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Podcast | 7 questions about internal vs external consultants

People often ask the differences between internal and external consultants. How independent are External and Internal Consultants? How does skills/experience level vary? Let’s tackle the 7 most common questions you migh have and never dare to ask about internal consultants.
On this week’s Smart consulting Sourcing podcast, I answer 7 questions about internal vs external consultants.
Key Takeaway: There are pros and cons to working with both internal and external consultants. Again, you should decide based on the needs of each project. When you have an internal consulting group, it makes sense to integrate them in a project bid when their competencies cover the scope. Put them in competition when necessary, and measure performance. They will get all the keys to better serve their internal clients.

Transcript
 
Hello and welcome to episode 57 of our podcast: Smart Consulting Sourcing, THE podcast about Consulting Procurement.
My name is Hélène, and I’ll be your host today.
Each week I’ll give you the keys to better use, manage and source consulting services.
This week, I’ll answer 7 questions about internal vs external consultants
Last week, I discussed how to choose between generalist vs specialized consultants
We saw that there is a role for both generalists and specialists in the world of consulting. Each type of consultant successfully helps executives find solutions, given the right situation.
People often ask me the differences between internal and external consultants. So today I will answer the 7 most common questions about internal consultants.

Let me start with the first question: how independent are External and Internal Consultants?
The level of independence varies and affects to a degree the execution of a project. Logically, we can assume that External Consultants have a greater level of freedom and independence.
Internal Consultants are subject to organizational hierarchy, while External consultants operate at arm’s length and give unbiased and independent advice in theory.
However, if internal teams have to consider key stakeholders that could influence their future careers, external consultants have a vested interest in acquiring repeat business. Therefore, they tend to be very careful with their conclusions and how they present them if they consider ther might be a significant risk for future revenue streams. Independence to stakeholders … yes, to power … maybe.
We often talk in this podcast about skills and expertise, but how does skills/experience level vary between Internal and External Consultants?
When it comes to skills and experience, there are lots of commonalities between both populations. Internal Consultants are usually experts in their field or have just joined after a consulting career. External Consultants maintain an edge on consultative selling skills and advanced capabilities. And so do Internal Consultants with the cost-performance trade-off on capabilities that have started to commoditize.
A key differentiator relates to intimacy with the company. Even though some external consultants tend to work with companies for years, nothing can replace being part of it to apprehend its culture and core activities. Some projects require a strong intimacy with the company to blend in or provide an inside-out expertise. Internal Consultants are probably the right partners. But sometimes, you need to feed the project with rich experience from other companies in the same field or capability. It will then be complicated to top the external experts.
Top consulting firms live and die by their ability to produce fresh thought leadership. They need to be at the edge of their discipline to remain relevant. Consultants need to write white papers and research materials to climb the ranks of their firm. It is not as material for the internal consulting roles as they are like other employees focused on projects and execution. 
Price is almost always a major deciding factor when working with consultants. Are Costs that different between internal and external consultants?
Usually, Internal Consulting Groups are seen as a cost center. They often chargeback for their time just like an engineering team would charge to a program or an industrial project. This practice allows a healthy check and balance with the internal customers. Note that a small number of companies, like Deutsche Post or Thales, have started to position internal consulting groups as an internal business unit with a P&L. Their Consulting Groups are even offering their services outside the company as well.
External consulting costs are usually paid in full by the unit benefiting from the services. At times, it might create a lack of visibility on the actual consolidated consulting fees paid by a given firm. Profitability from consulting firms comes from the level of utilization of their teams, whereas for internal consulting, it comes from the impact generated down the line.
So the war of talents in the consulting industry is raging. So how can Clients find the best talent for their consulting group?
It’s sometimes hard for an internal Consulting Group to acquire and retain the best talent. The level of compensation in the Consulting Industry is exceptionally high. It is complicated, if not impossible, for Industrial Companies to keep up. Hiring a senior consultant or a partner, in particular, can become very soon unattainable for a Company. They have to use much imagination to attract the right talent and give them opportunities to grow. Besides, once a consultant has joined a company with a high compensation package, it can be difficult to find the next position within the company.
A route less traveled is to embed a few years in the internal consulting group as part of the career path for high potential executives. GE is incubating Crotonville graduates as black belt project leaders before advancing further in their careers. This solution allows them to solve the compensation gap issue and increase the intimacy level with the company.
One of the most striking differences between top consulting firms and internal consulting groups is the homogeneity of talent. The pool of talent in external consulting firms is extremely robust, sometimes at the expense of diversity. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the impact on the quality of talent available in most consulting firms. An internal group will show more heterogeneous profiles. Blame critical mass and internal HR policy reasons. Besides, Global consulting firms can provide instant access to a worldwide talent pool when an internal consulting group is often centralized at the headquarter.
Last but not least, the tenure of the consultants is usually not the same. Joining an internal consulting group is considered a step in the career of an employee. Companies cannot afford to have permanent internal consulting structures of unlimited size. The opportunities for consultants to develop from within are also limited. You will rarely find an internal consulting entity with the pyramidal structure typical of the established firms. As a result, the managers are much more involved in the execution of projects. But they also have a limited bandwidth to address multiple projects. Succession, too, can become an issue as successors will be challenging to develop in this setup.
How do Client-Consultants relationships differ for Internal and External Consultants?
It is lonely at the top. CEOs and Top Executives cannot always bounce sensitive ideas with their executive teams. They often appreciate having senior trusted advisors that are not tied to the company. On the political added value, external consultants definitely trump the internal ones.
However, when it comes to connecting with the teams and facilitating change, the internal route is often smoother. It is particularly true for implementing projects that do not require a strong connection to the top.
When the impact is somehow linked to a consultant’s influence in the organization, the connection to the top management or the board will be a must. The external teams often have a stronger relationship with this group.
How do Consultants’ individual interests and behaviors intersect with Clients’ Interests?
External consultants do their best and have the best interest of the Clients in mind. Some consultants even decide to buy some shares of the company they are supporting or to be paid in equity. Risk of conflict of interest aside, it is a good illustration of their commitment. However, consultants are making a living by selling projects and keeping the activities running. Therefore, they keep their eyes on the ball during any project: delivering satisfactory results is a prerequisite. They also always have in mind to sell the next phase of the project or to identify an adjacency that could lead to another project.
Internal consultants are more detached from this objective to sell internally another project. They are also more focused on delivering an impact since they obviously have skin in the game. That being said, no situation is perfect. Instead, they will focus their attention on securing their next step in the company and, above all, not jeopardizing it. This objective in itself might partially limit the full execution of the projects.
How do Implementation Projects and Support Level Expected differ between Internal and External Consultants? 
One of the fundamental differences in the scope of activities of internal consultants is the proportion of implementation projects. External consultants are spending most of their time on the front end, analysis and recommendations. But Internal consultants are usually supporting projects end-to-end.
The explanation for this difference is simple: costs. External consultants are generally quite expensive from a daily rate standpoint. Companies tend to focus the consulting activities on tasks they cannot deliver themselves. It creates an opportunity for internal consultants or low-cost implementation consultants. Mc Kinsey recently invested in a sub-brand in Europe to support implementation work where a McKinsey premium would not be affordable.
Working with consultants able to follow through on the projects is highly appreciated. Everyone can learn during the implementation and avoid repeating the same mistakes. It is also very welcomed by the internal consultants themselves as they can see the results of their actions.
There are pros and cons to working with both internal and external consultants. Again, you should decide based on the needs of each project. When you have an internal consulting group, it makes sense to integrate them in a project bid when their competencies cover the scope. Put them in competition when necessary, and measure performance. They will get all the keys to better serve their internal clients.
That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll give you my tips to build positive relationships with your consulting firms​.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to learn more about what we do at consulting quest, just send me an email at helene.laffitte@consultingquest.com
You can also have a look at our website smartconsultingsourcing.com to know more about our book and download free templates & guides to improve your consulting sourcing.
Bye and see you next week! Au revoir!

