Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Value of Business Consulting

Suzanne Bowen, the VP of Marketing at Super Technologies and DIDX, asked me these four questions about business consulting.

A. What is the value of business consulting?

There are a few possible values.

  1. Fresh pair of eyes. A consultant can come in and view your business with a new perspective. He might find some gems that you didn't see. She brings experience from different companies and perhaps different industries.
  2. New set of skills that the company does not have.
  3. Ability to plan, organize, and execute a project from start to finish. Accenture, IBM, EDS and others are often called in given a budget and a goal and told to go do it. The consultants will work independently but liaison with key employees to keep the company in the loop and so that their project knowledge can be disseminated. (So they don't finish, leave and no one has an idea what they did or how to operate it, etc.

B. What are the first steps that a business consultant will take in order to fulfill his contract request from a company?

The main thing is the Budget, which means that you also need a detailed Scope of Work. This level of paperwork is time-consuming and expensive. However, you do need a document that spells out responsibilities, expectations, goals, and time-line - and that is a SOW. You can't have a budget until you know what you are building / spending.

C. What kinds of problems typically occur that keep companies from fully and positively taking advantage of the professional advice and guidance of a good business consultant?

In the largest case that I was a part of there were many failures. One, employees did not have the desire nor motivation to be a part of the network re-design. This meant that because the project was budgeted, consultants contracted, and CIO bonused on completion, that the project went forward. All employees touching project were fired upon completion because they had no desire to be involved. Lazy employees. Bad management.

In another case, while I got paid, all my advice was ignored, because it wasn't what the CIO needed to hear. My recommendations flew against his performance goals.

In another case, too many consultants can spoil the soup, especially when the consultants aren't being paid by the Project. Hourly consultants will milk you without a cap.

D. Any other thoughts?

I think that I give plenty of value to my clients, above and beyond the scope and budget. One reason is that I have a vested interest in their continued success. Another is that every industry is small. My reputation is important so I want every outcome to be beneficial to the customer. (I want to create customer evangelists, not just customers).

One negative thought: Too many people call themselves "Consultants". Many are actually just unemployed.

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