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How to Automate the Consulting Process in 7 Steps

January 12, 2022

how to automate consulting

As a consultant, you want to stand out by providing every client with personalized advice at every step in the process. Giving professional advice at a personal level comes with many challenges like a lack of time and resources, leading to an inefficiency problem.

Building and maintaining a personal relationship with your client throughout the entire project takes time. The more time you spend on one client, the fewer projects you can take on.  

So the big question is: Can personalization and automation go hand in hand? 

Let's find out.

What is an automated consulting process?

Automation has helped many industries streamline their processes, become more efficient, and generate more revenue. The consulting industry shouldn't be any different.

Automating the consulting process refers to leveraging technology to take over repetitive and mundane tasks. Reducing human intervention helps reduce errors, increase speed, and enable you to scale your consulting business. 

One of the most significant advantages of automation is that it helps speed up the data collection process. And as a consultant, data is the backbone of your business.

To get started automating the consulting process, you must analyze your client's business processes and follow these steps:

Understand the existing processes

Audit your client's existing business processes. Doing this will allow you to see inefficiencies in the process that you can improve with automation. 

Define the maturity of your client's business

Using a maturity assessment, gauge the maturity of your client's business in various areas. This will give you a better understanding of where they are and the steps needed to take their business to the next level.

online presence maturity assessment

Source: Survey Anyplace

Identify pain points and challenges

To best serve your clients, you need to understand their pain points and challenges clearly. You can use a needs assessment or survey software to gather this information — a step that you can easily automate.

Suggest improvements within their specific framework

Once you have the information from the first three steps, you can generate a report with your findings and recommendations. 

marketing assessment report survey anyplace

Source: Survey Anyplace

You can automate your reporting activities, too.

Implementing your advice

Now, it's time to implement your advice. Depending on the complexity of the industry, you can expect to be hands-on in some aspects of the implementation. Define the steps you want to take together with your client. This part will mostly be a manual process.

Following up

Once your client has implemented your advice, follow up on the effects. Your follow-up must include evaluating the new process and the results achieved. It also involves gauging whether the client (or their team) finds the new process easier or more complicated.

Continuously improving the process

As a living entity, your client's business will continually be evolving. If you’re doing a good job, you'll need to evaluate and improve the processes continuously. 

Most of the steps above can be automated, helping you eliminate manual work. 

Why automate the consulting process?

I think you already get my point. Automating your consulting process is possible in different phases of your projects. Let’s take a look at it from a business perspective. You want to stand out from the other consultants, right?

Consulting is one of the industries that thrive on one-on-one interactions with clients. 

So doesn't that mean automation will do more harm than good? Won’t you lose clients because you’ll have less personal contact with each and every client?

Not at all. Let's look at a few reasons why automating the consulting process is necessary.  

Follow digital transformation tendency

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is in full swing, and every industry and business has already undergone or is undergoing digital transformation. As a consultant, you need to transform digitally to improve your business and understand your clients better.

Be a pioneer

Despite being the field that advises other businesses to improve, the consulting industry is still lagging in the area of automation. Implementing automation in your business will put you ahead of the competition as you'll be one of the first to do so.

Secondly, you’ll set a good example for your clients as well.

Save time and money

One of the most significant advantages of automation is that it saves you time spent doing manual work. As a result, it frees up your time to do more strategic work, be more creative, and take on more clients. As a result, you get to save money and, ultimately, increase your revenue.

Limit headcount

Staffing overheads are one of the most significant expenses businesses undertake. Reducing them leads to an increase in profits. And that's exactly what automation enables you to do — reduce your headcount. 

Improve client experience

Your consultancy business needs one primary ingredient for it to succeed — clients. And the best way to retain clients is by giving them an exceptional experience. Customer experience (CX) has become a significant part of the success equation for every business.

top priority for business customer experience

Source: SuperOffice 

A positive experience is also essential to getting new clients as it encourages referrals from your current customers. Automating your consulting process is an excellent way of ensuring that you provide top-notch client experiences.

