By Mandy Sponholtz, Blue Icon Advisors Director of Operations
You have determined that your school needs consulting help from Blue Icon Advisors to provide interim staffing, evaluate your operations, assess and write your policies and procedures, or perform a Standards of Excellence review. Let's take a minute to go behind the scenes so you can learn what a consulting engagement entails.
Before the Engagement
Before we can begin a consulting engagement, we need to gather some information and complete the following tasks:
- Request Form: Let us know you are interested in a consulting project. You can contact Blue Icon via our online Project Request Form, via email at [email protected], or by phone at 202-785-6953.
- Intake Meeting: Once we receive your request, a member of the Blue Icon team will contact you to schedule a short intake meeting. During this online meeting, we will explore your needs in depth, answer your initial questions, and discuss project timelines.
- Scope of Work (SOW): The SOW, or project proposal, outlines your needs and what Blue Icon will perform to help achieve your goals. The SOW will detail the tasks and deliverables we propose to perform, along with a timeline and payment schedule. The SOW is meant to serve as a starting place. Blue Icon strives to provide custom solutions and is happy to tailor our approach until you are satisfied with the SOW. For staffing requests or unique projects, we will not deliver the SOW until we have confirmed a consultant with that specialty is available.
- Contract: Blue Icon executes a signed contract to perform work with our clients that provides the necessary legal protections for all parties involved. Our team often works with your school's procurement, contracts, or legal department to execute the agreement.
- Payment Arrangements: While the SOW details the payment schedule, we will ask you to complete a Client Setup Request form that asks for basic information for our accounting department, such as where to send invoices, the Purchase Order number (if applicable), and whether we need to register as a vendor online. Generally, projects will not begin until we receive the project deposit, which will be clearly outlined in the SOW.
- Your Consultant(s): While the contract is being reviewed, the Blue Icon team will select and/or ratify the consultant(s) who will work on your project. All consultants go through a rigorous vetting, hiring, and training process. Learn more about our independent consultants, Standards of Excellence review team, and the Blue Icon staff.
During the Engagement
What happens during the engagement will vary from project to project.
- Kickoff Meeting: All engagements begin with a kickoff meeting to introduce you to your consultant(s) and review the project tasks and deliverables. Often during this meeting, the consultant(s) will request additional information, such as providing documents to conduct a desk audit, how to gain access to necessary systems, or coordinating interviews.
- Documentation Request: The consultant(s) may request documents or information so they can familiarize themselves with your school. These items may include policies and procedures, consumer information disclosures, and information from across the institution that relates to financial aid administration.
- Scheduling: The consultant(s) will ask your project's primary contact to coordinate interviews with various parties that will occur during the engagement or schedule training sessions, as well as secure necessary meeting space, if needed.
- System Access: Engagements involving interim staffing or performing a student file review require the consultant(s) to have access to financial aid systems to perform their work. This may involve the consultant(s) signing documents or contacting your information technology department to grant access.
- Staff and/or Student Surveys: If your engagement includes a staff or student survey, Blue Icon will create the survey for your distribution to the applicable recipients. Your consultant(s) will work with you to determine when to administer these surveys.
- Deliverables: Some engagements have milestone deliverables throughout the engagement, while others provide a final report or other deliverable at the end of the engagement. Your scope of work outlines the deliverables and when you can expect to receive them.
- Regular Check-Ins: Your consultant(s) will keep you apprised of the progress of the engagement, and your Blue Icon project manager will regularly ask for feedback. You can also reach out to your project team with any questions.
- Monthly Invoices: If your project is based on an hourly rate, you will receive an invoice each month for the previous month's work, along with a time report detailing activities performed. We closely monitor the time spent on every project to remain within the agreed upon hours and budget.
After the Engagement
Once the engagement ends, there are a few close-out tasks that occur:
- Remaining Deliverables: If there are remaining deliverables specified in your scope of work, we will provide those at the end of the engagement.
- Conduct Final Evaluation: Blue Icon will schedule a final evaluation with the engagement's primary contact to ask for feedback on the project. Often, and assuming your experience was good, we will ask for a testimonial or approval to write a case study for use on the website, which is completely optional. The best way for us to attract new clients is to share the stories of all our satisfied clients.
Now that you have more information about consulting engagements with Blue Icon, let's have a conversation about how we can help you!