There are a host of reasons why companies and decision makers within organizations choose to work with consultants. Commonly, a lack of key skills, or a highly specialized skill set requirement would prompt a company to hire a consultant.
Other reasons may include a requirement to streamline a specific business process or the desire for an objective or impartial opinion or input. Creating processes and systems, or streamlining and altering processes and systems already in existence are two other areas where consultants are of value to an organization.
Another common reason to engage a consultant would be to train competent and capable staff within an organization to fulfill a particular task in future.
What is key to note is that while it is generally the norm to engage the services of a consultant as a reparation method, when something has already gone wrong, the old saying prevention is better than cure should be born in mind.
Hiring a consultant before a crisis arises can be, and usually is, a better idea, as that consultant then has the opportunity to apply their expertise to the whole project, rather than merely “putting out fires.”
Saving on Costs
In most instances, this kind of problem relates to the company or decision maker’s desire to save on costs, by completing necessary projects and tasks themselves, or using in house skills.
The opposite may in fact be true – many consultants charge higher rates for project that require a “rush job.” They know their client is in dire need, and that they will be required to devote large amounts of time to the project to “pull the rabbit out of the hat.”
They may need to devote more resources and staff to the project in order to complete it on time, and to the client’s satisfaction and the client will bear those costs.
Calling in the services of a consultant or consulting firm earlier rather than later can therefore cost the same, or even less, than trying to fix the problem later.
Working with Consultants
Of course, knowing when not to hire a consultant only narrows the potential field a little. Choosing the right moment to search for and hire consultants is critical.
A consultant should ideally be brought in from the beginning of a project, or even during the pre planning stages. The consultant should be briefed on the requirements, and whether their input is to be partial or total control of the project, they should be provided with the tools and resources to complete the project as planned.
Many companies with more progressive philosophies will hire a consultant for any task that is “out of the ordinary” even though their in house staff has the capability to handle the project. This allows their in house processes and systems to continue undisturbed. A wise choice in any situation!
Another common reason for looking to the consulting industry is when a particular project or task is fraught with in house office politics. Assigning any staff member could be perceived as bias, so corporations choose to engage an independent consulting service. This counters any claims of bias, and can make implementing organizational change an easier process.
It’s clear, whatever your criteria for choosing a consultant, that timing can be critical, so make sure your policies allow for this decision sooner, rather than later.