"Berman Group has been helping us with assessing quality and changes in our business climate since 2000. A very professional and enjoyable team focused on results. We plan to continue working with them."
--Jiří Doležel, Head of Economic Development Office, City of Olomouc
"Berman Group is not a report factory. Their consultants are experienced professionals with the ability to talk to people in managerial positions about rather complicated matters and have them feel that it was an easy and pleasant experience."
--Petr Chládek, Manager, Regional Innovation Strategy, South Moravian Innovation Centre

Analyses, assessments, evaluations.

Analytical work is at the core of consulting activities. It’s where you can extract the highest added value from your consultants. Sometimes this is confused with the number of pages or level of detail. Quality in analysis is difficult to assess objectively; there’s no single metric by which you can judge whether a particular report is better than another – until its findings are actually used.

At Berman Group we see analysis as an integral part of more complex assignments. It’s a building block that takes us further towards identifying solutions. Analysis is an opportunity – an opportunity to activate stakeholders, to get them involved and make them aware of problems.

Because analyses by definition are meant to identify problems, they’re not here to please the readers. Some people have a hard time hearing that their economy or society is having difficulties. They want to hear again and again that they have a tremendous human, social, natural, cultural and historical potential. We see them all the time.

We work with those who are ready to hear and understand the truth about their national and global market position and have a realistic outlook. We prepare analytical reports with the aim of using them for planning practical steps towards creating better economic futures.

High-grade qualitative research

Researching available data from statistics or other published and even unpublished resources usually doesn’t provide policymakers with sufficiently sound evidence to construct an effective economic development strategy / policy. If you’ve reached this point of understanding we can only congratulate you. :o)

Effective strategies must build on high quality analytical inputs. You need to get out of your comfort zone and visit the companies, researchers and intermediary organizations and institutions and start talking to them. And we don’t mean just a few.

And that’s when it starts getting tricky. Unlike desk research, interactive qualitative research bears a hidden risk of “negative value”. The Triple Helix community and the quality of its internal relationships is perhaps the most important intangible asset that economic development professionals have. Its value increases over time and it has the power to multiply the value of any single idea or activity when compared to its isolated life.

We are highly experienced in interacting productively with the business, academic and policymaking communities. We are external to the areas of research and therefore have the advantage of an "un-vested interest".


Strategic Strategic Planning

We’ve seen economic development strategic planning worshipped and we’ve seen planners ignore it completely. One of the greatest disappointments for users of this method seems to be the discovery that it will not do the work INSTEAD of you. It can help a lot but at the end of the day your resources will remain scarce (they always are) and your challenges enormous. The problem with strategic planning as practiced all too often is that it has lost its strategic character. It has become a method for structuring ideas while giving stakeholders a chance to say something.

We help clients rediscover the power of real economic development strategic planning.

Smart policy development

Old methods and attitudes generate old results. Policies need to have impact; otherwise there is no point investing in their design and implementation. Smart policies have simple evaluation metrics, simple target groups, a simple design and are simple to implement. They are more difficult to develop. Complicated policies, on the other hand, have more complex design, objectives or target groups. They are perhaps easier to develop but impossible to implement. Many policies are complicated because there was just “not enough time” to prepare them well. Be simple. It’s harder – but it works.

We don’t let our clients compromise on complicated policies. Policies need to be smart.


Training, coaching and certification

Economic development isn’t easy to comprehend for everyone. The field is rather new and under-resourced, especially in transition economies. The more complicated the issues you address, the more support and commitment you need from the people around you. We help explain the basics of economic development principles to communities.

We’re committed to building capacity in the field of economic development. Unlike university lectures, stories told by consultants draw from a variety of real-life experiences. We build learning models, we encourage cross-regional and cross-industrial learning and experiences, we organize study tours. We inspire and activate our learners and encourage them to innovate in the field of economic development. We operate perhaps the longest-running and most successful foreign direct investment certification program in Europe. Alumni of the program form the core of their countries’ investment promotion teams.

Work with us to prepare, organize and deliver an activating workshop on any topic from our areas of experience in your region. Leverage our experience to build further on your region’s existing social capital.

Facilitation, consensus building

Whether you like it or not, economic development is a highly socially intensive activity. You need to serve as an efficient systems integrator with the ability to facilitate and co-ordinate a number of relationships across sectors and themes. Sometimes it’s very demanding and sometimes it’s sensitive. It requires special skills and lots of patience and perseverance.

