Consulting Jargon: Understanding Your Consultant

As with most industries, consulting lingo changes over the years, and new terms are invented as fresh technology bursts from the proverbial oven. But when you are in a management position, you will probably have to work with consultants, and understanding what they mean will greatly improve your chances of good communication.

These are some of the most common and up-to-date consulting terms. If you learn what they mean, you will have a much easier time at work.

2X2 – This is not a piece of wood, but a consulting term used to describe two dimensions worth of data. In high school, you learned about the x and y axis on a grid, and 2X2 is representative of each.

Benchmark – This is basically a comparison term. Business is all about competition, and companies are constantly knowledgeable about what other companies in the same industry are doing. A Benchmark study involves taking a single factor (such as customer retention) and creating a graph to show how one company stacks up against another.

Business Design – When you first start a business, you create a business plan, which outlines the steps you plan to take in order to grow and nurture your business venture. A business design is similar, except that it is a present-tense explanation of how your business works, from productivity to client relations.

Case Interview – This is a “real-life scenario” interview in which a consultant explains how he or she would fix, handle and negotiate a particular problem with a business.

Change Management – Most business problems start with the employees because they are, after all, human. Changing management refers to the practice of reorganizing the officers and management of a company or corporation to better serve the needs of the business.

Convergence: In order to bring in more customers and to many more money, companies often combine services at a lower price for clients. For example, a media company might offer cable television, high-speed Internet access and telephone service as a group service. This is called convergence.

Core Competencies – This refers to the inherent strengths of a business, such as customer service or employee retention. The core competencies are often used to measure up against other aspects of the business that are not as successful.

Deliverables – In most cases, consultants will have a date upon which a project is due and a list of things that the consultant must deliver. This could be a graph, a spreadsheet, a business plan or any number of hard copy results. These are called deliverables.

Framework – This is the structure a consultant uses to look at and solve a particular problem. It can be simple or complicated, depending on the situation, and using a specified framework will make you look more professional.

Growth – Consultants approach a problem from one of two angles: growth or downsizing. Obviously, growth is the more positive, proactive term, and it has become a trend in the industry. Rather than downsizing to solve problems immediately, growth serves to give businesses positive outlooks for the future.

Implementation – All of the planning, structuring and framework in the world won’t make any difference unless the theories are implemented within the company. Consultants have taken a more active role in assisting business owners in implementing their suggestions, rather than just leaving them to figure it out on their own.

Operations – This can refer to any number of factors in the running of a business. For example, the manufacturing of products is an operation; hiring employees is an operation; talking with customers is an operation. This is how business models are broken down for consultants.

Outsourcing – This has become a more and more popular term for both consultants and freelancers. An outsourced professional is anyone who works as a contractor for a company, but not as an employee. In outsourcing professionals, businesses save money on salaries and benefits.

Pay-For-Performance – This is another popular term in consulting, and has become a cornerstone for the industry. Rather than paying consultants by the hour, employers pay by the work completed. This can be a per-project quote that the consultant delivers, or a commissioned pay based on success of work.

Virtual Office – This refers to any meeting or office location in which no professional has an actual desk. This could be a coffee shop where everyone meets to go over notes, a hotel room while traveling or the golf course.

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