This Week In Consulting: The future of healthcare

Wednesday, September 15th 2021
This week inConsulting
The future of healthcare

This week’s must read

Future StateVirtual Reality: The New Frontier of Health-Care Training - Future State

Virtual reality (VR) offers amazing capabilities in the world of medical training, where simulations of life-and-death situations can provide a safe space for real-world learning. As a Health IT Lab Fellow at Columbia University, Future State board member Sheila Babnis is part of a collaborative tea…

Critical to the success of VR in this training context is ensuring that VR headsets are widely available, making them accessible for use by all physicians/healthcare professionals interested in learning. This need led to development of new business models and technologies.
This Week’s Must Read is an insight piece from Jennifer Riebli and Sheila Babnis, Future State about some of the possibilities that virtual reality offers to change the health care and medical training sector.

Jennifer Riebli and Sheila Babnis@Future State

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Thought Leadership

The future of public health campaigns

Digital technologies are helping to make public health campaigns more effective at influencing perceptions, attitudes, and even behavior to achieve a desired goal.

In theory, digital health startups could provide a valuable opportunity to engage more people in specific health behaviors. With a new generation of digital technologies available for public health outreach and engagement, why hasn’t this been the case?

RJ Krawiec, Kimberly McGuire, John McInerney and Neha Malik@Deloitte

Read more

Leading the Medical Device Industry into the Medical Revolution - Accel Management Group

Leading the Medical Device Industry into the Medical Revolution

While figures indicate customer satisfaction is high throughout the healthcare industry, many professionals say meeting expectations during the first days and weeks of implementation can be difficult due to technical hurdles like outdated systems .Which technology approach will be most beneficial to their bottom line?

John Maculley@ Accel Management Group

Read more

Healthcare supply chain priorities to support recovery and resilience

The healthcare industry has successfully brought effective vaccines to market despite massive disruption from COVID-19. But with global supply chains still stretched, what are the priorities for supply chain players (pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical technology companies, healthcare providers an…

Vaccines are typically stored in temperature-controlled warehouses or transportation containers, ready to be deployed when an immediate local demand for specific vaccines is raised. The supply chain has historically been extremely efficient due to this distribution system, but with rising temperatures, the healthcare industry now needs to incorporate climate models into its supply planning.

 Raymond Berglund and Lee Feander@Alvarez & Marsal

Read more

EY Smart Health Transformation virtual roundtables

Healthcare executives share their experiences and lessons learned during a year that has seen the technology-driven reset of health care.

What are key factors affecting success operating models for digital health care delivery and how they can be applied with the goal of helping providers scale up an existing telehealth service?

Leisa Maddoux and Aloha McBride@EY

Read more

This week’s Consulting News

EY announces integration with Polygon protocol and framework on Ethereum scaling solutions

LONDON, 14 SEPTEMBER 2021. The EY organization today announced it is using the Polygon protocol and framework to deploy EY blockchain solutions on the public Ethereum blockchain ecosystem.

| Rosie Izzi@EY

Founder of Accenture Interactive Tim Breene appointed as Strategic Advisor to the Board of PCB - PCB

Fast-growing M&A advisory firm PCB Partners has today announced two heavyweight appointments

| Ben Doltis@PCB Partners

Challenger management consultancy Shape Beyond launches

Former ASOS Chief Financial Officer Helen Ashton has launched a management consultancy in the UK.

| @Consultancy.uk

Dialing-up growth ambitions, Anthesis appoints Richa Jha as Chief Transformation Officer - Anthesis

Anthesis has appointed Richa Jha as Chief Transformation Officer. Find out more here.

| @Anthesis Group

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This week’s media

How vital basic Science is and how Pandemic brought a huge boom in Life Sciences fields.

