Expert assistance is only a phone call or email away.
E-consulting (also called teleconsulting or virtual consulting ) has added a new level of accessibility and affordability to my service offerings. I've found that many of my services can work quite effectively without the need for onsite evaluations and face-to-face meetings. In fact, most of my work is now conducted this way.
So what exactly is E-Consulting?
E-consulting simply means all communication is handled electronically. It’s essentially a mix of phone consultations, emails, information sharing (electronically sending data, images, documentation, and other information), and analysis conducted at my office.
Why use E-consulting?
E-consulting is typically much more cost-effective than traditional consulting. Not only is the hourly cost lower, but you can get e-consulting in much smaller increments (one-hour minimum). Projects can often get started and completed quicker since there is much more flexibility in scheduling e-consulting. There's very little risk in trying e-consulting since you can just start with a one-hour session and all you're committing to is paying for that time. Whereas with more traditional onsite consulting you typically have a fixed minimum and travel expenses you need to commit to. And for clients located outside of my extended local service area, it may be your only option for obtaining my services (it's often difficult for me to fit travelling into my schedule).
I continue to see growth in e-consulting as managers and executives realize they can get fast affordable expert assistance on an as-needed basis for issues as small as simply needing a quick second opinion or clarification of functionality or logic. This is especially beneficial to small and mid-sized businesses that often lack internal resources with expertise in certain technical areas. This isn't to imply that e-consulting is limited to these quick-question type assignments, I've done everything from quick one-time one-hour sessions to answer a few key questions, to very complex inventory management or warehouse operations projects that require numerous sessions over several months combined with significant data analysis and testing.
How effective is E-consulting?
Clearly there are times when an onsite evaluation is helpful, but E-consulting can be very effective with many of the services I offer, even some where you would think an onsite evaluation would be needed. When I started my consulting business in 2000 I never envisioned E-consulting as part of my services. It actually started when I would occasionally get inquiries from clients located outside of my local service area at times when I couldn’t fit travelling into my schedule. Previously I would just turn these projects down, but I would occasionally get a rather persistent client or one who had a very serious need for some immediate help. So we tried it, and it worked. And the more I did it, the more comfortable I became my ability to learn what I needed to learn about the client’s operation through phone calls and shared information. Eventually I started offering it as a standard service. With the ease of sharing information today, e-consulting has not only become a viable alternative to more costly traditional onsite evaluations, but in some ways is even more effective.
What technologies are used?
Surprisingly, nothing too fancy. There are some very cool online collaboration technologies available (online meeting tools, shared desktops, etc.), and while I do use them, I don't use them as often as you would think. The core of my E-consulting services is actually rather old-school—the phone call. We set up a phone consultation, you describe your issue(s), I ask a whole lot of questions, and we move on from there. Depending on the project, I may request data to analyze, documentation of current processes, photos of certain aspects of your operation, images of documents and computer screenshots, CAD drawings (if available), etc.
What types of projects work with E-consulting?
I do a lot of inventory management and inventory accuracy projects with E-consulting. I don’t need to physically visit your operation to be able to help with things like forecasting and safety stock calculations. Anything that requires data analysis is a great fit for e-consulting. And much of the accuracy work I do is related to troubleshooting processes and procedures. While there clearly is a physical aspect to these, I can do quite a bit with Q&A sessions and photos. In fact, these are areas where I've found e-consulting to be superior to the traditional onsite evaluation because it's easier to focus on specific issues and give each issue the time it deserves rather than trying to squeeze everything into a single long onsite session. It also allows all parties to have some time to think about what was discussed between sessions, and prepare additional information.
It also works very well if a client simply needs some expert assistance to understand things like software functionality or methods and equipment used in the warehouse. I've had many clients that just need a little help understanding a particular aspect of inventory management or warehouse operations, all they needed was an hour or so on the phone with me and they were ready to move forward on their own.
I can even do warehouse layout /process flow work with E-consulting. I have provided numerous CAD drawings of conceptual designs for warehouses I have never stepped foot into. If you can provide me with a drawing of the space with key dimensions along with information about your product and operation, I can put together concept drawings showing possible layouts and flows. The primary limitation is I can't walk through the space and look for things that may not have been previously discussed. So you will need to fine tune the layout to take into account these types of issues, though in reality you would likely need to do some of this anyway even if I was able to walk through the space.
Am I a good candidate for E-consulting?
Certainly this depends on the type of project, but it also depends on your comfort level with a virtual consultant. Some people simply aren't ready to take this step, and I don't want to push you into something you're not comfortable with.
However, if you're open to the possibilities of e-consulting, I make it very easy for you to try it out. There are no project-level commitments requirements, we can start with as little as a single one-hour session and move on from there. And for some of you, this may be the only option available (most of my onsite services are limited to my local area).
What does E-consulting cost?
See my Rate Schedule.
How do we get started?
Review my Services and Rates, then Contact me (email works best) and provide some information on the nature of your needs and any questions you may have about my services. We'll set up the first session and move on from there. There is no project-level commitment required. All you're committing to is paying for the time you use (there is only a one-hour minimum).
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Inventory Operations Consulting assists small and mid-sized manufacturers and distributors in improving inventory management and warehouse operations.
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