Last month, 32 professionals from over 7 states and 2 countries arrived in Portland to attend XPLANE’s Visual Thinking Workshop. As a global consulting partner for Fortune 500 organizations, our consultants usually fly to corporate headquarters to talk strategy, vision, process, and culture. This week, instead of parachuting inside, we had the professionals come to us. A few attendees were interested in hiring XPLANE to help guide their organization through big changes in their companies, and they had questions about how much that would cost.
The purpose of this article is to address how much it costs to hire XPLANE as a consulting partner and provide guidance on how a design thinking consulting firm estimates budgets.
Let’s start by outlining the three levels of what you can hire XPLANE for.
I’ll break down each variable to give you a better understanding of how much it costs. Estimating the budget for a consulting engagement starts with sizing the effort in terms of stakeholders, complexity, alignment, audience, time, discovery and deliverables. I will go into each of these variables in detail.
For the sake of this article, let’s work with a hypothetical scenario as an example.
Jim is Head of Sales for a mid-size manufacturing company that just implemented IoT devices to track the location of every single unit at any time, analyze the data, and slash costs. Jim needs to train his sales team to tell a different story. Not only will operations become better and faster, but the company now owns the data which they can turn around and sell. Jim wants a graphic that his sales people can “understand quickly,” something that’s “easy to grasp” and preferably something that the sales team can use with customers.
Who are the stakeholders? How many? Do they have decision-making power? Are they knowledge owners?
A typical XPLANE consulting engagement starts with what we call “Discovery” and ends with implementation. Both of these phases can last anywhere from three weeks to eight months+ depending on the number and complexity of the stakeholders.
Let’s say Jim has full authority to make decisions. He controls an annual budget, and he has a team of 100 sales people.
The knowledge owners in this scenario would be the stakeholders who understand--in detail!-- how the IoT implementation will benefit the company and its customers. Another segment of knowledge owners would be the people who understand the target market for selling the IoT data and have a firm grasp on their unique value prop.
This knowledge can be in people’s heads or in documents/spreadsheets, but it must exist.
In general, more stakeholders means more time/budget, but this depends on alignment.
Are the stakeholders aligned? Do they agree? Do they agree on the problem they are solving? Do they agree on the solution?
On a scale of 1-5 where 1 is “no alignment” and 5 is “everyone in the room can give the same 10-word answer,” where do your stakeholders stand?
Let’s pretend that Jim tells me his sales people agree that they need new materials to understand their firm's new capacity and there’s a big learning curve in selling data.
Here’s the next question, are Jim’s 100 sales people onboard with selling data? Are they excited about it? Or are they threatened because this is new and different and who knows if they will succeed?
As you can see, this may be two consulting projects. The first project is to develop a graphic salespeople can use to understand why throughput from the factory floor has increased and how customers benefit. The second project might be moving the sales team from being skeptics to being believers about selling data.
In general, if stakeholder alignment is 100% solid, XPLANE can move faster which can save on costs. However, customers tell us that getting to stakeholder alignment is one of the reasons they hire us and one of the most valuable outcomes.
Applying this principle to the example, Jim’s first project to develop a sales enablement graphic will cost less than the second project to adjust the mindset and culture of his sales team.
For the remainder this article, I will focus only on the sales enablement project.
How complex is the content? How many people understand it in detail? Is the knowledge in people’s heads? or is it documented somewhere?
In Jim’s case, the connected learning capability of his plant is a new kind of complexity than the product SKUs and specs that his team is accustomed to selling. This is exactly why Jim called XPLANE in the first place.
“I knew we needed something visual. I need to be able to show my customers the difference, not just tell them in words.” He said (in my hypothetical, imaginary conversation with him).
In general, as the complexity of content goes up, and the stakeholder alignment goes down, the more time/budget is required.
Who is the audience? How big is that audience? Are there clear priorities between audience segments?
