The True Value of Consulting: What Executives Need to Know

Consultants play a vital role in the public and private sectors, offering transformative impact, innovation, and increased efficiency. Recent research has shown that leaders value them for the results they bring, often for less money and faster. The MCA Awards offer excellent examples of successful consulting. A study recently published by Forbes Insight on the topic “What value do consultants bring to clients?” revealed impressive results.

92% of executives stated that the projects had been successful; 62% agreed that the benefits of the project corresponded to the desired outcome; and 30% of customers said that the benefits exceeded their expectations. However, despite these favorable statistics, only half of the 92% who indicated that consulting projects had been successful re-hired the same consultants for a new project. This brings us to another important aspect of created value: perception of value. If customers are generally satisfied with a particular consultancy, why would they take their business elsewhere? Management consultants like to leave something of lasting value. This means not only improving customers' ability to deal with immediate problems, but also helping them learn the methods needed to deal with future challenges.

Satisfied customers will recommend them to others and invite them to come back when needed. When listening to a client's concerns about a department, the consultant must relate them to what is happening elsewhere. Often, a consultant can suggest or help design opportunities to learn about work planning methods, assignment of work groups, goal-setting processes, and so on. Wise consultants learn that “resistance” often points to sources of information that are especially important and, otherwise, impossible to obtain. The results of a survey conducted in the United Kingdom showed that 84% of companies had used consulting services and 81% said that they had met or exceeded expectations. Many procurement executives spend a lot of time and effort negotiating prices and daily rates for consulting services. These purposes have received more attention in the literature on organizational development and in the writings of behavioral consultants than in the field of management consulting.

Consultants who include this purpose in their practice contribute to the most important task of top management: maintaining the future viability of the organization in a changing world. Sometimes, a professional tries to change the purpose of a contract even if it's not necessary; the company may have lost track of the line between what's best for the client and what's best for the consultant's business. For example, if consultants believe that parts of an organization need to communicate better, they can constantly request other people's opinions on what is being discussed or suggest projects, working groups composed of people from different levels or departments. Service companies, such as consulting, have a special responsibility to help prospective buyers visualize and understand the value they will receive. Despite objections from some quarters, I would rather spend time with someone with 10 or 20 years of consulting experience who has at least seen my problem in a different industry or knows something about my industry than with someone 22 years old with a new degree who has never made a business decision. The true value of consulting comes from independence and neutrality with respect to client organizations. When combined with unique experience and exposure to extensive experiences that internal resources have not had, consultants give organizations three superabilities: better results for less money and faster.

Trent Monserrate
Trent Monserrate

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