A quick glance at the key roles in consulting sourcing
We often stress the importance of collaboration when buying consulting services. The very nature of intangible services, such as consulting, makes it difficult for Procurement teams to handle the process from A to Z.
A quick glance at the key roles in consulting sourcing
But going on step further, the takeover of Procurement on consulting sourcing is often counterproductive.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success. – Henry Ford
The real success when buying consulting services is when you can bring to the table the right players and get them the right responsibilities. The whole point of the process is to make sure the project you are launching will bring the impact you expect.
The starting point is then to ensure that the consultants will have all the elements to submit a relevant proposal. Unfortunately, too many companies are leaving the definition of the work in the hands of their consultants.
Every time you launch a project, you should pause for a few minutes and evaluate if this particular project needs to work with consultants or work with internal resources.
If you have trouble sleeping, will you go directly to the store to shop for a new bed? Of course not. You would end up with the largest bed in the store with all the gadgets, but your sleeping problem might still be there, unresolved. You need first to review all the other options.
It’s somehow the same when you start defining your needs with a consultant. They will tend to paint your problem with their capabilities and experiences or make it fit the available resources.
Working internally with the right people to define your problem and identify the best option is key to inviting the right consultants to the discussion. It doesn’t mean that your requirements are final. You are just optimizing the chances that the project you are launching will fix the issues you face.
When procuring Consulting Services, the requirements are always dependent on the internal and external context of the company. Besides, the definition of what you expect and why is a key success factor for the project. It is always a good idea to formalize your requirements into an RFP, even though you don’t necessarily want or need to organize a tender.
Even before you start brainstorming ideas and envision your ideal outcome, you need to make sure that the right people are in the room. And to build the right team.
Depending on the magnitude of the project, you can adapt the size of your team to it. However, here are a few roles that need to be included:
The Project Sponsor –
The Project Sponsor is the person (often a manager or an executive) accountable for the project. S/he will ensure that the project delivers the expected outcomes and will champion the project to “sell” it within the project team and the organization. S/He will also be the chair of the Steering Committee.
The Project Sponsor has the right authority and decision-making power to lead the project effectively. S/he is also directly impacted by the project outcomes.
Usually, the project sponsor owns the budget. However, in some companies, consulting budgets are centralized under the CEO, Finance, or Strategy. In this case, you might want to invite the budget owner to the party as well.
The Project Manager –
The Project Manager is the person that has the daily accountability of the project. S/he will guide the consultants and make sure they work under the right conditions with the teams and deliver the expected results in time.
S/he is very often part of the Project Sponsor Team and is impacted directly by the project.
The Procurement Leader –
Unless you are working on a very small project and already have a list of potential provides handy, you want to have someone from Procurement in the room. Sourcing the right candidates can take some time, and it is sometimes useful to start early in the process.
Besides, procurement managers are experts in defining needs and preparing bids, while it is rarely the case for the rest of the organization. They can facilitate your work and guide you through the process.
Many companies, however, don’t have the critical mass to have someone dedicated to consulting Procurement. In that case, you can include in your team the person in charge of indirect Procurement or the Head of Purchasing.
The Main Stakeholders –
We mentioned that the project sponsor and the project manager are often part of the same team. However, their department might not be the only ones impacted by the project. Ask yourself if you should expect a strong impact on or a profound change in interfaces with another part of the organization. If that’s the case, it can be a good idea to involve them at the requirements stage.
Suppose your project is very large, like a Company-wide Transformation project. In that case, you might also want to involve Finance and Strategy to ensure that it is aligned with the overall strategy.
When you have the right team at work, you can start brainstorming. The same team will be present to analyze the proposals, listen to the consultants’ pitches. And participate in the selection. Success for a project, being delivered with consultants or not, is often described as a sustainable impact. And those of you who have been around for a bit know that it starts with change management as early as possible in the project.
Among the key success factors of change management, you find key executive support and employee engagement. Embarking them at the inception of a project, defining the needs and the expectations, is definitely a step in the right direction.
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Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform and author of “Smart Consulting Sourcing”, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your consulting. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting.