Management consulting services: luxury or necessity?
Modern businesses commonly consider consulting service as a luxury one, often listed in a corporate budget with low priority. Sometimes it happens that it is needed to utilize some cash at the end of financial period. In this case, consulting deliverables are of minor importance, and project output is hardly in use - especially when the huge bulk of urgent and high-important assignments are delegated by top-management.
However, in order to provide business with new dynamics and drive it to a new development level, an outside view is often necessary. Such an expertise is delivered by consultants - people with a background in different business areas and dozens (or even hundreds) of companies. It is worth taking thought what kind of experience is more valuable: getting along the same business process for ten times within the same company or feeling out how that process is organized within ten different companies - and as result, taking the best practices and forming the own view how it has to be in an optimal case. It is all about consulting when we are talking about the second one.
When consulting is needed? It seems to be very simple to answer - it is necessary when a company faces issues, management crisis appears, etc. Basically, consulting is even more essential for a mature business with a clear development view. Such businesses need high-qualified support from the side of so-called “intelligent forces”. It is of great importance to be able to attract right people into your business who are better than you. That is why resorting to consulting exactly means a business is already (!) mature. Of course, there exist anti-crisis consulting, but it is only a particular case.
It seems consulting services are unjustifiably expensive because in most of the cases you should make a request for proposal to local representatives of eminent worldwide firms - it is said that only these ones have enough expertise how to organize, possess methodology, the experience of successful projects, etc. It is really true that branded consultants deliver high quality reinforce with the worldwide best practices. However, are you about to pay two, three, five times more and only for the consultancy firm brand? It is always the option of a certain business...
The real true is that there are local consultants in the market who are the same people that worked previously for international consultancy giants, perfectly took possession of “best practice” tools and can provide quality not worse than star competitors can. Another example is people who have a vast experience in local markets, in-depth knowledge of how to make business in the country and have managed to resolve a range of issues in due time. Experience costs a lot.
When choosing a consultant, it is necessary to derive from purposes: if you need a branded deliverables you consult worldwide eminent professionals. But are they really worldwide? - that is a question. It can happen that some person from the Dutch office can appear for one-two days in the role of “waxwork” being presented as the best expert on competitive shifts of strategic focuses. Is he/she really the best one - that is a question as well, but a customer probably believes in it. Especially, if the one passed a few “mature” ideas in regards to optimization through procurement function centralization or so (“Eureka! Why didn’t we figure out it by ourselves”)? In fact, project work will be carried out by specialists of a local office. Actually, you can even meet not really experts, but so-called under-experts, because in a few months some of them will present their graduation work at the university☺
That is why it is very important to pay attention not only to a brand but also to consultants in itself, namely their experience and approach to tasks execution.
In course of your first meeting, nine out of ten consultants will mention the words “efficiency”, “effectiveness”, “efficient”, “effective” at least once. Some self-professed consultants will broadcast even more about strategic paradigm vertical. It sounds modern, fancy and outlandish. However, is it the right thing the owner should pay for? Obviously, no. Businessmen need real working ideas helping to increase cash balance, attract new customers, and finally – be happy and enjoy the business they do.
A consultant should use simple and clear language and avoid any so-called speechmaking. Anyway, he/she can use professional terminology with a foreign language origin (English skills is not a thing able to impress somebody). The question is whether the consultant fully understands common sense of what he/she says. The consultant gives advice or provides ideas how to resolve any issue only after fundamental study of the subject core and hypothesis development regarding an origin of the issue.
It happens that consulting services are provided by organizations which don’t possess their own well-designed business processes, suffer from inefficiency and should optimize their own environment (“a wheelbarrow without a wheel”). Effective consulting can be delivered only by an effective operating organization.