Who are Strategic Planning Consultants

In the realm of management consultancy, strategic planning consultants focus (as is indicated by their title) on the strategic issues faced by businesses. Their focus is firmly tethered to issues relating to anything from supply chains and logistics to Internet presence. While many of these consultants operate under the umbrella of outside consulting companies, more often they are a part of a larger organization offering their consulting services to different units within the company.

Strategic planning is driven at the highest levels of an organization, usually formulated by a board of directors with input from expert third parties. The resulting “plans” are officially implemented by the company’s executives.

The Role of the Strategic Planning Consultant

Image Source:

Image Source:

Strategic planning consultants help business owners and their executive teams to develop an integrated strategic plan that builds clarity and consensus on a critical game-plan for future success.

A strategy consultant’s role is to provide companies with advice on their goals and future direction. These consultants use expertise, industry experience and analysis to help their clients identify strategies that increase revenue and market share by improving their competitive advantage. Strategy consultants help companies grow faster and increase the value of their business.

A strategic planning consultant will endeavor to clarify an organization’s objectives and the outcomes required for all key stakeholders including customers, shareholders, staff and community. The resulting strategic plan is formulated within a given framework of corporate policies and procedures, and against economic and regulatory backdrops.

A key role for strategy consultants is to help companies define what they do and to identify their capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Consultants examine the company’s product range, the skills of its employees, its customer base and its marketing communications to build a picture of its current capabilities.

Strategy consultants help management teams compare their current capabilities with market opportunities. They analyse a range of opportunities, compare market requirements with the company’s capabilities and set out a range of viable options. The options might include developing or sourcing new products, expanding into wider geographical territories or entering new market sectors. For each option, consultants highlight the associated risk and identify the changes required for success.

Independent strategy consultants are equipped with the expertise and experience of solving strategy problems for small and large businesses across different industry sectors. This perspective and experience can help a management team focus on what the company should do to differentiate itself from the competition. As part of their role, strategic consultants help management teams identify priorities and focus the team on the requirements for making the strategy a reality.

Strategic planning consultants will typically call on a range of individuals to bring supplementary expertise with depth of experience in particular areas for example: economic, financial, risk management, marketing, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, information technology, and human resources.

The strategic planning consultant first analyzes an organization’s current business practices, both internally and with its customers and suppliers. From the assessments made, the business strategy consultant formulates the objectives, both tactically and strategically. Once the plan has been stabilized and baselined, the consultant works with the executive team on an ongoing basis to implement the strategic plan and manage amendments, usually at specified intervals for example quarterly or annually.

Strategic Planning Consultant Skills

The skill requirements of a strategic consultant are extremely high. The complexity involved in formulating an effective long-term plan is immense. Consultants need to find the right avenue that will enable an organization to achieve its stated goals and objectives.

In order to be able to operate credibly with the leadership teams of large organizations, whether in the public or private sector, a strategic planning consultant will be expected to possess some or all of the following experience depending on the client brief:

  • Several years of direct business experience, preferably across several functional areas

  • Significant tenure in a leadership role including executive accountability for business planning across a number of organizations and probably in different industries

  • Experience as an external adviser or consultant to organizations

  • Continuous training and an advanced degree, possibly an MBA, to keep up with strategic advances and technological innovations

  • A solid background as a senior business professional involved in technical activities within a given niche or profession, perhaps including consultancies, academic research, thought leadership and presenting white papers at conferences

Rewards for Strategic Planning Consultants

Technically, there is no ceiling to the rewards available to the business strategy consultant. They are only limited by their experience, knowledge and contacts. A strategic planning consultant’s compensation can quite easily range up in the millions of dollars over the life of an assignment. These fees can be supplemented quite substantially if you hire other experienced, niche consultants to contribute specialist insights.

An experience independent strategic planning consultant can make $250K or more in a year without too much difficulty. It is all within their reach given the right experience, knowledge, and drive. The total compensation will be determined by their background and skills.

There are also the non-monetary rewards: the kudos of being known as the expert in their chosen discipline and being in high demand among the world’s top corporations. The potential in this field is great and very exciting.

Image Source:

Image Source:

The demand for skilled consultants is likely to remain high. The competition will be fierce, although the absolute number of credible competitors will be relatively low. Since the formulation of business strategy planning is an ongoing and evolving process, consulting services will be required for a long time to keep the plan current and the organization on track. The extract from Linkedin shows that the range of industries that are interested of services of strategic planning consultants is wide enough.

Top 5 Consulting Types

The consulting industry is delightfully complex. Perhaps that is what makes it a highly sought after career for so many people with expert knowledge of any particular business field. In fact, aspirations of becoming a management consultant may even be the driving force behind the quest for knowledge and constant learning.
Management consultants are highly sought-after by hundreds of companies spread across several industries for one simple reason: they offer much-needed advice that can turn a business from drab to fab (in a financial sense, of course).

Top 5 Types of Consulting

There are 5 major fields in management consulting that are highly sought after. Understandably, Fortune 1000 executives are only willing to part with their hard-earned funds for specific types of information.

The following are the consulting fields that executives are investing in most frequently:

BCG, McKinsey and Bain are three of the most well-known consultancy firms specialising in strategy. Strategy consulting is often referred to as “management consulting” in its purest form. Consultants in this particular branch of the field work closely with the CEO and senior management members to solve specific strategic problems which include a decline in profitability, hiccoughs in growth strategy, flimsy market entry, overly slow product development, or responding to competitive threats.

