How to Improve the Scoping of Your Consulting Project with These 7 Powerful Techniques
“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” – Francois Gautier
The most important factor probably for the success of your Consulting project, is the “why” behind it. What is the purpose of launching your new project, and what are your main expectations of it? As we talked about crafting an effective RFP and engaging in talks with a few prospective Consulting providers, you will gradually sharpen your view and clarify all aspects of the project. Clarity is extremely important and based on many years of experience, we’ve made a short list comprised of the most effective techniques you can use.
1. Set the scope right –
It is not unusual to realize when you start explaining your needs that you are embracing a scope too large, or that the project could be broken down into smaller pieces. The main objective here is to provide a high-level overview of the problem. And adjust the scope that is best suited to the purpose of the entire project.
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2. Provide the basics and be precise –
Start with giving the basics. What is the state of your industry? What are the main challenges you are facing? What have you done so far? What would you like the Consultant to help you with? Here is a good example to help you grasp the points: “Slow Economic Growth in Europe, in particular, compared to other markets, has limited the growth of the Insurance Industry. After a slight increase in 2017, growth went down again in 2018. In 2016, new European regulations, namely Solvency 2, started to get implemented. As a result, the pressure on risk and compliance functions increased significantly. European politics could also impact the regulatory stance in major markets.
As a result, Risk is becoming more than ever a core function in the organization. Insurers need to adjust business processes and strategies to this new environment.
In 2017, Insurance Co created a Risk and Compliance team at the group level to supervise the implementation of Solvency 2 in the different business units.
Insurance Co would like now to review the various options for organizing its risk activities at the corporate and business unit level and identify the most efficient set-up while taking into account the position of the regulators on this critical matter.”
At first sight, it sounds like a simple organization design project. However, if you look closer, some key elements seem to be missing.
- The context doesn’t give any information about the results of the existing Risk and Compliance team. Why does the corporate team want to re-organize the risk function only two years after the creation of the team?
- There is no mention of the political dimension of the corporate relationship with business units, which is often a key element in an organization project.
It might also be interesting to provide some benchmark on existing models and anticipate the position of the regulator.
3. Give a clear idea of where you are in the process –
Your Consultant needs to know all these elements that will help them understand exactly where you are on the path to success, and design a proposal customized to your needs.
You can also define the high-level questions you want to answer with the project, such as:
- What is the existing performance of the industrial set-up? How do we compare it with the competitors’?
- What are the high- and low-performers by function?
- What are the different opportunities to harmonize the organization structure?
- What are the best options to improve the efficiency of the organization based on an internal benchmark?
- For each option, what would be the impact/risks to consider? The associated costs and potential benefits?
A first high-level assessment shows a potential of 7% of savings that will contribute to the overall synergy objective of the merger.”
4. Write the description –
Once the context is set, you can move to the description of your requirements for the project. In your RFP make sure to integrate the questions consulting firms would ask to be able to provide the solution tailored to your needs. You can use a sparring partner or another member of your team to review it and ensure the context is clear and accurate.
5. Focus on the value Consultants will bring –
There are many ways consultants can generate value on a project, but very few of them can guess what you expect if you don’t state it plainly. The best way to start is to reformulate your problem statement at the start of this section.
Remind the consulting firms included in the RFP process what are the objectives, and the expected outcomes. If you have specific expectations regarding benefits, now is probably a good time to express them.
The high-level objective can be clearly defined in a few lines. However, many roads if not all of them are leading to Rome. You might need to add some precisions on the scope, the level of confidentiality and also who should be involved on your end as well as your timeline for the project.
6. Aim for clarity with “what” not “how” to do it –
There is a fine balance when describing the expected deliverables. Some companies tend to provide the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ at the same time. However, as soon as you start describing how the consulting firm should produce the deliverables, you lose the creativity and the experience an external provider can bring in. You automatically reduce the consulting firm to an externalized workforce. This situation can work if you know very well the job to be done but it does not constitute a best practice.
Our experience shows that, even if you might be tempted to specify the methodology, it is important to leave room for the consultants to propose how they would approach the issue. This allows to adjust later on and will most often provide you with fresh perspective.
7. Add any important additional information –
Each project is different, and often clients can omit details that pertain to the project, their circumstances, or the niche market. Do not hesitate to add additional information that could be implicit for you but Consultants who are less familiar with your company cannot anticipate:
- Do you expect the consultant to do everything on his own or do you anticipate a joint team?
- Will the work be performed on site?
- Is there a preferred location? Specific language requirements maybe?
- Do you have specific requests regarding knowledge transfer at the completion of the project?
- Are there additional “side questions” that should be addressed?
And now the final key question –
Describe how you intend to proceed with the selection process? This way, you can guarantee a fair process and ensure that Consulting companies will decide to participate.
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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.