Consultancy Resourcing – The Importance of a Knowledgeable Client

This month, the MCA’s Consultancy Buyers Forum (CBF)  is publishing an important white paper that provides key insights into best practices for resourcing of consultancy projects.  In association with Kelly Outsourcing & Consulting Group, the CBF surveyed its members to better understand how buyers of consultancy view the resourcing of consultancy projects and also sought the views of a number of consultancy firms, both members and non-members of the MCA.

“The new white paper provides a summary of the survey findings but more importantly it offers a raft of advice to consultancy clients around good buying practice” says Paul Vincent, founder of the CBF and principal author of the document. 

“The talent pool for professional advice is expanding and diversifying all the time. The rise of the ‘Gig Economy’ is also having a marked impact on the way that many professional people want to work.  In this changing environment it is critical that consultancy clients are as informed as possible about the resourcing options open to them and to the service providers they are engaging”.

“Since launching the CBF in 2012 there has always been a resourcing theme running through our events and good practice workshops. We thought it was time to produce a composite paper which includes the essential information that every buyer should know, for example the way consultancies structure themselves and what factors influence their resourcing decisions. It also considers how much buyers are aware of these factors today and ultimately how much influence they can and should seek to exert on project resourcing”.

“The survey painted a mixed picture about how much knowledge client organisations have at present. It is certainly apparent that buyers are asking more resourcing related questions and this is a good thing. However it is important that these questions, such as asking for a breakdown of staffing levels by grade, are driven by the desire to realise the best possible outcome from the engagement, not just to drive down individual fee rates.  In fact we do pose a couple of interesting reflective questions of our own.  Firstly at what point might a client be effectively designing the resourcing model themselves if they have the tools and knowledge to do so?  Secondly to what extent should a consulting firm be compliant in allowing a client to ‘disaggregate’ the scope of work themselves?”

The paper explains that insufficient knowledge can cause a number of problems:

  • Buyers don’t compare ‘like with like’
  • The business case is flawed
  • Buyers do not receive the team they expect
  • The wrong commercial models are applied to the engagement

Each of these problems will directly impact the value that can be realised from a consulting engagement.

To mitigate these problems the document recommends that buyers ask themselves four critical questions when selecting a consulting firm:

  1. Are we getting their “A team” for this requirement and is this what we need? 
  2. Is the consultancy planning to use flexible resources: other consultancy firms, contractors, associates?
  3. Are they prepared to work on an open book basis with respect to resourcing?
  4. How important is the client organisation to the consultancy firm?

Finally there is a reference to some of the latest developments in the broader resourcing field, for example the expansion of staffing related Managed Service Provider (MSP) programmes, and how these may impact the way organisations make consultancy buying decisions in the future.

“I have seen first-hand how easy it is for the staffing industry to generalise about how their systems and processes can effectively manage ‘Statement of Work’ engagements, of which consulting is assumed to form a part” said Vincent.  “If used sensibly then these tools, and the application of MSP thinking, can definitely support the consultancy selection and engagement process.  But this must be viewed in the context of all the advice given within this white paper and in particular centering decision making around how to achieve the best business outcomes, rather than simply drive down the input costs”.  

The CBF paper 'Resourcing consultancy projects: What you need to know, what you need to ask' is now available as a free download from the MCA website.