EGI is an external facing unit at the University of Michigan that leverages the resources of the university, its faculty, staff, technology, & laboratory space to support the local economy through stabilizing and growing small to medium-sized companies and also the communities in which they reside. Typically EGI staff are brought in when there’s an economic shock or economic transition to help make sure that companies or communities are resilient to what that change is happening.
Ashlee Breitner has served as the Managing Director at the EGI for 2 years and has been with the organization for 5 years. She & her team use Allovance to supercharge their strategic planning arm of services.
ALLOVANCE ADDED STRATEGIC PLANNING TO OUR REPERTOIRE. IT’S BEEN A GAME-CHANGER.
Ashlee: Before Allovance, our strategic planning services didn’t exist much. EGI is a conduit for connecting companies and communities to other resources. So historically what we would’ve done is found a strategic consultant and connected the company or community we are working with to them. Now, through Allovance, we can provide a lot of that support in-house directly. We work hard to build that trusted advisor relationship with these companies and so now being able to provide that support because we’re entrenched with them already from other perspectives around strategic planning is helpful.
CLIENTS TAP INTO OUR SERVICES LONG-TERM NOW. MUCH CLOSER RELATIONSHIP THAN BEFORE.
Ashlee: It allows us to help our clients stay engaged or look into the future, which is important. So a lot of times in our programs, historically, a company may go through a program with us for one particular area of technical assistance support, and then we’re done working with them. Being able to provide strategic planning support has changed our dynamic of working with them much more in the long term where we may help them set their plan today, but they’re always going to be coming back and tapping on us as a resource to help them keep that plan updated or just be that advisor to them as they move on the path to executing some of their products.
THE FIVE-STEP PROCESS IS FLEXIBLE AND CAN FIT ANY CLIENT USE CASE.
Ashlee: We love the five-step process, it makes sense, but there are sometimes when the process needs to be slightly modified based on the individual circumstance. The method itself is flexible, and we can move things around if we need to based on that client’s needs. So for example, sometimes we approach putting the criteria behind a particular objective ahead of future steps in the process that typically are laid out differently when you go through the Allovance certification & training. It allows us to have that flexibility as we engage with companies to meet their unique needs. Sometimes that flexibility depends on what are they dealing with today that they need to deal with tomorrow, sometimes it’s the level and size of the organization; how complex are they? The more engagements we do, the more we have cases like this and learn from our process that we’ve used what might work better in the future for other clients or ways that we can adapt the process.
DARE WE SAY THAT STRATEGIC PLANNING CAN BE FUN?
Ashlee: Yeah, I would say the ‘compare’ step for sure is a highlight. We always call it the fun step. So they’re sitting in that room together and that’s really where that conversation comes out in terms of what matters: what matters to our organization and what matters to us as individuals. It allows for that dialogue that’s really critical to drawing consensus and we always try to make it fun in terms of using the sliding scale and yelling out what’s more important than other things. For certain types of organizations, the quantify step is also really interesting. Some companies that we’ve worked with are very data-driven, so in order to have the actual data to support the decisions they are making in terms of projects they’re selecting, that is key to them. Historically, they’ve made decisions based on gut reaction or “shoot from the hip” type method, and in this context, they can see the data that supports their decisions, and ultimately it helps to bring them all together on why they’re choosing to move forward on certain things.
CLIENTS LOVE ALLOVANCE JUST AS MUCH AS CONSULTANTS.
Ashlee: The biggest thing I would say we hear over and over again is that they love the process. Using the process and using the methodology and the software behind it to have that visual has brought out a lot more collaboration & discussion than any other process they’ve used before. Just the tool in itself, giving those visual cues for them to be able to see different aspects of what they’re working on. Then the facilitation process also draws a lot of conversation out that are sometimes tough things to talk about within organizations and otherwise just wouldn’t be talked about, but are critical to really being successful for them in the future.
ALLOVANCE HELPS US SELL OUR SERVICES. DATA-DRIVEN STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR THE WIN.
Ashlee: We take different approached based on what our clients interests are. We are seeing more of a DEI focus within a lot of these organizations lately. The ability to explain to them that using this process helps remove that bias and truly brings all the stakeholder’s voices together to come up with the best plan possible for that organization resonates a lot with companies and communities today. So that’s part of the pitch. I’ll say other things too – to that data-driven point, that’s a piece that we highlight. Its your decisions at the end of the day and you’re going to understand exactly why you made those decisions the way that you did. It’s a lot less likely that somebody’s gonna argue with a plan that you put forward because there’s that data to support it for the data-type-driven organization. So really there are a lot of great aspects of Allovance and the software, so we tailor our pitch to what are the needs and interests and values of the particular organization we’re talking to. In almost every single proposal we’re putting in some element of either the methodology, the process or the software. It definitely has helped enhance our proposals as we are engaging with our funders who will then help us to support the client bases, whether its a company or a community.
IT’S NOT JUST A TOOL, THERE’S AN ENTIRE TEAM BEHIND IT TO HELP YOU WITH ALL YOUR ENGAGEMENTS.
Ashlee: Yeah, there’s definitely a great partnership and relationship with Allovance. I feel like we always work back and forth in terms of “Hey we have this idea” or “Hey we have this client opportunity” – how can we collaborate and work together in order to help our organizations. Whether its winning a deal, making a software modification, the Allovance team is super flexible and is always willing to listen and learn about our clients need to help continuously improve the process and software.