In Perfect Partners, over on SupplyManagement.com, we are told that a recent poll indicated that 57% of purchasers questioned believe consultants offer value for money. (Or, in other words, only 43% believe that brilliant bloggers like myself and Jason Busch are full of it. But that’s another post.)
The point of the article is that purchasing will increasingly need to rely on the knowledge and credibility of consultants so that it can continue to raise its game. Furthermore, if they are to maximize the return on their investment (in consultants), these purchasers and purchasing organization must make an effort to manage the relationship properly.
Consultants are valuable because some have skills you will never have, others are good at getting quick wins on the board, and yet others can bring benchmarking capabilities to your organization. They also bring a third party perspective that can be invaluable in helping you understand where you are doing well – and where you are not.
Despite the statistic above, I was pleased to see that the article noted that most purchasers agree that the cause of many complaints about consultants comes down to the client, not the consultant. It’s true that our profession, like any sales-based profession, is going to have a few snake-oil salesmen promising a tremendous return tomorrow for a big investment today. But for the most part, most sourcing and procurement consultants are honest, hard-working men and women with one goal – to get you results. We want to make a good living at it, but we want to see that you get a return.
As the article points out, too few clients properly consider their reasons for employing consultants. If you do not have clearly defined goals, how can you expect specific results? Do you want to transform your skill set, implement a new technology, or drive savings? Each goal requires a different focus and is associated with a different result. Without a clearly defined goal, a consultant will focus on the area she thinks she can make the largest impact and add the most value. But if you had a goal in mind, and did not clearly communicate it, this may not be what you wanted.
It also notes that you should involve consultants in the requirements phase of a project. Getting their insight and input will help you determine if they are the right consultants for you. Most consultants and consulting firms will not mind devoting some time up front on a large project to make sure the project is right – and right for them.
Another good point brought up is that sometimes you don’t need a consultant – sometimes you need a managed services provider. If you just do not have the resources in house to do well on a category, consider outsourcing that category, and others that you are unable to handle well, to a third party with the skills and resources to do it right and drive efficiencies and cost reductions you would not see otherwise.
Regardless of which path you choose, it all comes down to capability. The right consultant will have the capabilities you need. Get to know the consultant before both parties agree to a long term engagement. And if you find the right one, do whatever you can to keep him or her happy.