It Only Looks Easy
I occasionally take some good-natured ribbing about our role as management consultants. After all, all we do is talk with client personnel, ask questions, take good notes, transcribe them, and tell the client what they already knew — right?
Few Consultants Combine Skills with Strategy
Not really. If you really think about all the skills required to successfully perform a true consulting project — including technical, listening, speaking, organizing, presentation, and general business skills — and combine these with a sense of strategy and a creative spark, you'll likely realize how few people possess all these characteristics.
What most client personnel don't see is what goes on out of their sight — how we:
Talk with key project personnel one-on-one before a group meeting, to get a sense of business, process, and technology issues, both current and upcoming.
Determine who needs to be part of the project team, to ensure all relevant parties in the process are represented.
Understand the personalities of the project team, and adapt our techniques accordingly.
Plan the agenda and logistics of the "Structured Roundtable" session to ensure we extract ideas from all personnel as completely, quickly, and efficiently as possible.
Sort through everyone's ideas and quickly develop process descriptions, flowcharts, and ideas to circulate to the group for validation while it's still fresh on everyone's minds.
Visualize what a new process would look like, meeting the key criteria of the various stakeholders.
Convert this vision into the process flowcharts, screen layouts, and functional specifications needed by the stakeholders and the application developer.
Validate the current and envisioned states, revising them as necessary, before finally making the handoff to the developer and providing guidance to him or her as the application progresses.
Ensure the implemented application conforms to specifications and meets pre-defined management criteria for success.
What Makes Us Really Valuable
And here's what really makes us valuable to our clients:
Experience — We have done this many times before, so we know what we're doing and how to get things done.
Eliciting Responses — The problem with typical "brainstorming sessions" or "focus groups" is this — persons who are naturally reserved or shy may not get to share their ideas in such sessions. A "Structured Roundtable" session, actively facilitated by us, helps tap the value of such persons.
Focus — With a single-minded purpose of completing the work and preparing the deliverables, we bring a sharp focus to the project from the first meeting to project completion.
Distillation — In group sessions and individual interviews, many ideas are shared. We zero in on the ideas most likely to be critical to the project, and then secondarily report "nice-to-have" ideas.
Our case study this month is about just such a project. Fortunately, this client understood the value of the experience and skills we bring — they knew we worked hard behind the scenes to make it look easy.
Todd L. Herman
Case Study: Marking the Trail for Process and Technology Improvements
This growing multi-location jewelry retailer's repair business had changed over the years, moving from a mix of store-based and central repairs to a central repair center. Processes and technologies supporting the repair center are keys to both a satisfied clientele, and growing repair revenues from its clientele as well as from other jewelry stores.
The existing application tracked repair items only within the repair center, and was not integrated with the recently upgraded Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The existing processes did not provide visibility and accountability for large-value items from the store to the repair center, and on return. The processes and technologies required duplicate data entry, manual tracking, and were not aligned with the vision of revenue growth for this area, as seen by executives and key managers. In short, vision needed to be translated into specifics to enable action.
We worked with client personnel to:
- Lead meetings with executives and key managers to baseline the current state process and technology, and to outline possible future improvements.
- Validate the stated current process and technology against actual practices, by visiting stores, the repair center, and the central office.
- Translate suggestions for improvement into an integrated set of process and technology specifications.
- Develop mockups of computer screens and related functionality for each step in the revised process.
- Prepare notes to help our client's application developer understand the proposed process and technology.
- Validate these deliverables with specific client personnel.
This excerpt of the future state process depicts the workflow patterns through various documents, computer screens, manual operations and decision points — using "swim lanes" to organize these by departments and roles. This excerpt includes the "Create Repair Ticket" step.
The "Create Repair Ticket" screen tracks the repair process, from store to Repair Center and on return. It includes information to identify the Sales Associate, Customer, Merchandise (with differing requirements for Jewelry and Watch), and Repair. The customer's preferred method of communication is observed throughout the repair process. A palette of all available functions is on the right side of the screen.
Results & Benefits...
We worked quickly and efficiently with persons throughout the organization to draw out their needs and ideas, organize these into a concise current state description, and propose a future state to meet management goals. Our client now has an overall roadmap to implement the desired future state, consisting of:
- Process map of the revised future process.
- Screen mockups and functional specifications for our client's internal developer to build out the new web-based application.
- Clarity among executives and managers about how business goals for the Repair Center will be achieved.
In under 80 hours, we:
- Helped our client articulate and clarify their vision for the desired state of the repair center.
- Developed and presented specific documents and concrete steps to mark the implementation trail for their vision.
Overall, we brought a broad range of business, technical, and interpersonal skills to create a framework for successfully defining and communicating business and system requirements.
For More Information...
To discuss how technology usage and business process improvements could be applied to the issues facing your business, call us at 336.297.4200 to schedule a no-obligation consultation, or click here to contact us online.