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CONSULTING IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT – DISCUSSION NOTES

1.  MANAGEMENT OF THE IC GROUP

  • Challenge for client and stakeholder relationships, maintaining the consulting culture and successful collaboration & team building
  • Implications for recruiting, onboarding, training & development involving changing the way we manage
  • Need to address home office considerations, e.g.,:  ergonomics, isolation space, internet connectivity, tools, etc.
  • Consider virtual event management tools for large gatherings including:  Livestream, Intrado and Katura
  • There is a challenge because of less casual contact in remaining visible to the organization.  This requires a greater frequency of communication, status reports and visibly providing “value-added”
  • Need to make video capability available as much as possible
  • Need to address the culture challenge, including frequent huddles and succinct emails, new internet website for staff and conducting wellness checks using multiple methods of communication (including WhatsApp)
  • Key success factors include enhancing change management skills, being ready to move fast and be agile delivering value and focusing on outcomes with resiliency and adapting quickly considering resource constraints
  • Agile structure of the IC Group helps to prepare for virtual environment and to being more agile (including scrums and start-up meetings)
  • Managers can pop into individual boards in MS Teams to get status updates

2.  INTERACTIONS AMONG CONSULTING TEAM MEMBERS AND CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS

  • Changing the way we work across team and getting alignment on decisions with combination of video conferencing and visual white-boarding tools to collaborate online
  • Utilizing more rigorous touch points, daily team check-ins and every 2-3 days with clients
  • Shift to more of a co-creation approach and work-in-progress, including more transparency in working with clients
  • In a global team network, changing the way we work was the hardest part of teaming – working with team and clients getting alignment on decisions*
  • Need video capabilities and tools to collaborate online*
  • Iterating on both project definition and analysis*
  • Using virtual format exclusively extends the time required for projects/engagements (e.g., from 8 to 12 weeks) with additional challenges of multiple stakeholder alignment*
  • Need ice-breaking and trust-building time and the ability to ensure the right expertise is involved*
  • Should have a separate one-on-one conversation to get to know clients individually prior to group sessions*
  • Focus on doing work ahead of time and start with guided personal conversations and follow through in a timely manner
  • Need to make a special effort to stay connected – bringing frequent updates and next step plans
  • Series of short calls providing status of what need to so in the short term

*Includes external consultant input

3.  USE OF TECHNOLOGY/TOOLS

  • Video conference platforms being used including Microsoft Teams, Webex and Zoom.  MS Teams helps with collaboration, plans to chat, uploading documents and collaboration in real time
  • Visual white-boarding with MURAL (MURAL not as good as white-boarding)
  • Consider virtual event management tools for large gatherings including:  Livestream, Intrado and Katura.  AV vendors who already have these tools can avoid purchase cost
  • Poll Everywhere is a useful engagement tool helpful to stimulate more non-verbal thinking making people feel they are in a real class/training
  • MS Planner type of simple tool helps with frequent next step planning
  • KANBAN Boards provide client access to planning updates
  • Zoom is good for video conferencing if needed security features are utilized
  • Gartner, Inc. can assist with research regarding use of tools in a virtual environment.  Their Research & Advisory Services can be helpful if your organization is already using them

4.  OVERALL ORGANIZATIONAL IMPACT

  • Potential evolution of a hybrid organizational model with mix of work from home and onsite presence for many employees
  • Consultants adapted well but clients take longer – a side benefit is the ability to develop personal relationships with clients*
  • Companies will have a higher priority in adopting digital technology across many sectors of the enterprise
  • Stop apologizing for doing it virtual – more smaller iterations make clients feel part of the process
  • A survey indicated “switch to virtual teams” was rated as successful with the following implications for future style of work:  a good supplement to face-to-face work in the office; need to keep virtual touch points; it was an initial challenge but adapting currently; and how to strike “the proper balance”
  • Need to develop employee skills for being more flexible and nimble to daily change

*Includes external consultant input

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