Consultants work on projects of varying lengths, and are often required to travel to work on site with the client.
The specific tasks that a consultant undertakes will depend on which firm she works for, the project requirements, as well as her level of seniority and experience.
Projects typically follow a predictable cycle which involves five stages: pitching, hypothesis generation, research and analysis, reporting, and implementation.
Pitching involves selling the firm and its consultants to prospective clients, and includes not only sending the final proposal but also conducting industry research, investigating prospective clients, and making sales calls. Much of the pitching process at consulting firms is handled at partner level.
Consultants who are “on the beach” (that is, not staffed on a client project) may spend time researching prospective clients and supporting the firm’s marketing and business development efforts.
2. Hypothesis Generation
Prior to commencing any research or analysis, most consulting firms start by developing a case hypothesis about the specific business problem that needs to be solved. This may require a few days of brainstorming involving the consulting project team and members of the client organisation.
3. Research and Analysis
The consulting team will perform research and analysis to test its case hypothesis. This may involve gathering information from the client, conducting market surveys, attending client meetings, interviewing employees and building quantitative models.
The consulting team will use its research findings to uncover insights and develop a set of recommendations.
The consulting team will usually communicate with the client organisation throughout the project at various intervals: daily, weekly, monthly.
The purpose of ongoing communication is to keep the client informed about the evolving hypothesis, get buy in about key assumptions, and make sure the consulting team is on track to meet client expectations.
The consulting team will often conclude its project by delivering a final report accompanied by a polished PowerPoint presentation.
Providing recommendations is often not the end of the story, and clients often engage consultants to help implement the recommendations produced by the consulting project. Depending on the nature of the project, implementation may involve project management, software development, systems integration and testing, or post-merger integration.
[For more information on the management consulting industry, download “The HUB’s Guide to Management Consulting“.]