The Process for Building a Business Consulting Project with an Incredible Customer Experience

Already Competitive, Business Consultants Face Plenty of Disruption and Opportunities.

According to Inc.com, corporations across the globe rely on over 700,000 consulting firms to help them with accounting, strategic and operational planning, HR, IT, marketing, and project management. From high-level planning to helping companies scale with outsourced talent, business consulting has grown into a staple resource for most corporations. As such, it has ballooned to be a $250 billion industry. 

While there is plenty of money to be made, business consultants face stiff competition. 

Anybody who works in the professional consulting industry should know that this sector has also faced major disruptions. Dramatic changes stemmed from the way innovations in technology and business models have impacted both clients’ companies and expectations. To prosper, consultants must stay ahead of the curve to deliver superior customer experiences and great results.

Why Business Consultants Need To Invest In Technology?

Inc.com pointed out that many consulting practices have not kept up with the digital transformation tools that many of their own clients have invested in. In every industry, businesses have turned to innovative technology and methodologies to save money, reduce waste, and, mostly, to offer their own customers a better experience.

Successful companies work hard to demonstrate how their own products and services provide value for customers. Naturally, they expect that any consultants they hire will provide them with services that at least meet and even exceed their own capabilities. A consultant will have a tough time selling services to a client when their own company still does things the old-fashioned way.

Inc.com also supported that point by mentioning that new breeds of innovative business consulting firms have started to increase their market share by employing methods and technology that offer customers such features as anytime, anywhere access to engagement information, AI to improve data quality and decision making, and automation to streamline workflows. While typical projects have grown more complex, disruptive consulting firms have learned how to perform better while reducing costs and pleasing more clients.

Why Business Consultants Should Care About Innovative Document Management?

Sometimes, people only think about project management in terms of setting milestones, managing tasks, delegating work, and reporting upon status updates. Even so, all these activities revolve around the information, collaboration, and communication that rely upon various documents and files. These days, companies also work with various kinds of documents that could include text files, spreadsheets, sensor data, or even audio and video files.

This means that consultants need versatile and flexible information systems. Besides having the ability to handle many kinds of information, these systems need to allow for useful, reliable, secure access to required information whenever and from wherever they need it.

For instance, look at some ways projects use the information contained in various kinds of databases and files

Why is Intelligent Document Management the Key to Surviving Disruption?

The Inc.com report on flaws in the consulting industry that made it so ripe for disruption mentioned labour-intensive tasks as the very first problem. The report also discussed the slow delivery times that might make the information outdated or even incorrect by the time the client saw it. That problem makes it impossible to ignore the fact that poor data management leads to incorrect versioning, where it’s possible the right version of the information exists — but that’s not the version used.

Finally, in this era of open-source tech and the democratization of information, clients demand more transparency. They do not want to wait for their hired guns to reach into a black box to tell them the status of their own project. While a client may not require the same view of the information their consultant has, they want to see the big picture for themselves. And they want a convenient way to view this information, without necessarily waiting for their consultant to produce a report each time. The right technology will keep clients in the loop without sacrificing quality or confidentiality.

A Three-step Process For Enhancing Client Experiences With Smart Document Management

Because most consulting projects produce, maintain, rely upon, and even begin with information, better information management systems offer the key to both better project management and client services. Not only can these systems offer clients more value, but they can also help reduce workloads and trim costs for the consulting firm. 

This does not just give clients a better experience, it also offers the firm value with more productive workers who can focus on their important tasks without enduring distractions and tedious, error-prone tasks.

Use “Intelligent” Systems To Reduce Wasted Time And Improve Quality

Intelligent information management (IIM) systems, like M-Files, come with several AI features that can save time at almost every step of the process. They reduce the time it takes to enter or access information and remove the chance of common errors that make it so difficult to stick to budgets and timelines. IIM ultimately helps avoid answering sometimes embarrassing questions.

Even if information comes from a scattering of various software systems and file storage, an IIM system keeps it neatly organized, tracked, controlled, and most of all, accessible. It even understands the different needs of various users to present them with a view that is most relevant to their work.

To help you understand how M-Files uses artificial intelligence, look at just a few examples from the M-Files AI page:

M-FILES REPOSITORY SENSOR:

This smart tool will crawl through amounts of information to identify important data, even when it is buried in a big cluster of low-value or unstructured data sources. For instance, it can detect personal information to make certain that it’s kept secure in order to conform with privacy rules.

M-FILES SMART CLASSIFIER:

This tool will help keep documents organized by learning about the way documents are used and making suggestions about way information should be classified by type. This feature helps reduce wasted resources and improve both human and software performance.

