This Week in Consulting Wednesday, December 4th 2019 All You Need to Know to Choose a Lean...
13 Questions About Internal Consulting Answered. And Why Organizations Should Take Note
“You can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside.” ― Stan Slap
1. Focus only on the biggest value projects.
Over the past 20 years, the growth of in-house consulting groups has been one of the most notable elements of change in the fast-moving Consulting Industry. It is hard to evaluate the extent of internal Consulting. But large companies such as Bayer, American Express, Google, Airbus, Samsung, Dell, SNCF, BASF, Deutsche Post, etc. have built internal consulting structures that can go from small ad hoc teams to fully-developed groups of 100 consultants and more.
Know the Consulting industry
Consulting can create great value for companies who can use it strategically and are able to leverage the advantages it offers. But there are smart ways to do it, and some not so smart.
2. Who do Internal Consultants usually work with?
Even though internal consultants are permanent employees of an organization and typically only consult for one single ‘client,’ they often provide equivalent services, and in many cases are former external consultants. One could argue that Internal Consulting is the ultimate form of specialization of the Consulting Industry. However, in doing so, companies are partially losing the best practice dimension and independence..
3. Do Internal Consultants have the same expertise as External Consultants?
There used to be an experience and impact gap between internal and external consultants. However, as the value chain is evolving, internal consultants have now access to better talent and methodologies. On some mainstream projects such as commercial excellence or lean, the impact from internal consultants is now equivalent to the one brought by external consultants.
4. How is internal Consulting affecting costs?
Costs are often given as the first reason for creating an internal consulting team, according to CEOs. When most companies were growing and consolidating, the prices of consulting firms have been steadily increasing. Internal Consulting is a great option in lowering this cost.
Large companies have professionalized their Procurement, and they now realize how much they spend on Consulting. Cost-Conscious CEOs want to decrease their Consulting Costs and stop hiring only the large strategy players such as McKinsey, Bain, or Boston Consulting Group.
5. How are Internal Consultants paid?
Employees in internal consulting groups are most of the time compensated on the same grids than internal employees. Their full cost is, therefore, two to three times lower than external consultants. This indeed it does not include the cost of the partners or the cost of the beautiful office in central Manhattan.
6. What would be the deciding factor in favor of Internal Consultants?
If internal consulting teams can provide performance close to the external ones, the trade-off will almost always lean in favor of the internal team.
7. Is working in an Internal Consulting Group a rewarding career path?
Internal consulting groups can also be used as a career accelerator, inspired by the black belt concept developed by GE. High-potential individuals get trained in consulting problem-solving and managerial concepts. They also acquire the structure and discipline of consultants.
They also get exposed to the top management and highly strategic projects, giving them a broader perspective on the company. After a few years in the Consulting Group, they take a senior position in the organization. Talent is, in this case, kept in-house and developed.
Alternatively, a few years in an internal consulting role can be a smooth entry point within a large organization. The newly hired employees can work on a broad range of projects, and in return, share their experience acquired in prestigious firms with other internal consultants. At the same time, they gain precious knowledge of the company and build a professional network.
8. How are sensitive and confidential projects handled?
Internal Consulting is the preferred choice here rather than hiring an External team. There are projects where the management does not want any outsider view. It might be because it involves a highly strategic decision or very touchy Intellectual Capital. The more people at the party, the higher the risk of breach of confidentiality.
9. How is Clients’ information protected with Internal Consultants?
Most consulting firms will argue that they have established “Chinese walls” and that all information stays private. However, it is at times difficult to disconnect from the information you have and refrain from using it in the next project. But working with Internal consultants decreases the risk of using the information collected as a benchmark or reference from another client, with the next one.
10. Is the Executives’ perspective on working with Consultants changing?
Not long ago, working with consultants was seen as a necessary evil, and we all know the joke about the consultant and the watch. However, Executives have seen the benefits over the years in working with External experts. Their image has shifted to a more neutral position, from judgment to support. As you can imagine, the growing population of ex-consultants in the Executive ranks helps as well.
Companies have understood the interest of dedicated teams working on projects independently from the rest of the organization. They have indeed identified a potential lever for improvement in creating teams with the same focus and ways of working as external consultants.
11. What are the main reasons to start an Internal Consulting team?
Consulting to its core characteristics is about internal teams, experts in their domains, working on project mode to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the company.
You will then realize that many functions in the organization fall under this umbrella. What about the excellence functions newly created to work on commercial or purchasing excellence? Or the customer experience task force? The internal audit team working on processes? The business process management group?
