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Consulting RFPs

Understanding the consulting market will help you source the right consultants.

We often describe the consulting market with the capabilities and the industries served. And most consulting firms will start there to introduce themselves. But this is just scratching the surface.

Understanding the consulting market will help you source the right consultants.

The Consulting Market is extremely diverse and complex. And to understand its structure, you will need to take a much deeper dive into what markers “make” the structure.

“He who would search for pearls must dive below.” – John Dryden

I won’t teach you that having a good grasp of the supply market is key to get the best Sourcing outcomes. But if I ask you how many consulting firms you can name, most Executives cannot name more than 10 to 15 rather large companies.

And Procurement Executives don’t necessarily score better at that little game.

Let’s have a quick look at how the market is structured and how you can use that knowledge to choose the right consulting firm for your projects



The pressure on operating budgets is tremendous, and client organizations must define what project to launch and how. Thinking about implementing make-or-buy strategies to consulting services? Need an expert perspective? We will be happy to help.

How is the consulting market structured?

  • Vast Scale The overall management consulting market is estimated at approximately $250 billion worldwide, with a CAGR of roughly 6%, clearly outpacing GDP in all countries. At this pace, the industry is expected to break the $300 billion by 2020.

  • Size of Consulting Companies – There are roughly 10,000 Consulting Firms globally, representing 250,000 consultants, without 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 are often focused on one or two dimensions only.

  • Richness and Diversity Most Procurement Executives are looking at the consulting market through the capability/industry lens. They know that one-stop shops such as Mc Kinsey, Bain & Company, Booz Allen, Big 4, and consorts can cover the full spectrum. They identify a few other players focused on one capability or one industry.

  • Strategic and Operational Dimension – Another effective way to screen the consulting market through the Strategic Operational dimension. Strategic Consulting is about high-level strategy, transformation, large organization projects, very often at the highest level of the Company, as opposed to more operational projects such as lean, team effectiveness, purchasing, etc.

  • Hard or Soft Approach to Capability – Sometimes, the same capability can be approached with either a Hard or a Soft angle. If we take as an example 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 many other dimensions can be used to screen the consulting 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.

How important is the human component of consulting?

Consulting Firms are rarely present on the whole spectrum for one dimension, even the large ones, but the odds are quite high that whatever your problem is, there is a Consulting Firm focused on it.

People make all the difference as surprising as it may sound, identifying a Consulting Firm with the right expertise only gets you half-way 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 are behind the Consulting Firms and to 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.

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 pyramidal organization and their structured processes and methodologies can be the right fit.

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.

How to find the right match for you and your specific case?

  • Evaluate the Consulting Company on all dimensions

  • Understand their range of projects

  • Pinpoint where their value lies

  • Assess their proposal with reasonable expectations

Sourcing the right consulting firm is key to get the best outcomes from your consulting project. Understanding how consulting is structured will certainly allow you to improve the results of your sourcing efforts.

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.

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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Published in Clients, Knowing the Consulting Industry