Consulting sourcing tips

The Consulting Sourcing Trick You’ll Never Forget

by Hélène Laffitte | Sep 20, 2021 | Post of the Week, Clients, Contracting and Managing the Consulting ProjectThe Consulting Sourcing Trick You'll Never ForgetThere are many tricks you can use to buy consulting services, but the one I want to share with you today is what we call "The Consulting Sourcing Trick."The Consulting Sourcing Trick You'll Never...

Podcast | 7 questions about internal vs external consultants

by Hélène Laffitte | Sep 16, 2021 | Clients, Knowing the Consulting Industry, PodcastPeople often ask the differences between internal and external consultants. How independent are External and Internal Consultants? How does skills/experience level vary? Let's tackle the 7 most common questions you migh have and never dare to ask about internal...

A Sure Guide to Fail a Consulting Project

by Hélène Laffitte | Sep 14, 2021 | Clients, Contracting and Managing the Consulting ProjectA Sure Guide to Fail a Consulting ProjectThere are many reasons why consulting projects fail. And, while you can't always blame the Consulting Firm for everything that goes wrong, there's no denying that they're part of the problem.A Sure Guide to...

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by Hélène Laffitte | Sep 8, 2021 | This Week in ConsultingWednesday, September 8th 2021 This week inConsulting How to get innovation that delivers?This week's must read[visual-link-preview...

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A Sure Guide to Fail a Consulting Project

A Sure Guide to Fail a Consulting Project

There are many reasons why consulting projects fail. And, while you can’t always blame the Consulting Firm for everything that goes wrong, there’s no denying that they’re part of the problem.

A Sure Guide to Fail a Consulting Project
We’ve covered the safe techniques to derail a consulting project in this post (and a little of levity).

READ ALSO
Consulting has always followed the ups and downs of the economy. The industry is quite adaptable and has been through rough phases but always recovered.

1- Let’s make a mess of these needs!
The first step to ruin your consulting project is to make sure the needs are vague or unclear.
Aim for the moon or Jupiter.
Consultants brag they are the best and brightest professionals. Let’s put them to the test. Setting unrealistic expectations is the cornerstone of a failed consulting project. If you are really sneaky, define objectives that look realistic, but are not in reality.
The consultants won’t be able to deliver but they will blame themselves! That’s always better than blaming yourself, right?
Doesn’t this contradict what I wrote in my last blog post about core competencies and sourcing capability? Yes, it does! Thank goodness we can learn from failure then. We all love surprises on our invoices, don’t we?
Don’t define deliverables or the timeline
Another huge mistake that some inexperienced companies do: defining exactly what results they expect, and under which form. If you really want to get the consultants lost and generate frustration on both sides, don’t include deliverables in your RFP. And if you are really a gambler, don’t include them in the contract either.
Remember, expectations are everything. If you don’t know what the consulting firm is doing on your behalf, how will they? If you give them a vision of where to go or deliverables that make sense for your company, then consulting project success would be assured!
Don’t identify and involve the main stakeholders
Another great way to make sure the consulting project is going nowhere is to make sure the main stakeholders are not identified nor involved. The worse that could happen is for you to build a consensus over the objectives of the project, and to have the main stakeholders embrace the project. Think to not inform your teams about the purpose of the project and how it will unfold. Worst-case scenario, you will probably be able to delay the project.
2- Never work with the right consultants –
A consulting project is doomed to succeed if you are working with consultants that have the right skills and experience. They will probably help you solve your needs the right way…or worse deliver them on time. And this happens quite often, sadly.
Don’t establish a profile …. Just go by instinct
Consultants are clones. They look the same, they have the same background, the same experience field. They have worked on the same projects, in the same industry. Why should you care about working with the right guys? They are all the right guys. Or are they? Let’s take the last one you worked with. Not the same expertise required ? Who cares.
Never look for the right chemistry
Don’t listen to the naysayers that tell you to assess the fit with a Consultant before hiring them. You can choose the Consulting Firm with the best name or the fanciest office. Don’t listen to the Consultants and don’t ask yourself if you could work with them. Even better, choose them on paper only or grade the proposal with a set of 6-face dice.
Cookie cutters are not only for baking
Consultants hate to develop customized methodologies and solutions. Client is not king. The Consultant should decide on the what, how and when. You are supposed to listen respectfully and just agree with them and never asked for customization. This is just how Consulting is working, get used to it. Besides, that’s your best bet to have a project that doesn’t fit your needs.
Make sure there’s no plan B
During the sourcing phase, be dismissive of the second-runners. Be the bad guy. An angry consulting firm will most probably refuse to take on a project if the first attempt has failed.
3- Please don’t manage your project –
You didn’t have all the latitude to derail the project during the sourcing phase? Don’t worry, you can still make it during the project.
The more it changes, the more it is the same
The life of a project will be sprinkled with twists and turns. Embrace the changes in scope whether they come from your teams or the consultants. Never ask about the potential on the workload and the price before you make your decisions. Everybody loves to have a surprise when receiving an invoice.
Don’t ask consultants for input during meetings.
The last thing you want when consulting firms are working with management teams is an open dialogue about their needs and direction. No one likes surprises in consulting projects but this really takes it too far doesn’t it? Why not get rid of all consultant feedback right from the start by simply asking them if they have any questions before every meeting/presentation instead of letting them provide some valuable insight into improving results?
You are not the captain of the ship
You might think: “My house, my rules”. But you got it wrong. If you take control of the project and manage the consultants, your project has a fair chance to succeed. Is it really what you want? Why not let the consultants take over? They will make sure that the project follows their agenda.
Two heads are always better than one
If you have been around a bit, you know that the worse thing that can happen to a project is to have several persons in charge. You don’t want the project to deliver in time and quality? Forget about the governance. Who needs a Steering Committee today? Besides defining roles and responsibilities might actually help the consulting team to identify who to talk to. Don’t do that.
Play it Loch Ness Monster
Consultants tend to be very smart. They might see through you and understand you are the mastermind behind the project. They will come to you to get answers and get things to move forward. Don’t make yourself available, don’t manage the team. The Partner in charge wants to meet you? Avoid him. The good news is that you will be able to blame the consultants anyway.
Make sure the upper management doesn’t commit
Another key failure factor for a project is the lack of commitment of senior executives. If they support fully the project, you are doomed: your project has very high chances to go through and be successful. When senior management is committed to a project, your teams tend to welcome the consultants and work closely with them. This is so wrong.
Cooperation rhymes with treason
Working openly with consultants is a sure way to give them all the levers to succeed in delivering high-quality work. Forbid your teams to cooperate with the consulting teams. Threaten and punish if necessary. You cannot afford to give the consultants the information they need to achieve your goals.
4- And a little bonus: Always bring your hidden agenda to the project –
This solution is best for Executives with a plan. If you really want a project to fail, you can pretend to agree with the objectives and the choice of consultants, and then do everything to make sure you choose the consultants that will push your agenda, and not necessarily deliver on the expectations of the rest of the ream.
5- Translation –
Don’t do any of these things. When it comes to finding a consulting firm, you really need to know what your needs are. Are you looking for help with developing strategies or executing them? Do you want someone that can provide hands-on assistance as well as handle the day-to-day management of your project? If so, make sure you find a consultant who has experience in those areas and is qualified for the type of work required. It’s also important to manage your project from day one by establishing clear expectations and deadlines; this will save both time and money which often leads to more success!
Check out our website today if any of these pitfalls sound familiar or have led to trouble on past projects. We offer free consultations where we can discuss any questions.

