Operations is another leafy offshoot of management consulting and bear strong similarities to strategy. The key difference is the intensive focus operations bring to a client’s performance at specific points on the value chain. Operations consultants use the same problem-solving methodology as their counterparts in strategy but direct it toward different, more functional, and explicit areas of the client’s business. A crucial bridge between strategy and implementation, operations consulting identifies how a specific target can be achieved and provides clients with a detailed roadmap for change.
Operations executives live on the frontline, managing industry change, disruption, challenges, and opportunities. They work closely with operations consultants to solve different organizational and efficiency challenges. Clients expect a blueprint for more effective internal operating models, management systems, and functional business processes, that are ripe for implementation.
ROLE OF OPERATIONS CONSULTANTS
Operations consultants provide specific solutions to how a particular challenge can be met. They employ metrics, advanced research, and problem-solving acumen to optimize their clients’ business processes. Designing cost-saving solutions in one location, maximizing profitability in another, reducing bottlenecks, revamping the procurement process, and streamlining logistics, are just some of the broad ranges of missions operations consultants excel at.
Each cog in the corporate or organizational machine must be operationally sound if the client’s targets are to be met. Operational consultants, therefore find themselves busily engaged at every stage of the value chain, engineering business model transformations across functional dimensions. Unlike strategy consultants, they are more likely to get their hands dirty in the day-to-day running of a functional area, such as sales, but stop short of full-scale implementation.
WHAT IS OPERATIONS CONSULTING?
Operations consulting is the process of assisting various types of businesses to assess the current status of internal procedures and strategies and enhance the overall operation of the company. While operations consulting is often thought to focus on manufacturing plants or production facilities, the scope of operations consulting is broader than that. Service-based businesses rather than product-based can benefit from operations consulting.
A key characteristic of operations consulting is that, across the board, it is more resilient to economic conditions than other advisory segments. Consulting demand in strategy consulting is, for instance, strongly linked to growth strategies, while M&A Advisory / Corporate Finance leans heavily on a buoyant economy and acquisition appetite and IT Consulting is, to an extent, reliant on economic conditions that shape capital investment budgets.
In contrast, operations management can be used to improve company performance under favorable as well as unfavorable market conditions, either enabling revenue growth plans or supporting downsizing and efficiency agendas.
Organizational Operations focus on improving the performance of all aspects that support the organization’s structure, including organization design, governance (across functions and departments), roles and responsibilities, and employee performance. Typical activities relate either to the implementation of organizational strategies, such as workforce optimization or the redesign of employee roles or are prompted by an event or crisis, such as a merger or a transition as part of a broader corporate restructuring effort.
From a functional perspective, operations consulting aims at boosting the processes, ways of working, and underlying systems across a broad range of areas, of which Sales & Marketing, Supply Chain, Sourcing & Procurement, Finance, and Research & Development are the largest areas in terms of size. Sales look into how sales operations can be improved, including boosting channel management, professionalizing the level of customer support (i.e. from call centers to specialized helpdesks), and advancing engagement with clients, commonly referred to as customer relationship management (CRM).
Other areas that fall under Sales include the optimization of account & promotion management, Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), and improving workforce effectiveness. Marketing encompasses, among others, the fields of customer & market research, marketing intelligence, product design & engineering, category management, and customer experience & loyalty.
BENEFITS OF OPERATIONS CONSULTING
Any form of outsourcing has timesaving at its core. Managers, employees, and business owners may not have the time or inclination to work out the best operational way forwards. Even if they have the right know-how, they may not have the time to think about how to make it happen and then train the team for the adjustment. That’s where a consultant steps in.
Having a consultant helps restore everyone else’s focus on their primary role. Everyone gets back to work on what they do best, while the consultant sets about improving the overall situation. Sure, it isn’t free (or cheap), but consultation means improvements occur while business continues unimpeded. Those adjustments can have huge impacts, which ultimately result in the benefits outweighing the costs.
Cost reduction and efficiency gains
Worthwhile reductions go beyond one-time cost-cutting endeavors. Operations consultants will find easy ways to save money (such as with labor and materials) and make the necessary changes. However, these won’t solve significant financial problems.
