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1 Concept How to Choose a Consultant Introduction In many organisations consultants are used as a matter of course to provide specialised assistance to support both operational and transitional tasks. During periods of challenges, disruption or change, a broader range of organisations consider consultancy help. They are confronted by transition periods where expertise, experience or resources that they do not currently have are required. Consultants are not inexpensive. But the right consultant used properly can be a highly effective value proposition to any business making them much more cost effective than the alternatives. The decision making process around acquiring consultancy services can be daunting. Is a consultant needed? What does a quality, value for money consultant look like? Why Use a Consultant? In order to examine what the desirable traits of consultants are it is important to understand why they might be used. Organisations should consider using a consultant when they: lack the time and resources to devote to the task; do not have the skills, expertise, experience or methodology internally; require fresh eyes to be brought to a problem, new ideas or a second opinion; need an objective view; and/or would benefit from an external influence acting as a catalyst for change. It is important to note that consultants are not only useful for reviews and audits. Consultants can assist in: facilitating planning processes and plan development; development or provision of new organisational capabilities, processes, structures and personal team/individual capabilities; and reviewing, auditing and performing health checks on all aspects of organisations. Services can be provided though advisory/facilitation services, coaching or through structured projects. Each consultancy will have a detailed list of services Prominence s are provided on page 6 of this Concept document. Prominence Pty Ltd ABN PO Box 66 Taigum QLD 4018 T (07) Commercial- in- Confidence 2013 Prominence Pty Ltd All rights reserved

2 What to Look For? What should organisations look for in a consultant? Some aspects will come directly from the reasons for using a consultancy (above); others will arise from the requirements of specific projects and desirable characteristics of a consultancy an organisation would wish to work with. Common characteristics are outlined in the sections that follow. Objectivity Of high priority is typically the ability of a consultant to bring an objective view to a project. To do this usually requires: no or limited (objective) connections to the context or stakeholders of a project; the experience to remain objective through contact with stakeholders; the experience, skills and methodology to assess subjective usually qualitative information gathered; the tact and political astuteness to retain stakeholder trust in the consultant s objectivity throughout the project; no connection to commercial products that may form a part of recommendations or outcomes; and no overt and continuous efforts to upsell or sell additional consultancy services during the conduct of a project. Ability to Define Tasks and Set Clear Expectations Consultants can offer considerable value to the process of developing the terms of reference for a project. The experience and skills sought from a consultant to undertake a project are of equal value in developing the parameters for a project. Even if a terms of reference document has been developed internally a consultant should engage in a scoping process. During scoping experienced consultants can take a customer s objectives and through discussion and structured questioning: disassemble objectives into clear component objective points that clarify the requirement and establish distinct component areas that make scoping and project planning simpler; define the scope in terms of the physical areas of investigation (facilities, organisational structure and stakeholders); define the scope in terms of the informational requirements (business capabilities, doctrines, processes, policies, skills, perceptions, etc); specify the nature and degree of engagement with stakeholders required to gather information; detail engagement mechanisms required to monitor progress, share findings and develop outcomes; and specify deliverables, effort/days work, timeframes, milestones, resources, roles, responsibilities and investment. 2 of 7

