Friday, November 22, 2013

Top 5 Internal McKinsey Resources for Consultants

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McKinsey consultants are focused on delivering impact to clients.  The Firm doesn't want things like research, making PowerPoint pages, and debugging Excel models distracting from that goal.  So, McKinsey provides many valuable resources to its consultants.  These are also among the top things former McKinsey consultants miss most about the Firm.  In this post I'll cover the Top 5 McKinsey resources...

McKinsey consultants are notoriously overworked, spread thin, and stressed out.  Fortunately, the Firm provides many resources to help consultants and engagement teams.  In particular order, here are the Top 5.

Research and Information ("R&I") / Know Portal

Impact requires insights that are found using good data.  McKinsey has an entire organization - R&I - dedicated to helping consultants find useful, relevant information from a wide range of sources.  They go far beyond "let me Google that for you" and have access to subscription, obscure, and/or proprietary data beyond what engagement teams and clients can access themselves.  R&I's work can only be as good as the R&I request submitted, so it helps to be clear and thoughtful when asking for information

The Know Portal ("Know") can be thought of as the self-service version of R&I.  Know provides access to third-party sources like Hoovers and Factiva as well as the Firm's library of Practice Documents ("PDs"), McKinsey PowerPoint (PPT) decks on a wide range of industry, function, and client topics.

R&I allows access to more information than Know and does not require knowledge on where to look for data.  However, Know provides real-time access to information, while R&I lead times can be long.


McKinsey has incredibly knowledgeable experts on nearly every industry and function an engagement team would need.  Some are consultants who happen to have worked deeply on a particular topic and have built hands-on, client experience.  Others are hired specifically for their expertise and work in the McKinsey Practice aligned with their field.

Experts can be leveraged in many ways.  The most common are:
  • Email - ideal for quick questions that can be asked and answered easily
  • Phone interview - usually 30 or 60 minutes long, better for more complicated topics and/or issues requiring many follow-up questions
  • Engagement - in some cases, an Expert might join the team for a time.  An example would be an Expert on Market Research designing, launching, and analyzing the results of a survey for a couple of weeks

Production (e.g., VGI)

Although McKinsey consultants communicate via PPT decks, the Firm doesn't want them wasting a lot of time actually creating and editing them.  That's where "Production" resources like Visual Graphics India ("VGI") and Visual Graphics Americas ("VGI") come in.  You can send them (usually via fax or scan/email) information on what you want and they send back brand new PPT pages.  Top uses of VGI / VGA include:
  • Cleaned-up pages:  production can add a valuable "extra set of eyes" to go through a deck and look for and correct mistakes including typos, grammatical errors, and formatting issues
  • Revised pages:  consultant will often repurpose existing PPT pages, templates, and frameworks.  And old page with new data written on it will be turned into a new page
  • Brand new pages:  if no existing reference material can be found, sketches of the pages and/or exhibits, along with descriptions and notes on the desired output are enough for production to create your page
  • High-end pages:  even if the content is spot-on, a deck might need some polishing and visual interest.  High-end production can make it client-ready, especially for high stakes meetings with senior clients or workshops with many clients, but the lead times are longer as fewer production folks have these capabilities

McKinsey provides teams with 24-hour production support, although holidays and peak demand can cause lead times to increase.  I'll post other articles on a) how to optimize time using production and b) tips on working with production.

Excel Advanced Analytics ("AA")

If PPT is how consultants communicate, Excel is how consultants think.  Excel "models" are critical components of most McKinsey engagements and they can often be incredibly complex.  The Firm has a team of Excel wizards available to assist McKinsey teams.  The most common reasons teams reach out to Advanced Analytics, in increasing order of difficulty are:
  • Setting up an Excel function:  Excel has many powerful tools, but they can be complicated to use.  Even experienced modelers will have difficulty with the more obscure, unfamiliar functions
  • Debugging an Excel model:  Nothing is more frustrating than combing through a spreadsheet trying to figure out why it's not working.  Although it will take time - primarily while AA deciphers your approach and design - they can find errors and fix your model
  • Design and build an Excel model:  Often, a McKinsey consultant or team will know what their model needs to do, but not how to build that functionality - especially if the needs are complex.  As long as someone can clearly articulate to AA what the model needs to do and what the data sources look like, they can build the model.

Executive Assistants ("EAs")

They are the underappreciated stars of McKinsey and keep the Firm up and running.  Without them, engagement teams would get stranded, Partners wouldn't know where to go, and client meetings wouldn't happen.  The list of how EAs help the Firm, engagement teams, and consultants is endless, but here are some of the more visible ones:
  • Access to McKinsey leadership:  EAs are the gatekeepers to important people at the Firm and can help you get on their calendars.  Several EAs working together are vital to scheduling meetings requiring multiple Directors or Principals
  • Working with client EAs:  If you think trying to schedule a meeting with multiple McKinsey partners is difficult, trying throwing some senior clients into the mix.  McKinsey EAs can work with client EAs to resolve the most challenging scheduling conflicts and make critical client meetings happen
  • Expense reports:  This might seem like a trivial thing, but when you consider how much a typical McKinsey consultant travels, help with expenses can free up many hours each month.


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