Consultancy services, expert knowledge and resources are becoming easier to access. A quick web search provides access to over 4.8 million independent consultants, freelancers, contractors and interims, at a fraction of a cost of a whole time equivalent. I have provided my top three tips for buying management consultancy services, read on to find out how to buy management consulting services better.
Savvy business owners are going on line to track down the best independent procurement consultants, entrepreneurs and freelancers and reaping the benefits of this new cost effective way of filling short term knowledge gaps. Professional management consultancy services are now available to all businesses, not just those with deep pockets.
Many procurement professionals choose to work as interims, freelancers and contractors as it provides flexibility and satisfies their desire for new problems to solve and challenges to overcome. Benefits aside, how do you ensure you are getting best value for money when buying consultancy services and managing risk effectively?
#1 Supply chain vetting
Modern Slavery, defined as one person owned as property by another, is a modern day problem in supply chains. It is important to not only vet your prime contractor but also vet their sub-contractors and their sub-contractors: first, second and third tier supply chains. The more intermediaries involved in the supply chain, the higher the risk of exploitation. The supply chain of an independent consultant, who work through their own limited company is much more transparent and easier to vet than that of a neutral vendor.
As with any lucrative market place, companies have sought to control the freelance/interim market through neutral vendor and master vendor arrangements. There have been many complaints from Small Medium Enterprise's (SME's) working within these supply chains who resent being denied direct access to the customer and waiting longer than the legislative 30 days prompt payment code, putting many SME's under financial distress.
The Cabinet Office has responded to SME's concerns by increasing the number of SME friendly framework agreements such as the CCS Digital Marketplace and the requirement for buyers to advertise low value contracts for SME participation on Contracts Finder.
The Cabinet Office is also investing more resources into their 'Mystery Shopper' service (tasked with investigating SME procurement complaints and payment issues) due to a rise in slow payment complaints from SME's working in government supply chains.
The collapse of Carillion in 2018 raised many questions around the governments procurement strategy, in particular award several large strategic contracts with fewer suppliers.
#2 Professional qualifications & experience
Consultancy services should be delivered by a qualified expert with a recognised industry qualification and extensive industry knowledge and experience. The fees charged should reflect the extent of the knowledge, experience and skills of the individual.
If there is a vast difference in fees quoted, it is prudent to make further enquiries into exactly 'who' will be delivering the consulting service, their qualifications and previous experience.
If using an intermediary, ask for a breakdown of costs to uncover the consultants pay. If you have difficulty finding a consultant with the required skills and experience, it may be due to the consultants pay rates falling below the market pay rates for the sector of expertise, level of skills and experience you require.
Be wary of a 'blended rate' this tactic is used by companies who deploy a large number of 'trainees' who learn on the job. Ultimately, it will take a trainee longer to complete a task than an experienced person. A team containing a higher ratio of trainees to experienced persons may not offer value for money.
#3 Tangible deliverables, milestones & incentives
The management of the contract for a consulting service is crucial. Before entering into any management consultancy agreement or contract, ensure it is clear: who will deliver the consulting service (name), what will be delivered e.g strategy, a paper, research, savings, time scales for deliverables and how acceptance (by you the customer) of the deliverables, will be determined.
Regular review meetings to discuss the contract, progress of deliverables, performance monitoring and recording the benefits delivered to date, will avoid scope creep and swiftly rectify any issues with service delivery.
About Naomi Clews Consultancy
Naomi Clews is an independent procurement consultant providing the knowledge, skills and experience to create competitive advantage for your business. Naomi has over 25 years professional procurement experience in the public and private sector and has previously worked for the Crown Commercial Service. Visit our website www.naomiclewsconsultancy.com.
Naomi Clews Consultancy
Procurement, Tendering, Business Skills