I’ve been a consultant ever since I started my career and have asked myself a number of times why clients hire consultants rather than do the work themselves. I continue to ask this question and the most frequent answers that come up are

  1. Consultants bring knowledge that doesn’t necessarily reside in the client organisation
  2. Consultants bring experience from other engagements which can add value to the current one
  3. Consultants being specialist methodologies and best practices to tackle very specific problems
  4. Consultants tend to specialise and can, therefore, work in a very efficient manner to expedite project delivery

These reasons can probably be summarised into a generic proposition; that consultants are most often engaged to complete specialist projects in an effective and efficient manner.

You Can Ask Me To Do It Or Tell Me How It’s Done. But Not Both.

However, there seems to be a growing trend – predominantly in larger corporate environments – where clients insist on consultants adopting and adhering to a number of internal and overly bureaucratic processes and/or methodologies.

I agree that governance is important, but forcing consultants into the lowest common denominator tends to negate the benefits for which the consultants were engaged in the first place. In many ways, it places a massive overhead on the project, which requires the consultants ‘ticking the boxes’ rather than adding value like they should be.

In addition to this, corporate clients also tend to add their own resources to a project which in some cases can be useful, especially when these resources are under the direction of the consultant. This brings client-specific information to the project and also allows the transfer of knowledge to the organisation.

More often than not, these client resources are placed on the project to complete deliverables that would normally be done if the client was doing the project themselves. These are mostly unnecessary or duplicate the effort of the consultant.

These two key factors increase the cost of the project as well as introducing unnecessary risk.

Is there a solution? I think so. Clients need to give the consultants the latitude and licence they require in order to let them do the job they were engaged to do.

Otherwise, come the end of the project the client will be thinking “oh, those consultants weren’t as good as I thought they were” or “that consulting project was a lot more expensive than I budgeted for”. Definitely, statements that a consultant doesn’t want to hear – when like in the film world – you’re only as good as your last show.