Managing a consultancy business involves the simultaneous pursuit of several key ambitions, each of which presents unique challenges. To succeed, companies need to find ways to:
Grow revenue and profits
Connect your growth strategy with your project practices to win more profitable business
Guarantee project success
Deliver complex projects within tight timescales, in scope, and within budget
Provide superior service
Exceed expectations with more focused, informed, agile and responsive teams
The consultancy industry is currently in the middle of one of the most rapid periods of change in its existence. Companies are faced with a digital revolution, a more polarized industry and clients that increasingly demand more niche expertise, on top of the usual struggles of keeping clients happy and making a solid profit.
Pursuing these ambitions in a fast-changing, increasingly complicated industry is demanding. But it can be made easier by taking full advantage of the latest technology advances in professional services automation/project services automation, such as the Unit4 PSA Suite and broader enterprise software such as Unit4 Business World to enable better collaboration, visibility and efficiency.
What challenges do consultancy businesses face?
There are some issues that consultancy firms have always had to deal with. Attracting top-tier talent, for example, or integrating new technology into the business.
However, modern consultants face a range of additional challenges, including:
- An increasingly polarized market, with customers seeking either traditional, high-end services or low-cost “commoditized” ones.
- A growth in demand for specialized services, that can’t always be covered in house.
These mean careful choices on whether to focus on just one end of the market or split operations to service both. And on which specialized services can be staffed internally and which need to be outsourced. These extra layers of complexity make smarter communication, collaboration and processes more important than ever.
Key consultancy industry trends
Unit4 can offer game-changing solutions for consultancy companies, to help them rise to the challenges they face today, and respond proactively to many of the key trends that are reshaping the industry:
For consultancy firms, being able to grow means being ready for opportunities.
But high-value clients require skilled consultants, and taking those on is costly. It can be a mistake to hire too soon without a guarantee of work coming in to make up for it, but this is a risk many firms need to take in order to keep winning new business.
Maintaining profitable growth needs very good visibility of potential pipeline, skill requirements and project logistics to plan the most cost-effective recruitment and outsourcing. It’s also vital that the company’s existing people and equipment can be put to the best possible use at all times.
Win more business
Unit4 solutions help consultancy firms manage ongoing finances, people and projects more effectively and offer the tools and insights to plan the most profitable way forward. By automating admin tasks to maximize availability and productivity, they also free up valuable staff. This safeguards the agility (and profit margins) of the business to stay ahead of market trends and rivals.
Consultancy companies have always served the needs of a wide variety of clients, but these are increasingly falling into two main underlying categories: those looking for traditional, high-value, advice-driven consultancy, and others seeking consultancy as a commodity that they can easily fit into their (usually smaller) budgets.
Some firms will choose to specialize, but most are diversifying their offerings, so as to court both client bases. However, this comes with its own organizational challenges. Duplicating structures is not usually cost effective but having the same staff working on different types of client leads to difficulties in managing employee time and availability, with project leaders left juggling priorities and struggling to see who is available to take on new work.
Execute profitable projects
Smarter project management software is a must for navigating through these issues successfully. Using Unit4's solutions gives complete visibility over resources, so managers can see what’s happening for every client and employee, as well as all the opportunities for efficiency that come with that. This makes it simple to allocate work and manage a varied client pool.
The struggle to recruit the most talented individuals is well-documented in consultancy, as it is in many ways the cornerstone of providing the best service to clients. However, as important as it is to bring the best people on board, it is even more crucial to maintain the talent in an organization.
New employees need to have their skills developed, and training is a necessary tool to keep everyone in a consultancy firm at the top of their game. It's also key to ensuring firms keep hold of their talent, as without offering tangible development opportunities many employees will jump ship as soon as they see a potentially better offer. To avoid this, companies need to make sure they are actively improving the skillset of their staff.
Staff more effectively
Unit4 offers user-friendly, intuitive and automated software applications that enable consultancy firms to keep track of the HR details of their employees. Each staff member’s skills, appraisals, work experience, and training achievements can be recorded, tracked and managed to keep each person moving forward and able to deliver the skills that the business needs.
One of the results of the digital era is that companies need increasingly specific consultancy services in order to navigate it.
However, unless a firm has the relevant specialist on the payroll, then they have to either recruit or resort to outsourcing, in order to win and complete work.
This can be a very good business strategy if done well. However, it poses organizational difficulties, especially when communicating and coordinating business over multiple companies. And there can be major impacts on the bottom line and the complexity of controlling budgets, costs and staying on top of multiple projects.
Bill with precision
Unit4 solutions give managers a complete overview of all ongoing projects, making it easy to keep track of outsourcing and billable costs, as well as generate financial statements, produce detailed budget reports, manage invoicing and retain a direct overview of their bank balances and cash flows at all times.
Helping consultancy staff at every level
Unit4's solutions deliver value to each member of an organization, making jobs easier and more efficient across the board. Here is how your entire consultancy firm can benefit from Unit4 software:
Executives and Managers
Unit4 solutions make it easier to oversee the company's strategic direction.
Leaders and decision makers will be able to see all the work their firm does in detail, giving them a well-informed overview of the business and the areas in which efficiency gains can be made and profits increased.
Unit4 solutions make it easier to budget, report and forecast more accurately, giving the finance team full visbility of their organization’s cash flow and profit margins, for better informed forward-thinking and planning for growth.
Unit4 solutions deliver better visibility over an entire project from end to end, helping to manage staff more effectively, with increased visibility over the time available and how different projects are progressing.
Unit4 solutions help companies to maintain and match the right skills to current and future projects. As well as ensuring the most suitable staff can be allocated for their skill set, HR teams can monitor each person's overall development and training needs to keep them engaged and drive long-term job satisfaction and retention of key talent.
Unit4 solutions help reduce the time taken up by complex bureaucracy and manual form-filling, allowing consultants to forget about time-consuming admin tasks, and focus on profitable client work instead.