12. How can an organization kickstart an Internal Consulting team?
Setting up improvement teams is not a new concept. But it is worth exploring the evolutions. You can organize them as a single group or community to professionalize the ways of workings. Or manage the demand and optimize the resources by creating fluidity across the teams. Afterward, you can decide to refer to it as Internal Consulting or to keep it stealth.
Organization structures are now optimized to get synergies and make the most of the existing talents. If you put together the needs of all the business lines and support lines, most companies will be able to get a critical mass of similar projects that could justify building a dedicated team.
13. What are the first steps in setting up an Internal Consulting team?
You can start by setting your objectives and the size of the team. Having clear objectives can help the team and position their efforts on the path to success. Another big point is funding. There are various funding models, the most sustainable one is to charge each internal Client the full cost of the project. However, for kick starting your practice and demonstrate the impact you could use corporate funds.
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3 Best Ways to Measure Consulting Performance – In Short, Medium & Long-Term Formats
Let’s start with the question – How important is measuring the performance of Consulting Services’ providers?
For Consultants – as long as their clients keep buying the services, measuring and analyzing performance is not that important.
But for Clients, it’s a very necessary part of the process of acquiring such services and getting the best ROI.
If we take a look at the Automotive industry, for example, the ultimate price will be losing the business of the client.
In most procurement categories, the receipt and inspection of the purchased goods is a key step in the process. When the product is damaged or not compliant with the requirements, it will be rejected. When the product is compliant, but the quality is not satisfying, the provider’s contract will not be renewed. When a supplier is the subject of numerous claims it will be removed from the panel.
Manage the consulting category
Demand management is a critical tool for procurement professionals and companies in general…
But here are the shocking facts :
57% of companies don’t have a systematic Performance Evaluation system for the Consulting Category.
Consulting firms also don’t necessarily have a reliable system for measuring clients’ satisfaction. They realize the client was unhappy when they lose the account.
Which is often unfortunate, and doesn’t help either party.
Open conversation and feedback is the first step. But why is t often obstructed?
Consulting Firms are looking for feedback to engage in a continuous improvement process, and their clients are expecting them to listen and improve their ways of working.
There are a few reasons that prevent collaboration:
Consulting Services are seen as hard to measure, intangible, and measurement can be tricky. But companies know from experience that even intangible objectives can be measured
The best approach relies on a system. Since Peter Drucker has popularized Management by objectives in the 50s, it became a standard in General Management. SMART objectives are used across the board to help employees have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.
The same can apply to Consulting Services. When you hire a Consulting Firm, you have some expectations such as the quality of the deliverables, the ability to understand your business, the ability to build trust with the stakeholders, etc.
Why not measure the achievement of these objectives
Implementing a systematic Performance Evaluation specific to Consulting Services is a cornerstone of the management of the Consulting Category.
The benefits of measuring can be seen at three time horizons
The beginning of the implementation can be rocky. Being attentive to feedback from the main departments or business lines using consulting can help procurement to identify the Consulting Firm with performance issues and gather the necessary information to build the right improvement plan with them.
Tracking your providers’ performance longitudinally is the only objective way to monitor the providers, to benchmark their performance and to identify the high and low performers: two essential elements to keep a fluid Preferred Supplier List. This analysis will also help you identify capabilities with insufficient performance.
The purpose of aligning your Consulting Spend with your Strategy is to maximize the Value for Money. Year-Long performance evaluation of the impact of your Consulting Projects will help you validate your decisions and make sure the money has been well spent with the expected impact in line.
Don’t forget that Performance can be evaluated at all stages of a Consulting Assignment. And for every project time formats can be different.
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The 13 Key Steps in Demand Management Implementation
Demand management is a critical tool for procurement professionals and companies in general. Its implementation for the consulting category is a no-brainer if you want to keep your spend under control and aligned with your strategy.But what are the key steps that can ensure successful Demand Management execution?Below we have mapped out the steps in implementing Demand Management that you can easily apply too.
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.” -Ralph Marston
1. The Purpose and the Challenge–
Demand management is a supply chain management system that balances and strategically aligns demand with operating capability across the supply chain through the rapid and successful integration of the market needs in the direction of the suppliers. In short, it makes sure you are spending on the right priorities.The challenge of it often lies with its successful implementation for companies that are not well-prepared and fail to deliver the expected results.
Know the consulting category
Australia is unique not only for the amazing nature, and species like koalas and kangaroos, but the remarkable Consulting market growth of 6-7% for the past few years.
