Consultants collaborate with clients to help solve their challenges and make them grow. These clients need to constantly transform processes, products, and services to remain competitive. Consultants provide an outside perspective along with industry and innovation expertise to foster client growth.
In recent years, we’ve seen management and technology consultancies make high-profile purchases of design agencies. We’ve also seen these same design agencies encroach on management consultancies' turf by helping their clients navigate our new digital world. The consulting industry has gradually recognized Design Thinking, Lean, and Agile as core methodologies. These help consulting teams co-create on cutting edge innovation projects with their clients for the benefit of the end customer.
“Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.” Bill Gates
But, the collaboration process of moving quickly from problem ➡️ idea ➡️ impact ➡️ achieved innovation performance is difficult with globally distributed teams and remote workers. The challenges compound for consultants and their clients who are by nature not co-located. They come up in several areas:
- Opportunities to collaborate and co-create with clients are scarce.
Clients are often preoccupied with their day-to-day business. It’s a constant battle to find enough quality time and attention to collaborate together (beyond an occasional workshop), and see projects through to completion.
- Stakeholders are geographically dispersed.
This distance between consultant and client makes it difficult to find the time and money to create a shared understanding with everyone's input. Remote project members are often called into collaboration sessions, but feel like second-class citizens because they cannot effectively engage with the content and the people present in the room.
- Facilitating the adoption of new methods on the client side is tough.
With little time available on site, it’s hard to get clients to adopt innovation methods and new ways of working. The external perspective consultants offer can be a liability when it comes to making change stick.
- Most of the collaborative work lives in onsite workshops, on sticky notes.
Face-to-face interaction gets the full attention of clients and maximizes output. But keeping a creative record of these sessions is often difficult; in pictures and transcribed bullet lists, you lose much of the context.
Since both the consultant and the client are stretched for time, they focus on just overcoming these challenges and delivering quality work. This ultimately hinders innovation performance, and hurts the end customer experience.
Reimagine the Client Experience with Digital, Visual Workspaces
Forward-thinking agencies and consultancies are seeing the value of shared digital and visual workspaces. They enable online collaboration in real-time, using elements like sticky notes, frameworks, sketches, and images. Digital workspaces also capture that feeling of being together - ideas flowing and evolving, encouraged by facilitators who have special meeting orchestration controls.
Such workspaces overcome the earlier mentioned challenges in several ways:
- Shared digital workspaces provide for continuous collaboration.
Co-creation in client-consulting teams is on the rise because collaboration is key to innovation. Clients get the most value out of consultants, and consultants stay engaged. This ensures they capture additional business opportunities.
Consultants and their clients have access to the workspace from anywhere, on any device, for a fraction of the cost of bringing teams together for in person meetings. Consultant and client-side experts are seamlessly integrated on demand, the workspace can be rapidly scaled, and it offers transparency of the work that is being done.
- Digital workspaces maximize engagement from dispersed teams.
Having a digital, visual workspace combined with a solid video conferencing setup, and maybe a big interactive touch screen for the co-located team (think: Microsoft Surface Hub), is as close as it gets to in-person collaboration. Being able to see and hear each other and collaborate visually across countries and time zones makes online sessions more appealing and effective.
Facilitating the workshop online reduces high travel costs and gives time back to team members for more creative work. Team engagement increases too because people can easily join a session outside of a scheduled workshop. It’s also easier to share ideas and opinions on a canvas without having to speak up at a meeting (we see you, introverts). When ideas flow from a few team members, others feel compelled to contribute as well, making the ideation process more powerful.
- Innovation methods can be embedded at the client.
A visual, innovation workspace can contain the design thinking and agile templates (or others), frameworks, methods and even visual elements crafted by the consultancy based on best practices developed over time. These embedded elements represent innovation scaffolding for teams, that enables repeatable innovation processes across projects. These can spread across the client organization through collaboration.
These new ways of working, orchestrated by consultants, deliver value to the client because they foster innovation.
- Sessions are quicker and more productive.
When using a digital workspace, work can start online even before everybody is together in the workshop. The output, process and even spirit of collaboration can be documented during the workshop on stickies, sketches, and images. After the workshop, all digital assets are preserved in the workspace for ongoing collaboration.
If the workshop is face-to-face, sticky notes can be digitized by scanning them onto a digital canvas. And if the workshop is done digitally, transcribing is obsolete and a precise creative record is kept for everybody to access.
You ensure speed and agility in the process because facilitators have all the controls to orchestrate sessions. These include setting up activities from an existing library, access to a timer, and permission to run voting sessions.
MURAL is the Online Visual Workspace for Consultants
It's similar in concept to innovation centers, project rooms, whiteboards, and flip charts. MURAL provides a visual thinking canvas for teams to research, brainstorm, organize, design, prototype, plan, and share concepts. MURAL’s digital capabilities include:
- Facilitator tools for live collaboration to align teams and make decisions
- A meeting orchestrator to run better creative sessions
- Design Thinking, Lean and Agile frameworks to kickstart and help structure innovation collaboration, with the possibility for consultants to embed their own innovation methods in the workspace
- Integrations with other tools, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Github and Jira
A mural ‘in action’ with multiple activities and participants
MURAL complements the digitally-defined workplace of a consultancy. But, the digital workplace is brought to the next level with collaboration across devices. From a phone, tablet or laptop to even the large touchscreen devices that are becoming more common in creative spaces of forward-thinking companies.
MURAL’s strategic focus is on making it easy to set up, facilitate, and participate in online innovation sessions, as well as streamline and enhance consultant-2-client collaboration.
With an existing network of more than 450 consultancies and agencies, ranging from freelancers to boutique agencies to Big Four consultancies, the MURAL Consultant Network encompasses the world’s best innovation practitioners. But we’ve only just begun. Join us now by signing up for a free MURAL workspace for your team to work with clients, including 10 memberships and 25 guests.
Continue learning by reading how IBM facilitates remote design in MURAL, learn tips & tricks for running remote sessions in our ebook. Or, just get started using our templates.
Let’s together create the next generation of innovation consulting. Let’s make you the modern consultant, powered by MURAL.
Updated May 12, 2022. Originally published April 1, 2019.
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