M-FILES INFORMATION EXTRACTOR:

If you have a contract with multiple parties and important dates, this tool can automatically scan through the content of a document to suggest relevant metadata.

These and other smart M-Files features help in a number of ways. For instance, they can provide meaningful metadata suggestions to speed data input and make information fast and easy to find. Just as important for many organizations, the system can help separate useful, valuable data from low-value or redundant information. The system will even learn how each user tends to use information in order to make searches more relevant.

One common finding from a number of surveys of knowledge workers is that they waste 20-30% of their time just looking for the documents they need to work. As noted in the Inc.com report, they also spend a lot of time inputting information and performing other manual tasks. With M-Files, it’s like they have an intelligent virtual assistant speeding up the process while making it less prone to errors.

Some consulting firms may have faced some resistance to using artificial intelligence because they don’t want to take the time to train a complex system to function well. As an example, users generally must train voice recognition programs to respond to their voice, accent, and personal inflection.

The beauty of M-Files is that it applies machine learning and natural language processing to train itself as it works. It does get better over time; however, there is no need to fiddle with settings or change workflows to use it to its full potential. A user does not need to know anything about machine learning and artificial intelligence to benefit from it.

Employ Automation To Enforce The Most Efficient And Obstacle-free Workflows

Of course, when consultants work on projects, they do not just deal with information. The way documents and files move through a workflow provides the key to efficient projects that meet timelines and budgets. Having an invoice get stalled in approval or trying to figure out which version of a spreadsheet contains the most current expense report will always generate delays and sometimes, require embarrassing explanations.

M-Files can even aid compliance updates and training by offering the materials to employees and keeping track of who has attended to them. Besides providing clients with a better experience, firms can use this software to improve their own internal workflows.

M-Files solves common internal and external problems in several different ways. For a couple of typical examples, look at the way that the system automates workflows and maintains versioning information.

Automated Workflows

Let us say a business consultant needs to have a spreadsheet updated and approved by the client’s project manager. With a typical, outmoded business model, the consultant might simply attach the spreadsheet to an email. In turn, the client could forward the spreadsheet to representatives of a few departments to gather their input. After that, the department representatives may send their own versions of the already-updated document with some comments back to the consultant in an email.

At the end of this inefficient and all-too-familiar process, the consultant will end up with multiple versions of the spreadsheet with associated comments in her inbox. That is, if some of the earlier versions of the email did not end up lost or missed in SPAM folders or crowded client inboxes. Now, the consultant needs to keep each set of emailed comments with the right version of the spreadsheet. Then she will need to sort through these files to figure out what is changed, who made the changes, and what needs to get updated on the original document. Obviously, this is an example of an error-prone, tedious, and time-consuming process.

With M-File’s automated workflow process, the original document will just stay in one central location. The consultant can alert each participant that they have a task to attend to. Co-authoring tools make it simple to make updates and leave comments right within this one document — the only true version.

In other cases, documents may even have a planned lifecycle, and the piece of information with its associated alerts can just automatically keep it moving through its scheduled workflow. All the while, managers and supervisors can view each item’s progress. It’s easy to see how consulting firms could employ this sort of automation to keep all sorts of planned work on schedule and easy to manage.

Version Tracking And Audit Trails

The consultant or any project manager can always see what is changed, who changed it, and what still needs to get done. This makes collating information from disparate sources simple to produce a final, accurate document. Sometimes, an issue might arise because multiple individuals made updates that don’t agree with each other.

These situations could happen because of human error or disagreement. In this case, it’s easy to spot who made the changes and what those changes were in order to track down the people or resources needed to verify them.

Besides maintaining project workflow and document versions, M-Files also allows project managers their own view of the project. For example, they can see which tasks have been completed, when the activity occurred, and who took part. This makes it easy to offer status updates to both the consulting firm and client management. If something takes longer than planned, it’s also simple to uncover any obstacles and perhaps, redirect workflows.

Invest in Products and Services that Will Meet and Exceed Customer Expectations

In this age of self-service, online portals, and commoditized knowledge banks, customer expectations have changed. They have learned to depend on transparency, collaboration, and innovation, so why wouldn’t they expect the same from the firms they just as partners to complete their projects?

Better Document Management Gives Today’s Clients What They Really Want

It’s easy to see how efficient document management can save a firm money by making documents more accessible and workflows more efficient. Alexandra Nuth, a management consultant, explained that businesses don’t always hire management consultants to save money. After all, one issue that Inc.com mentioned which made business consulting ripe for disruption was at least a perception of high-profit margins. She pointed out that junior consultants typically bill for more money than the salary of hiring an employee at the same level. Consultants do not just need to provide talent; they also need to profit from their services.

