Don't ignore smaller consultancies, buyers told

15 March 2012

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15 March 2012 | Angeline Albert

Buyers were told not to squeeze out small consultancies in favour of bigger brands at a roundtable discussion this week.

Consultants asked purchasers, gathered at KPMG’s London headquarters yesterday, to discuss if a more level playing field could be created for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to compete for work.

“There is a massively rich and diverse range of SME consultancies not getting the same access to the market as larger organisations,” said Alan Leaman, chief executive of Management Consultancies Association (MCA), which organised the event.  

In response, Tom Bissenden, procurement manager at Schroder Investment Management said: “I would look at SMEs for specific engagements, say if a particular business process is being implemented. Sometimes internal stakeholders want to have that underwritten by a brand.”      

Consultants told buyers that they had seen tenders with criteria that stipulated consultancies should have a turnover of more than £20 million.

Sarah-Jayne Aldridge, HR and professional services category manager at Telefónica O2 UK, said: “We have had our fingers burned before by using small consultancies which have not survived the economic climate.”

She added that procurement needed to consider many factors including achieving best value, mitigating risks and identifying the right questions to ask at the beginning of the procurement.

Purchasers also highlighted that SMEs could collaborate more to benefit from each other’s specialisms, and with larger companies, to stand a better chance of winning work.

Peter Sammons owner of consultancy Buy Research said: “It takes time to do this. There are three enemies for SMEs and it is procurement’s fear, inertia and short timeframes.”

Sammons explained that buyers were afraid to take on SMEs because they feel they pose more of a risk than larger consultancies. He said purchasers liked to rely on preferred supplier lists, which meant not actively seeking out SMEs.

Aldridge said: “You have to invest in understanding what a smaller organisation can provide that is better than a larger organisation. SMEs should make themselves more visible to procurement in the areas they specialise in.”

She also said procurement staff don’t wish to be seen as “blockers but instead enablers”, which required the function to collaborate with the business early on to get the best supplier.

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