For Jim, the audience is his sales team of 100 reps and their customers. To make it simple, let’s pretend that 80% of Jim’s business comes from one customer segment, which is the clear focus for the sales enablement infographic.
Now, can Jim tell me which people on his team hold influence and social currency amongst their peers? Great. We’re gonna need that.
In general, the less your team understands about their audience, the more time/budget required.
Answering the questions about about stakeholders, complexity, alignment, and audience allows us to shape the Discovery Session(s), which is the foundation of XPLANE’s approach.
The Discovery Session is an in-person workshop with your stakeholders led by an XPLANE Consultant and XPLANE Designer. The purpose of the Discovery Session is to extract the knowledge that your stakeholders hold, synthesize it, visualize it, socialize it.
In Jim’s case for the sales enablement graphic, we would want to invite a representative mix of people from his sales team; both the folks whom are admired by their peers and those who have a hard time adjusting to change (like all of us).
We may also ask Jim to invite customers to the session so that we can prototype a sales enablement tool with real live customers and thereby save Jim hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in something customers wouldn’t use anyway.
The two characteristics that we’ll need from Jim’s stakeholders in the discovery session session:
1. Decision-making power and authority. We need the decision-makers in the room.
2. Knowledge owners. We need the people who know and understanding the what, why, who, when, and how.
My estimate (from lengthy conversations with my imaginary friend Jim) is that we can get through the content in a day and half (1.5 days, 16 hours) discovery session for the sales enablement graphic.
Take note - this means that Jim will pull fifteen of his salespeople out of their day jobs in order to attend the in-person discovery session, and Jim will invite 5 of his trusted customers to attend the discovery session.
The value is in co-creating together, shoulder-to-shoulder, eyeball-to-eyeball through facilitated dialogue, drawing, and prototyping.
In general, the more discovery time is needed face-to-face, the more budget is needed.
Jim mentioned he wanted a sales enablement graphic. What does he really mean by this?
Answering this question means digging into Jim’s understanding of his audience (his sales team and their customers). How does the team like to consume information? Does the team need a stand-alone 1-pager? Or does the team prefer to be walked through the new value prop in small groups?
The non-exhaustive list of deliverables can include high-fidelity infographics, presentations, interactive content, strategy maps, journey maps, learning games, videos, micro-sites, card decks, books, event design and more.
Let’s say Jim remembers an infographic XPLANE produced several years ago that was published in Business 2.0 magazine. He assures us that infographics will resonate with his team. The Discovery Session with his 20 stakeholders confirms that his team is indeed visual learners, so we so we decide to produce an 11x17 infographic print map that the team can use to learn the new value prop as well as use in customer-facing sales conversations.
Ballpark estimate for the 11x17 sales enablement infographic for imaginary-Jim is $45 - $55K.
This includes 1.5 days of facilitated discovery onsite, and a customer-facing, print-ready deliverable.
A four person team from XPLANE would be assigned to Jim for the duration of the engagement:
1. 1 Consultant
2. 1 Designer
3. 1 Program Manager
4. 1 Account Manager
To return back to the original question of how much it costs to hire XPLANE for consulting, it is an investment.
You are investing in getting it right, bringing in third-party facilitation and prototyping solutions quickly--preferably with customers--which prevents wasted resources in the future. How much value does your company place on getting it done right--with all the stakeholders onboard?
“We grew our professional services business from zero to 200 million in 3 years. The work we did with XPLANE was deeply integrated and I could not imagine us achieving the same kind of success without it.”
— Jeff Womack, VP, Sales Enablement at EDS Business Acceleration Services
Here is an article we love that also breaks down the cost of hiring consulting partners for Org Design and Development.
Also, an article on What “Facilitation” Really Means And Why It’s Key To The Future Of Work. Fun fact, this was written by one of our consultant's former interns!
To learn more about whether XPLANE is the right consulting partner for you, take a look at these case studies:
Are you eady to explore a custom consulting engagement for your team?