TL; DR: The Art of Service is helping more than 100,000 clients in over 100 countries stay ahead of the game with Self Assessment Toolkits covering a range of topics. The company is on a mission to help C-level executives identify blinds spots in their businesses while properly vetting third-party consultants, or eliminating them entirely. And, because consultants need consultants, too, The Art of Service recently released its first certified consultant program based on decades of in-house experience.
When husband and wife Ivanka Menken and Gerard Blokdijk first founded The Art of Service in 2000, their primary goal as consultants was to help businesses grow by breaking down IT silos.
Over the years, the entrepreneurial pair saw the rise of conflicting trends: one toward rapid, agile development and another centered on compliance and risk aversion. At the same time, budgets were shrinking, and leaders were asked to do more with less.
Could businesses have their cake and eat it — affordably? Ivanka and Gerard thought so.
In 2018, they began whipping up productized versions of their consultancy practice in the form of Self Assessment Toolkits designed to help clients strike a budget-friendly balance between agile development and risk mitigation.
The affordable resources now help C-level executives align IT services with overall goals — all while unveiling knowledge gaps in business processes, human resources, risk management, and compliance.
“We have come full circle in that way,” said Ivanka, CEO of The Art of Service. “Now, we approach self-improvement and the continuous pursuit of knowledge via a prototype version of consultancy, rather than going in and invoicing clients by the hour.”
By addressing common challenges through the use of best-practice templates, step-by-step work plans, and maturity diagnostics, the Self Assessment Toolkits empower business leaders to gain a competitive edge while managing risk.
Now, with the release of its certified consultant program, The Art of Service will help advise professional consulting firms, as well. Using decades of industry experience, the company will teach firms how to offer customers additional value above and beyond subject matter expertise.
The Tools You Need to Eliminate or Properly Vet Third-Party Consultants
Gerard (now President of the Art of Service) and Ivanka, both from the Netherlands, moved to Australia specifically to fulfill their dream: to empower professionals to improve their businesses.
Their own management consultancy careers started in the early 1990s, when they learned firsthand the importance of starting a valuable conversation by asking clients the right questions.
They also learned how difficult it can be to come up with them and began to curate a database of essential questions they had successfully used in their own client engagements. By 2018, when Ivanka and Gerard had the idea to create a product that would help clients reap the benefits of a consultancy service through diverse toolkits, the pair realized good consultancy is all about the right questions.
“Looking back at all of our consulting gigs, the ones that were most valuable, the ones where we made the most difference for organizations, were the ones where we asked the most questions — and that’s why we started with a question-based assessment,” Ivanka said. “As long as you ask the right questions, you will find a way to get to the right answers.”
Thousands of questions now form the foundation of the company’s Self Assessment Toolkits, which have helped more than 100,000 clients in over 100 countries unleash their full potential through product-based consultancy. Each kit contains best-practice templates, step by step work plans, and maturity diagnostics, among other resources.
In a lot of these cases, businesses are able to eliminate the need for third-party help entirely.
“When you perform a self-assessment in your organization, you can also identify internal heroes who have clearly defined answers to your questions,” Ivanka said. “These are people you can leverage for organization change or technology implementation, for example,” Ivanka said.
In other cases, the Self Assessment Toolkits help C-level execs become more informed consumers of consulting services. “Not every consultant goes into a job in the customers’ main goal in mind,” she said. “If you know what questions to ask, you can better vet consultants, so you don’t pay for things you don’t need.”
A Variety of Use Cases for Better Aligning IT with Business Strategy
The Art of Service Self Assessment Toolkits cover an incredibly wide range of industries, from energy, natural resources, and the government to technology, manufacturing, and telecommunications.
And there are multiple kits available for each industry. In the tech category, for example, there are more than 360 kits available on topics such as technology policy, wearable technology, CAD, IT audits, and governmental technology platforms, among numerous others.
If you need multiple kits, the company’s membership plan is a good bet, allowing users to purchase as many toolkits as desired at a 60% discount. “For large organizations, our subscription portal is ideal — this grants the easiest access to the toolkits,” Ivanka said.
The Art of Service team is always working on expanding toolkit options based on current and future market demand.
“New topics are uncovered and selected daily with our in-house designed AI and machine learning applications to ensure content is always relevant, up to date, and, above all, specific to your exact need,” the company’s website reads.
Ivanka told us the kits are particularly valuable to those in positions of power, such as vice presidents, CEOs, and CTOs, who commonly experience a sense of social disconnect within their businesses. She told us the adage “there are no wrong questions” typically doesn’t apply to the C-Suite, causing lots of professionals to choose the safe option and avoid asking anything at all.
“It’s lonely at the top — the higher you ascend in an organization, the less oxygen there is, yet you’re responsible for some really important decision-making processes,” she said. “Things like compliance are important, but understanding what you don’t know and learning how to get that knowledge into your organization by asking the right questions is one of the top benefits of the toolkits.”
Ultimately, anything C-level execs can do to reinforce the efficacy of those decision-making processes is extremely beneficial, especially in terms of peace of mind.
A Certified Consultant Program and Continued Client Support
At the end of the day, consultants need consultants, Ivanka said — and The Art of Service hopes to help fill that role through its latest offering, a certified consultant program.
“We want to help the owner of the medium-sized consulting firm compete against massive companies such as IBM, KPMG, and Deloitte by showing them how to provide customers with additional value that goes over and above subject matter expertise,” Ivanka said.
Moving forward, The Art of Service will also continue to focus on customer service, which Ivanka said the company approaches pragmatically.
“We’re constantly figuring out how we can help our clients better, how we can solve their issues,” she said. “Not just by analyzing the industry and having theory meetings, but by putting forth can-do attitudes to help our clients achieve their business goals. That’s something I’m really proud of.”