The “contactless” expert consultant: a must in our current times.
By Otto Acuna, MBA, CSSBB, CMC

In recent weeks, Source Global Research, an UK based research firm for the consulting industry interviewed consulting clients from all over the world trying to understand how Consulting Client’s needs have shifted during this pandemic and what are their needs and preferences regarding the purchasing of consulting services. They are regarded as “the Gartner of the Consulting Industry” and the title does justice to the relevance of their insights. Here is a summary what they found: 

  • Clients are looking to do more work themselves, with internal teams rather than relying on external consultants for everything. 
  • They are worried about the speed and  - of course - the cost of their initiatives. They need transformation alright, but focused on key issues, fast and with quick returns. 
  • They no longer have the luxury of allowing an army of junior and not so senior consultants run around the company interviewing and digging data everywhere to discover the issues and based on those propose solutions. That approach takes time, its more expensive and nowadays may represent a risk of spreading COVID. Techniques such as on-site workshops, face to face interviews and other in-presence activities are possible but complicated logistically and risk-wise. 
  • They indeed need consultants, but they need the expert, with deep knowledge on the topic at hand that can very quickly identify issues, guide your team and point companies in the right track for acquiring traction very quickly. 
  • COVID has lowered the resistance to online work, since many people now is working remotely, but that also means that those experts are available with an immediacy that was not common before and with a very interesting cost, because there is no travel involved, companies are leveraging their own internal resources with expert guidance and controllership as they progress in their initiatives. 

We are now in the era of the “contactless” expert consultant

We are now in the era of the “contactless” expert consultant that has been there and done that so many times that – at a distance – can provide you with high value guidance, insights and a robust tested and tried way of tackling your strategic goals. 

So how do you go about getting help form expert consultants in such a way? Believe it or not, companies are not usually very sophisticated when buying consulting. Many rely on past experiences, references or trust based methods, which are perfectly fine but that ultimately reduce your sourcing pool when looking specific support. I’ve encountered in my professional consulting life some situations with clients where they did invest important sums of money in consulting and all they as backup for their decision is a 3-page letter from the consulting firm or even a brochure of their provider, leaving it to guesswork or different interpretations of what has been spoken. 

Many rely also on Big Firms, because the strength of their brand provide security to buyers, but you need to be sure to communicate that you want to work with the expert only and set your rules for the engagement, because many of the big firms are structured in a pyramidal way, so the usual work plan is based on the work from juniors more generalist consultants, and we already talk about the inconvenience of that resource-intensive model in these times.

So there are a few rules of thumb that you can follow as an organization to open your pool resource and have more options regarding the sourcing of a “contactless” expert that can help you:

  • Get picky on the past experience: ask for references and if possible, with the possibility to contact some past client, so you get a feeling of what to expect in our own customer journey. 
  • Demand a professionally made proposal. There are best practices when you do purchase consulting services. There is actually a recently developed ISO guidance and normative for consultancy services. Search in the internet for “ISO 20700” or even go to the ISO 20700 global website. This ISO standard has been adopted by the European Union too as standard. 
  • If available, check if your consultant is a member or certified by an ICMCI  (International Council of Management Consulting Institutes) accredited consulting association. YES, there is a certification that test and certifies the caliber of a consultant, as well as his/her compliance with ethical behavior. The main difference with other certifications is that you cannot get it by studying it or doing a project….. You earn it only with experience and you are tested by fellow CMC-Certified peers from around the world. You also need to proof a minimum of 1200 hours of consulting per year in the last 3 years. That leaves out individuals that do occasional “weekend consulting”.  Countries where the Profession of Management Consulting is more regulated, like Canada, the UK, Austria, Germany, China, Corea, Australia or others, the CMC-Certification is the top level of certification available that is obtainable by professional consultants in the middle of their career or older because of the requisites. In Latin America there are only 2 individuals certified, out of 8,200 around the world. In my volunteering life I am heavily involved with ICMCI and I am working towards having more professionally trained and certified consultants in Latin America. But COVID has made possible to source a team of experts from anywhere, as long as they can deliver virtually, which most can. 
  • Finally, get your procurement people acquainted with ISO 20700, ICMCI and its virtual international chapter CMC-Global institute are finalizing a training for procurement officers and executives, so that they know better what they should be asking their MCSPs (Management Consulting Service Providers) when looking for help. Your procurement officers and decisions makers need to understand the industry as part of their sourcing strategy, because this category is one of heavy investment

Organizations private and public will need to make tremendous changes, radical changes to survive and to get out of this crisis in a strengthen manner. AND THEY WILL NEED HELP – BUT A DIFFERENT KIND OF HELP from consultants in order to achieve their goals in the current conditions. 

….be ahead in the game and in the race for talent…. Consulting Talent.

Revise your goals, revise your team and have a sense of what knowledge and capabilities you can leverage internally, and what their availability is. Then devise a plan for the areas you will need support and be early in sourcing that expertise. You will be ahead in the game and in the race for talent…. Consulting Talent.