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How AI-Powered Primary Data Collection Can Take Your Consulting To The Next Level

Artificial intelligence +1

June 23, 2023

Management consulting is a competitive field. To differentiate themselves, consultants (and consultancy firms) are always looking for ways to level up their project work and deliver more impact for clients. But one of the most difficult and time-consuming elements of their work remains: conducting primary research to develop insights and recommendations.

Done manually, managing online focus groups, sending surveys and conducting key stakeholder interviews can be a huge time and resource drain. And that’s just to plan and conduct them. Never mind the long slog of manual data analysis and reporting that comes afterwards.

Then along came AI. The Robin to your Batman, the Q to your Bond. Your reliable sidekick, making your research way more efficient and effective - while you take all the credit. 

Here are 5 ways AI & NLP can take your consulting projects to the next level

1 - AI reduces your costs 💰

AI leverages machine learning to identify redundant or repetitive tasks during primary research, such as checking typos, sending reminders, scoring surveys or summarising interviews. As it performs these tasks once, it avoids the need for multiple human consultants to complete the same work. This eliminates wasted time and costs.

‍As AI handles more of the labour-intensive primary research, consultancy firms do not need to expand their workforce and real estate footprint as rapidly. This reduces overhead costs that would otherwise grow with human headcount. It also means that fewer people are required per project, meaning that firms (or individual consultants) are able to take on more projects as they’re not spread so thin over client work.

2 - AI frees up your internal resources 🕺

By offloading one-dollar tasks (grunt work) to AI, consultants gain back valuable time to invest into higher-impact client work, like strategic recommendations and client consulting. This means less time spent collecting and analysing data, and more time spent interpreting results and finding solutions. The improved insights, solutions and presentations that AI enables consultants to deliver, demand - and justify - higher fees for their services. 

The freeing up of internal resources also means that each consultant’s capacity for taking on additional client work is increased. More capacity = more clients. More clients = more experienced consultants & higher revenue for the organisation.

3 - AI enables you to conduct qualitative primary research on a huge scale 🌏

With the assistance of AI and more specifically natural language processing (NLP), time-consuming qualitative research methods such as interviews and focus groups can now be conducted sustainably at scale. Large language models (LLMs), like ChatGPT and Bard promise to turn methods that were traditionally limited by manual scoring, interpretation and analysis to routine tools in a consultant’s toolbox.

Importantly, voice-led interviews and focus groups can be conducted online at a massive scale, which means that you can reach a wider audience than traditional focus groups, which are typically held in person. This can be helpful if you are trying to get feedback from a specific demographic or geographic group.

The tech stack that we’ve built for PSi enables consultants and organisational decision makers to conduct direct primary research through mass focus groups approximately 333 times faster than it would take a human team to conduct the same type of study from planning & facilitation, through to analysis & reporting. We know it, because we have used both methods with our customers. 

To get an idea of how quickly the facilitation and reporting of mass-scale focus groups can happen with the use of PSi, a discussion with instant data reporting, including 1000 participants can take as little as 45 minutes.

4 - AI provides instant reporting 📊

Gathering data can be tedious and time-consuming, but not any more thanks to AI. Large language models and transformer-based models like ChatGPT and Bard, achieve a human-level understanding of written language through surveys, interviews, and social media posts, saving us hours of manual work; Voice to text and speech recognition algorithms, such as the ones released by Google, Amazon and OpenAI can turn spoken word data into accurate transcripts that can then be analysed by LLMs.

AI (specifically, NLP and the transformer-based tech stack we built for PSi) is able to analyse conversational data in near real-time in the same way it can with written data. In the future, direct analysis of spoken-word recordings will provide far richer information and nuances, making these AI models all the more insightful and impressive.

This is important because it opens up new avenues to understand large groups of stakeholders. If you had 100 or 1000 people, the best you could do, before LLMs, was to listen to each individual and piece together all the information or run a small scale focus group. Both these methods can be biased by the researcher assumptions and the specific participants you invite.With the PSi app, you can now host focus groups at massive scales. At the end of the discussion you’d have a full, detailed report of actionable insights from the analysis of every single voice in that group, with the most in-depth, qualitative analytics never before seen in primary research collection.

5 - AI provides us with higher quality data insights 🔍

We’re human. Assigning accurate tags and groupings to thousands of data points would overwhelm us. Imagine listening back to hours of conversational data and being given the task to analyse it. No, thank you. AI codes data for us (yes, even spoken word data with PSi).‍

AI algorithms analyse the coded data, searching for patterns and relationships that reveal strategic opportunities and the most useful insights from the data in your study. It then sorts, groups, and labels each piece of information accurately and efficiently. ‍

This exposes trends within the data that we would likely miss otherwise. Examples of the types of analytics that the PSi tech stack is able to analyse, turning spoken-word conversations into instant reports on consensus, polarization, opinion clustering and sentiment analysis.

In Summary 🧑‍🏫

With AI assisting us every step of the way, we break through mountains of data to find the golden nuggets of knowledge that help our company adapt, grow and succeed. ‍

This means that companies can conduct this type of research regularly and sustainably. Stakeholder engagement becomes practice rather than a one-off event. The result is more clients and more happy repeat clients for consultancy firms that do this type of research on a regular basis.‍

AI has truly transformed how we leverage information to make smart decisions and deliver real impact for management consultancy firms and their clients, enabling organisations to de-risk their decisions by involving their stakeholders and communities in the decision-making process.

Leveraging AI transforms consultants from data collectors into insight generators, allowing them to truly "level up" their value proposition for clients. By supercharging the traditionally weak link of primary research in their work (and particularly qualitative primary research), consultants can strengthen client relationships, justify higher fees and scale their practices more rapidly.‍

In short, AI-powered primary research promises to give management consultants a serious competitive edge. Those who adopt these new technologies first stand to benefit the most by taking their client project work - and their careers - to the next level.

If you’d like to get your hands on a real-life data dashboard from one of our PSi discussions, we’ve published a couple that you can interact with. Check them out for yourself! 👇

View the dashboard

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