Traditional consulting vs. Virtual consulting: What’s driving the change?
Professional Services has always been about building relationships with clients. Traditionally, this was done through in-person meetings where the consultants would showcase their capabilities and the service delivery was done though a large team that would visit the client site and work on their projects. That model has changed.
Technology and the information available online today enable clients to do all the research they need in selecting a firm to do business with even before getting on that first discovery call. The project delivery has also evolved into a situation where the clients want access to experts to advise or support them in a way that meets their needs. Very few, if any, clients are focused on the mode of the delivery of this service – whether in-person or virtual.
Through virtual consulting, clients can get into a meeting with the consultants on demand. There is no need for regular interactions to happen in-person, which takes up more energy and time of both the client and the consultant.
Price is another factor that clients are keen on controlling. With the advent of concepts like Consultancy as a Service (CaaS), where consultants work on multiple projects at any given time and are available to virtually consult with clients when needed, Professional Services firms are able to offer their services for a fraction of the cost in a subscription-based model. This helps the firm increase billable hours per consultant, as they get to work on multiple projects, create a pipeline of recurring revenue for the stable growth of the business, and the clients enjoy the services for a lower price.
All these factors point to a future where virtual consulting will be a necessary part of all Professional Services firms.
A shift to virtual consulting hasn’t changed the fundamentals
Virtual consulting may require consultants to make some adjustments, especially if they are used to the in-person environment and find multiple online meetings as being stressful. However, it is important to understand that the only change here is the mode of delivery. The fundamentals of what you as a business need to achieve remains the same.
You still have to deliver ROI to your clients and make sure you get the best client satisfaction to get more business through referrals. When you meet with clients, you still need to manage stakeholders and support the leaders who need some guidance, especially when they are new in that role. In order to deliver the best value, you still need to collaborate with your team.
Virtual consulting makes all of the above easier, faster, and more cost effective.
Where are you at in your consulting journey right now?
Smaller consulting firms that have a localized presence may not see too much of a distinction in terms of in-person and virtual consulting. However, as the business grows and you have to build repeatable processes, standardize pricing, contracting, and estimating, and begin to forecast workload in order to manage staffing requirements, you need to start looking closely at the technologies and the mode of delivery you use.
A growing Professional Services firm can’t rely on ad-hoc procedures that rely on a few capable consultants. You need to have the right technologies in place to support codification and standardization of different processes. This is also the time to consider virtual consulting as one of the service delivery options.
Most Professional Services firms irrespective of size are using virtual consulting in some form or the other. In order to take it to the next level, you need to take steps to make this a deliberate strategy with expected outcomes.
To start with you should familiarize yourself with the different virtual tools available and weigh the pros and cons. For instance, do you need an online communication to just host meetings or do you need that tool to do much more like Microsoft Teams?
Your team members may need some training to help them understand and accept that working with virtual tools will come with some problems and an initial learning curve. Clients too may be facing these challenges and going through a learning curve because they too are new to the different tools.
The changes you make must be incremental. Over time you should be able to track all virtual consulting activities back to different projects and have metrics around them. It is important to understand that this is a marathon and not a sprint. You will acquire new technologies and adopt new business processes and models as you go on this journey.
One of the solutions you should consider, if you haven’t already implemented it, is the Professional Services Automation (PSA) software that connects to Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) solution.
Prepare your business to implement PSA and ERP and other solutions
A PSA solution will help you plan and manage resources, track time and expenses, monitor profitability of each project, and much more. With this solution in place, you will be able to make course correction any time a project is going off-track with budget or timelines. You will also be able to deliver better quality projects by hiring the right talent before hand, instead of scrambling for resources at the last minute. You will also improve resource utilization by knowing availability and matching that resource to understaffed projects.
You can connect your PSA to other solutions to get a more holistic view of the business. The ERP is the accounting and finance solution, which will help you track the financial health of the business and different projects, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software will help you win more business, manage all your contacts, and get better understanding of your clients to create cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. The Human Resource Management (HRM) solution helps you hire the right talent, which becomes more efficient if you connect it to CRM and PSA and know the kind of projects you have in the pipeline and what skill gaps you need to fill.
sa.global has been helping Professional Services firms build a more connected business and deliver measurable results to their clients. Talk to us if you would like to know more about the different solutions you can leverage to build new efficiencies in your business and grow.