Getting The Most From Your Consulting Dollars – Avoid the Bait and Switch

In the prior 2 posts we covered the cost ineffectiveness that can be experienced when engaging “some” consulting firms.

We’ll now cover the reality often experienced when attempting to obtain that particularly desired set of skills.

The underlying goal is to piece together a team of people who are compatible with and will augment your existing workforce.

We’ve all been there…

It starts with a meeting with the business development representative from the typical consulting firm. You know, the high-caliber, polished person, like James Bond or Madame Secretary.

Someone you would be proud to represent you in front of your project stakeholders, senior management and even board of directors.

They sure have presence – and can sell!

However, after the deal is consummated and the project gets underway we too often realize that the actual resources assigned are not at the experience or skill level we expected. And, they certainly do NOT have the polish and presence that we had hoped for.

Yes, there are MANY reputable consulting firms for which the above situation doesn’t occur. The goal is to ensure you engage those firms.

So, let’s rewind…

When evaluating your consulting resource options, to consider engaging on a project, it is critically important to outline specifically what is needed – in advance!

Do you need:

  • A high-caliber project manager who will perform (on your behalf) as the lightning rod for the initiative? Maybe so, maybe not…
  • A highly analytical, detail-oriented person who can navigate through a set of complex business processes, make sense of and streamline them in a way that improves operational efficiencies (with all stakeholders bought-in and comfortable)?
  • A resource (or resources) with DEEP experience architecting, configuring and/or implementing a specific technology?
  • Help documenting and/or training to a new business process and/or application?
  • A team with local, regional, national and/or global reach?
  • A strong coach who will work side-by-side a particular manager to mentor this person through change and/or to the next level of their expanding position’s requirements?
  • Etc. – The list goes on and on…

And, it cannot go without saying, these resources must have exceptional interpersonal management and communication skills.

To ensure the above, you’ll want to request that all stakeholders involved in the selection of the consulting firm and/or success of the initiative weigh-in on the required skill-set(s).

Then, once you begin evaluating options you’ll want to review the profiles and ultimately meet the PRECISE people the consulting firm is proposing they assign to the project. You must “press the flesh”!

Now, to be fair…This does NOT mean that the consulting firm can be locked in to engaging each and every person you met during this process. As you know, it often takes weeks (if not months) for the final decision to be made, funding to be allocated and scheduling to line up for the project to actually commence.

During this timeframe it may have become necessary for the consulting firm to deploy some (even many) of the people you met, on other engagements.

So, how do you mitigate the risk? Ensure you:

  • Meet a number of people from the firm who can fill the role(s) needed on the project, to confirm the depth of their resource pool.
  • Negotiate into the contract details and expectations you have for each resource with the ability to request a change if someone doesn’t fit the bill.

In closing, with Customer Centricity (and a number of other firms we have worked with), what you see is what you get. That is, the people we put in front of our clients ARE the resources they will be working with.

There is no “bait and switch.”

Don’t let James Bond or Madame Secretary sell you a nice pair of rose-colored glasses. In order to ensure you are engaging the right resources with the desired skills and experience, you’ll want to meet them – in advance of signing the contract!

More to come!

Getting The Most From Your Consulting Dollars – Cost Effectiveness: Part 2

In the prior article we began covering the typical realities firms often experience when engaging consultants and, more importantly, how to ensure you get the most from YOUR consulting dollars.

The purpose of this article is to share another concrete example of the cost-ineffectiveness of “some” consulting firms.

At the end of the day consulting firms charge by the hour. While a particular project engagement may be fixed price, the total fees were rolled up based on the number of hours and related expenses that the consulting resources are expected to accumulate during the course of the engagement.

As mentioned in the previous post, these fees must cover the costs of the consultant (his/her total compensation package) as well as the firm’s overhead.

What is often not realized is the SIGNIFICANT overhead costs that the fees from typical consulting firms include. This excess cost is necessary to cover multiple layers of management, posh offices in large cities around the world, expensive advertising and, in many cases, providing value to their investors.

To add further insult to injury we share this example:

Members of our team (myself included) have been engaged on a subcontract basis under the banner of a few typical consulting firms. In doing so we offer a fair rate to the firm (slightly less than what we’d offer direct to a client, since we didn’t actually land the business). The typical firms then mark up our fee by 50% (or more), which is billed to their end-client!

Let’s build on this, to quantify the pain…

Assume that the above example was merely a 3-month engagement for a single contract / consultant resource – at a 50% markup. The excess cost absorbed by the end-client in this scenario is greater than $40,000! Extend the engagement to 6 months and the client would have “overpaid” by $80,000. And, at 12 months the “over spend” is more than $160,000!!!

Ouch!

Had the client only called us directly…

That’s ok, as plenty do. And, those who do engage us directly experience the benefits of our “model for success”, shared in the prior post.

Given the above insight it is clear that the value received for the cost can vary to a large degree for the very same resource (depending on how / where they are sourced).

This is not to suggest that there is never value in engaging a typical / large consulting firm. It can be appropriate to do so when a project requires a large number of specialized resources who have worked together on numerous, similar engagements and can be simultaneously deployed, globally. By all means, call them!

On the other hand, if you have a key initiative that simply requires a handful of highly skilled resources (or just one), you are likely to get more bang for your buck from a smaller firm.

