Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 May 2010

CONSULTING: Is All Consulting Equal?


Recent Gauteng Business News

The popularity of the consulting firm has gained ground locally in recent years, according to Steven Woods, South African Country President at Compass Management Consulting, and is becoming an ever more popular way for organisations to address skills gaps in the short term or to bring in specialist skills on certain projects. Consultancy firms are also often used to analyse issues and drive change within organisations.

During the recent uncertain economic climate, many companies were looking to cut costs and discretionary aspects of business such as change were put on hold. However, as the world has begun to recover from the recession and companies are making plans to once again grow business and re-engineer processes to come out stronger than before, there has been resurgence in the use of consultancy firms.

This is particularly evident in organisations that were forced to retrench employees and now need to gain lost skills once again. And what is particularly attractive about the consultancy model to many organisations is the ability to buy skills on demand, addressing skills gaps in the short term to bring about recovery without the expense of needing to hire in-house.

What is Fact-Based Consulting?

However, organisations need to remember that there are different approaches when it comes to consulting. Traditional methodology involves a top-down approach, where the client will articulate a need or problem and consultants will make a judgement as to their opinion of the issue, gathering information and evidence to support this hypothesis. This approach may work for certain issues, but many factors are not taken into consideration and there is also the possibility that it may not identify the real problem, or find the root cause of the issue that needs to be addressed for the problem to be adequately solved.

Fact-based consulting on the other hand uses a somewhat different tactic.
This methodology is based on a bottom-up approach, and gathers facts before making judgements and assertions. Many different aspects are addressed, and facts are gathered from various facets of an organisation to conduct a root cause analysis that drills down into a problem or issue and offers a far deeper level of granularity. This approach finds the reasons at the heart of a problem, what is motivating a problem, driving behaviours and so on, and offers a more complete picture to help solve issues at the start.

For example, a company may be experiencing high levels of staff turnover. A traditional consulting approach may go in and judge that the problem is that staff are unhappy with their pay and as a result are seeking employment elsewhere, which may indeed be the case. A fact-based consulting approach, however, will drill into the problem, and may discover that staff are unhappy with the lack of flexibility of working hours and find the physical work environment unpleasant, and as a result are leaving the organisation.
These two approaches can turn up very diverse results that give differing solutions to the same problem.

Fact-based consulting uses information and facts gathered from organisations and the people who work within them, giving insight into why problems occur.
It also gives companies the ability to benchmark themselves against similar organisations, and quantify recommendations compared to leading practice across the country and the planet. It is a very precise form of consulting that factors in all of the complexities and dynamics within an organisation, offering a multi-dimensional view into problems that can help address these issues in a complete and accurate fashion.

Choosing a consultancy partner

When it comes to choosing a consultancy firm to partner with to assist with ICT and business challenges the decision is often based on existing relationships and past experiences. However, this may be a flawed approach as existing suppliers may not be the most effective choice for certain projects, and some suppliers may be biased towards products they are affiliated with rather than providing an objective opinion and offering independent results.

When selecting a consulting partner, organisations should buy a specific outcome, not the time it takes to achieve this. A reputable consultancy firm should offer a quote for an outcome, and in this way will strive to achieve this outcome in the most economical time period possible.

Other factors to examine include the expertise and experience of the firm, as well as its track record in similar projects. The skills and specialisations of a firm will go a long way towards helping companies choose the right partner for a specific project, and referrals and recommendations from colleagues and other organisations can also be beneficial. The most important thing to do is to look for a specialist in the field a company needs, and to bear in mind that while a small one man consultancy may appear attractive on price, often these businesses do not have the resources to provide the highest possible levels of service.

Consulting is a useful model to help organisations bring in skills on a short term basis to assist companies in overcoming problems and creating change within the business. A fact-based consultancy can deliver many benefits with its bottom-up approach, helping enterprises to understand the root cause of problems and address these effectively to create an efficient, effective and above all profitable organisation.


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