How to choose the right consultant
We all need help in our professional careers from time to time. Asking a Management Consultant for help is a good way to ensure you get professional and competent support, but there are so many different types of consultants to choose from. They are all good at what they do, but they specialize in certain topics, so make sure you get the right specialist to help you address your challenge. If you go to a hospital with a broken leg, you might find a brilliant brain surgeon there, but is that the person you want fixing your leg?
The Management Consulting industry is large and complex. Many have tried to structure and simplify it. The big consulting companies keep re-structuring and re-defining themselves in order to work along logical demarcation lines that their clients will relate to. In my simplified view on the subject, there are a few factors that make a large difference in terms of the help you receive and the price you pay.
Firstly, the type of work matters:
Strategy: Sets the direction, but do not implement
Implementation: Implements the strategy, but do not operate.
Operations: Improve and optimize performance once something is in steady state or operational mode.
Secondly, the functional area makes a big difference. You do not expect, for instance, a HR specialist and a Finance specialist to overlap in terms of competence.
1. You would like to transform your IT function by buying software as a service and outsource support. What type of consultant should you ask to help you plan this transformation? A Strategic IT Consultant perhaps?
2. So, you know how you want to transform and now need to implement the solution. Part of the job will be to migrate all employees across to a new software solution managed by a third-party vendor. Who would you ask for help? A HR Implementation Consultant perhaps?
3. You need a new report that shows the processing time for purchase orders. What kind of consultant should we ask for help here? A Supply Chain Operations specialist perhaps?
These choices might seem simple, but it is crucial to get them right or it will impact the quality and cost of your solution. For instance, it might be tempting to ask the Strategy Firm to help you with the implementation. They made the plan after all. You can, of course, but it would be like performing brain surgery on your foot, slightly amusing, but mostly painful. The strategy consultant is used to short projects with lots of analysis and few senior stakeholders, they have never been part of a large-scale implementation program with significant change management scope. Best to get someone who does that for a living.
On a larger program you may require both Strategy, Implementation and Operational focus and need to mix things up with more than one vendor. Do this by design by following the simple guidelines above and consider how the vendors will be managed and interact with each other to make sure everyone works efficiently.
Thirdly, it matters what kind of company the person works for. If it is a big consulting house, they are likely to cover most topics, whilst a small boutique is more likely to specialize in one or a few topics. The smallest company unit being the independent consultant that operate entirely on their own. Now, if you have a big job, say a global process/system implementation for 100 000 users around the world, bring in the big guns. Someone who does implementations like this for a living and can handle the size and complexity. If you have a smaller, more specialist topic to address however, you can get more for your money by going boutique or independent. As an example, an experienced consultant from a big five consulting firm costs 100 per day, the same individual with identical experience working for a boutique consulting house might cost 60 per day and if you can hire the person directly as an independent consultant you might get away with paying 40 per day. Same person, big saving. On advisorybay we offer a simple, flexible marketplace where you can secure an experienced independent consultant.
Now that you know where to go for the right kind of help, use it for your tactical buying decisions. Using the right type of consultant for the right job means you are more likely to get the best person for the job, but it can also help reduce your cost.