Why do highly skilled consultants at McKinsey, BCG and Deloitte use Asana and Slack? Of course they are able to keep up with many things in their head and remember the important deadlines. But consultants do not work alone, they work in very professional teams. And to improve team effectiveness and productivity you need a digital work platform like Asana in combination with Slack. You will be able to improve your team effectiveness by up to 25% according to a McKinsey study.
In this article I am going to describe the status quo in many consulting firms regarding team collaboration followed by the benefits of using a digital work platform. Afterwards, I will explain some best practices. In the end you will know how to use Asana and Slack as a consultant.
What is the status quo and why you should improve it?
Management with Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel. That’s it. - Of course there are exceptions, but they are rare.
In most consulting projects there are Excel spreadsheets with a project plan and objectives, but very often you have so many different versions, that you are not sure you have the most up to date one. Or this important spreadsheet is on a SharePoint server, where only one person can work in it at the same time. Collaboration in 2018 looks different. Some teams have already migrated to Office 365, but this is not standard. There is usually no always up to date project overview which requires a minimal effort to update and is always accessible from every team member.
If the project leader has questions about the status quo of a certain work stream he sends an email to the junior consultant. The junior sometimes has to clarify which work stream is meant exactly and then answering the email with giving some context what has happened during the week, attaching the last PowerPoint file and go. This is very ineffective and disturbing the workflow of an insecure junior consultant.
Project overviews and summaries are shared with a client in PowerPoint, consuming hours and hours of a consultant to prepare and to make it look pretty. Some consultancies at least utilize special PowerPoint designers who just get a scribble and transform them into a beautiful slide. But to update PowerPoint slides still takes a lot of time.
The collaboration within a work stream or project is also very email driven. Of course if the team is sitting in the same room, it is much better. But the reality is, that your project leader has sometimes several engagements at the same time, travels a lot, needs to acquire new clients and so on. Or in the evening after dinner, you are sitting in your hotel room, thinking about the agenda for the workshop next day. Consequently, your team is working from different locations many times. A lot of emails are exchanged with attachments and context.
To sum it up, there are way too many emails and no transparent overview about the project status with its different work streams. Of course the team work is not as effective as it could be. A McKinsey study has shown, that the productivity of interaction workers aka teams with knowledge workers could be improved by 20-25% with social tools like Asana and Slack.
Improved communication and collaboration through Asana and Slack could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.
Why you should use Asana and Slack as a consultant?
If you nodded at least once while reading the chapter above, you should at least try out Asana and Slack for 15 minutes to see their benefits.
These are the most important benefits you will have:
Improved team collaboration:
- Alignement of the project/client objectives with your daily project work
- Clear transparency about who is doing what until when
- A lot of time saved
- Much more effective communication
Improved self organization:
- Structuring your day and the necessary to dos
- Deciding a lot easier what not to do, since it is not in the scope of the project
Improved collaboration with clients:
- Especially for project leaders it will be much easier to keep an overview of your different clients with the different workflows
- Easy and secure sharing of project related information with clients. You can just click one button and the client will only see information he is supposed to see
- Clients will believe you more if you tell them about digital transformation since you live it now every day
Best practices with Asana
I have summarized the 8 most important best practices for consultants in the following chapter. Do you agree? Please let us know in the comment section below.
1. Structure - one team per client
As standard, I highly recommend to have one Asana team per client. The advantages are:
You usually have multiple projects/work streams per client, so you need a container for them
There are usually multiple people involved per client, so invite all to the Asana team, but only the relevant people to each project
If you would create just a project with all work streams, it is much harder to report and to see the status at one glance for the project leader
If your client becomes really large, meaning 20 people are involved and more than 30 projects, you can consider creating a separate workspace. But it is really not required.
2. Scope - Project for objectives and what not to do
Make sure you have an aligned understanding within the team and with the client what are the objectives of your engagement and what is not included in the scope. Why so? The deeper you dig into the client’s data and the more people you talk to in the client’s office the more issues will arise which you could tackle. But you are usually hired for a specific reason. So make sure you write down these additional issues in a project called “Further engagement possibilities”, but make also sure that you are able to say no, to work which is not directly helping you to reach the agreed objective.
You can learn more about how to properly set objectives in Asana for example with OKRs here.
