Lost Value in Outsourcing

Recently we ran a piece on Hidden Costs in Outsourcing which described many of the costs and overpayments you could be making when outsourcing a function in an effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency, even if the outsourcing contract results in reduced costs and increased efficiency. And while SI believes in win-win agreements, they should be above board with each party only taking its agreed upon share of the pie.

But even if the outsourcer only bills what it agrees to and doesn’t markup rates, charge you for shelfware, pass through unauthorized expenses, or hike the commissions, that doesn’t mean they are delivering all the value they are promised. This happens regularly with “full service” management or technology consulting firms, and the client never knows. But due to his unique position, the doctor knows, and having figured it out, refuses to participate in any project that denies a client organization of the full value they deserve. But this doesn’t prevent it from happening — there’s always someone else who will help the consultancy continue the practice.

What are we talking about?

The simple fact that no single management or technology consultancy, no matter how big, is an expert in every process or system you need, despite what they claim.

And the doctor knows you’re saying, we know this, so we chose the consultancy that makes it a practice to bring in experts when it is weak in an area to get us the information we need when we need it. But do they? Specifically, do they bring in true experts? Do they get the right information? Is it appropriate to your situation?

Some firms do NOT bring in true experts. Why? They have no expertise on staff, and use a model to find experts that is not congruent with what it takes to attract experts. For example, some firms are employing the “network” or “network search” model where they build a “network” of experts they can tap into for help. But this network usually consists of freelancers who self-register and/or who are invited based on automated LinkedIn profile searches. Are these people experts? Some are, but unless they are semi-retired folk looking to keep busy, probably not. Most of the people in these networks are unemployed / self-employed and in need of work. Most experts are too busy to even think about registering on another expert or social network, and will not be there. And experts such as the doctor will not engage with this type of model. The last thing the doctor wants to do is provide an hour of advisory to a Big 6 only to have it turn around, take the information completely out of context, and tell its client to consider vendor X or product Y because the doctor recommended it.

Secondly, some firms do not contract the experts for enough time to get the information they need to truly have an advanced understanding from the market. For example, many of these firms will engage experts for as little as an hour or two and expect to get deep expertise on a market and technology and, at the end of it, understand what vendors to focus on or what technologies to dive into. Then, believing they know where to focus, they will have their interns do research on the specific vendors or technologies and produce deep reports. But interns don’t understand the intricacies that help differentiate similar vendors or similar technologies and can easily fall for marketing hyperbole and overlook deep capability.

Thirdly, as they are not experts, they will not understand the intricacies of your situation, what specifically they should be looking for, and what questions they should be asking the expert, should they actually get one. So whatever they do will be of limited value from the get go.

If a company is engaging a consulting firm for help, the amount situation-specific consulting needed from an expert is significantly more than a few hours. And if all your management consultancy is doing is engaging the expert for as few hours as they think they can get away with, and then assigning a junior consultant to go and do the market research, you’re not getting the value you deserve.