Looking at ourselves to provide value to clients
Management consultants are, fundamentally, in the advice business. We analyze a client’s business, industry, and markets and suggest plans for improvement. What rarely happens is a management consulting firm doing this same analysis of themselves and then implementing the suggested plan as if they were a client. At Aspirant, we are walking the talk and a big part of that includes using technology to improve our internal processes, learning from this experience and improving our capabilities, and then using this tech to truly make a difference for our clients and their business.
More thorough research and deeper insights via the Digital Arsenal™
This lead Aspirant to create the Digital Arsenal™, a suite of digital applications that facilitate the collection, organization, and analysis of data from which our Insights team can gain a strong understanding of the organization or industry being researched. We initially used these technologies internally for testing purposes, but also for finding ways to improve ourselves. And while some parts are client facing, the majority of the capabilities are intended for use internally to dramatically improve the efficiency and depth of the analysis. This enables more thorough research and deeper insights than are typically achievable with similar time and budgets.
The Virtual Interview: hundreds of interviews in a fraction of the time
One of the capabilities within the Digital Arsenal™ is our Virtual Interview capability. This application allows Aspirant to conduct remote interviews of all necessary stakeholders – even a thousand, if needed. This is typically used in the discovery phase of a consulting engagement to augment face-to-face interviews by gathering initial insights. So rather than starting in-person interviews armed with only the interviewer’s previous experience, we now will have a far deeper foundation about the client and the topics and various sentiment metrics going into the traditional interviews, greatly increasing their value.
What is the benefit of interviewing more people?
There are several benefits to conducting interviews across a broad array of stakeholders:
- First, it allows you to move beyond ‘the usual suspects.’ These are the employees that are generally in management roles, known well to the leadership, or are located conveniently to participate in an interview. This results in them being interviewed repeatedly for insight into business challenges or when planning a new strategy. While they do provide valuable insights, there is also a tremendous amount of knowledge available from overlooked stakeholders that ends up being missed. These diverse points of view often uncover valuable information that leads to better solutions for our clients.
- Second, by asking someone to participate in the initiative, there is far more buy-in for the solution than when they are excluded. It is more common for objections to be raised during the implementation of an initiative when a person, department, or location was not asked for their insight into the business challenge, or asked to participate in crafting the solution.
- Third, these interviews can be used in advance of workshops, or longer, face-to-face interviews, to uncover topics that can then be explored deeper. This process quickly highlights the most common themes and general sentiment as well as enabling outlier topics to present themselves. These topics, which may never have surfaced during a workshop or interview, can be discussed in more detail with other stakeholders, if appropriate, and lead to richer solutions than otherwise possible.
How does the artificial intelligence work?
After the virtual interviews are completed, the AI “magic” begins. Aspirant uses an ensemble of machine learning algorithms to process what the respondents wrote and gauge the sentiment of their statements. This is what enables a small, talented team of analysts to evaluate thousands of responses and reams of text in a short period. The popular themes become obvious and, instead of reviewing repeated thoughts, the analysts can address more outlier themes to see if there is a novel comment that prompts an insight that would go uncovered using typical consulting approaches.
The Digital Arsenal™, of which the Virtual Interview is a cornerstone, is an ever-improving suite of capabilities designed to enable more thorough research and deeper insights. These were not created as revenue streams but instead were organic outputs of an honest assessment of ourselves and of the future of the overall management consulting industry. In fact, the DA is built into the consulting process, so clients do not pay extra for its usage. This is all part of Aspirant recognizing a need to fundamentally change the way consulting services are delivered and to create value in untraditional ways.
To achieve this goal, we must not be afraid to point our analyzation and technology at ourselves routinely. This is the only way we can continue improving internally as well as improving our services to provide as much value as possible to our clients and the marketplace.