Consulting Services – Tipping the scales from Risk to Reward

Posted on : 20-07-2011 | By : john.vincent | In : General News

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As a relatively new company it is not that long ago that the partners of Broadgate Consultants were on the “buy side” for consulting services. Over the years we have worked with some great partners who have help us deliver significant and complex change programmes. We couldn’t have done it without them, that is a fact.

Now we are on the trusted advisor side building a business, we spend a lot of time talking to leadership and executives within Technology, Operations and Strategy. These conversations, coupled with our insight of services and the new world economic climate are shaping our thinking in terms of the future expectations with respect to the shape and content of consulting services. Let’s explore some themes.

Get what you pay for:

During the last 20 or so years, the skill and impartiality of consulting partners has been attractive. Indeed, it continues to be the case. With the pressure of delivering change against a companies strategic agenda at an often frantic pace, organisations need to augment their capability with specialists who can hit the ground running. During a tendering or pitch process, the “big guns” do their stuff. Strategies are explored. Confidence in execution capability fleshed out. Ultimately a winner emerges. Everyone is happy.

However, taking a look back, how many times did our level of confidence and enthusiasm wane over the period of the engagement ? Those consultant or partners that impressed with their capability appeared to have been replaced with a “reserve team”. And a much larger team at that. Concerns appeared that delivering the original scope of change in the previously agreed timescales might be a real challenge, if not impossible. Time to wheel back in the bid team again and hey presto, as far as stakeholders are concerned all is well again with the project ( if a little massaged in terms of scope and cost… ).

This “land and expand”, or as someone called it recently “school bus” approach, is on its last legs. The legacy approach of de-risking internal positions ( “…no-one ever got fired for choosing….” ) is only as good as the consistency and depth of capability. Companies are looking for all positions in projects to be resourced with fit for purpose consultants. Indeed, we see the practice of more extensively interviewing partner team members extending further. Clients want value for money, else they might as well just employ individual contractors. For those who pride themselves on only pitching for their core business competency this is a good thing !

Building a Trust Relationship:

An ex colleague recently ran a poll to gauge which characteristics CxO’s should look for most in a partner. Demonstrations of Trust and Integrity scored equally with the ability to Implement and Execute. The latter we’ll touch on a bit later, but let’s consider Trust itself. There is an equation which is useful to illustrate:

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self Orientation

The trust formula gives a structured way of analysing a quality that is essential to any consulting relationship. By scoring each from 1-10 companies can assess the level of trust. 30 is a perfect but generally unachievable score. It is a goal. However, the important element of this equation is that of Self Orientation. Consulting companies can destroy trust by appearing to be more interested in themselves than being of service to a client. Sound familiar ? Does your advisor focus on the problem or try and “guess” the solution ? Do they say they don’t know or can’t assist or are they claiming divine capability ? Why not try the equation yourself.

Delivery Capability and Track Record:

There is a clear line between advice and execution. However, in the past it was often the case that external advice was disconnected from the practical delivery implications. Both in our experiences from buying services and in discussions with clients we see an increased desire to:

1) Understand the practicalities, pragmatism and success probability for delivery of a strategy
2) Take advice from organisations and individuals who have a demonstrable track record from an equivalent project in terms of complexity and scale

The appetite for having future “shelf ware” which is good in theory but not in practice is gone. No longer can there be a hard stop between those strategising and those that are left with the implementation.

The scales are tipping – you should seek more reward from your advisors…