3 The scoping process should develop a sound and shared understanding of the requirements for the project. The elements arising from a thorough scoping process should be evident in a proposal for consultancy services or a project plan. Experience and Expertise Consultancy is a product where the widget is the characteristics, expertise and experience inherent in the consultant or consultants actively working on the project. The information a consultant requires to deliver outcomes is rarely laid out in neat, quantifiable and verified evidence. Consultants need to assess a complex mix of documentary materials, personal perceptions and subject matter expert opinion as well as discerning the line between theory and practice. They need to facilitate the combination of diverging stakeholder opinions into cohesive data sets whilst minimising conflict and developing a context for consensus. Consultancy projects typically herald change and consultants must be experienced change practitioners so that change management can be integrated into a project from the beginning rather than left entirely to a later discrete and difficult change management program. The consultant on the ground dealing with the people in an organisation needs to be able to do all of these things. They need to have the combination of emotional intelligence and expertise that comes with experience. Consultancies that deploy junior personnel on the ground supervised by more remote senior consultants cannot deliver the requirements of quality consultancy work. Substantial Yet Lean Big brand consultancies are sometimes needed to justify outcomes that are going be judged in political, media and public arenas. Beyond this requirement quality consultancy cannot be judged by the opulence of inner- city offices. Consultancy service delivery is hands- on, interactive and personal. Luxury can be viewed as a measure of success but also as a measure of the ability to overcharge or maintain higher margins off less experienced resources deployed for delivery. So how can the substance of a consultancy be judged? Several factors may be considered: longevity how long have they been in business? history what sort of organisations have they worked for and what was the scale and scope of the projects? quality of people how experienced and skilled are their consultants? depth do they have sufficient consultants to cover contingencies? quality of systems do they have Quality endorsed systems, processes and substantial methodologies? relationship management do they engage and share information with customers between projects? structured approach do they have a structured and engaging approach to assessing requirements, proposing services and delivering projects? 3 of 7

4 Structured Approach Consultancies offering a structured approach in their service delivery offer many benefits to their customers including: customers can understand, assess and question the level of diligence and what will happen before they buy it; the consultancy and the customer have a shared understanding and expectation of the way forward and the requirements in resources, time and investment; project management, roles, responsibilities and progress reporting can be defined and aligned to the planned approach to minimise uncertainty, issues and delays; and key milestones and points of engagement can be used to assess progress and to drive and collectively contribute to the development of outcomes. It is important to note that consultancies will often offer highly structured approaches with many phases and stages but it is the engagement model in the approach that is important (see also Engaged in the Process below). An approach that has a sound engagement model will have the consultant working with the organisation in a shared drive to outcomes. Engaged in the Process Whatever the nature of a consultancy project the process and outcomes need to be owned by the organisation. Have stakeholders been appropriately engaged during the project? Do key stakeholders understand what information has been collected before outcomes are developed? Have consultants tested concepts that may be used in solution design with key stakeholders? Have outcomes been tested with key stakeholders before they are committed to a written report? The careful design of engagement: meeting with individuals, small group meetings, workshops, sharing gathered information, and the sharing of concepts and potential outcomes with key stakeholders for feedback during a project builds powerful and owned outcomes. Engagement during solution development is also a powerful element of successful change management. These aspects of engagement should be part of a consultant s methodology and tailored to meet the nature of each project. Outcomes Focussed Some projects have very clear and quantifiable deliverables whereas for many others the nature of the project means that the exact nature of deliverables content cannot be foreseen at commencement. For this reason a considerable part of the deliverables should be the consultancy process itself is the process one that the organisation is comfortable with? The process should also be outcomes focussed, engaging people and verifying information and outcomes development with stakeholders during the project. In this way the pathway to outcomes is mutually shared and understood by the consultant and the customer and expectations on each side can be constantly maintained no surprises. 4 of 7

5 Even when deliverables can be clearly defined at project commencement, an engaged process ensures that any changing circumstances, barriers and issues causing variations are shared and understood during the project. In all cases, where outcomes are owned and fully understood implementation of change becomes easier. The most successful projects occur where the scoping process, plans, methodology and engagement model are aligned so that the consultant s experience and expertise can be focussed on working with the organisation to build outcomes. Critical Issues Consultants can be an efficient, effective value proposition for dealing with transitional, transient or specialised tasks within any organisation. The challenge is identifying a consultancy that fits with the organisation and has the characteristics that makes them engaging, substantial and reliable to work with. Critical issues are: understand the breadth of services that consultants can offer and keep these in mind when undertaking change; understand clearly what the organisation requires from a consultant specialised expertise, additional resources, objective view or a change catalyst; organisations should carefully consider and develop project objectives, however the expertise and experience a consultant brings to the delivery of a project can be invaluable in assisting the design of a project; consultants should have the skill to disassemble general objectives into clear components and help define the scope, resourcing, and deliverables of the project so that there are clear shared expectations for project conduct and outcomes; objectivity does not just mean bringing in a person from outside. Experience and expertise is required to maintain objectivity when gathering views, assessing information and negotiating the sometimes politics- ridden path to outcomes; the primary product for a consultancy is the individual and collective expertise and experience of its consultants. This needs to be brought to bear on the ground where interviews, workshops, meetings and other project activities are occurring. Consultancies that deploy relatively inexperienced consultants to key engagement activities in a project are not offering the best product delivery model; consultancies with expensive offices and other luxury overheads pay for these with the fees they charge these overheads may be a measure of the substance of a business but may also be indicative of their ability to overcharge or maintain higher margins on less experienced consultants deployed for delivery; measure how substantial a consultancy is by factors such as longevity, history, quality of consultants, quality of systems/processes/methodologies and their ability to maintain relationships with customers between projects; 5 of 7

