Consultants

by Peter Parkes

Where to get help

Many consultancy projects are no different from other projects – you are just bringing in specialised resources to reduce your risks in delivery. If you feel you need help, you could consider detailing a project or assignment manager to manage this for you, leaving you free to manage your normal operations.

However, there are many potential pitfalls to hiring and managing consultants, especially in today’s business environment, in which consulting projects can involve hundreds of staff and cost many millions of pounds. This is where the meta-consultant comes into play. Meta-consultants are effectively ‘poachers turned gamekeepers’, who have been on the delivery side. They have knowledge of the consultancy industry and hire themselves out to clients to advise and manage consulting projects on their behalf.

The Office of Government Commerce takes this type of approach with its Gate Review process, in which independent consultants, licensed by the OGC, are brought in to review outsourced projects at key points in the lifecycle.

Similarly, the government organisation Programmes for Public Private Partnerships has a cadre of screened and approved associates who advise on correct contract types and who can manage work on the client’s behalf.

Many niche consultancies provide this function, priding themselves on ‘grey hair, not green horns’.

Professional bodies and trade associations

The Institute of Business Consulting (www.ibconsulting.org.uk) promotes professional standards in consultancies and consultants. They promote the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) qualification, and also Recognised Practice. These standards are not yet widespread, but have been recognised by the Office of Government Commerce as supporting a move to more professional delivery.

The Management Consultancies Association represents management consultancies, and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006 (www.mca.org.uk).

Directing change: guide to the governance of projects is a publication put together by a panel of cross-industry experts over a period of two years, initially to review the impact of changes in legislation on corporate governance on the management of projects. The guide gives simple questions for project sponsors to ask to help ensure that project work is effectively governed. It is free to download (http://www.apm.org.uk/Governance/GovernanceProfile.asp).

The Association for Project Management is the professional body for project management in the UK and has developed a comprehensive body of knowledge across all competence areas in project management (www.apm.org.uk). For project-related consultancy, you should look for professional accreditation as well as sector experience.