What is IBC?
Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) is the premier student fee-based consulting organization in the nation. We have successfully completed over 900 consulting projects for over 600 clients since its inception in 1996. In a typical year over 200 students -- comprising of both graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of disciplines -- complete more than 50 projects. While we are housed in the College of Business, we draw students from across the University of Illinois campus, and because of the vast resources available through the University, our capabilities can be enhanced and broadened as necessary to meet client needs.
What are your core capabilities?
IBC will consider any project that will challenge and leverage the creativity and knowledge of the program's students. Over the years, Illinois Business Consulting has successfully completed a wide array of consulting engagements that include:
Are you primarily an educational experience?
No. We are not a class, student club, or social fraternity. Our primary mission is to professionally prepare our students for real-world business challenges through real-world business experiences. By the time our students have completed a project with IBC, they have succeeded in delivering challenging assignments under tight time pressure as part of a cross-functional team, which contributed significant business impact to a real-world client – all before graduation. Our Project Managers and Senior Managers are directly responsible for leading teams of diverse consultants to deliver client value often totaling in the thousands or millions of dollars. Needless to say, we have found that these attributes make our IBC members highly sought after as full-time employees by commercial businesses and consultancies after graduation and beyond.
What are your client selection criteria?
We have successfully completed over 900 projects for clients of all sizes and all industries ranging from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 50 multinationals. Our selection criteria centers on delivering real value to both the client’s businesses and our students’ professional development. We prioritize projects based on the following attributes:
Projects must involve a significant analytical element and require critical thinking from our student consultants. Problems should be challenging and provide an opportunity to deliver a meaningful and actionable benefit to the client company. Our emphasis is on real-world application of our consulting methodology rather than theoretical case-studies or purely educational experiences. In addition, projects must be sized to enable significant value creation over a compressed, fast-paced, engagement cycle.
We prefer to work with clients who are willing and able to have regular engagement with our student consultants. At a minimum, this means assigning at least one point-person from the client company to be an internal sponsor or champion of the project. The sponsor should be available for a standing one-hour weekly call or video-conference during the duration of the project to receive updates and give guidance to the team. Due to the relative intensity of our engagements, clients should be timely in responding to information and feedback requests from the student team.
The client sponsor would also arrange for senior leadership to attend the midpoint and final presentations in order to provide feedback, high-level student-client interactions, and critical performance appraisals. Ideally, these reviews occur face-to-face either at the University of Illinois or on site at the client’s place of business.
Finally, clients should be willing to act as professional references for the student team as they pursue their full-time careers after graduation (assuming their work was deemed exemplary).
Are there any types of projects that you do NOT accept?
We only accept projects that contain a significant analytical element and require critical business thinking. For example, we will not accept sales jobs, telemarketing, clerical work (e.g. data entry), computer coding, graphic design, or purely academic research.
In addition, while many of our projects involve a technological element in relation to a business problem (e.g. designing new market entry strategies for an emerging technology), we are not equipped to complete purely technical work like engineering, design, drafting, architecture, chemical analysis, or science projects.
Does our business have to be in Illinois?
No. While many of our clients are in the Chicagoland area due to geographic proximity and affiliations with the University, we conduct projects for clients throughout the US and beyond.
Do you conduct international projects?
Yes. We conduct projects for both international companies located across the globe as well as for US companies seeking expansion into international markets. One of our key strengths is unparalleled language capabilities from a student base with first-hand knowledge and relationships in markets around the world. However, international clients should be prepared to have an even higher level of internal engagement to overcome issues like long-distance travel (if needed), time differences and occasional connectivity problems in order to ensure a productive and value-added experience for all involved.
How long is a typical engagement?
Client engagements are tied to our academic school year. We conduct two semester-long cycles each year. Fall projects typically begin in September. Spring projects kick off in February. Each cycle runs approximately 12-14 weeks. Timeline
How big is a student team?
Student teams typically consist of 4 to 5 consultants, one Project Manager, and one Senior Manager. We typically staff projects with a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. Students are also matched to projects based on personal preference along with any technical, industry, language, or functional needs specific to the engagement.
How is IBC structured?
Over 300 students apply to become an IBC consultant each year. Around 100 meet our rigorous standards and are selected for the program. Nearly all of our eligible consultants return after their first engagement for additional consulting assignments.
Project Managers are promoted from our consultant class twice per year in a highly selective process. Each has demonstrated outstanding leadership, project management, interpersonal communications, and business consulting skills along with exemplary work performance and project “ownership”.
Senior Managers are selected from among the best Project Managers and oversee multiple engagements during a semester. They are primarily responsible for ensuring the highest quality deliverable and client satisfaction.
How much time do I need to devote to managing a student team?
Our teams are highly self-sufficient, led by experienced Project Managers and overseen by our leadership team of Senior Managers alongside a small cadre of professional staff with decades of real-world business and consulting experience outside of academia. In short, we do not need hand-holding.
That said clients are expected to be available for at least one standing call or video conference per week as well as the midpoint review and final deliverable. In addition, due to the intensity and rapid pace of our engagements, clients should be prepared to quickly turn around student requests for information and feedback in order to ensure a quality end-deliverable.
How much does it cost?
IBC operates on a cost-recovery basis, not as a profit center. Each student on a 5-7 member team may devote 10-20 hours per week on a typical 12-14 week engagement. Our student teams typically invest a minimum of 600-800 hours into each project. Our client fees equate to approximately $14 - $16 per student work hour. This is less expensive than a full-time intern and far below the rates of a commercial consultancy for, what many clients tell us, is equivalent or even superior work product and results.