We have extensive experience in managing community development processes and encouraging diverse groups of stakeholders to build consensus on difficult development issues. It helps when you have experienced facilitators and mediators. And it helps if they aren’t from within the community and seen as owners of particular interests. It also helps if they can generate respect and a positive creative atmosphere that is oriented towards "can-do" realistic solutions.

Do your researchers, educators, businesses and policymakers talk to each other openly and often? Do they co-operate, co-finance, co-develop, co-own and co-explore? Berman Group facilitates community-critical linkages among the Triple Helix actors in order to maximize the long-term outward commercial potential of your regional innovation system.


Organisational consulting

Economic development agendas are implemented by a variety of private, public and mixed organizational structures around the world. The institutional setting for different types of activities reflects their character, territorial level, the typology of their founders and financiers or agreements among stakeholders, the composition of their target groups, etc. Despite this extensive variety of types, these organizations still need to operate under very efficient schemes because they are accountable for consuming someone else’s resources to produce outcomes that are difficult to document, measure and justify. Based on our experience, we consider this one of the most critical challenges that economic developers face nowadays. It’s the difference between failure and a chance for success.

There’s no one single best way to organize and deliver economic development agency services on a territory. Best practice shows that operational and well-functioning models reflect location-specific organizational learning, continued stakeholder support and development of the strategic skills of staff (managerial, analytical, communication, presentation, brokering and facilitations skills, technology awareness, etc.). Economic development activities are unique. They require diverse mixes of experience and skills, as well as internal motivations and intellectual characteristics that are not typical for "normal" white-collar occupations.

It’s easy to fail at setting up, running and sustaining a high-level of performance in economic development agency activities. We have seen very successful economic development organizations unable to manage their growth and ambitions. We have seen well-designed models that failed on execution. These failures not only undermine the economic and social development direction of their territories, they also devalue the social capital that accumulates in locations over longer periods of time. The activities of business development, investment attraction, support to innovation, competitiveness and entrepreneurship, regional marketing, technology transfer, commercialization, cluster and value network facilitation, internationalization, etc. are vital for the future economic growth of territories. Yet we seem to compromise on quality and resource management in organizations that we make responsible for such agendas.

Berman Group provides organizational consulting to economic development institutions at all levels. This is a service that (honestly) is very hard to sell. At the same time, we see every day that it’s one that clients would benefit from so much. The reason is partly that Berman Group is being hired to “get a job done” for economic development organizations. It’s fine, but many organizations do not realize that part of their job is to run efficiently. Talk to us, share your views. Make a difference for your organizational performance.

Project assistance

At the end of the day, strategies and policies need to be implemented in order to achieve the planned outcomes and maximize return on the investment made in their development. Implementation typically occurs in the form of projects, initiatives and programs. Projects that are agreed during a smart strategic planning process are easier to design and implement because their conceptualization has been conducted in a synergic exercise that involved diverse groups of stakeholders and representatives of target groups, and thus their chances for success are greater. Such projects respond to overall needs analyses and create synergies with other existing and planned actions. These synergies represent critical added value, they increase the productivity of any related investments and form a basis for the competitive edge that a society builds over time.

We’re not saying that ad-hoc projects have a lesser chance of success. But if the same set of external conditions applies for two projects, the one that results from community-wide strategic planning will have greater socio-economic impact.

In fact, implementation success factors are diverse and mostly depend on the qualities of the project team and demand for the project outcomes. Resources come next (not first, which is a common misperception) and of course there are external factors that can have a limiting or fatal impact on implementation. It’s difficult to estimate these ex ante and it’s what you should be doing in the project design phase. While outsourcing the implementation of many project activities is necessary we don’t believe in outsourcing the complete project management. The control and responsibility must be with those who have a vested interest that goes beyond a paid invoice.

We assist project teams in project conceptualization, design, elaboration, demand scans, sourcing and fundraising, monitoring and evaluation. The more complicated the projects and initiatives you hire us for, the better value you will receive for your money. We don’t accept responsibility for client projects and we don’t trust those who say they can. We therefore don’t call this service Project Management or Project Outsourcing, which some find very attractive for their websites. We call it exactly what it is: project assistance.

Talk to us about your project whether you’re in the planning phase or deep in (the troubles of) implementation. We’ll be honest with you and tell you if we don’t think we can add good value for your money.