Getting your Consultants to Deliver

Last Updated Apr 25, 2008 1:26 PM EDT

They steal your watch to tell you the time: the old saw about consultancies still rings true. A Management Consultancies Association survey says 28 per cent of organisations are dissatisfied with the consultancies they've used. Tim Phillips, director of Moorhouse Consulting, offers an insider's guide to getting top service:
  • Define the work Consultants cannot second-guess what you want. Without clear guidelines, they might make up their own objectives. Think about commissioning a feasibility study to firm up the scope for the work.
  • Build a sizeable package Bundle up and shape tasks to create a significant and interesting package of work worthy of your dream team's skills. Remove work that can be done in-house or by less skilled contractors.
  • Craft attractive roles Have roles that will suit both experienced and junior consultants so you get a mix of talented people who can strategise, innovate and implement at the coalface.
  • Target those who will value working with you Carefully select the type of firm you invite to tender. Make sure your work is high on their priority list. Unless you need the global reach or broader service offering of a big firm, select from specialists that will value your custom more.
  • Meet before choosing You may have been offered a fantastic solution on paper but it must be a good cultural fit with your business. A face-to-face meeting is the only way to ensure you have that all-important chemistry.
  • Question the junior At the selection interview the salesman will try to do most of the talking but they won't be doing the work. Direct your questions to the most junior consultant to get a good indication of whether or not this is your dream team. If you don't get the answers you want, ask the firm to offer you people with different or advanced skills or experience.
  • Call on the subs If you encounter problems, tell the engagement manager early. If they are worth their salt they will bend over backwards to resolve your issues. Be specific about the outcomes you want. Otherwise, you may just get a new face and little else.
  • Location, location, location Don't place consultants on their own in the broom cupboard -- they need to be on-site, part of your team, and have access to vital information. Set this up from day one.
  • The art of clientship Make one person accountable for the consultant's work and ensure that person has sufficient authority, time, knowledge, and passion to succeed.
  • Make your consultant redundant Wouldn't it be great if your team could do the consultant's job next time? Create joint consultant/client teams. You'll get on-the-job training for your people -- but make sure you have contractual cover so they don't poach them.