Consulting frameworks are an important tool for management consultants. Well-known frameworks are taught in business schools, and they frequently play a major role in the consultant hiring process during case-based interviews. Yet in the digital age, the way that consultants traditionally use frameworks at the client site is proving insufficient. Whereas in previous decades consultants had months to complete a project, clients today are expecting more rapid and custom recommendations. Consulting firms that do not have the workforces to match the increased client expectations will find it difficult to keep up. In this post, we will discuss the importance of consulting frameworks and how productizing frameworks can help consultants keep pace with client expectations in today’s fast-paced business climate.
The use of consulting frameworks arose around the middle of the twentieth century. The management consulting industry was growing rapidly, and pioneering consultants realized that they could expedite their work and scale their business if they codified some of their business knowledge and expertise into patterns, or frameworks, that could then be repeatedly applied to diagnose their clients’ businesses.
Simply put, a consulting framework is a methodology that provides a systematized way of approaching a common business problem. By using frameworks, consultants can conduct client engagements more quickly and with more consistency.
Many frameworks, such as SWOT Analysis (used for identifying an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) or Porter’s Five Forces (used for performing market landscape and competitor analysis), are employed frequently across the management consulting industry. Others, such as the BCG Growth Matrix (used for optimizing a company’s product portfolio), are more proprietary to individual firms, although many of these still garner fairly wide use.
In addition to these frameworks, there are many other analytical methods commonly used by consulting firms. These methods are not exactly frameworks, but they are techniques that are widely used among consultants to analyze data sets. Break-Even Analysis, for example, determines how much profit a company must make before it matches and exceeds its fixed costs. ROI analysis is a simple calculation of profit from investment (revenue minus costs) divided by the capital invested. Benchmarking and identifying Core Competencies are also types of framework tools that consultants frequently employ.
While most consulting frameworks revolve around addressing specific problems that are already identified, some can also identify problems by starting with a high-level view and then diving deeper to discover root causes and potential solutions. The 9Lenses schema is one such framework. It categorizes all business functions and activities into 9 “lenses,” which are literally 9 areas of a business (e.g. Market, Operations, People, Finance etc.). These lenses are then divided into 37 “sub-lenses,” which are divided into more than 100 “themes,” which are finally divided into thousands of diagnostics. By using the 9Lenses framework, our consulting firm customers can gain a 360-degree view of their client’s business to identify problems, then drill down to specific parts of the business in order to fully understand it.
In today’s fast-paced, technology-rooted business world, balancing high quality work with speed is of the utmost importance. Clients expect consultants to move from the discovery / diagnosis phase to the recommendation phase at greater speeds than before and with ever greater accuracy and customization. Before long, consultants may face difficulty finding clients that allow them to operate as they have traditionally. To remain competitive with other firms, consultants will need to acquire or build new technologies that enable them to improve upon highly manual processes and tools such as face-to-face interviewing and manual data collation in Microsoft Excel.
The solution for today’s consultants is to productize their frameworks into scalable assets. We have covered Asset-Based Consulting in previous posts, but the idea is to leverage software to deploy diagnostic consulting frameworks consistently and at scale. By productizing consulting assets, consultants can also gather human data (client insights) automatically, enabling rapid analysis and deeper insights. The 9Lenses software platform enables consultants to productize their own frameworks. This productization allows consultants to better manage the human data they collect and accelerate the analysis process, ultimately shortening the engagement timeline and better meeting client expectations.