By Koketso Mamabolo
When Amanda Budler was offered a position as a trainee auditor she used it as an opportunity to find out what sort of career she wanted. Fresh out of high school, she quickly found that auditing was not for her. What she gained from the experience was the urge to learn more about business and technology. Information Systems was the study path that could lead her to where she wanted to be. The clarity she gained resulted in a consulting career.
“I was interested in the opportunity to get exposure to multiple businesses and industries and to be a part of solving their key problems, with technology being a key consideration in their solutions,” says the Chief Operating Officer of Analyze Consulting. We find out from her how businesses can benefit from using consultants, the challenges businesses are facing the most, and how they’re using technology for growth.
What lessons have you learnt in 15 years of working in business consulting?
There are two key lessons that stand out through my experience in consulting. The first is that great consultants can genuinely connect with and empathise with their clients. This means not making assumptions, but really listening to and understanding where your client is coming from and what they really need. The second, is that a consultant can never know more about the business than their clients do. It is our job to use the tools, skills and insights gained through our experience to provide a fresh perspective and co-create solutions that will work for our client’s unique situations.
How do businesses benefit from using consultants?
Our most successful engagements have been where clients have a very distinct need (clear benefit/KPIs), and have the resources (people, budget, and time) available to commit to focusing on that need. Consultants come in with specialist skills and a singular focus, so they can provide traction on key initiatives very quickly and effectively. However, without the relevant support from client stakeholders, the benefits for that engagement will be significantly affected. Finding consultants that have shared values can also ensure that the working relationships are as effective as possible.
What aspects of business processes do you find yourself working on the most for your clients? What are the challenges businesses are facing the most?
Most of the work we are doing is on realigning existing business processes and identifying new processes due to changes in strategies or operating models. Essentially, businesses are needing to execute their strategies, but are needing help with translating the changes to the everyday activities in the business. This is especially important with digital strategies, as businesses need a baseline to work from to decide what can be automated and improved. A detailed understanding of business processes also enables the identification of the different data points needed to generate meaningful business insights.
What lessons did you learn when you were working in sales that you have applied to your current role?
In consulting, sales is very much about uncovering the business problem or opportunity that a client needs us to solve. This can only be done by taking the time to understand the client’s environment and their broader context. There is also not one solution that suits all clients, so it is important not to make assumptions based on similar environments or industries.
How can businesses use automation without compromising on customer relationships?
By understanding how your business creates value for your customers, and the underlying processes that deliver that value, businesses can ensure that all automation initiatives will improve the service that they provide to their customers. It is important to understand how customers experience a business across all channels and platforms, so that any automation that is implemented is consistent and valuable to customers. Again, it is important not to make assumptions, and use customer-focused processes and data to drive decision-making on automation.
What trends have you noticed in how businesses use technology to achieve growth?
When businesses use technology as the enabler of a solution, and pair it with well designed processes and the right people, the result is powerful. Getting this right is difficult because it means being committed to doing things right despite the challenge of scarce resources. Focusing most resources on what is going to deliver the most sustainable value in the shortest time frame is key. This means tough decisions need to be made on what to focus on in the short-to-medium term. Anything that will only deliver results in the long-term really needs to be questioned, especially if key resources need to be dedicated to it.
What does it take to stay on top of new trends?
Whilst businesses may not need to align to all of the new trends, being ready to respond to relevant trends is important. This really means having “your house in order”. The starting point is knowing how your business creates value for its customers and what strengths and weaknesses exist in the business. This will enable a business to assess how a trend could add to or take away from the core business offering, as well as how easily they will be able to respond.
What are your plans for the future – personally and professionally?
I am extremely interested in continuing to build my skills around futurist thinking to enhance my ability to lead in an ever-changing world. Change is accelerating and being able to make the right decisions amidst all the change is essential. I am also invested in contributing positively to the growth and sustainability of South Africa and want to make sure that I can influence this change through the business decisions I make and influence.