7 tips in managing a big consultancy or systems integrator

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Having worked for one of the big 5 consultancies for over ten years and then having to engage a number of them as a client, I thought I’d share some tips on getting the best value out of these relationships:

  1. Subject to availability. Be clear which consultants you are personally engaging. Some proposals will contain the caveat, “subject to availability”. This may mean that you expect to have a set of consultants who are listed in the proposal but in reality, if they are busy, you may get a different set of bodies! In any assignment the actual people you engage is critical for success.
  2. We will staff the PMO. The PMO should be a valuable addition to any assignment, but some consultancies staff the PMO with junior resources or graduates with little experience but a high price tag! Some of these PMO consultants spend time booking hotel rooms for the other consultants. It is often more cost effective to staff a PMO with NON-big 5 consultants or internal staff.
  3. Land grab! One particular consultancy has a deliberate strategy of trying to widen its contacts within an organisation to win more work, i.e. land grab. This can lead to a loss of focus on your current assignment because they are too worried about selling on into other areas of the organisation. It should be made very clear that sell-on will only be possible on the successful delivery of the current assignment.
  4. Don’t pay for account management. There is an inevitable account management activity on any assignment but I would argue that this should not be charged to the client but be part of the overall delivery.
  5. Cap expenses. Some consultants may live abroad or in remote parts of the country. Be clear about what you are prepared to pay for and what is reasonable. Whatever you agree to pay on expenses, ensure that you insist on a cap on expenses, usually as a % of the total fees.
  6. Watch for grade inflation. Some of the more unscrupulous consultancies agree the rate of, for example, a principal consultant, and then put a more junior grade in that role. This is totally unethical and, before any new consultant joins the team, you should insist on a copy of the cv and confirmation of grade and experience.
  7. Avoid paying for learning on the job. There is always an element of on the job learning, but should you be paying high consulting rates for new graduates?

Summary

I hope you will find the above tips useful. If you have any questions then please contact us. One way we have been engaged by our clients is to manage a big 5 consultancy on their behalf. Poacher tuned Gamekeeper can be a very useful change in role!

David Walton
About the author
David Walton

I am David Walton, Programme,Project and Portfolio Management specialist and director of Bestoutcome here in the UK. We make the PMO tools PM3, PM3time and PM3change, the only PMO tools designed by practitioners for practitioners.

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