3. Responsibilities - Assign projects and tasks
Even in consulting teams, where most of the members usually say “I will do it”, some work does not get done. So make sure you have assigned all projects/work streams to the responsible consultants. Within a project you can use the rule, that all tasks which are not assigned, belong to the project owner, but be aware, that they will not pop up in the My Task section. So you probably miss that task. So if you are not looking into this project every day, also assign every task to yourself.
4. Education - Show your project leader how he can get the status on his own
Some project leaders always want to know the progress and this can consume time and make junior consultants nervous. So use the project status once a week for the high level overview and educate your project leader that you have all to dos in your project. You can also use sections to define gates and certain stages. So if your manager wants to know exactly how the project looks like and if you have done the last to do from the meeting, he can simply check it on his own in your Asana project. If he has questions he can make a comment so you can continue working in your flow. And if it is urgent he can of course still talk to you or give you a call.
Example of an Asana Dashboard with several project overviews
5. Context - Use the comment function within tasks or discussions within projects instead of emails
One of the biggest benefits of Asana is communication with context. If you have questions about a certain work item, ask it in the comment section of a task, so that your colleague sees what your question is about. You also do not need to send the spreadsheet again via email, because the latest version should be already attached to the task.
If you have questions about the whole project, you can use the discussion within it. Every project member will be notified automatically and you will not miss anyone or think about who needs to be informed. Moreover, please also consider discussing big project questions in person or via phone. I have seen way to many misunderstandings in written communication in such instances.
6. Sharing - Share public snapshots of your gantt charts
Consultants love gantt charts for several reasons. I completely agree with this and I also loved Think Cell when I was doing my slides. But to create a different gantt chart for every recipient costs a lot of time. With the add-on Instagantt you can easily do this automatically. Instagantt syncs in two ways with Asana, so if you need to create a gantt chart for any given project, you simply go to Instagantt and after 30 seconds you have it. This makes Asana the perfect tool for consultants. You can also add multiple projects into one gantt chart to easily show dependencies between different work streams.
In addition, you can create so called snapshots which are links to a certain status of your project. You can decide if the link shows always the last status or a specific time. Moreover, it is your choice which level of detail you share e.g. assignees, due dates, sub tasks etc.
Instagantt creates automatic gantt charts from your Asana projects
7. Agendas - Use Asana to organize your meetings, workshops and daily status quos
If you add your discussion items via multi-homing/cross-indexing to a project called “1on1 manager <> me” or “Weekly team meeting” you make sure, that you will not forget any important items. In addition you save a lot of time since your agenda is automatically created. Within the meeting you can directly add agreed to dos and it is clear for everyone who is doing what. See additional tips in the following video.
8. Persuasion - Convince your team members to join you for increased happiness
This is clear. The more people in your team use the same platform, the less friction you will have. If you have challenges to convince your colleagues, you find some tips here. If you would rather prefer a tailored approach to your unique circumstances, send us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call.
Best practices with Slack
In contrast to Asana, Slack is not a digital work platform. Slack is a communication and chat software. The best one available though but you should not make the mistake and run all of your communication via Slack because it will get messy.
When to use?
You should use Slack as a consultant for short term questions, which do not require much context. If it needs much context and is urgent, to discuss in person or via phone is usually the best answer. If your question is not urgent you should use Asana to keep things with context and organized.
If you use Slack really only for urgent important questions you can rely on your colleagues to also check the messages. If you spam your colleagues you can be sure, that they will disable desktop notifications or only check it once in a while to avoid too many flow interruptions.
One important reasons for the popularity of Slack is the huge amount of integrations with software you already use. So connect your Slack to Asana, Google Drive, Hangout, Microsoft Teams and all the other software where it makes sense and you have the go of your IT manager.
The advantages are:
- Get instant notifications from various tools to one single inbox: Slack
- Automate manual work of informing certain colleagues
- Increase your team effectiveness by up to 25% with Asana and Slack
- Save time in team collaboration and create transparency who is doing what until when
- Share gantt charts with your clients immediately created out of your Asana projects
- You can start on your own with Asana but you will have the biggest benefit if you convince your whole project team to join
How do you use Slack and Asana in your consulting work? Please post your thoughts and ideas below.
The original version of this article appeared on my blog: