Choosing the Right Consultancy
The management consultancy industry has gone from strength to strength; many organisations now call upon external consulting firms to help them achieve business objectives.
However, the market is complex and there is no single agreed quality standard for consultancies. There are many different kinds of consulting organisations – from the large multinational, multidisciplinary consulting firms, to individual specialists working as freelancers.
Here are some simple tips:
- Choose the right type of provider. Be clear on the ‘value add’ that you are expecting from the consultant – is it technical expertise, the availability of large scale resources, geographic coverage, reputation and influence – or something else?
A niche consulting firm is often a good choice if the main requirement is for depth of expertise. The larger consulting firms are a more logical choice for assignments requiring very large, multidisciplinary teams. In some situations a single ‘freelancer’ will be the most effective option.
- Check track record. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about the consulting firm’s track record. Expect to be able to speak to other organisations where the firm has done similar work. Ask about the relevant experience of each member of the consulting team that will be working on your project.
- Establish clear expectations. Expect your consulting firm to commit to achieving an agreed set of deliverables, including key deadlines and performance targets. Agree penalties for non delivery. Expect them to be specific on fees and provide fixed quotes where possible. Aim to operate on an ‘open book’ basis – so that you can review the detailed costings behind fee quotations.
- Test out the relationship. Use the discussions with potential consulting partners to test the relationship with the individual who will be your account manager. Is this someone that you can work with, and establish a mutually respectful, trusting and frank relationship?
- Finally – get the detail on paper. Make sure that the details of the contract are fully documented and that there is an agreed procedure for managing progress and handling any changes to project scope.
It can be hard to see beyond the ‘hype’ to make sense of what’s available. However, buying consulting services is no different to any other purchasing decision – and it’s important not to be confused or intimidated by what’s available.
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