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10 Top Tips on Getting the Most From Your Consultant

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According to a recent survey 25% of organisations are not satisfied with the consultancy support they purchase and three out of the eight Office of Government and Commerce 'common causes of project failure' relate directly to procurement of services to support project delivery.

This brief note provides ten inside track top tips to clients at the coal face to gaining, retaining and then liberating their dream consulting 'A' team.

1. Get good definition

Ensure the work is well defined.  It is very hard for even the best consultants to deliver successfully without well defined objectives.  Either they won't be able to second guess what it was you wanted or they will make up objectives which will suit their purposes rather than yours.  If you don't have clear objectives, think about commissioning a feasibility study which will firm up the scope for the subsequent work.  Getting this bit right will save a lot of time later.

2. Build a sizable package

Bundle up and shape the tasks to ensure that you have significant and interesting package of work for the consultants to bid for.  Remove the work that can be easily carried out by your team or farmed out to less skilled contractors.  The 'A' team won't bid for or be deployed on engagements that are perceived as small or unimportant.

3. Craft attractive roles

Within a consultancy organisation good consultants typically have a choice of engagements, so help your prospective consultant's bid manager to assemble his best team by making the roles as attractive as possible.  Remember, this needs to be attractive for both experienced and more junior consultants.

4. Target those who will value working with you

Carefully select the type of consulting confirm you invite to tender.  Make sure that the work will be high on their list of priorities.  You are more likely to get the 'A' team if you are one of a few clients rather than one of many.  Unless you need the global reach or broader service offering of a 'big firm' pick from a range specialist firms.  They will value your custom more and be better value for money.

5. Always meet before choosing

Always make sure you meet all the 'consulting team' before you appoint your consultants.  You may have been offered a great consulting team on paper but unless they are a good cultural fit with you, your team and your organisation they are unlikely to be able to deliver.  A face to face meeting is the only way to determine there is that all important cultural fit and 'chemistry'.

6. Question the junior

At the selection interview the salesman will try to do the talking but they won't be doing the work.  Direct your questions to the most junior member of the team.  You will get a good indication from this about whether you have been offered the 'A' team.  If you don't get the answers you want you can always ask the consultant to offer a better team.

7. Call on the subs

If you discover that you have not got the consulting personnel you thought – tell them early – after all you are the client.  If they are worth their salt they will bend over backwards to resolve your issues.  However, you need to be specific about the issues and the outcomes you want.  If you aren't you may just get a change of face and little else.

8 Location, location, location

You are spending a lot of money on consultants to do your important work, so don't location them on their own in the broom cupboard.  Your consultants will only delivery you their best if they are on site, seated amongst your team and are equipped with the right IT (and have the right access to vital information).  Make sure all this is available from the day they start.

9. The art of clientship

Your consultant's biggest barrier to the success is you, the client.  Make sure there is one person accountable for the consultant's work.  Make sure that this person has sufficient authority, time, knowledge, passion and energy to enable the consultants to succeed.  Good consultants can and do move mountains but someone needs to be on hand to tell them which ones to move.  We call this clientship. 

10. Making your consultant redundant

You've brought in the consultants because your team haven't got the skills.  Wouldn't it be great if your team could do the consultant's job next time – it would reduce the reliance on consultants that your boss is always on about.  Create small joint consultant/ client teams.  Your consultant can provide on the job training for your people (but make sure you have contractual cover so they don't poach them) and your guys can provide the necessary local knowledge.

11. Consultants are human too

Remember, just like your team, your consultants are human.  They too will respond best when they you win often and celebrate with them.

Article by Moorhouse Consulting, visit them at 


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