Why hire consultants?

by brad.martin

We are often asked why anyone should hire consultants, especially given some of the negative consequences captured at the end of this post.  “What do you bring to the table, anyway?”

When considering outside resources, there are a number of time-tested value propositions with a solid rationale for bringing in third party experts.  Successful engagements begin with an assessment of “should we?” not “can we?” find someone to do this work: Are they the right experts in at the right time for the right reason?

Staff Augmentation

  • Short-term capacity – stretched staff cannot accommodate incremental work
  • Employment economics – finite scope/time of need does not justify new-hires
  • Skills – unique content, breadth not resident in the organization
  • Outsourcing – internal capability no longer considered strategic

Perspective

  • Experience – reduce implementation risk, accelerate program milestones
  • Proven methodologies – no experimenting, shortened cycle time
  • Objectivity / creativity – business results focus, innovative perspective
  • Credibility – internal and external confidence in direction and activities

Role / Control

  • Scope management – defined scope, schedule, cost, deliverables easier to delegate
  • Focus – staff can ensure critical, ongoing business activities are not disrupted
  • Mobilization – critical mass, unity of purpose accelerates engagement
  • Facilitation – unbiased consensus-building, mediation, and group management
  • Training / development – direct knowledge transfer and skills building

Internal Barriers

  • Management/organizational focus – regain traction while operating in crisis mode
  • Confidentiality – develop solutions for organizationally sensitive issues
  • Legal requirements – fulfill mandated requirements
  • Internal problems – work silos, conflicting objectives (political, emotional elements)

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Complaints about Consultants?

Clients have shared their perspectives with us about “bad” consulting engagements, too.  In addition to well established benefits of utilizing management consultants, there are clearly a number of equally strident arguments against bringing in outside resources.

What drives these negative outcomes?  Most answers start with a myriad of situation-specific actions and responses that erode the client-first mission.  With complex and stressful change programs, a complaint or two is not unexpected, but if your projects frequently reflect the concerns identified below, there may be systemic issues in how your organization works with outsiders.  More commonly, the underlying cause is an over reliance on third parties to manage mission critical activities. 

  • Cost – exorbitant fee structure, individual compensation, over-resourcing; little history of attempts to reduce the cost of delivery
  • Project control – tendency to lead vs. follow (e.g. “the consulting firm’s project”)
  • Resource control – shifting resources (“A-team/B-team), individual resource performance, wrong expertise, lack of familiarity with industry/business/company
  • Politics – generate conflict as they seek to surface “issues”
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