By Dr David Williams
If you have been in a corporate environment for any length of time you will have most likely been exposed to a project run by an external consultancy. Maybe your CEO or head of department has brought them in for their expertise to make the company more efficient (create redundancies) or devise a new process (propose a restructure). Most consultancies will tell you these processes are ‘the next big thing’ when in truth they will have delivered them countless times before!
The tired, old consultancy model – discovering what you already knew
If you have already had experience of working with external consultancies, it is likely you have some preconceptions about how this will play out. You know that your ideas will be repackaged and replayed to you by the consultancy, and that the insights and strategies your company are about to receive are ones you have already tried to communicate to the leadership team several times, but nobody listened.
As you predicted, the inevitable occurs. The consultancy delivers its ground-breaking new structure or process, often devised by those with no experience of your role, with no understanding of the landscape or therapy area in which you operate. Yet the wheel turns, and you wait for the next time a consultancy is shipped in to deliver the same old ideas – and it will happen.
You can probably tell I have been in that position before. Several times, in fact. So, when our founding team first got together to discuss the nature of what we, as VISFO, will be, we all agreed with great passion that the term ‘healthcare consultancy’ was to be avoided at all costs. Having seen the tired, old consultancy model in play all too often, it just didn’t seem to fit with the fresh, perceptive, client-focussed offering that we, as a company, wanted to bring to the industry. However, being the hardcore evidence-based experts that we are, we went back to basics and looked at the definition:
‘Consultancy is the practice or profession of giving expert advice, especially within a particular field.’ - Oxford English Dictionary
So, we agreed that we are consultants after all, just not typical ones. We have an approach that we know works. For every project and every client, we always go to our playbook. We listen to your problem, deploy a structured process and methodology, collect the relevant data and work with you to understand the insights. Then, if relevant, build an analytic or software solution to help facilitate its delivery. We reverse the traditional model and start by partnering with our clients to co-create solutions that build on your knowledge and our domain experience. If you dive into the solution or deliverable before going through the process of ideation and client consultation, inevitably you will go back to the start! You wouldn’t read the end of the murder mystery first, would you?
VISFO’s way to effective co-creation and consultancy
What should the co-creative process feel like? It should feel like we’re together on the same journey of discovery. If we begin at the same place and with the same mission, the results will be even more effective. How we feel about a project is more important than how many slides the report has,* especially if everyone feels like they were taken on an amazing journey rather than being dragged along reluctantly.
* Though, we do prefer to deliver our solutions in software format, ideally with real-time data feeds for the best client experience, but we do always include a download button.
Reworking the consultancy label
Our journey of acceptance of the label of ‘healthcare consultancy’ has highlighted our need to adapt internally, redefining our experience and skills within our team to deliver on our promise of being the experts in your field who will listen to you from the very start. Designing and redesigning ourselves is a cathartic and continual process, as the problems our partners face become more diverse and challenging.
At VISFO, we have taken a fresh approach to cognitive diversity, and built our team based on people who think differently. We have brought medics, health economists, data scientists, statisticians, machine learning experts, software engineers, digital insights professionals, medical writers, graphic designers and communication consultants all under one ‘virtual’ roof and with a shared vision. Why? Because it makes us better consultants, allowing us to deliver our effective consultancy.
We have solved our consultancy conundrum by going back to basics to ensure we are on track to solve the mystery. Our process should feel like you are reading the best detective novel, when everyone has been through the journey to solve the mystery and the lightbulb moment is shared – it’s great to feel clever together!