Author detailsAuthor Bio

Hélène Laffitte

Co-founder & CEO at Consulting Quest

Hélène is the author of Smart Consulting Sourcing, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your Consuting. You can follow @helenelaffitte on Twitter.

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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.

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Consulting sourcing tips

The Consulting Sourcing Trick You’ll Never Forget

Podcast | 7 questions about internal vs external consultants

A Sure Guide to Fail a Consulting Project

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Previous Weeks’ issues

This Week In Consulting: The future of healthcare

Wednesday, September 15th 2021 This week inConsulting The future of healthcareThis week's must read[visual-link-preview...
read more

This Week In Consulting: How to get innovation that delivers

Wednesday, September 8th 2021 This week inConsulting How to get innovation that delivers?This week's must read[visual-link-preview...
read more

This Week In Consulting: High Tech trends that will shape the future

Wednesday, September 1st 2021 This week inConsulting High Tech trends that will shape the future.This week's must read[visual-link-preview...
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Podcast | How to choose between generalist vs specialized consultants?

If you’re looking for the right consultant, several factors will help you decide whether a specialist or a generalist is right for your needs.
On this week’s Smart consulting Sourcing podcast, I discuss how to choose between generalist vs specialized consultants?
Key Takeaway: There are pros and cons working with both generalists, specialists or niche player. There is no one-fits-all solution. If you find yourself at a crossroads and need to turn to a consultant, don’t worry. Take the time to assess your needs thoroughly, and do your research. That will allow you to decide what type of consultant would better fits your needs.

Transcript
 
Hello and welcome to episode 56 of our podcast: Smart Consulting Sourcing, THE podcast about Consulting Procurement.
My name is Hélène, and I’ll be your host today.
Each week I’ll give you the keys to better use, manage and source consulting services.
This week, I’ll discuss how to choose between generalist vs specialized consultants
Last week, I told you how to create value through demand management
We saw that Demand management is a well-known tool for procurement teams. But the implementation for intangible categories such as consulting is not always easy. But implementing the simple steps I described in the podcast will get you closer to a best-in-class consulting sourcing capability. 
But today I wanted to give you some tips to choose between generalist and specialized consultants.
Executives often wonder how to approach the decision to hire a consultant specializing in one aspect of their Industry or a consultant who has proven results in most areas but doesn’t have any specific niche experience. After all, the population of consultants has exponentially increased in response to corporate belt-tightening in the area of permanent staffing.
If you are looking for the right consultant, some factors will help you decide between a specialist or generalist.
But, first, think about what is good about each type of consultant. Then decide what would be the best choice for your needs.
Before you start to think about finding a consultant, it is important that you know what problem you are trying to solve with the help of a consultant. It is better if you can explain the problem in detail. This way, when deciding between generalists and specialists, you will know which one suits your needs best.
Then think about your budget allocation. You want to procure the right consultant to create new solutions— but not at any cost. Identify the problem correctly and the impact you expect to know how much you are willing to invest in the project.
Once you are ready, you can start searching for the consulting firms that fits your needs.
As you probably know by now, the consulting Industry started with a specific focus on manufacturing optimization, then encountered a period of growth in strategy work. The capability dimension was the driver, and the Industry served a secondary dimension. Several consulting gurus such as Bill Bain or Dominique Mars even pushed the theory that serving only one client per Industry was the best way to avoid conflicts of interest.
However, companies are getting more and more specialized. And the industry specialization is becoming a must for many clients and a commercial and productivity lever for many companies. To date, we can observe three kinds of positioning for consulting firms. 
Generalist Consulting Firms offer a vast scope of consulting services. They usually cover most of the matrix Industry vs. Capabilities. For instance, Oliver Wyman is a generalist consulting firm working with almost all industries on Strategy, Sales&Marketing, Operations, Organization, or Finance. Human Capital Consulting is provided by its sister company in the Marsh & McLennan Group: Mercer HR.
Most major consulting firms are generalist: McKinsey, BCG, Kearney, Bain & Company, LEK, …
Their clients can find broad-based knowledge that can adapt flexibly to their needs. They will also realize economies of scale and scope. In addition, the consultants often have experience in several industries and capabilities, making them adaptable.
But they sometimes have a superficial knowledge of a given industry or function. And it is not uncommon in large Consulting Firms to see the same consultant move from a strategy project in Financial Services into an operations project in Manufacturing.
Next, Specialist Consulting Firms are focused on a certain type of consulting. For instance, Emerton is a company that focuses on just seven industries: energy, Industry, consumer, healthcare (or medical), technology (or electronics), mobility, and aerospace.
Specialists build knowledge and capabilities at a faster rate than generalist consultants. They keep current on new findings and industry news and understand the competitive pressures within their specialized Industry.
But they tend to see all the issues through their area of expertise, which can be narrow-minded. And, when working with industry specialists, Chinese walls to ensure data confidentiality are more difficult to enforce.
Finally, Niche players are Consulting Firms that offer a specific service in a particular industry. They are the intersection point in a matrix of services and sectors. Contax Partners, for instance, is a Niche Consultancy focused on Strategy in the Energy Vertical in the Middle East and Africa. ZS Associates was focused exclusively on Sales and Marketing in Pharma for a long time before branching out in other industries.
Nich players know their sector better than generalist consultants that work in multiple industries and better than specialist consultants that offer one service in various sectors.
They don’t work well on projects that cross-industry or capability lines. They see everything through their expertise prism, like specialist Consultants, and might not come up with out-of-the-box thinking.
As you can see, there are pros and cons for both generalists, specialists, or niche players. There is no one-fits-all solution. If you find yourself at a crossroads and need to turn to a consultant, don’t worry. Take the time to assess your needs thoroughly, and do your research. That will allow you to decide what type of consultant would better fit your needs.
And if you are still stuck, you can always call me 😉
That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll answer 7 questions about internal vs external consultants.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to learn more about what we do at consulting quest, just send me an email at helene.laffitte@consultingquest.com
You can also have a look at our website smartconsultingsourcing.com to know more about our book and download free templates & guides to improve your consulting sourcing.
Bye and see you next week! Au revoir!

