2021 Consulting Roundup (Part 2): What Worked, What Didn't, and What's Next
Tweet it:'The consulting firms we talked to universally relied more heavily on collaboration, communication and project management tools in 2021 to help improve inefficiencies caused by more remote and hybrid workers.'
By: Timothy Bailey, VP of Global Consulting at Deltek
We talked with consulting leaders from firms across multiple industries including general management, IT, healthcare, and environmental. These leaders shared with us the challenges they faced last year and what’s next in 2022. Part 2 of our consulting roundup focuses on business systems and productivity tools and tips for 2022 success. In case you missed it, read part 1 here.
The Tools That Helped Us Survive
The firms we talked with universally relied more heavily on collaboration, communication and project management tools in 2021 to help improve inefficiencies caused by more remote and hybrid workers. Not surprisingly, Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Slack were some of the most popular tools.
Jason Mlicki, Principal of Rattleback says, “We've deepened and improved our usage of Microsoft Teams to collaborate on documents and communicate between staff, outside contractors, and clients. In, addition, we've put more structure and time into maximizing our project resourcing software to gain visibility into critical paths, deadlines, and overall progress against client objectives.”
Zoom and Teams have also seen increased usage among clients of Roffensian Consulting S.A. According to Andy Jordan, President of Roffensian, “We work with our clients’ collaborative work management solutions because that’s where they are comfortable so we have seen increased use of most of those platforms.”
Communications & Social Listening
Many of the firms we talked with expressed a need to better communicate internally by increasing employee all hands calls and developing internal intranet or company portals where tools, documents and key company data can be shared. “Internal systems and communications have been a very large focus as we scale up our internal infrastructure to meet the needs of the work we see coming. We launched an intranet and implemented SharePoint and Teams for collaboration and cloud storage.” Says Jessica Bourne, CFO of River Partners
Social Listening Tools
According to Kelly Waffle, Managing Director at The Hinge Research Institute, “we invested in database cleansing and appending technology, and leveraged social media listening tools.” Social listening is the process of monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, products, and keywords related to your business. Many consulting firms took 2021 to implement similar programs to help them analyze industry trends, discover relevant topics and hashtags, and track brand awareness.
Streamlining Business Processes
Many of the consultancies we met with invested time and resources in 2021 towards improving their business processes by implementing a PSA or project-based financial management system.
“We implemented Deltek VantagePoint in September. It is early days for us but has already proven to be very helpful in streamlining key processes like expense reporting, time tracking, and invoicing as well as managing staffing. Cutting down on email traffic becomes increasingly helpful in a more virtual environment.” - Adam Schwartz, President at SSI Strategy
The right project-based financial management system can help consulting firms streamline project management while also providing visibility into expenses, revenue, and pipeline in one integrated package.
2021 Consulting Roundup Webinar
What Worked, What Didn't, & What's Next?
An Expectation of Growth
Consulting services are expected to grow at a rate of 4.6% a year for the next 4 years and the small to mid-size firms we talked with all shared that same optimism. According to Sean Kennedy, Sr. VP for the transportation and environmental consultancy Marine Tiger Technologies:
“We expect 2022 to be another year of steady growth. We are coming in to 2022 with the biggest backlog of work ever. We have also grown our staff by almost 30% this year putting us in a position to maximize our opportunities to grow.”
Adam Schwartz, President of Life-Sciences consultancy SSI Strategy shares this sentiment. “We anticipate significant growth in terms of headcount, revenue, and client engagement next year. We continue to expand our service offerings and approaches to engaging with and supporting our clients.”
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin!
Scaling up too fast is one of the most common mistakes companies make as noted by research from The Growth Institute. Andy Jordan of management consulting firm Roffensian Consulting S.A., agrees that there will be great opportunities for growth in 2022, but cautions us to make sure it’s managed and controllable.
“There is increasing desire among organizations to embrace digital transformation and to improve their strategic portfolio management capabilities... But these require long-term, if not full-time, relationships with clients and that requires us to be cautious to avoid spreading ourselves too thinly or scaling beyond the point of excellence.”
Growth, Yes! But How?
Some firms we talked with expected to make small tweaks based on personal and hiring opportunities. “Potentially we’ll have some operational changes driven by evolving personal circumstances, but strategically I think we are going to be refining rather than shifting.” Says Andy Jordan, President of Roffensian Consulting S.A. Other firms had more robust plans based on increased service offerings. According to Kelly Waffle at Hinge “One of the biggest growth opportunities we see over the next few years is around productizing some of our offerings. We hope to roll out some applications and tools that will help our clients generate more visibility, growth, and profitability.”
One way to increase demand for services is by building trust with new customers by demonstrating deep industry expertise. Jason Mlicki, Principal of marketing consultancy, Rattleback expects growth to be driven in 2022 by an increased interest in research and thought leadership.
“We are seeing more consulting firms placing a higher emphasis on their thought leadership initiatives; this includes developing more purposeful thought leadership strategies, investing in research and higher quality content development processes, and placing more emphasis on their digital marketing efforts.”
Kelly Waffle at Hinge agrees, “A large growth opportunity for us is research. Most people use research to make better strategy and planning decisions. We help our clients use research as premium content in email campaigns, webinars, blogs, and social media posts to increase visibility, credibility/trust, and leads.” Not surprisingly, data from Hinge shows that firms which invest more money in marketing and research tend to grow faster.
And Speaking of Growth & Research…
If you are interested in hearing what these and other consulting leaders are doing to help them grow, listen to our on-demand webinar: 2021 Consulting: The Year-In-Review. This executive panel of consulting leader’s reviews what worked, what didn’t, and what’s next for the consulting industry in 2022.
Thank you to our consulting partners who helped with this effort:
- Adam Schwartz, President at SSI Strategy
- Sean Kennedy, Sr. VP, Marine Tiger Technologies
- Jason Mlicki, Principal of Rattleback
- Andy Jordan, President of Roffensian Consulting S.A.
- Jessica Bourne, CFO of River Partners
- Kelly Waffle, Managing Director at The Hinge Research Institute
About the Author
Tim serves as Vice President, Global Consulting at Deltek. He is an experienced and goal-oriented professional services executive with a demonstrated track record of success in designing and building services delivery organizations.
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