Working with our recent clients and prospects in the consulting industry a key trend has emerged was the desire for flexibility in how their business places talent with clients. There is a high tariff, especially in the recent difficult economy, on hiring permanent staff. And even without the economic uncertainty it is difficult to hire and keep consistently busy certain skill sets which were only occasionally required by clients.
The modern, growing consultancy or service provider instead looks more like a core of permanent contributors (consultants and core staff) surrounded by a much larger but looser network of occasional contributors (associates). This concept of a highly skilled ‘bench’ can be extremely valuable. The consultancy is the brand that the client is buying in to and expects that the consultant who they work with will reflect the quality and expertise of that brand. So being able to create and maintain a business that embodies that brand is important very important for the successful consultancy.
Challenges with dynamic talent pool
Building out this high-skill pool talent is a highly desirable goal of course. But it has to be supported with the right tools. Do any of the following scenarios seem familiar?
- associates are using email on different domains making it difficult to connect and share information
- content in multiple dropbox, GDrive and Sharepoint accounts with poor labelling and often impossible to access
- churn of associates means that knowledge transfer to the core of the business is non-existent
- no record of work with clients for new associates joining on a project to discover and get up to speed on
In other words while clients might well be getting value from the presence of the a consultant or associate on-site, the core consultancy is actually learning almost nothing. The the output of the assignments which is many, many cases is valuable intellectual property is often stored only in an email exchange between associate and client.
The irony is that that many consulting teams we work with invest quite heavily in dedicated talent management systems where they record the skills and availability of their bench. But they leave the creation and recording of the actual output of the associates - the reports, the advice, the code - to a plethora of non-connected systems that are often chosen by the consultant or associate themselves with little or no thought to how the information is shared back to the business or amongst colleagues.
A shared place to work
As importantly for a small consultancy in particular is the creation of a shared space where associates can ask for advice from consultants, or where documents can can be posted for comment or even approval. The ability to dip in here, for it to feel like the ‘office’, in many ways is hugely important for the creation of cohesion and teamwork. You can read how easy and flexible it is to create this new location for a talent network in our excellent support centre article which has this and a lot of other material specifically for consultancies.
No requirement to change preferred applications
One objection we often here from clients is that someone, somewhere in the organisation does not want to give up using their favourite application. This is a common misconception about what a product like BCSocial is for. BCSocial is concerned with the aggregation, sharing and storage of the documents not with their creation. This can even extend to users preferred personal file storage (Dropbox etc). The last thing we want to do is to impinge on personal productivity. What BCSocial provides is a way of channeling the content created and filed into these disparate tools and putting them somewhere that is useful for the business and for other to see and share.
One exception to this though is email. Again, in talking to our clients a common resistance to adoption is the degree to which people are wedded to their email. BCSocial works alongside email of course but for the company to benefit from its investment in this new way of working there has to be a conscious shift to share, discuss and advance content and conversations in the BCSocial context and move it out of the inbox.
Why? Because the benefits are so significant. The company rather than the individual shares in the knowledge creation. It’s faster, more open and more organised than remaining in email. It breaks down the pockets of information and creates a digital communication hub - where it matters not at all what the content was created in and by whom and in what location. This in turn makes your talent network much much more valuable.
A great place to work
Consultancies in some ways are unusual businesses. Successful ones see staff spend most of their time working at other business’ location or at least on projects for other companies. This makes the need to create a place online where people can get together regularly all the more important. The value of cloud-based work locations like BCSocial to provide that dedicated space is being realised by an increasing number of go-ahead businesses. Try the dedicated BCSocial consulting track for yourself.