Better process transparency

Automation makes your results more quantifiable. It enables you and your clients to understand your processes and measure results better. This is thanks to analytics engines that help with measuring and reporting your critical KPIs.

Standardize deliverables

Standardizing your consulting deliverables is an essential part of streamlining your business and increasing your efficiency. Automation enables you to package your services better and create standardized deliverables. Both will help minimize the manual work that usually goes into tailoring packages and deliverables. It also helps speed up your process.

Scale your business

Because of the time saved and the manual work reduced by automation, scaling becomes easier. Not only does automation allow you to scale by taking on more clients, it also enables you to increase the packages and services you offer.

Leverage your data to establish yourself as a thought leader

The data collection and analysis that comes with automation is a game-changer for consultants. That's because it allows you to:

  • Set industry benchmarks
  • Share aggregated data in the form of industry reports 

You can leverage these (and more) data collection advantages to establish yourself as a thought leader in your vertical.

As you can see, there are innumerable reasons why you should embrace automation in your consultancy business. Failure to automate will put you at a competitive disadvantage.

7 steps to effectively automate consulting

Now that you know the importance of automating the consulting process, let's start with an example, and then take a look at the seven steps to help you do so.

So let’s get you prepared and take a look at the seven steps to starting your own digital transformation.

1. Assess your need for automation and identify opportunities

The first step in digitally transforming your consulting business is to assess your need for automation. This starts with analyzing every step of your consulting process, including:

  • Analyzing what you're currently working
  • Analyzing the amount of time you spend on different tasks
  • Analyzing which areas can be improved

To best identify processes that you can automate, check for those that are rule-based. These are processes that follow a strict logical order and don't require human judgment. Also, ensure these processes are well-defined and don't change. 

By analyzing all of your processes in this light, it becomes easier to identify automation processes and opportunities. 

Now, let’s take a look at how you can set up an automation plan for your business.

2. Work out an automation plan based on your expertise

Now that you've assessed your business process and identified automation opportunities, you need to decide how you'll implement automation.

You need to work out an automation plan based on your data and expertise.

Here are a few pointers to help you with this step:

Create an overview of which parts of your process can be automated

To better plan for your automation, you must first create an overview of the parts of your process that can be automated. It would help if you also considered how:

  • They're connected
  • They relate to each other
  • They impact and influence the client's experience

Doing this ensures that your automated sequences are efficient and result in a good customer journey.

Make a plan for each step you want to automate

After getting an overview of the parts of the process you want to automate, you need to plan how to automate them. A few pointers here include: 

  • Calculate automation potential. Just because you can automate a particular step of the process doesn't mean you should. Weigh the benefits of automating it and consider if automation will have enough momentum to be worth it.
  • Decide on your budget. Automation tools come at a price. Consider if you have the budget to automate every aspect that can be automated. If not, prioritize those that will give you the best return on investment (ROI).
  • Define the functionalities you need (methodology). Defining the functionalities you need will help you map a blueprint of how you'll implement automation for each step.

3. Identify the best automation tools or systems to use

With an automation plan in place, you now know what you'll be automating and how. Now it's time to identify the tools that will help you pull it off. To do this, analyze a collection of suitable tools that fit your budget. Once you've shortlisted the best possible candidates:

  • Test selection of technology. Sign up for free trials of the tools you're interested in and test them thoroughly. This will help you identify those that suit your situation best. If you’re in doubt, schedule a demo call with the best software candidates, so that you can ask more in-depth questions.
  • Select final automation tool(s). Once your tests are complete, pick your final selection of tools. Make sure they work well together and integrate with your current tools.
  • Implement tool(s) into your process. Implement your new tools into your business process and monitor their performance. 

Remember, not all automation tools are built the same. The success of your automation program depends on finding the right tools for your business.

4. Establish an automation workflow

Automation isn't automatic. To work effectively, you must establish an automation workflow that ensures all the pieces of your process effortlessly work in sync. To do that, you must start by defining the activities that will be automated and those that will stay manual. Next: 

Integrate automated and manual tasks to optimize your workflow

Make sure there's a smooth continuation where your automated and manual tasks meet. When these are in sync, it results in an optimized workflow. 