2. Operations:
Operations consultants focus on helping clients to improve existing operations. They tend to work on projects relating to supply chain management. This would include simplifying and improving procurement as well as boosting manufacturing efficiency.

3. Information Technology:
Organisations are almost constantly looking for digital solutions that will help them compete in an increasingly competitive, technologically advanced environment. IT consultants have the skills required to develop bespoke software solutions, improving efficiency and performance.

4. Human Resources:
It comes as no surprise that the biggest expenses in many firms are their wages. Of course, employees should be viewed as a company’s biggest asset…and therein lies the conundrum. Balancing expense and value isn’t something that occurs automatically, which is where HR consultants come in. HR consultants help organisations to attract the right sort of applicants and then continue the process by selecting, training, compensating, and assessing employees after the initial application is complete.

5. Economic:
Economic consultants are generally hired by government and law firms. Their goal is to provide economic forecasts and expert evidence, according to the client’s requirements, based on statistical analysis and econometric models.


Learning to Create a Good Survey

Surveys should be a staple in every consultant’s “tool belt”. While data may be easy to find, generally speaking, there are certain more personal topics that aren’t necessarily readily available. The Big Four consulting firms – Bain, PWC, BCG, and Deloitte – make use of surveys on a regular basis. Surveys are possibly the most cost-effective and easiest way to garner information from a wide range of panelists.

Marketers Use them All the Time, Consultants Should Too

Guessing what customers want is a tiresome process that isn’t worth anyone’s while. Trying to ask them for their opinions one at a time is a prime example of prime wastage. Sending out a survey means you can potentially reach hundreds of people in one fell swoop.

With so many free survey tools available, there is absolutely no reason to miss out. The anonymity involved also tends to make panelists feel as though it’s safer to be honest, so you have a higher chance of impartial answers than you do in a personal interview. The data generated by surveys is apolitical and assists in shaping and testing theories.

Survey Monkey offers users a list of tips on creating the most effective surveys, which are ideal for consultants who are testing the waters.

Keep your Objectives in Mind

Before settling down to compile your survey, make sure that your research objective is clear. A cloudy objective won’t garner the results you need and any survey you create based on wishy washy principles is time wasted.

Give some thought to the results you might expect. What actions will you take based on the results you receive? How will the results affect your strategy going forward. How will you deal with receiving the kind of results you don’t want?

While you may want a large pool of panelists, remember that mass marketing is no longer as popular as it once was. You need to target your audience correctly. Separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will.

In order to properly segment your audience, you need to get a bit personal (though within reason). Consider the demographics that would be most useful in your plight.

Keep it Simple and Logical

Organising your survey logically is more important than you might think. Keep your easy questions for the beginning of the survey – treat them as somewhat of a warm up. Put the difficult questions in the middle, and then end off with a few more easy questions. Think of the whole thing as a session at the gym.

Make sure to keep your questions as short and as simple as possible. You need to be sure that your respondents understand you clearly. Try to avoid open-ended questions if you can as they aren’t always good in terms of generating accurately measurable data.

Be sure to keep your own opinions out of the questions. Leading respondents to your preferred answer will be considered a cheap shot and reflect negatively on your consulting skills.

Do your best to think like a marketer and you’re almost guaranteed to make a success of the survey process.

Why hourly (Agile) consulting projects deliver better results

As a business and digital consultant for more than a decade. I have often had long debates with customers if they should pay by the hour (days) or a fixed price, which is agreed upfront. Having a software background, in our world, we would call it Agile i.e. focus on the end objective but not how we get there. This also comes bundled with adaptive planning and short cycles of planning/implementing. The other method is Waterfall , generally  pre-planned and has series of steps all agreed in advance.

Most customers prefer Waterfall

There is no doubt that customers love ‘no’ surprises. Its widely believed by customers that a supplier has a magic wand to come up with precise pricing. In reality though, no two projects are the same. Even if two projects have exactly the same specification, the founders are different and hence they have different expectations and experiences. Hence the project will inevitably be different. No company, can precisely predict the time and cost involved, its therefore known as an estimate.

How does a supplier counter the unknown?

The supplier generally knows that its rather tricky to come up with accurate time estimates, hence they add a contingency or buffer. Its not abnormal for this to be 25-50%. In fact , a good supplier should have a large buffer to give the customer what they need. In my previous business, I used to add 40%, making us expensive but water-tight.

Biggest challenge

Almost any good project has a changing finish line or scope. Most supplier deliver projects in stages or by milestones. As the customer sees the progress, new thoughts kindle and Project definition changes. Projects worth $100,000 become $250,000 by the time the idea turns to reality. In fact, organisations like IBM make a significant amount of money on project change management.

How should a client protect their interest?

Keeping all these factors and potential cost of change management, how should the client plan their project? In my opinion, the ideal way to work with consultants is to:

1. Divide all the tasks into large headings, ideally produced by the supplier. Obviously, only after you have given them a proper brief or detailed explanation over the phone.

2. Now let them tell you in a document as to what they have understood. In addition providing milestones and phases for the project.

3. Award them the project and track the hours they are working.

4. Monitor them and their work, daily or every couple of days. Make sure they deliver what you had in your mind.

5. If they get it, results will be fairly evident. For smaller projects the results are out in the open within 7-14 days. If they don’t get it, explain, correct and try again. If they still don’t get it, fire them and find someone else!

That’s how one finds a good supplier and gets work done on tight budgets