5 Advantages Your Management Consultant Has That You Don’t
Most company executives and managers know as much and are as smart as consultants. Why then, are they drawn to consulting firms or online consulting platforms?
Many business leaders and executives come from a consulting background. Most have some form of business management education and training – they certainly have business experience. Generally, they can solve the complex business and organizational problems besetting their organizations. So, why don’t they?
Possibly the most important reason is that they are too busy to do what is important. Sad, but true. Solving complex issues takes skills and know-how – but it also takes dedicated time. This is something most managers don’t have. On the other hand, consultants have their time to sell and can dedicate 100% of it to your problem if need be.
Smart managers also know that they may be too close to the problem, and an outside objective view might be better. Some can deal with most of the problem but need specialized skills to deal with a part of it. And sometimes, they are faced with an issue that is new to them. Or the business environment around them is changing too rapidly for their organizations to keep up. Therefore, they turn to consultants, including those on freelance and online consulting platforms.
Consultants may not know more than you, but they have some advantages over you. The first is that they have the time to focus on an issue. I’ve described another four below.
No Preconceived Ideas
Typically, if you are the client, you will outline the problem as you see it, the change you want implemented, or the result you foresee.
At the beginning of a project, consultants will spend time getting to know your business. They may be going through documents, records and reports, interviewing key employees and even suppliers or customers, running surveys, getting information on comparable organizations, trying to understand the problem from your point of view. In essence, they will be asking questions, questions, questions.
And this is possibly where your consultant has an advantage. A consultant doesn’t know your organization and has not decided up front what the problem or the solution is.
Bringing a fresh pair of eyes and ears to an organization uncovers things that may not be obvious to those who are too close. A consultant will look at an organization holistically and try to understand the impact of one part on another. So, what you had identified as a sales issue might very well turn out to be something in manufacturing or logistics.
Of course, there is content knowledge and technique involved here, but the most significant advantage is having a completely open mind at the start.
Telling the Story Behind the Data
Consultants work with data. This may be big data requiring AI or advanced computer skills. But, generally, it is just lots of data – information gleaned from a variety of sources.
They will work carefully through the steps to analyze and define the problem. They might apply a wide range of analytical tools and techniques, use models and frameworks to make sense of the elements and then present their findings in a mathematical, computer, or visual format.
And this translates into the 3rd advantage for consultants: they combine high-level analytical skills with exceptional communication skills.
It’s one thing to analyze data and draw inferences about connections, cause and effect or impact. It’s entirely another to make them understandable to a group of managers or executives in a way that enables them to make decisions about moving forward. This is particularly difficult when the consultant has a different interpretation of the situation from what the client initially had.
As Google’s Chief Economist, Dr Hal R Varian, predicted in 2009, “The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”
It is stated even more clearly by Stephen Few, Data Visualization Expert: “Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.”
Objective and Independent Opinions
Whether management consultants work for large firms or are part of the growing number of freelancers available through online consulting platforms, objectivity might be said to be their core value proposition.
One of the most challenging parts of consulting is building sufficient consensus and commitment across the organization so that the investigation is not seen as an inquisition, and the solution is not deemed impractical. Objectivity is essential to ensure collaboration and buy-in. It encourages listening, builds trust, and opens an array of choices, not constrained by being bought into preconceived interpretations. It especially encourages listening to those who seem resistant to the intervention, knowing that they may be a source of particularly important information.
Both Broader Perspective and Specialized Skills
Whether they are freelance or traditional, top management consultants can rely on their exposure to more organizations than just yours and have practical and theoretical case studies at their fingertips. I like the description that they are a Swiss army knife of solutions - they have the perspective from previous experiences and know what might apply to new problems.
Sometimes a company is looking for a generalist, but there is an increasing demand for specialist skills. The client may be a small or family-owned business in a niche market. However, large corporations are also breaking down their needs into more specific areas and want experts in particular business sections. As a result, they look for consultants with specialized experience, for example in digital transformation, customer service or supply chain.
Freelance consultants advertising their services on online consulting platforms have a distinct advantage here. Their CVs, specialist experience, and customer reviews are easily accessible to companies. Some online platforms even pre-screen consultants so that companies can be confident of their credentials.
This combination of broad perspective and specialist skills is the 5th advantage for consultants. And the online consulting marketplace makes it easy for companies to find exactly the right person for their needs.
So there you have it – some advantages that consultants have over in-house experts:
- Time to focus on the issue
- Not having preconceived interpretations of the problem
- Combining high-level analytical skills with exceptional communication ability
- Being independent and objective
- Having both a broad perspective and specialist skills
As I said at the start, even though many in-house managers and executives are well-equipped to deal with their problems, bringing in well-trained professionals from the outside has distinct advantages. With its online consulting platforms or freelance platforms, the online consulting marketplace has made finding the right person that much easier.