October 2008

To see how these concepts played out in our project for this client, please visit Marking the Trail for Process and Technology Improvements.

Todd Herman

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.

Sincerely yours,


Todd L. Herman

Read more about information system, process improvement, and business intelligence.