Tools Consulting Firms Use to Scale Operations
By Mike Raia Posted October 23, 2018
Consulting firms face unique challenges in the market, balancing the need for delivering client value and managing human capital in a hyper-competitive industry.
In today's hyper-competitive business world, consulting firms are an invaluable source of expertise and guidance. The right business consultant can make all the difference when firms are attempting to successfully complete a project or achieve a broader strategic objective.
In order to help organizational leaders realize their ambitions, however, business consulting firms require more than a mix of talent and industry experience -- they also need strong technological support. The right software tools can also help ensure that consulting firms derive maximum efficiency and value from their own internal operations.
With that in mind, let's take a closer look at software platforms that today's consulting firms can't live without.
Why the Right Software Drives Consulting Success
Consultants have one of the toughest jobs in the business world, as they are responsible for tackling the most complex and challenging problems that organizations have to solve.
This means that it's vitally important for consultants to be supported in their mission with the right combination of advanced tools. Consulting firms, too, need technological solutions to help improve business processes and raise public awareness.
For most firms, that means investing in some (or all) of the following platforms:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Client relationships are the lifeblood of any business. Given the high cost of customer acquisition, businesses that can't keep their customers happy and loyal are at a serious competitive disadvantage. This is especially true in the world of consulting, where relationships are paramount. The right CRM platform helps manage everything from basic client data to sophisticated sales and marketing functions.
Timesheet software. Keeping track of billable hours, varying client rate structures and invoicing is no small task for a consulting firm. By using advanced timesheet software consulting firms can seamlessly accomplish all of this -- while saving time and gaining greater visibility with regard to project performance inside the firm. Given the frequency with which consultants travel, expense tracking is another key task. By using sophisticated timesheet management software, businesses can make the process of submitting, approving and reimbursing claims much easier.
Communications and collaboration software. Consulting firms should endeavor to keep all internal communications within a single platform that offers robust features and mobile optimization (the latter being particularly important given the travel demands consultants face). The right platform should also allow for fast and easy collaboration, including remote document editing and other important group functions.
Workflow automation software. Bottlenecks, redundancies, and other efficiency killers are often the result of suboptimal workflow. Delays in assigning resources to projects, client billing, new client onboarding, proposal generation, and other critical processes drain time and revenue. Fortunately, there's an easy solution to the problem of inefficient workflow: Automation. An advanced workflow automation platform allows staff and clients to submit and track requests with ease through a personalized service portal. The right platform also allows for the simple creation of Web-based, drag and drop forms that can be used to capture information and feed data into workflows, while also creating an audit trail of all workflow processes, form data, and user actions. Finally, an advanced automation solution uses open architecture to allow consultants to create their own workflow applications or for clients as an additional revenue stream.
Project management software. Meeting project goals on time and within budget is a core responsibility for consultants. By using project management software, it's possible to closely track the progress of each project, helping you to meet deadlines and deliverables while effectively allocating resources. The right software solution allows you to assign specific tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities to individual consultants, and generate reports to gauge how things are progressing. This makes project management software an essential tool for today's business consulting firms.
Marketing and social management software. Many consulting firms profit from the use of a dedicated marketing and social media management solution. Email and content marketing both play a key role in the consulting industry, and the right software tool can help make campaign creation and management significantly more efficient and effective. The same holds true for social media. Managing accounts on multiple social media platforms is no trivial task, so an advanced marketing and social software solution is often an invaluable tool.
Human resources management software. Consulting businesses have no more valuable resource than the people working for them, which is why human resources is now an important player in business strategy. This means that it's absolutely critical for firms to operate effectively in terms of recruiting, hiring and managing personnel. The right software platform can streamline the recruiting and hiring process and support ongoing professional development initiatives, making it an indispensable tool for modern consulting firms.
In order to serve their clients and support their employees, consulting firms need to invest in the necessary software tools to get the job done. By deploying software platforms such as those listed above, consulting firms can:
- Raise their marketing profile
- More effectively manage employees
- Keep better track of billing and expenses
- Improve the process of project management
- Enhance internal communication and collaboration
- Unlock significant efficiency gains within workflows by using automation
Taken together, those improvements will help any consulting firm carve out a serious competitive edge in today's marketplace.