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Buying consultancy, and how you approach it, can have a big impact on the success of your project. Guest contributor Fiona Czerniawska explores why it’s hard to get it right, and how you can get better at it.
Co-founded by Fiona Czerniawska in 2007, Source for Consulting provides specialist research on the management consulting market. For consultancies like Berkeley, Source provides great insight into the market and industry trends. For buyers, several of whom are also Berkeley clients, Source provides information to help them buy consulting services more efficiently and effectively.
With this in mind, Unspun invited Fiona to share some of her thoughts…
According to statistics from the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), companies spend an estimated £9bn a year on consulting services – a sizeable sum, so it’s essential that organisations get the most out of the money they are spending.
Bought properly, consultancy services can help organisations grow, meet their objectives, and operate efficiently. Expenditure on such services can have a return of tens or even hundreds of times its cost.
But the converse also applies. Sometimes expenditure on such services is wasted or, even worse, has a negative impact, which can result in losses many times the costs of the services in the first place. Although 86% of executives who had used consultants said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the work consultants had done (according to an independent survey carried out by the MCA in 2006), many feel they do not obtain value for money.
Buying consultancy is not easy. It’s very different from other types of purchasing:
If you can find an effective and efficient way of purchasing professional services, it can only lead to greater value and benefits for all parties involved. A laudable aim. But how can you make it happen?
There are a number of key skills you need to bring to bear:
Bought wisely and in a disciplined way, consultancies can play a crucial role in helping organisations manage their performance, protect their interests and pursue their strategic goals. Bought poorly, they can cost an organisation far more than the fees paid. When things go wrong, it is often tempting to blame the consultants, but the fault usually lies as much, if not more, on the buyer’s side. As Niccolò Machiavelli rightly observed in The Prince: “Good advice depends on the shrewdness of the prince who seeks it”.
With more than 15 years experience as a management consultant, Fiona Czerniawska is now a leading commentator on the consulting industry. She is the joint founder and managing director of Source (www.sourceforconsulting.com), an independent research company specialising in the management consulting market. She recently co-authored the Economist book, “Buying Professional Services. How to get value for money from consultants and other professional services providers”, with Peter Smith.
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