The Transformation of the Management Consulting Market (2021)

The Transformation of the Management Consulting Market (2021)

Consulting has always followed the ups and downs of the economy. The industry is quite adaptable and has been through rough phases but always recovered. It will probably be the case again after the pandemic crisis

The Transformation of the Management Consulting Market (2021)
But the change had already started before 2010, and the wave will continue to strengthen and profoundly modify the industry.

“Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine.” —Robert C Gallagher

Let’s have a look at what’s happening in the consulting industry right now:

READ ALSO
Consulting is a tricky business. And negotiating a consulting agreement is logically complex. This is because so many variables are open for discussion: scope, timeline, deliverables, team composition, price, etc

1- The Consulting Market is Global and Complex –
When you think about direct purchasing, would you source from the local neighbors or take advantage of the global marketplace. Would you always use the same suppliers? You would probably play with some competition to ensure you get the best supplier.
Consulting abides by the same rules, and the supply options are almost unlimited once you get to know the market.
Another good way to approach the complexity of the consulting market is to look at the size of the consulting providers. As a rule, large firms offer a broad range of services, while small firms specialize in a narrow domain.
The bulk of the consulting providers are tiny boutiques with less than 10 employees. In the US, for example, they represent 87% of all Consulting firms. However, the remaining 13% of Consulting firms with over 10 employees generate more than 90% of the total revenues in the industry.
2- The Consulting Industry is Very Active on the M&A Front-
An exciting trend is going on for the past 15 years or more. Since 2006, we observe roughly 500 yearly acquisitions or mergers of management consulting firms of all sizes with more prominent players in the Consulting Industry.
The reasons behind these moves can be to access a new client base, venture into a new capability or a new industry, or strengthen an existing practice. The Consulting Landscape reflects that continuous M&A activity.
It is also a way for partners to monetize their relationships with a nice payday every couple of years. So they sell, continue as part of the new firm and start again a few years later.
Compared to the average, the Consulting Industry has 60% fewer small firms between 10 and 50 employees and almost three times more firms with over 500 employees.
The Consulting Industry is clearly a large market with robust growth.
3- There are different levels of Consulting Offering –
Interesting to note that the scope of “consulting services” continues to expand. The top-level offering is a highly skilled advisory with a proven reputation and higher fees. The 2nd level of Consultancies is made of specialty niche technology services that have a specific price range. And the 3rd level comprises highly skilled niche experts hired on specific projects. Consulting firms are now also venturing into the learning space, offering programs competing with business schools.
4- Digital Disruption is trending –
The consulting industry in recent years was shaped by 3 major trends: Digital transformation, Technological disruption, and Cultural shifts within the industry due to globalization. Right now, the future holds exciting promises as well. The expertise topics offered to Clients expand and multiply even further in niche markets. Digital agencies and Consultants’ capabilities, for instance, further overlap, as they provide converging expertise.
5- Freelance Consultants and Micro-Consulting are on the rise –
We are all familiar with the growing trend of freelance services, but Micro-consulting sounds kind of trendy too. The concept refers to getting expert help, in short, targeted projects for clients. So it differs from a months-long engagement and a team of Consultants working together.
It’s also interesting to mention that according to recent surveys, most Freelance Consultants like to stay independent and enjoy the flexibility of their work.
6- New Billing Models are emerging –
The demand for performance-based billing models is growing as well. More and more clients now have the technological capability to slice and dice every expense. And they can analyze their spending on Consulting while evaluating the ROI. Performance-based billing is also popular among consultants. These pricing styles can prove mutually beneficial to Clients and Consultants alike, reducing the chance for unexpected fees and setting up a well-defined benchmark for Consultants to prove the value they bring.
7- Increased Competition & Continuing Commoditization of Services –
The freelance economy continues to affect the consulting industry as well. Online marketplaces for consultants and available experts offer Clients a multitude of choices when they need expert advice. You can also find methodologies and training on line for do it-yourself models that become non consumption for the Consultants.
8- A never-Ending Need for New Skills & Innovation –
The fast pace of innovation is affecting all industries. Consultants now strive to stay on the cutting-edge of knowledge. But by evolving and enhancing their expertise, Clients are not the only beneficiaries of this trend. Consultants are, too, since they can build better portfolios and ensure long-term success.

