As a consulting company, so you might
expect us to push the use of consultants at every turn. Not
so. Our principal consultants have spent many years within organisations,
in situations which include acting in senior IM&T management positions. We understand that
there are times to bring in specialists, and times to make use of your in-house
We specialise in Strategic
Management, Risk Management, Change
Management, Project Management Training - activities that require more than an academic understanding.
You need people with appropriate skills developed in relevant business
situations. In some cases, these skills may already exist within an
organisation - particularly larger organisations with an ongoing history of
Factors in determining whether
consultants are appropriate
Corporate Objectives. For some
organisations, it is more appropriate to develop the skills of
in-house staff in such areas as change management, training, risk management
etc. For other organisations, such skills would seldom be used, and it would
not be feasible to develop or maintain such skills.
Experience. Do you have staff who
have training and experience in the relevant skills? Does the organisation
have a history of successful projects which would inspire confidence in
doing this in-house?
Flexibility. Do you have staff who can
work outside of their normal environment, possibly with a different
management structure. A Project environment requires quick and sound
decision making, a flexible approach and requires the specialist to work as
an integral part of a team, yet have the ability to be demanding as to the
quality of their work.
Stress. Projects place demands on staff
in terms of volumes and speed of work which is often well in excess of their
normal environment. This may be particularly upsetting for staff whose
positions do not often require them to work within strict time / cost /
Availability. Do you have appropriately
skilled staff who are able to devote the required amount of time to the
project? Change Management and training in particular often requires
far more effort than initially thought - particularly if the organisation
does not have much large project experience.
Impact. How important is the
success of the project to the organisation? For smaller or
non-critical projects, there is time for staff to learn on the job, and
learn from their mistakes in a non-critical environment. When the stakes are high, the need for experience
Mix and Match One approach that suits some organisations is mix of consulting and permanent
staff. The implementation of this will depend on the factors noted above.
We have seen successful situations where consultants have been brought in to
provide strategic leadership, and a mentoring service to permanent staff, who
have been in a position to learn and take over the reins at the appropriate
We have also seen success where consultants have
worked closely with the permanent staff to develop a change management strategy
and / or plan, then have handed over to the organisational staff. This has
been very successful where the organisation has enough skilled staff available,
but not a particularly strong history of in-house projects. In this case,
the consultants can be brought in from time to time to review progress and
provide input to the team.
While ongoing management of the change management
team is one option, there are real advantages to using the organisation's
in-house staff in as many areas as possible. In many situations, change
management consultants should working themselves out of the situation, by
training permanent staff to the stage where they can take over the role
(provided this is in keeping with the organisation' capabilities and
Who decides? The decision as to whether to use consultants or
not should rest with the project sponsor. As always, the sponsor should seek
input from the project manager and if appropriate, the manager of any in-house
providers of similar services. If your project manager is on contract, he
or she may feel obliged to suggest using their company. There are some benefits
here, but these need to be carefully weighed against the potential for conflicts of
interest. Ensure that any consultants you are considering are
appropriate specialists for your situation.
If a project impacts on the way your staff
undertake their work, or in the way in which the organisation interacts with its
clients, suppliers or partners, you should have a formal change management
plan. Poor change management can cause project failure just as surely as
poor project management. On the positive side, superior change management will
help ensure a better, faster return on investment from your project.
Conclusion Like many things in business, you must decide
whether or not you have the capacity and time to undertake this activity in
house. If the expertise is not readily available, our advice is not to '
wing it' with inexperienced staff or consultants. Whether it be contracting a
builder, getting your car tuned, or having brain surgery would you prefer
someone with a successful track record, or someone who had just read the manual?
Why apply a different standard to a critical business project?