In today’s ever-demanding world, with the growing pace of change and expectations being placed on you by your manager and senior executives, there is an increasing need to do more with less. One of the biggest challenges you face is trying to meet those expectations, get more done yet ensure it is completed with the right focus and to an appropriate level of quality.
You could always reach out to your teams, but in most instances, they are down to their bare bones, and after cuts and reorganizations everyone is trying to do more with less. As a result, many try and do things alone, end up working a ridiculous number of hours and if they do not fail then they quickly burn out. The key is realizing that help is available and you do not need to do it alone.
In many cases, you clearly will not know everything, so it important to be able to access key information and be aware of the latest trends, technologies, regulations and laws. Many leading business writers have noted that it is wise to surround yourself with good people. In addition to people within your organization having an external contact can provide fresh perspective, which is unbiased and tarnished by company history and politics. In such situations, a popular choice is to leverage a consultant and the key is understanding how to effectively use them.
What to watch out for
A lot of times consultants get a bad rap. They are seen as young upstarts, who charge exorbitant fees telling you what you already know. Clients have also complained that consultants are looking to bring in a whole army of people, who are charging you to learn about your business and industry. While, this might have been the case in the past, today customers are becoming savvier and are looking for clear, measurable value. Many times, the client will ask the consultant to do an assessment, understand the areas of opportunity, expect a clear measurable business case for several of the key opportunities and hold the consultant accountable to the value they say they will provide.
The consultant might base their fees on the business case and ask for a small portion of the value provided. This can be good for you as the consultant clearly has more skin in the game. If fees are value based it is recommended to clearly define a framework where there is no ambiguity in the value being provided and how it can be determined. As many times, this can be a major source of contention. In certain extreme situations, this has even gone to court where a judge has had to mediate over the value provided and the fees that need to be paid.
Clients are also ensuring they clearly define the expected deliverables as well as meet with the actual team that does the delivery before any contract is signed. This is to avoid the situation where senior leaders sell the work and then junior team members deliver it with the senior leader showing up, once a week or even once a month.
How a consultant can help
The consultant will be able to work full time on the activity devoting at least 40 hours a week to it and can really move it forward, while you at best might be able to give it 1 to 5 hours. As this will be the consultant’s primary focus, then the appropriate level of planning and background analysis with detailed evaluation of all key options will be performed. They will also be able to provide the required status reporting and updates which you can use to communicate to senior leadership. In addition, a good consultant brings deep industry and cross-industry knowledge, providing best practices and out of the box thinking to you.
What areas are most appropriate to leverage a consultant? Generally, do not use a consultant for running the day to day operations, not unless they are very familiar with the industry and have more experience than you and your team. Ideally, leverage them in areas which are not a core competence:
- Strategy & Vision – Determine the direction and scope of the business unit / organization over the long term.
- Target Operating Model and Roadmaps – Enable the strategy and vision to the given business or operation with the steps and stages of how to get there.
- Business Process Optimization and Design – Leverage best practices to improve current state processes and create new future state processes.
- Domain Expertise – This can be a given solution e.g. supply chain, digital, enterprise architecture or a specific industry such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, etc.
- Disruptive technologies and processes – Clearly define what they are and how they can be leveraged, e.g. big data, internet of things, block chains, etc.
- Governance, Program Management and Implementation – Set up a committee and framework to establish policies as well as ensure projects follow a defined methodology, through appropriate checkpoints, producing the required deliverables, on time and within budget.
- Custom Software Development – Build customized solutions to support current and future business processes and operations.
In today’s dynamic, ever-demanding work place, remember you do not have to do things alone. Leverage a consultant to keep you updated on the latest trends, technologies and regulations as well as provide outside counsel allowing you to be a more effective leader, even giving you back time, quality of life and in many situations, help you move up the corporate ladder.