Company capstone project sponsorship often brings many benefits not only for students and schools, but for the sponsor company as well. Last year, West Monroe Partners partnered with Indiana University’s MSIS program to take on one such capstone project. The project involved developing a predictive model to track and monitor the estimated stress levels across the firm at a consultant, client, and project level. We tasked the capstone team to do some independent research and to build a model with some sample data provided in order to undercover a fresh perspective. Using their analysis and research, the hope was that the capstone team would be able to gather some external findings on how consulting firms in Chicago manage the stressors of travel/challenging work and identify some key factors that may impact attrition.
The expected outcome of this initiative was to expose graduate students to the reality of consulting, and to give two members of West Monroe’s Advanced Analytics team an opportunity to take on a leadership role. However, there were some unexpected benefits as well!
Adam Levy and Andy Frank, both joined West Monroe’s West Monroe’s Advanced Analytics practice as consultants after having graduated from the Kelley School of Business’ Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program. With ties still close to the school and having just completed his capstone with a very positive experience, Andy saw an opportunity to create a relationship between the MSIS program and West Monroe. Having led the internal stress model project earlier in the year, Adam served as the main partner in the project. Together, with supervision from senior members from their practice, they embarked on this endeavor together.
This was a great opportunity for Andy and Adam to co-manage a team of aspiring individuals at a project level. However, in this case, the roles would be reversed, where West Monroe would be playing the role of the client, and the students would be the consultants. Andy managed the people and team communications while Adam managed the technical portion of the project. This proved to be a fun and interesting dynamic while also presenting them with unique leadership opportunities early in their careers. The project helped them both better understand at an early stage in their consulting careers what it’s like to work on the client side of a project and served as a good way to improve their client communication skills.
The MSIS students benefitted in unexpected ways in addition to completing a capstone project required to earn their degree. At first, they were a little surprised at the amount of responsibility and flexibility they were given, but they hit the ground running. Their work focused primarily on gathering secondary research, conducting over 30 phone interviews, data analysis, learning how to use a data visualization tool (Tableau), managing the scope, and providing the final deliverables (a white paper and PowerPoint presentation summarizing findings). Additionally, the capstone team got to experience a day in the life of working a successful consulting firm – a priceless experience to have when deciding where to work after graduation.
In conclusion, West Monroe continues this fruitful relationship with IU and the MSIS program, with the hope that students involved in the capstone project will accept the challenge and join West Monroe post-graduation! We see this joint relationship as a great opportunity to expose potential new hires to our culture and norms before they start. Ultimately, the research and insights we received from the team were completely invaluable and, as a result, the final deliverables presented us with findings that we would not have been able to uncover without the capstone team’s help. Overall, the students and West Monroe were very satisfied with the experience they received out of the project.