Author detailsAuthor Bio

Hélène Laffitte

Co-founder & CEO at Consulting Quest

Hélène is the author of Smart Consulting Sourcing, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your Consuting. You can follow @helenelaffitte on Twitter.

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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.

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Podcast | How to create value through demand management?

Demand management is a critical tool for procurement professionals and companies in general. But what are the key steps that can ensure successful Demand Management execution?
On this week’s Smart consulting Sourcing podcast, I talk about how to create value through demand management?
Key Takeaway: Demand management is a well-known tool for procurement teams. But the implementation for intangible categories such as consulting is not always easy. But implementing these above simple steps will get you closer to a best-in-class consulting sourcing capability.

Transcript
 
Hello and welcome to episode 55 of our podcast: Smart Consulting Sourcing, THE podcast about Consulting Procurement.
My name is Hélène, and I’ll be your host today.
Each week I’ll give you the keys to better use, manage and source consulting services.
This week, I’ll tell you how to create value through demand management
Last week, I answered the question: “Working with large consultancies: stop or encore “
We saw that choosing the right consulting firm is complex. There are many parameters to consider. And building a solid list of preferred providers, identifying who would be best, depending on your context, is a real jigsaw puzzle. But that is also what makes consulting sourcing so exciting and so impactful when done correctly. And the good news is that it is possible with the right approach and the adequate level of consulting knowledge to do it right.
But today I wanted to talk about demand management.
Demand management is a critical tool for procurement professionals and companies in general. Its implementation for the consulting category is a no-brainer if you want to keep your spend under control and aligned with your strategy.
But what are the key steps that can ensure successful Demand Management execution?
Let’s get started.
 
Demand management is a supply chain management system that balances and strategically aligns demand with operating capability across the supply chain through the rapid and successful integration of the market needs in the direction of the suppliers. In short, it makes sure you are spending on the right priorities.
Its challenge often lies with its successful implementation for companies that are not well-prepared and fail to deliver the expected results.
The driver for the demand of Consulting should be projects closely aligned with the strategic direction of the Company. Executives have to translate the strategy into the Demand Management principles and decision-making process. A clear strategy will simplify this work and facilitate the buy-in of the top Management.
But you cannot review and treat all projects the same way. Ideally, the Company defines a segmentation of the potential needs in Consulting and the associated Decision-Making Process. And for each segment, you will define a threshold for projects to be handled directly and a person involved in the decision.
Your next step is about budget and ROI. Budget constraints are a critical element of Demand Management. Don’t forget consulting is allocated in OPEX and directly impacts the bottom line. And the best way to look at it is from a value-creation standpoint. So you need to agree, at the highest level of the Company, on how much money you want to invest in Consulting and how much value you expect in return.
As you can see, demand management requires some degree of centralization of the consulting budgets or at least the decision to proceed.
The important questions to answer here are: What needs to be done? And who is best suited for the role overseeing the process?
To ensure good synergy between Consulting Investments and Strategy, many companies have given the accountability to manage the demand to their strategy or transformation teams.
This role can be located at the Corporate or Business Unit level. Or both depending on thresholds and company culture.
The Implementation of Demand Management is very likely to change the ways of buying Consulting Services. Most executives will be reluctant to lose flexibility from “before.” Beyond the project, the Top Management has to openly support and push for the DMS to ensure that the principles and processes will be respected across the board.
Aligning the key stakeholders is a mandatory step. Your methodologies and prioritization criteria have to be clear and fair, to allow proper consolidation and treatment.
Once the key stakeholders are aligned, you can communicate with your teams. Ideally, you can try some dry runs on historical data or your largest units and fine-tune the methodologies. Then consolidate projects assessments and resources requirements, and set a deadline for demand management to start.
As with many other things, it’s a smart approach to prioritize your projects and start with the most important ones immediately. Then, other attractive or “nice to do” projects are placed in a pool and prioritized based on budget feasibility. Small projects (under the threshold) are left to the discretion of the Management (resource permitting).
Any demand above a certain threshold has to be addressed by either the strategic or the indirect procurement team.
Strict governance is mandatory on all projects with the possibility to kill projects not yielding satisfactory results. Therefore, it’s compulsory to analyze the results.
At the end of each project, you should lead a post-mortem analysis to assess the performance of the Consulting Firm. You will also check if the priority criteria were justified enabling a virtuous cycle.
Depending on the results, the strategic team will adjust the decision-making process and the procurement team will adapt the panel of Consulting Firms available for further work.
Positioning your projects sharply during the year is a key element often underestimated. Instead, ensure you have a good balance between transformational projects and projects generating short-term results that can help you do more with less. In other words, some cost savings projects can unlock enough resources to kick-start a digital transformation.
It is sometimes tricky for Companies to finance major Consulting Projects over a fiscal year. If the costs are in year 1 and the results in year 2, the bottom line is impacted. A better way to do that is by spreading the costs.
For example – to circumvent this unfortunate situation, you can start projects after the summer break. With a 60 days payment term, if you accrue for costs, you will spread them over two years, and if you don’t, there is a good chance you will start paying in January, and the cost vs benefits will end up positive. So even if you don’t get the impact on the earnings, you will get the cash.
The secret for success is to find the balanced mesh between the core principles of Demand Management, the specificities of the Consulting Category, and your Company Culture. If the system is too rigid, Executives will work around it. On the other hand, if it is too flexible, the Company will not get the system’s full benefits.
Last but not least, you have to communicate with your suppliers. Explain why and how you will implement Demand Management and how it will impact them. They need to understand the new rules to play along with them.
Demand management is a well-known tool for procurement teams. But the implementation for intangible categories such as consulting is not always easy. But implementing these above simple steps will get you closer to a best-in-class consulting sourcing capability.
That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll discuss how to chose between generalist and specialist consultants.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to learn more about what we do at consulting quest, just send me an email at helene.laffitte@consultingquest.com
You can also have a look at our website smartconsultingsourcing.com to know more about our book and download free templates & guides to improve your consulting sourcing.
Bye and see you next week! Au revoir!

