about not being able to face your clients, which has become a key challenge these days.
Microsoft Teams Templates for Business Consulting
You can create all the teams manually and set the right structure for each new team. However, it will be much more efficient and will save you lots of time if you set up Templates that you can use to create repetitive teams.
For example, if you create an Onboarding team for each of your new employees, and always include the same onboarding tasks, documents with instructions and training material, it will make much more sense to create an Onboarding template where you will include all the right channels, files and tabs. Then your end-users will be able to create a team in just a few clicks and start working on their project straight away.
Business consulting firms can also benefit from Microsoft Teams templates built around their key activities – sales, delivery and account management. If these activities involve different stakeholders, but follow similar structure, you can pre-define templates in order to build new teams quickly and efficiently without loosing time on adding all the necessary documentation and writing the same tasks.
There are different solutions that you can use in order to create Templates, which we discussed in detail in this article. Let’s have a look at native capabilities of Microsoft Teams Templates.
Templates by Microsoft Teams
Templates by Microsoft Teams allow you to define the channel structure, tabs and apps for your future teams. This will allow to surface all the necessary applications to the right members of the company.
However, your employees will still need to log into these apps and browse through their content in order to find the right information.
Even though these capabilities reduce manual work and improve end-user experience, you might find them not sufficient enough to address all the collaboration challenges of your firm.
Let us demonstrate you how your business consulting teams can be more efficient with advanced Microsoft Teams Templates.
Advanced Templates by SalesTim
At SalesTim our mission is to improve collaborative process at scale in the organization. This is why we created an advanced solution that solves all major collaboration challenges in Microsoft Teams and greatly improves efficiency of teamwork.
We will take example of three key activities of a business consulting firm and demonstrate how you can use advanced Microsoft Teams templates to improve collaboration and efficiency of your team.
Deal Room Template
The sales process in the consulting industry is based on principles of relationship selling. You will need a whole team of experts to work on each of your sales project in order to build a high-value proposal and intrigue the client with the background research.
To make the work of your selling team more efficient, you can create a Template where you will include the sales playbook with detailed instructions of each step of the selling process – from the first contact to receiving the paycheck. Giving quick and easy access to these guidelines with already pre-set Planner that includes tasks for every process of the sales cycle will allow your team to quickly divide responsibilities and take on the assignments straight away which will greatly improve their performance.
You will only need to add the playbook and build a Planner once, and all the teams created from this template will be pre-configured automatically.
To create a Template, you will need to create the original team first.
Build all the necessary channels, such as Customer Updates, Planning, Proposal, Reviews.
Then, include tabs with files and apps. For example, you can include Planner, your organization’s playbook and other documentation as tabs in relevant channels.
Afterwards, go to the SalesTim app, click on Catalog, then New template and choose the team you just created. Configure you Template accordingly by setting Naming Convention, Approval Workflow, Audiences, and Security settings.
Your template is ready! Now you and your staff can use the template to create teams with pre-configured channels and tabs in just a few clicks.
Delivery Management Template
There are specific steps that Delivery or Project team take to deliver high-quality recommendations for their clients. Every step of the process should be defined in the consulting playbook. The key activities here will be defining and structuring the problem, prioritizing, creating a work plan, conducting research and synthesizing findings, and, finally, developing recommendations.
Just like in the Deal Room Team, you can include the playbook in your template and create a Planner that will help you organize teams. According to your team’s key activities, create tasks that later on you can assign to specific team members. You will be able to monitor project status and ensure the project requirements meet the client’s needs.
Additionally, you can include all the relevant past projects and deliverables to serve as benchmarks for your future teams.
Same as with the Deal Room Template, you will need to create the original team and pre-configure it for your future teams. Add channels such as Business Reviews, Deliverables, Internal Meetings, Knowledge Management and Steering Commettee.
Add a Planner with tasks, upload the playbook and other documentation to according channels.
When creating a new template, use this team to clone from. As a result, all the information that you included will be automatically copied.
Afterwards, you can define your governance settings.
Account Management Template
Account Management is a part of the sales process. Its purpose here is to establish trusting and long-term relationship with the client that will result in repeated business and referrals.
You can quickly structure your account management teams y including account planning in your Account Management Template. Include projects’ details, deliverables and other client’s information as documents in your templates. This will help your team prioritize accounts and build effective plans around them.
To create this template, again create the Original team with a list of channels – Clients, Competitors, Team meetings, Planning.
Then add the necessary apps and documents as tabs and move on to creating the template.
Don’t forget to take advantage of advanced governance policies by determining Naming convention, Approval workflow, Audience targeting, and Security setting with permanent Owners and Members of future teams.
To sum up, here are some of the most important capabilities of advanced Microsoft Teams templates that can be beneficial for business consulting teams:
Tabs with files and folders at the template level
You can include Playbook as a tab in your General channel. Thus you will ensure everyone has easy access to it.
Additionally, your team will get the opportunity to revise and update documents in real time. This way they will always stay informed about the progress of the project.
Moreover, this capability allows you to improve knowledge management by structuring all the documentation, including former deliverables that can be further reused and added as tabs.
Tabs with apps, including Ready-to-Go Planner
You can surface all the required first- and third-party apps required for your project implementation and pre-configure them at the template level. This will save your team members the time required to log in and navigate through the content.
Additionally, you can set repetitive tasks in the Planner. It will be automatically cloned whenever a new team is created from this template.
You can set up Planner for the execution of the playbook and assign tasks to different team members. This way you will ensure operational excellence of your team.
Microsoft Teams Governance
You can structure your teams’ work and organize your digital workplace through such capabilities as Naming convention, Approval Workflow, and Audience Targeting.
Moreover, you can better protect both your own and your clients’ confidential information by managing private channels. This will allow you to restrict the access to its files only to limited number of people in your team.
This feature can be useful if you need to communicate with external stakeholders. This way you will avoid information leaks when granting them permission to enter your teams.
These are by far not the only features that SalesTim offers for improving collaboration. We highlighted those that are proven most sought-after by business consulting firms.
Learn more about Advanced Templates by SalesTim.