Clients want value, but besides the monetary cost, Ms. Nuth believed clients hired consultants mostly because they needed third-party objectivity, specialized skills, and sometimes, a buffer against internal politics or the risk of poor publicity. They didn’t trust their process, workflows, or decisions and needed confirmation and in some cases, backup. They lacked confidence because at the core, these clients didn’t trust their own information because of its quality or their ability to interpret it or even find it.

When a consulting firm already uses an intelligent information management system to manage both documents and workflows, that alone can provide a service to many of these clients. It’s a tool that consultants can use to make order out of chaos. Intelligent features such as natural language processing can pull valuable data from both the structured kind of data stored in databases and other systems and the sort of unstructured information that arrives in documents like contracts or even conversations and graphics.

This allows consultants to pull the complete picture into their analytics programs and even safely discard the no-value data that might skew their decisions and waste money on storage, security, and security costs. No matter what services a consulting firm specializes in, offering their clients an example of a better way to manage information will also have value.

Clients Care About Security And Compliance

Remote work and various storage mediums have become common. This trend has also increased security concerns. No consultant or client wants to sacrifice robust security or risk running afoul of government regulations. They can never afford potential losses, penalties, or bad publicity.

The move towards allowing more remote access to information through a variety of devices has only increased security and compliance concerns — but not for consulting firms that rely on a modern document management system as their source of information. As an example, M-Files comes with certified-security as a built-in feature. It automatically allows data encryption and can enforce strong passwords or two-factor authentication to ensure that only credentialed users can access the information they need. The software also makes it simple to control access to sensitive documents by department, role, or even by certain metadata.

It’s robust enough to enforce compliance and governance policies but flexible enough to change easily when needed. Only the right users can view, modify, or delete specific kinds of information; and those documents will remain invisible to anybody who doesn’t have access to them.

Beyond security, the software also provides audit trails and version information that will allow project managers or security professionals to see exactly what changed, when it changed, and which user made the changes. Not only does this make auditing simple, but it also helps track progress and track down issues.

M-Files can also accommodate various storage mediums that may be used to conform to various security requirements. If data comes from a public cloud, a hybrid cloud, or an on-premises repository, M-Files can access it. Instead of limiting options because of the information system, businesses can choose the right storage for the project.

Consulting Clients Want Simplicity And Transparency

These days, most projects rely on information from various niche software and storage mediums. For instance, some private data may get stored onsite, but less-sensitive information may reside in a public cloud or even on somebody’s laptop. These options give companies flexibility and the right tools for certain tasks. At the same time, they can also make finding information even harder.

While M-Files includes a central repository, users can also integrate it with files stored in another system and storage medium. This can give each user one intuitive, familiar interface to find what they need, instead of wasting time by having to search for information in numerous silos.

Combined with the intelligent features that can help each user find relevant data, based upon past activity and the ability to set permissions to conform with security plans, M-Files offers a very simple, safe, and powerful way to manage information. In a business, each function and department combine to produce results, so it only makes sense to offer a big-picture view of that information to clients. At the same time, it’s possible to set roles and permissions to give each stakeholder only the view that they require, reducing the chance of introducing errors, security threats, or controversy.

Your Employees Will Appreciate Intelligent Information Management Too

Of course, not only will this transparency and accessibility please clients, it will also please talent. A business consulting firm can rely on its intelligent information management as a selling point for new customers and for new recruits. An investment in better information management will help firms attract and retain both the best clients and the best employees. Meanwhile, those productive employees will also help make their employer shine in the eyes of clients.

Why Choose M-files To Help Your Business Consulting Firm Deliver On Your Customer Experience Promise?

To manage today’s demands, you need the best tools to manage both information and workflows. Instead of forcing you to change your processes, M-Files can work with the workflows and information stores that you already have. That’s why many M-Files clients have said that implementing M-Files was one of the easiest and fastest improvement projects they have ever overseen.

At the same time, the system’s flexibility and built-in intelligence will also allow you to design more efficient and standardized workflows while improving data quality. As with M-Files’ intelligent features, the entire system works well out of the box and gets better the more you explore it.

It’s one thing to explain how M-Files can help you improve your client’s overall experience. It’s much better to show you how it can work within your own firm. We’re here to help you make the best decision.

For more information on how we can help your organisation please email: peter@documentmanagementsoftware.com.au or visit www.documentmanagementsoftware.com.au


Peter Ellyard

Having spent over 20 years immersed in the document management software industry I have found that by offering a simple to use, highly effective electronic document management solution (knowledge management software) we increase productivity dramatically. Typically by an hour per person, per day! This is not rocket science, just a simple way to streamline your day to day information needs.