BY CAROLIN BRINKMANN AND NATASCHA HOHENBÜHLER
2020 – it was an impactful year for everyone. The Corona pandemic has impacted almost every part of our lives and, in addition to private restrictions, the situation for companies has changed – including us as a consulting company. All of a sudden, mandatory face masks and social distancing became part of our daily lives; employees needed to work from home and the classical face-to-face project work at the customers’ company needed to be carried out digitally.
The pandemic is estimated to still have an impact on our life in the following years. Many questions are rising: How will the consulting field change in the long term? What challenges did we have to face, and will we have to face in the future? What changes will we have to expect?
Corona has challenged the current way of working for many companies. We, as SHC, already had a great infrastructure that supported us during this change. As a consulting company, we often travel to our customers and have to be able to work on the commute in the train or on the plane. Therefore, every employee has a solid technical setting, including laptops and smartphones, that enables working efficiently at any place and time. We have digitalized our processes over the past years. In the beginning of 2020, we have additionally changed our IT-infrastructure and based it on cloud services, enabling everyone to work together on our projects more efficiently no matter where the employees are based. Data privacy in this context is a very important aspect. In the first few weeks of 2020 our entire team successfully completed a very detailed data privacy training.
The way of working in the office has also changed due to Corona. All hygiene guidelines led to having fewer employees per office room and asking most employees now to work from home, which again led to new challenges. Personal contact to other team members within the company and within the external project team has been severely restricted. Communication needed to be carried out digitally. All calendars were filled with video calls and everyone faced the challenge of managing their daily project work in addition to the many phone and video conferences. This time showed how important self-organization and motivation are. An efficient time management and right prioritization helped us to manage the project work and the high need for coordination. In addition, we reserved focus time blocks for our own work. This new type of digital project work will accompany us also in the future.
Due to the fast switch to home office, personal contact has decreased over the past few months. SHC has successfully introduced the following communication strategies. On the one hand, we implemented regular update calls in the morning to exchange information and to give insights on the status of the most important projects. On the other hand, we have a tool that we introduced implemented long ago – our weekly project call with small updates from all projects and departments. Additionally, there is a regular exchange between managing consultants as well as project managers and each individual employee.
The situation was new for all companies, including our customers. Everyone involved in our projects needed to adapt to the new situation. Overall, project work with our customers continued to work very well – virtually/digital working and with video calls have success for all projects to be done successfully. We assume that there will be a redesigning process for the traditional project work and that digitalization combined with remote work will become more and more prevalent in our project culture. Therefore, unnecessary trips to customers can be avoided, thus saving money, time and reducing the negative impact on the environment.
A big challenge for 2021 is building new customer relationships. Due to the corona pandemic, congresses and exhibitions were canceled in 2020. For us, as well as for many other consulting companies, getting to know each other in person at such events is essential for project acquisition. In 2021, acquiring project in one’s own network and broadening customer relationships will gain importance. A growing network and the associated access to a higher number of companies will help us to successfully acquire and implement projects this year as well. The requirement for successful projects is to know your customers’ needs. In addition to cold calling, the Corona pandemic has greatly increased the importance of maintaining and deepening existing contacts. Our existing customer relationships have thus become closer than before.
Business risks due to corona are high in many industry sectors. Many companies have rethought their business models and adapted them to the new developments/changes. As a result of the Corona pandemic, we have also repeatedly reconsidered our consulting strategy and analyzed our efficiency. Already in previous years, we have initiated projects that generate recurring revenues. In 2020, we have built a successful new business segment with SHC+CARE. This year as well as in the years to come we will face the current challenges of this quality of time and implement “Recurring Revenue Management”. We are moving and developing with time and are focused on digitalizing all work processes and on creating efficient self-management.
We recommend that all companies regularly reflect on their corporate strategy and question their business models and adapting to the new situations. This allows companies to identify risks and potentials in time. Newly emerging growth markets also offer new opportunities that need to be exploited and that protect against the crisis. Focusing on expanding existing customer relationships helps to increase customer loyalty and retain them in the company. Those who use their networks more intensively and design them more effectively can both find new customers and create access to new markets. It is important, to analyze the market’s needs at the right time. Using one’s expertise is an opportunity to reach the market and acquire new customers.
Social media is gaining importance for all sectors. Especially in social media – like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Clubhouse, etc. – new customers can be made aware of your company. Whether it is with expert articles, exciting posts in the B2B sector, e.g. via LinkedIn, qualified, customer oriented content and inspiring advertising campaigns in the B2C sector. We also focus on professional articles in order to reach a broad customer base.
Due to the current situation, as mentioned above, consulting companies will have to face new challenges. This sector should quickly adapt to the digitalization of the market and implement it for both internal and external processes. Consulting companies are still of significant importance for small, medium-sized and large companies of all sectors. Their expertise and competence in management strategies are indispensable for the market. However, it must be taken into account that the competition between companies and the pressure to succeed will increase. The solution for each consulting company is to be found in the following decisions:
- Merging several companies to a bigger unit in order to offer a bigger assortment and remain competitive
- Offering modern technology to all employees of a company.
- Flexibility in ways of working: It is important to stay flexible, reflect regularly and adapt the business model on a regular basis.
- Location-independent working
- Rapid digitalization of all workflows and processes.
- Community oriented organization: bundling potentials in communities, finding communities, not only individual customers or organizations.
- Recurring revenue management.
- Future oriented thinking and acting: expert opinion, expert analyses; sociological development analyses
- New strategies regarding the maintenance of customer contacts and the acquisition of new customers: A change regarding travel to customers can be expected – people will question whether every trip is necessary or if remote work is possible.
- Effectiveness, rethinking and reorientation in the planning phase: complementary to consulting, suitable products can be offered, and new business areas can be developed. A very positive example of this is SHC+CARE. SHC has leveraged its expertise in the health care sector and is now one of four providers of health professional cards and electronic security module card, thus offering an attractive offering for all healthcare professionals (doctors, dentists, psychotherapists, pharmacists, etc.) via the SHC+CARE portal.