Can Rapid Prototyping Save Consulting’s Reputation?

It doesn’t entirely align with reality, but the reputation traditional consulting has developed for squandering time and money also didn’t arise out of nowhere. If it had, Don Cheadle’s flashy-suit-wearing, fast-talking House of Lies character wouldn’t have had a five-season run.

Here’s the flip side of what can look like a self-perpetuating cash grab (especially on premium cable): Fully understanding a problem takes time, and the issue an organization has identified rarely describes the full scale of the problem people want to solve. What’s more, becoming enmeshed in how an organization functions—a mark of competent consulting—is also a surefire way to find more problems, and consultants are natural problem solvers. We see an issue, and we want to offer its resolution.

All that adds up to a lot of time, money, and hassle for clients who must make do through implementations, training, and integration of solutions that are typically bigger in scope than they’d anticipated. Many come out on the other side grateful for newfound ease, efficiencies, and improved decision-making, but many resent the expenditure. That’s especially true when a solution fails to live up to its promise, and there are a lot of ways for that to happen. Going down a long, expensive road that ends up taking you nowhere is understandably frustrating.

Traditional consulting is fraught with missteps and “solutions” that ultimately fall short. Rapid prototyping answers those concerns.

How rapid prototyping shifts consulting and improves ROI

Under the traditional consulting model, waste is nearly inevitable. Ironically, this is especially true whenever meticulous planning—which has the ring of foresight and practicality about it—takes place up front. It’s easy for planning to eat up scads of time before a project is implemented, and that time is wasted when the solution hasn’t been proven. No amount of planning can save a misaligned solution.

Flipping that script saves an incredible amount of time, money, and frustration. Instead of long engagements that end in an untested implementation, rapid prototyping utilizes agile development to provide a quick proof of concept that shows the value (or deficiencies) of any solution in a matter of weeks.

Using a Design Thinking methodology, our rapid prototyping team helps clients discover the root problems in their business and then works with them toward solutions, getting to the development stage more quickly by creating and testing different prototypes to tackle challenging problems. We stand up two or three prototypes within 4-6 weeks, giving us and our clients an idea of what potential solutions look and feel like, and a roadmap for a solution that is both feasible and truly meets the client’s needs. If a solution turns out not to be feasible, the failure is much less costly than a long, traditional implementation.

In a rapid prototyping scenario, our team either proves out the feasibility of a concept or shows what won’t work, leading to iteration that’s more likely to produce solutions that will. In our experience so far, rapid prototyping offers great value not only when it proves out an initial concept, but because it sparks further innovation when prototypes fall short—or when they can be combined or modified to achieve more robust solutions than originally proposed.

We dive into a process like this at the empathize stage, and the cycle continues until your ideal solution has been achieved:


A ”fail fast” approach to problem solving isn’t available in every situation; for especially complex or evolving projects it’s unlikely to be a good fit. But, in most cases, devoting data science, engineering, and mathematical minds to creative problem-solving produces big ideas that may solve big problems. Even when they don’t, they crack critical elements of those problems and make them easier to solve in the next iteration.

The short version of that story is this: Rapid prototyping is an opportunity to innovate, and it provides insight quickly so that even when a first run fails, the sunk cost is minimal—and where it succeeds, ROI is astronomical. Nobody has ever made that claim about traditional consulting.

Rapid prototyping delivers what consumers have come to expect

Rapid prototyping is a human-centered solution for human problems, which is what every data and technology problem really is. We all want what we want right now, and we’re used to getting it that fast. Few people want the history of wheat when they decide they want to bake a loaf of bread; they want clear, reliable recipes. Same deal here: our experts look at what an organization needs and dive in to make it happen.

Traditional consulting expects humans to be something different by demanding long waits for a payoff that doesn’t necessarily come. We find it baffling that consulting, in many ways, has failed to catch up to the way people consume information and services. This is a fast payoff era. And when the fast payoff doesn’t come, most of us tend to walk away. Rapid prototyping lets you know right away which direction you’re going to want to go, and—because failure comes fast—it can simply be a sign to redirect. Finding an answer built off that failure still happens faster than the traditional model can deliver.

Commitment from clients is low in terms of time, money, and security. If we don’t have time to acquire access to restricted data for a rapid prototype, instead we create a synthetic dataset to determine feasibility. That data is everywhere, and so acquiring similar datasets that prove out a solution is quick and easy, and you get the same feasibility assessment that would come from turning over assets—without the commitment or security concerns. And then the infrastructure is already built when a client is ready to implement.

Because it’s quick, inexpensive, and innovative, rapid prototyping is a superb approach to solving complex or undefined problems or to innovate on existing solutions to achieve better outcomes.

We like it for developing new approaches or as a way to help organizations who’ve felt their problems were unsolvable—or too expensive to solve.

Rapid prototyping meets complex challenges with a fast, focused, agile approach. We think it’s going to fundamentally shift the way consulting happens.

Curious if rapid prototyping is right for your next big project? Click the button below to get more info from our team.

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Our Rapid Prototype Team

Luke Zhang

Luke came to the United States to pursue a better education and finished top of his class at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a triple major.

Luke currently co-leads Resultant’s flagship Rapid Prototyping team. Prior to this, he was a key member of the Indiana Covid Response team, applying data science to contend with the unprecedented crisis. His data science skills cover a wide range of areas including statistical analysis, network analysis, graph theory, data visualization, NLP, deep learning, and more.


Anderson Smith

With a background in engineering, Anderson focuses his career on leveraging data to solve complex, human-centric problems. His experience includes data strategy and applying advanced and predictive analytics to transform organizations across the public, private, higher education, and nonprofit sectors.

Anderson currently splits his time between co-leading Resultant’s Rapid Prototyping team and leading a portfolio of projects leveraging predictive analytics to increase student retention in the higher education space.



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