During the past 18 months I have had the privilege of looking at the consultancy spend category through a two-way mirror.
I have supported buyers who are trying to increase their organisational influence and consultancy service providers who want to work more effectively with procurement professionals.
The challenge in buying consultancy services is no longer news. A spate of books and articles on the subject has lamented the issues buyers face in trying to get to grips with management consultancy spend.
However, I am not convinced about some of the solutions these books propose.
I worry that if we expect to overcome these issues through a traditional procurement mindset [tell me your requirements earlier and I’ll get you the best contractual deal] then we are in danger of missing the point.
My point is that management consultancy buying is different because often there is no clear specification to buy against.
Unforeseen economic and business conditions appear. Operational or customer-related problems arrive. A short-term need to increase revenue or reduce cost emerges. Different stakeholders bear different political agendas and need different types of consultancy culture to solve their problems.
All these variable ingredients do not easily lend themselves to a traditional procurement mindset.
A more knowledgeable approach to these challenges will see buyers chiefly focused on required business outcomes, not the size of the savings opportunity.
They will appreciate that the sweet taste of negotiating that final percentage from someone’s fee could easily be soured if this then puts the project at risk because the ‘A’ team is no longer guaranteed.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if buyers instinctively anticipated business needs, intuitively monitored the political landscape within their organisation, tuned into the urgency of their stakeholder requirements, proactively helped to shape the scope of work and recommended the best-fit supply options based on a deep understanding of consultancy market dynamics?
This approach is not easy to implement, it requires tenacity and perseverance and some buyers may need further training and development support as they start delivering it. After looking through my two-way mirror these past 18 months, I‘d say nothing else will make more of a positive impact on a buyer’s ability to add business value to their organisation.