7 Steps to Negotiate Your Consulting Agreement like a pro

7 Steps to Negotiate Your Consulting Agreement like a pro

Consulting is a tricky business. And negotiating a consulting agreement is logically complex. This is because so many variables are open for discussion: scope, timeline, deliverables, team composition, price, etc.

7 Steps to Negotiate Your Consulting Agreement like a pro.
And most of variables will impact the results of the project, and therefore the value your business will get out of it.

“A negotiator should observe everything. You must be part Sherlock Holmes, part Sigmund Freud.” ~ Victor Kiam

Once you have a satisfying proposal, you can start negotiating. Like the selection process, you need to gather as much information as possible to leverage during the negotiation.
But here are the essential steps you can follow to secure and draft a practical & solid agreement.
 
 

READ ALSO
There are many reasons why executives can work with consultants to create value better and faster. As an outside vendor, a consultant often can see issues that stakeholders and employees too involved in your organization can’t provide.

1. Prepare for your negotiation thoroughly-
Before you dive into the key elements, take the time to prepare for your negotiation. The first step is to agree on what you want to negotiate. With intangible services, almost all the components of the proposals are negotiable. You can modify anything from the scope, the team composition to, of course, the price.
You also need to keep in mind the overall value of the project vs. the price. Again, understanding the dynamics of the pay-off matrix will help you define the required magnitude of the negotiation. Now, look also at how much latitude you will have in the negotiation. Do you have a negotiation edge? Or are your hands more or less tied?
Finally, get the right people at the table based on the size and the strategic importance of the project. No spending weeks negotiating cost when fixing the issue yields more each week than the project’s cost.
Try to anticipate as much as possible how the Consultants will act to get the best deal. In this situation, the best deal is when both parties have a positive outcome.
2. Negotiate the key elements – what not to miss –
When you enter a negotiation with multiple dimensions, the BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiate Agreement) and ZOPA (Zone Of Possible Agreement) concepts can come in handy. They will allow you to draw a bundle of potential deals along the different dimensions. To build such a bundle, you will need to analyze how the changes in scope or team staffing will impact the price and conversely identify the trade-offs you are willing to accept. Do not lose sight of the ball. Usually, it is better to achieve your expected results than a half-baked result at a low cost.
If you still need to reduce the costs, you should explore other savings opportunities such as travel expenses or expert staffing.
3. Draw the contract –
“A contract is only as good as the people signing it.” – Jeffrey Fry
Once you have negotiated the terms of the agreement, you can start drawing the contract. You can either work with a standard consulting agreement or a couple: Master Service Agreement (MSA) plus Statement of Work (SOW). The latter solution is particularly adequate when you work with the same consulting providers regularly. We strongly recommend working with your legal team to develop your own agreement templates.
4. Formalize your expectations –
Even if you work with a standard consulting agreement, the Statement of Work is the first element in the contract. It covers the scope of work & deliverables, the schedule & phasing, the Governance & Escalation procedure, and the expected outcomes & metrics.
The contract is always the reference in case of litigation. You want the Consultants to commit to the results of the project, not the means.
5. Define the terms & conditions – how and why –
When you have described what work will be done, how and when, it is time to define how the consultants will be paid. Even if you have opted for a flat fee, you should state clearly the schedule and the terms of payments in the contract.
If you work with hourly or performance-based fees, you should include the conditions to get paid and the potential safeguards to avoid derailment.
6. Clarify the rules –
Depending on the project and the company, you should include the following rules in the agreement.

Confidentiality – You should always integrate this clause in a consulting agreement. Many projects include confidential information about the company’s strategy or products.

Use of Third-Party – Many Consulting Firms work with subcontractors or partner with other firms on projects.

Intellectual Property – Monitor the information and the models developed during the project and clarify the ownership in the contract.

Client Policies (such as information management and safety) –The Consultants should comply with any rules that you might request.

Conflict of Interest and Non-Compete – On some projects, you might want to make sure that the consultants won’t have any conflict of interest or won’t go and sell the methodology they developed for you to your competition.
7. Prepare for the worst – avoid the risks and the pitfalls –
As the old saying goes, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. In your contract, you should integrate clauses covering the most likely problems you might encounter if the project goes awry. The resolution of the issue if and when it occurs will be much easier to manage.
Negotiating a consulting agreement is first and foremost negotiating a contract. Most of the best practices that procurement professionals have learned in other categories will apply. The main difficulties will come from the complexity of the category, making every element of the contract negotiable, and the asymmetry of the information, where the consultant will often have the upper hand.
Following the above 7 steps will allow you to be well prepared for the negotiation and get you enough leverage to negotiate the agreement to your company’s advantage.

Author detailsAuthor Bio

Hélène Laffitte

Co-founder & CEO at Consulting Quest

Hélène is the author of Smart Consulting Sourcing, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your Consuting. You can follow @helenelaffitte on Twitter.

View Profile

Mail Me

Call Me

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.

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Previous Weeks’ issues

This Week In Consulting: The future of healthcare

Wednesday, September 15th 2021 This week inConsulting The future of healthcareThis week's must read[visual-link-preview...
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This Week In Consulting: How to get innovation that delivers

Wednesday, September 8th 2021 This week inConsulting How to get innovation that delivers?This week's must read[visual-link-preview...
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This Week In Consulting: High Tech trends that will shape the future

Wednesday, September 1st 2021 This week inConsulting High Tech trends that will shape the future.This week's must read[visual-link-preview...
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Podcast | Working with large consultancies: stop or encore

As clients have started to understand better what value consultants can bring them, many changes will shape the industry’s future. Should you continue working with large consultancies?
On this week’s Smart consulting Sourcing podcast, I answer the question: Working with large consultancies: stop or encore?
Key Takeaway: Sourcing Consultants is not easy and choosing the right consulting firm is complex. There are many parameters to consider. And building a solid list of preferred providers, identifying who would be best, depending on your context, is a real jigsaw puzzle. But that is also what makes consulting sourcing so exciting and so impactful when done correctly. And the good news is that it is possible with the right approach and the adequate level of consulting knowledge to do it right.