Another consideration when engaging your next contract / consulting resource…

Getting The Most From Your Consulting Dollars – Cost Effectiveness: Part 1

In the prior post we introduced the topic of Getting The Most From Your Consulting Dollars. We’ll now begin covering the typical realities too many firms experience when engaging consultants – and more importantly, how to ensure your firm gets the most from your consulting dollars.

Recently, a member of my team was meeting with a colleague of his from one of the large “brand name” consulting firms. You’ve likely heard of them…

During their dialog my guy was sharing our “model for success”, which includes:

  • Engaging highly skilled resources with well over 10 to 15 years of real world scars of experience
  • Keeping our team members happy by paying VERY well and offering a flexible work model (compatible with client requirements)
  • Charging our clients below market rate
  • Taking slim margins

Almost vehemently, this “brand name” consultant responded with:

No, you have it all wrong. You need to be hiring people straight out of college and charging the highest rate the market will bear.”

This “brand name” consultant is obviously stuck in the typical “big company” model whereby they must keep costs low (via less costly / less skilled resources) while charging their clients the highest rate possible to cover overhead (i.e., multiple layers of management, posh offices in Boston, NYC, etc.).

As one of our readers (who has served many years as a senior executive in charge of Finance, Accounting and IT) stated after reading our prior post on this topic…

Some “leaders” prefer to tell their CEO’s or Board Members that they’ve retained a big name consulting firm to do this or that, thinking it gives them some kind of credibility that things will be “expertly” done.

My experience tells me that this is not always true. I’ve spent years undoing the stupid and very expensive things that some of these high priced firms left behind…

~ Anonymous

A good question would be: How much of the overhead / cost factor [of the brand name firms] actually provides “value” to their client, considering the experience level of the resource(s) provided?

In contrast, a better question is: How are you [Customer Centricity] able to offer highly skilled and experienced resources at such a cost-effective price?

It is quite simple. We have built a model with virtually no overhead.

A further benefit is that our approach results in very little team member attrition. That is, consultants rarely leave the team because they so enjoy working within our model. Subsequently, our clients experience consistency in the resources we provide to them.

We’ve operated this way for over 14 years, serving dozens of highly satisfied clients as evidenced by our list of customers.

In closing, the reality is that it is possible to pay the same (even more) for inexperienced resources from many firms than one could “invest” in highly skilled and experienced resources from Customer Centricity. And, to be fair, from “some” other non-typical firms as well.

Something to consider when engaging your next contract / consulting resource…

Getting The Most From Your Consulting Dollars

During my tenure of employment in Corporate America I had the experience of working with and/or engaging MANY external resources, on a contract / consulting basis.

And, I’m pleased to report that Customer Centricity has been providing such services to help our NUMEROUS clients achieve important corporate initiatives – for over 14 years!

I’m not going to say that “we have seen it all” as that would be presumptuous. I will say that we’ve definitely seen a lot.

What strikes us the most is when we observe our clients wasting money on, and precious time with, ineffective (as well as effective) consulting resources.

It is with this in mind (helping to ensure you get the most from your consulting dollars) that we share this series of short articles.

First, let’s summarize…

The primary reason to engage a consultant / contract resource (or team of resources) is to cost effectively obtain access to a particular set of skills that are only needed on a temporary basis to complete a project and/or fill a void until a highly qualified, permanent employee is hired.

The key operators here are:

  • Cost Effective
  • Particular Skill Set
  • Temporary

While we have found there are many reputable firms that provide resources which meet or exceed these expectations, there are just too many that do not. And, even if we are working with a highly effective consulting firm, if we (being the client) don’t properly manage these resources there can be a number of unfortunate outcomes.

The unfortunate outcomes can include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Missed goals and objectives
  • Significant cost overruns and timeline slippages
  • Embarrassing meetings with the project Steering Committee, Senior Management, Board of Directors, Audit Committee, etc.

I hate that…

The situation caused me pain, even embarrassment, as a manager in Corporate America. More recently, we’ve observed our clients experience it, after repeatedly having the “opportunity” to work side-by-side ineffective, costly consultants from other firms and/or witnessing consulting resources simply not being properly managed by the client.

I suspect you have directly or indirectly felt the pain as well.

There is a better way. A much better way!

In subsequent posts we’ll cover the all too-typical realities experienced when engaging consulting firms and how you can get far more value from your consulting dollars than you may be receiving today.

Stay tuned!

Welcome

Welcome to the Customer Centricity blog!

Since inception in 2002, Customer Centricity has published numerous articles covering a wide variety of topics, sharing:

  • Proven approaches we have found effective in helping our clients address common (and not so common) business challenges.
  • Strategies we have utilized in working with our clients to accomplish key corporate objectives.
  • Case Study examples of companies which are absolutely knocking it out of the park!
  • Book recommendations that support the above.
  • And, much more…

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A prevailing principle we tried to adhere to was making sure that each article was sharing useful information and that we weren’t just “writing to write.” This, with the objective of ensuring the information provided was relevant and that it wouldn’t end up in the spam bucket.

Based on the statistics tracked, it seems we accomplished that objective!

That said, the tool being used was becoming a bit outdated and clunky (per feedback received from our subscribers).

As a result, we have migrated to a more effective platform and are now relaunching our periodic publishing practice in the form of a blog.

In closing, we look forward to providing information that we hope you find useful, to accomplish key corporate initiatives and objectives.

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All the best!