Set up an accessible procedure that you (and your team) can fall back on

Create a document that outlines how you'll use the new automation process. Ensure that everyone on your team knows how to use the automation tools you'll be using. If necessary, invest in training to help them get to speed quickly. 

Because tools can sometimes fail, you also need to define the procedure to keep thighs flowing when that happens. Again, make this easily accessible so everyone on your team knows what to do.

5. Implement the automation process

With the proper foundation now laid, it's time to implement the automation process. All the hard work has been done in the planning phases, and all you need to do now is deploy your automation tools. Once you've done that:

Follow up on the implementation closely

Monitor the changes automation has brought into your process.

Does it meet your expectations?

If it does, great job. If not, you'll need to determine the automated parts at fault and why they aren't improving your process. Then, evaluate whether that part really requires automation or changing it back to manual. You can also consider using a different automation tool.

Communicate the change in workflow internally and externally

A crucial aspect of successfully implementing your automation process is communicating the workflow change with all stakeholders. This means communicating with your employees (internally) and your clients (externally). Everyone should know what to expect to ensure a smooth transition.

6. Measure changes and performance

Once your automated system has been running for some time, you need to measure and see if it has improved your performance or not. 

measure automation performance

Source: SweetProcess

You need to have data from your fully manual process to use as a benchmark to do this. This is where you'll discover one of the beauties of automation — automated tracking and reporting. Most automating tools come with a built-in analytics dashboard to help you keep track of your most important metrics. As a result, data collection and analysis become much easier.

To effectively measure the impact of automation on your consulting business, as the following questions:

  • Analyze pre-automation and post-automation performance. Has automation helped increase performance and the number of deliverables you can produce? 
  • Survey your clients. Are they happy with your new way of doing things?
  • Check your ROI. Is there an increase due to automation?

If you answer yes to the questions above, your automation has achieved its purpose.

7. Evaluate and mitigate risks

Just because you've pulled off a successful digital transformation strategy doesn't mean you can sit on your laurels and expect the best. Great as technology is, it's also prone to error.

That's why you must evaluate your automated process and identify any potential risks. Doing so will help you mitigate those risks and put contingency plans in place. A few tips on doing this include:

  • Take enough time before you evaluate. The results of automation may not show immediately. Give it enough time before you start comparing results. You'll need to exercise a bit of patience in this regard.
  • Consider the results. Once you evaluate the results, consider whether they're what you expected. Did automation improve efficiency? Has it given you opportunities to scale your business?
  • Possible loss of personalization. One thing people value in consultation is the personal touch. Consider if shifting to an automated process has led to a loss in personalization. 

As you know, stepping into new frontiers always carries some risk. That's why you must always evaluate your automation process and look for risk factors. Doing so will help mitigate them and ensure a smooth flow of your business.

Example of automation

In order to make this more tangible, let’s look at an example. 

One of the first and most important phases in the consulting business is getting clients. In order to achieve this, you need to convince prospects that you're the best choice. 

Step 1: Assess your need for automation

In your first call with a new prospect, you always ask more or less the same series of questions, right? These conversations can be quite time-consuming. 

Step 2: Working out an automation plan based on your expertise

You have enough experience to know what questions to ask, and which replies you may expect. So, you can offer your clients an online questionnaire (automation #1) that automatically generates a client analysis report for you (automation #2), and a report for the prospect (automation #3). 

example client report advisor report

Source: Survey Anyplace

You’ll have an immediate overview of what your prospect is looking for, and the prospect gets a summary and primary recommendations tailored to their problem, which will prove your expertise and convince them to select you for their project. 

Step 3: Identify the best automation tools

You’ll have to put considerable time and effort into creating a good questionnaire and linking a customized report to it. Find the right assessment software for your automation plan. 

Step 4: Establish an automation workflow

Not every activity in this phase should be covered by the assessment or the report. Make sure to define where you prefer human contact over automation to create a balanced conversation with the prospect or client. 