Transcript
 
Hello and welcome to episode 54 of our podcast: Smart Consulting Sourcing, THE podcast about Consulting Procurement.
My name is Hélène, and I’ll be your host today.
Each week I’ll give you the keys to better use, manage and source consulting services.
This week, I’ll answer the question: “Working with large consultancies: stop or encore “
Last week, I told a brief History of Consulting
We saw that The History of Consulting goes way back and is still ongoing. As clients have started to understand better what value consultants can bring them, many changes will shape the industry’s future: Brexit, Covid, remote working, etc.
But moving forward: Should you continue working with large consultancies. Short answer: yes. But why exactly?
The recent scandal with the NHS Test & Trace system led by Deloitte is on many minds. And many executives are frustrated with the increasing prices, lack of actionable recommendations, and juniorization of the consulting teams.
And indeed, there are many small to mid-sized consulting firms with high-quality consultants and in-depth expertise to service their needs.
Is it, however, a good enough reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater?
You have to keep in mind that the market is vibrant and diverse
There are roughly 10,000 Consulting Firms globally, representing 250,000 consultants, without counting the independent Consultants. As a rule, large Consulting Firms tend to be one-stop shops (offering all capabilities and industries in most geographic regions). At the same time, smaller companies more often focus on one or two dimensions only.
Most Procurement Executives are looking at the market through the lens of capability/industry. They know that one-stop shops such as Mc Kinsey, Bain & Company, Booz Allen, Big 4, and consorts can cover the entire spectrum. So they identify a few other players focused on one capability or one industry. But this is not the only way to look at the market.
You can also screen the market through the Strategic vs. Operational dimension. Strategic Consulting is about high-level strategy, transformation, large organization projects, very often at the Company’s highest level, instead of more operational projects such as lean, team effectiveness, purchasing, etc.
Sometimes you can approach the same capability with either a Hard or a Soft angle. For example, if we take the org design capability, Hard would be org charts, job descriptions, processes, handbooks, while Soft would be team alignment, culture, change management, and talent.
And you can use many other dimensions to screen the market: Strategy Players with a touch of digital vs. Digital Players with a zest of strategy, Global vs. Local, Blue Chips vs. SMEs, Diagnosis Experts vs. Implementation Specialists, etc.
Consulting Firms are rarely present on the whole spectrum for one dimension, even the large ones, but the odds are pretty high that whatever your problem is, there is a Consulting Firm focused on it.
But ultimately, it is about the people!
As surprising as it may sound, identifying a Consulting Firm with the right expertise only gets you halfway there.
Consulting is a human-to-human service, and consultants are not commodities. To better source a project, executives need to understand who the people behind the Consulting Firms are and assess the fit with your Company’s context and culture.
The background of consultants can be essential to understand the type of projects they can work on. For instance, life-long consultants will bring you perspective and benchmark, while former executives can bring you hands-on experience.
Always ask for detailed consultants’ profiles with a specific focus on those that will ultimately ensure the project’s delivery.
In fact, we could say that each consulting firm has its own DNA.
Suppose you can position a company on all these dimensions. In that case, you can identify its consulting DNA Profile, understand the range of projects they add the most value, and assess their proposal with reasonable expectations. Ultimately that will allow you always to maximize the chances of success for your Company.
If you want to accelerate the execution of a project and mobilize a significant amount of resources in a top-down fashion (post-merger integration, for instance), large firms with their very pyramidal organization and very structured processes and methodologies can be the right fit.
We recently heard a CEO explaining to the company employees in the context of an extensive transformation: “Do not worry, we use one of the most famous brands and have spent millions in Consulting; the execution will be flawless.” Not sure this convinced the employees amid the restructuring, but this was obviously his prime criteria.
Suppose you want to align and embark your management team on a disruptive transformation. In that case, you may want to leverage a boutique firm’s expertise and seniority that can customize on the fly their methodology to maximize appropriation.
Sometimes the Consulting Firm that led a very detailed analytical diagnosis is not necessarily the right one to facilitation the change process.
The right consulting firm is the one that will get you the best ROI for your project. And you often don’t know before you lay down the expectations if you should work with a small boutique or a blue-chip consulting firm.
Don’t underestimate the political value of your project.
It is no secret that there are political moves at play within any organization, big or small. And it often gets tricky to navigate complex terrain, even for an Executive, especially for an Executive actually. However, consultants can effectively contribute to smoother processes, introduction, and facilitation of new measures, and much more.
A recent example of this political value is how the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has used the BCG prediction model at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The organization has indeed stellar reputation. In a situation where you need to justify a decision or use a scapegoat working with a large consulting firm is your only solution.
More generally, the visibility of a project at the shareholder or the board level can legitimate working with large consulting firms. Also, you can work with the consulting firm used by the upper level. The consultants will speak favorably on the project, and who could criticize your choice if you use the same than your boss?
Sourcing Consultants is not easy, but there is hope.
As we see, choosing the right consulting firm is complex. There are many parameters to consider. And building a solid list of preferred providers, identifying who would be best, depending on your context, is a real jigsaw puzzle. But that is also what makes consulting sourcing so exciting and so impactful when done correctly. And the good news is that it is possible with the right approach and the adequate level of consulting knowledge to do it right.
That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll tell you how to create value through demand management.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to learn more about what we do at consulting quest, just send me an email at helene.laffitte@consultingquest.com
You can also have a look at our website smartconsultingsourcing.com to know more about our book and download free templates & guides to improve your consulting sourcing.
Bye and see you next week! Au revoir!

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