Best Practice Insights for Buying Consulting Services

Optimizing Statement of Work (SOW) expenditure is an area of increasing focus for many of the organizations we work with. SOW is a different type of purchase to almost every other area of spend, and oftentimes people will invariably have a mixed perceptions of what good value looks like depending on the role they play in the buying process or the experiences that they have. The spectrum of knowledge that we encounter across this resourcing category is very broad. We were therefore delighted to be asked by the UK Management Consultancies Association (MCA) to collaborate with them on an important white paper to provide key insights into best practices for the resourcing of consultancy projects.  The MCA is the representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK – many of their member firms operate globally and they collectively employ around 38,000 consultants, work with over 90 of the top FTSE 100 companies and almost all parts of the public sector. Since its inception in 1956 the MCA has long been a champion of the value of consultancy, encouraging clients to focus on maximizing business outcomes, rather than the buying of inputs. As part of this effort in 2012 I founded the MCA Consultancy Buyers’ Forum (CBF), a mechanism that enables buyers of consulting services (whatever role they may play in the project or purchasing decision) to share their own experiences and to learn from the good practice of others.  A consistent refrain during my four years as chair was that buyers wanted to become much more familiar with the dynamics and nuances which sit behind consultancy resourcing. This white paper will meet that need. Whilst writing the document we surveyed CBF members to better understand how they currently view the resourcing landscape. We also sought the views of a number of consultancy firms, both members and non-members of the MCA. The key findings from this research are summarized in the paper, along with the essential information that every buyer should know, for example the 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?
The white paper is free to download from the MCA website. To read an extended interview with me, and to obtain your copy of this essential guide, please click here. To build on this work I have now entered discussions with the US based Association of Consulting Firms to see how we can offer similar insights and thought leadership to consultancy buyers in the US. Working alongside Dave Elliott-Smith, our SOW expert for EMEA/APAC, we are keen to promote an outcome based approach in all elements of consultancy and project services expenditure. Dave will be sharing his own thoughts on this at IQN Community event on October 25, 2016.

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