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Maximizing Your Investment in a Strategy Consultant (5-Part Series)

Derek Heiss

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March 13, 2018

Do you ever catch yourself asking questions like:

  • “Does my team have the right strategic mindset?”
  • “Is my team able to look beyond their day-to-day responsibilities to think strategically about our business?”
  • “Is it worth partnering with someone from outside the business to help us think strategically?”
  • “If I did partner with a strategy consultant, what should I expect and how would I know they did a good job?”

If so, this series is for you.

Every day next week, we will share some of the best experiences we have had with our clients as a competitive strategy consultancy and technology firm and organize these lessons in a way that will help you determine whether, when and how to bring in a strategy consultant to support your organization.

Our role as market and competitive strategists is worth mentioning from the outset, because the type of consulting services we deliver colors the perspective we’ll offer in these posts.  There are many types of consultants. 

At Cipher, we focus on competitive strategy. When we partner with clients, our main role is to understand our clients’ challenges, conduct exhaustive research and analyses, and arrive at a point-of-view and set of strategic recommendations. It is important to distinguish our perspective from those of other Consultants (e.g. Operations, Financial, HR, IT, etc.) in that many other disciplines are focused on process, management, implementation, organization, etc. Those are not our team’s mission. 

An analogy that we like to use is that of a Navy ship plotting its course.

Constantly shifting tides, currents, weather, and winds can have significant effects on the ship.  If the Captain and crew don’t properly account for them, a ship can wind up miles off course and in a potentially deadly situation.  The Captain and crew must also account for all the other ships out there, some of whom may be hostile. Before the ship ever leaves port, the Captain and crew will undertake a detailed planning process, during which they may call on experts outside of the ship, like meteorologists and intelligence officers, for consultation.  The meteorologist will offer a forecast as to how anticipated weather patterns might impact the ship’s voyage.  The intelligence officer will offer the Captain an assessment of the enemy’s position, his strengths and weaknesses, and his likely intentions.  All of these factors are then considered together to determine the best course to take.

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Similarly, a strategy consultant will offer a forecast of the market conditions and an assessment of the competition to help you chart the best course for your business.  Whether in support of a marketing plan, 5-year strategy, go-to-market effort or regional expansion, companies partner with strategy consultants when they are faced with critical strategic decisions and want to ensure they make choices that will maximize their chances of success.

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In this series, we will cover the following key topics:

    1. When to hire a strategy consultant
    2. The key components of a good strategy engagement
    3. How to choose the right strategy consultant
    4. Where software meets strategy, the blended approach
    5. Making the most of your strategy consultant

By the end of this 5-part series, you will have full confidence in your choice to bring in a strategy consultant and possess all the tools necessary to maximize your investment. Just as the Captain of a ship needs expert advice to plot a safe course, your company may need the strategic insights of a consultant to safely navigate the dangerous seas of your competitive environment.


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Derek Heiss
Derek Heiss

Derek Heiss is the Director of Cipher’s Consulting Practice and is specialized in competitive intelligence and market strategy consulting. Cipher is a consulting and technology firm, based in Annapolis, with a 20+ year track record of delivering solutions to the Fortune 500 and Global 1,000.

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