It’s the consultant’s job to go one step further to figure out how to save money long-term. How they do it will depend on your specific situation. However, you can guarantee it will be at the forefront of their mind.
Consultation can lead to significant cost-savings in business operations. Additionally, consultants save you money in a variety of ways. There’s no need to hire a new staff member to do the work.
Swifter Product Development Cycle
Businesses are built upon their products and/or services. Frequently, an operational consultant will work to shorten the time it takes to get it to market. Development processes will be analyzed, tweaked, fine-tuned, or completely overhauled. These improvements will speed up the development cycle, indicating that money will be made at a quick pace. Be quick on adapting to changes in the marketplace and focus on closing leads faster.
Explore New Markets
Consultants can harness their skills in assessing whether or not your organization will be a success with the current market trends and also forecast what skills need to be updated to stay in the competition. When one tries to expand their established business or inflate into other industries, they can think about discussing things with a consultant.
In the blink of an eye, these consultants can quantify what are the benefits of the service you’re going to provide and what issues you might face.
They can showcase their acumen and show what your business is actually lacking. Working in coordination with IT advisors who are not only experienced but also well-trained. They are trained in structuring and operating business systems while working at affordable costs. A small business consultant is the perfect business idea for those interested in helping other entrepreneurs.
Consultants can draw on their expertise to offer solutions to longstanding problems. Their insight and perspective will highlight the weaknesses in your systems. Their knowledge should help rectify or at least improve the situation.
CHALLENGES IN OPERATIONS CONSULTING
Changing market conditions
Unpredictability has been a challenge for management consulting firms for many years now. The consulting marketplace is evolving quickly from one that relied primarily on interpersonal contact to develop new business (think networking or personal referrals) to a wide-open online playing field. Increasingly, that is where the game is played, and buyers are selecting the winners.
But there is more feeding the market frenzy than business development changes. The whole landscape is rapidly evolving, too — mergers and acquisitions are happening at a record pace, and new well-funded firms with different business models pop up with unnerving frequency. This churning marketplace is here to stay, and the most successful firms will learn to adapt to the uncertainty.
Consulting firms handle an enormous volume of confidential client information. This ranges from strategic information (used for strategic engagements, or mergers & acquisitions) to commercial (sales & marketing information for pricing engagements) and personal data (employee data as part of the reorganization and cost-cutting exercises). Such high-value information can be very damaging if it falls into the wrong hands. That makes professional service firms obvious targets for hackers, and data breaches, therefore, pose a particularly serious threat to consultancies.
Consulting firms are facing an increasingly complex macro macro-environment in which they must continue to provide the best advice. The global nature of the industry adds to the problem, as firms deliver more projects overseas, in many cases also working with subcontractors, partner companies, and/or independents. Delivering a project itself is not the issue – the challenge is doing so faster, more efficiently and to tighter budgets, while continuing to satisfy customer needs.
Complexity is also rising because clients are gaining better insight into their projects and demanding more control. The evolution of mobile technology has, for instance, caused a seismic shift in the sector, enabling stakeholders to gain instant access to project information on the go. It presents project managers with the challenge of staying on top of their projects within a more dynamic data environment.
Client expectations and satisfaction
Corporate buyers of professional services have become more demanding, pushing back against concepts such as billable hours, and requiring fixed fees and greater transparency on costs. In an increasingly agile environment, intensified by rapid digital innovation, clients now expect more value, a higher quality of work, and faster delivery of solutions and services.
At the same time, clients are also asking for more transparency and accountability in the work delivered. This particular shift in behavior stems from the financial crisis – when companies were forced to drastically cut down on their external consulting spend – since then, they have maintained a high level of scrutiny. Clients are monitoring the value provided by consultants with greater interest than ever before.
This field has created a significant influence on businesses of all sizes and industries. Consultants display their skills and experience so as to show why they’re the best at what they do. They help companies improve their processes, increase efficiency, reduce costs and enhance overall performance.
After careful analysis, strategic planning and implementation, operations consultants address the areas requiring improvement and help industries optimize their operations for long-term victory.
They also provide organizations with the tools and insights necessary to stay competitive in an ever-changing market whilst helping them to get closer to their goals and objectives.