2. Have a Clear Strategy –
The driver for the demand of Consulting should be projects closely aligned with the strategic direction of the Company. Executives have to translate the strategy into the Demand Management principles and decision-making process. A clear strategy will simplify this work and facilitate the buy-in of the top Management.
3. Use Effective Decision-making Approach –
All projects cannot be viewed the same way. The Company has to define a segmentation of the potential needs in Consulting and the associated Decision-Making Process. It will include a threshold for projects to be handled directly, as well as the person including in the decision for each segment.
4. Have a Proper Budget Limits Defined –
The budget constraints are a critical element of Demand Management. You need to agree, at the highest level of the Company, on how much money you want to invest in Consulting, and what are your expectationsin termsof returns.
5. Your Degree of Centralization Choice –
The important questions to answer here are: What needs to be done?And who is best suited for the role overseeingthe process? Management requires some degree of centralization of the consulting budgets or at least the decision to proceed.To ensure good synergy between Consulting Investments and Strategy, many companies have given the accountability to manage the demand fortheir strategy or transformation teams.This role can be located at the Corporate or BU level. Or both depending on thresholds and company culture.
6. Get Top Management’s Support –
The Implementation of Demand Management is very likely to change the ways of buying Consulting Services. Most executives will be reluctant to lose flexibility from“before.”Beyond the project, the Top Management has to openly support and push for the DMS to ensure that the principles and processes will be respected across the board.
7. Create Alignment for a Successful Demand Management Launch–
You need to focus on creating alignment. It’s properly done when you formalize the target process. Methodologies and prioritization criteria have to be clear and fair, to allow proper consolidation and treatment.Once the key stakeholders are aligned, you can communicate with your teams.
Ideally,you can try some dry runs on historical data or with your largest units and fine-tune the methodologies. Then consolidate projects assessments and resources requirements, and set a deadline for demand management to start.
8. Prioritize Projects and Launch Immediately –
As with many other things, it’s a smart approach to prioritize your projects and start with the most important ones immediately. Other attractive, or “nice to do” projects, are placed in a pool and prioritized based on budgetfeasibility. Small projects (under the threshold) are left to the discretion of the management (resource permitting).
Any demand above a certain threshold has to be addressed by either the strategic or the indirect procurement team.
9. Simplify Based on Results –
Strict governance is mandatory on all projects with the possibility to kill projects,not yielding satisfactory results. Therefore, it’s mandatory to analyze the results. At the end of each project, you should lead a post-mortem analysis to assess the performance of the Consulting Firm.
You will also check if the priority criteria were justified enabling a virtuous cycle. Depending on the results, the strategic team will adjust the decision-making process, the panel of Consulting Firms and the procurement team will adapt the panel of Consulting Firms available for further work.
10. Review the Projects’ Sequenc-
Positioning your projects sharply over the course of the year is a key element that is oftenunderestimated. Make sure you have a goodbalance between transformational projects and projects,generating short-term results that can help you to do more with less. In other words, some cost savings projects can unlock enough resources to kick-start a digital transformation.
11. Adjust Costs into 1 or 2 Fiscal Years –
It is sometimes tricky for Companies to finance major Consulting Projects over the course of a fiscal year. If the costs are in year 1and the results in year 2, the bottom line is impacted. A better way to do that is by spreading the costs. For example -to circumvent this unfortunate situation is to start projects after the summer break. With a 60 days payment term, if you accrue for costs,you will spread them over two years,and if you don’t, there is a good chance you will start paying in January,and the cost vs benefits will end up positive. Even if you don’t get the impact on the earnings, you will get the cash.
12. Apply Successful Practices –
The key element is to find the balanced mesh between the core principles of Demand Management, the specificities of the Consulting Category,and the Company Culture. If the system is too rigid, Executives will work around it. If it is too flexible, the Company will not get the full benefits of the system.
13. Have Effective Communication with Suppliers –
Last but not least, you have to communicatewith your suppliers. Explain why and how you will implement Demand Management and how it will impact them. They need to understand the new rules to play alongwiththem.Demand management is a well-known tool for procurement teams. But the implementation for intangible categories such as consulting is not always easy. But implementing these above simple steps will get you closer to a best-in-class consulting sourcing capability.
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Hot off the Press!
- This Week in Consulting: All You Need to Know to Choose a Lean Consultant December 4, 2019
- 13 Questions About Internal Consulting Answered. And Why Organizations Should Take Note November 29, 2019
- The New Way to Optimize Consulting for Maximum Impact – Key Points to Apply to Your Next Project ( Five Wrong Approach Scenarios and How to Avoid Them?) November 22, 2019
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