Step 5: Implement the automation process

If you found an assessment software to create a client needs assessment and a customized report in one app, you can start with the implementation. Communicate your methods clearly to your prospects, so that they know what to expect.

Step 6: Measure changes and performance

Are you getting more clients at a faster pace, now that you’ve automated this part of the process? Are clients giving you positive feedback about your personalized reports? Is there an efficiency win: do you have more time for strategic work?

Step 7: Evaluate and mitigate risks

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate if your results aren’t as expected. Are there any risks you haven’t taken into account? Ask your team and clients for feedback. Turn back to manual processes where automation has not proven to be effective.

Prerequisites of automating consulting

When considering how to automate consulting, it's easy to think you can automate every process. It's also tempting to think every type of consulting business can benefit from any kind of automation.

Both scenarios aren't true.

You need to carefully consider your type of consulting business and the prerequisites required for automation. Of course, the main one is that you need to be ready for automation. Here are a few questions to help you know if you are:

  • Are your processes clearly defined and standardized?
  • Do you have the resources (time, financial and human) to implement such invasive changes?
  • Is your business stable enough to carry a digital transformation?
  • Are your clients ready for automation?

If you answer yes to the above, you're definitely ready to shift to automated processes.

Benefits and challenges of automating the consulting process 

We've looked at the importance of automating your consultancy business and how to know if you're ready for the shift. Before we wrap up, let's quickly look at the benefits and challenges of automating the consulting process. 

Benefits of automating consulting

Let's start with the benefits of automation. Here are our top three:

  • Scaling without increasing headcount. This is probably the biggest benefit you get from automation. With so many manual tasks taken care of efficiently and speedily, you'll have more bandwidth for growth without needing to add on any new team members.
  • Proving your digital maturity. Being in the digital age, your clients have probably already embraced 4IR. So when they look for a consultant to help with their business, they'll trust one who has moved with the times. That's why proving your digital maturity is an essential aspect of gaining your prospects' trust.
  • Standardized workflows. Standardizing your workflow enables you to set clear expectations for your clients. It makes it easier for you to paint a picture of the outcomes your client will receive. It also helps you leverage client testimonials to market yourself as you can confidently pitch the same results to your prospects.

Challenges of automating consulting

While automation has its many benefits, it also has some challenges. Here are the most significant ones:

  • Maintaining a personal relationship with clients. Interacting with clients 1-on-1 is an essential aspect of running a successful consulting business. To ensure you don't lose this essential ingredient, be deliberate in planning for moments that will help you maintain personal relationships with your clients.
  • Loss of human touch. One danger of automating the consulting process is the loss of the human touch. However, this is usually the result of implementing automation wrong. You can lose the human touch if you fail to personalize your automated interactions with clients. 
  • Complex processes may require advanced automation. When you're in a complex field, your processes are bound to be more complicated. This will require advanced automation, which will result in the cost of automation being higher.

Your automation consultation is complete

If you've been wondering how to automate the consulting process, we hope this article has helped. Remember, automating the consulting process has several benefits, with the main ones being: streamlining your processes and increasing efficiency, enabling you to scale easily without increasing your headcount, standardizing your workflows and deliverables.

That's why, if you haven't yet, you must evaluate your processes and consider automating some of your repetitive tasks. Automation will result in more clients and boost your revenue. So, yes. Automating the consulting process is definitely worth the investment.

survey software
Reports and assessments made easy

Use survey software to evaluate how effective your automation is. Learn more here.

survey software
Reports and assessments made easy

Use survey software to evaluate how effective your automation is. Learn more here.

How to Automate the Consulting Process in 7 Steps As a consultant, you want to stand out by providing every client with personalized advice. Can personalization and automation go hand in hand? Let’s find out.
Stefan Debois Stefan Debois is the founder and CEO of Survey Anyplace, an online software tool to create engaging surveys, quizzes, and assessments. Besides kitesurfing, Stefan is passionate about the use of technology to build professional relationships with people at scale.

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