6 an important deliverable that is often overlooked is the methodology and process of outcome delivery itself. Organisations should buy an approach that defines the project clearly, engages to defined shared expectations and develops mutually owned outcomes; and both the consultant and the organisation need to be outcomes focussed. For many consultancies the nature of a project may mean that the deliverables are unclear or subject to findings uncovered during the project. The project definition, planning, methodology and engagement model with stakeholders must all work in concert guided by the expertise and experience of consultants on the ground to strive at all times for outcomes that answer the objectives. Prominence has delivered consultancy services to the public and private sectors since 2003 and has a diverse and highly experienced team of consultants. Key consultancy services include developing strategy, governance and business planning, assessing and building corporate capability and managing people and change. Advisory services, coaching and skilled contracting resources can also be provided. The Prominence website provides more detailed information about Prominence s consulting services and people. A summary of services is provided below. Developing strategy, governance and business planning Strategic planning, facilitation and framework development Business and operational planning facilitation and framework development Marketing strategies and planning Governance reviews Board/Executive Management Team facilitation and development Assessing and building corporate capability Organisation design and restructures Organisational reviews and health checks Program and service evaluations Process/service delivery optimisation and outsourcing capability assessment and development Business process development and continuous improvement, advice, reviews and training Assessment of the requirement or suitability of IT systems to business needs Branding Risk management and assurance and reviews OGC Gateway Reviews Quality management implementation and audits Knowledge and information management Communication strategy development, audits and reviews Digital and social media communications, tool development Document production management WH&S strategy, policy, safety management system design, audits and reviews Managing people and change Executive and corporate coaching (individuals and teams) Leadership and management development Facilitation services Individual and organisational profiling HR policies and procedures Performance management (Board, Executives, employees) Workforce and succession planning Organisation culture frameworks Employee engagement assessments Change readiness assessment Change management Courseware development Corporate and professional writing Corporate positioning and reputation management Interim management and operational resources Prominence s methodology has elements that are carefully designed to provide numerous engagement points with the organisation during a project. This allows for productive participation by the organisation s personnel to build project ownership, allow stakeholders to understand the process and create the optimal state for acceptance of project outcomes. 6 of 7

7 Other Prominence Documents Further information regarding Prominence can be obtained using the contact details below. The following Profiles are available upon request. Prominence consulting services profile. Prominence document production investigation profile. Panel Arrangement Profiles for Federal, State and Local Government and Government Owned Corporations. The following Concept documents are also available: Change management Targeted surveys and information gathering Document production environment design The paperless office? Business processes: reengineer or improve? Knowledge management Managing processes Client focus Processes, standards, benchmarks and best practices Organisational measurement Flexible processes Usability Determining the scope of a review Knowledge, performance, innovation and risk Simplicity Challenging times Business process management Considering change Organisational health checks The role of the project sponsor Organisational structure design Building project ownership Building capability through skills transfer Usable business plans The benefits of austerity Communication Leadership, management and culture Employee engagement Middle management challenges The useable organisation Issue and Crisis Management Contact Us p a PO Box 66 Taigum Q 4018 w e 7 of 7

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