Consultants; Wastage or Utility?

A consultant is an expert who gives advice. Almost all the big and many of the medium size companies hire consultants to give advice on many business processes. The major objective of hiring consultants is to leverage the full potential, enhance productivity, lower the costs and improving the quality. Is that really what happens due to the presence of consultants with fat salaries and benefits?

Consultants are a very different species. They are not the elixir for every problem and trouble. They wont make your enterprise, a paragon of six sigma in 15 days. Consultants are a luxury, which should be afforded in very specific, special (read emergency) and task oriented occasions. For example, if your company manages its information through Oracle database system, then don’t hire a full time consultant for it, hire a full time DBA, and only invite consultant when something really gets ugly and out of control.

But don’t involve consultants in day to day running of your affairs. They will mess up the things, and will result in a very degraded morale of your full time employees. Neil Hammond, head of IT of British Sugar, said: “If there is there a specific question you want tackled or a specific, well defined project you want undertaken then consultants can be very useful in order to supplement resource and skills or take an external perspective. But if they take over your strategic planning and program management then you’re in trouble–keep consultants on tap, not on top.”

Use consultants as consultant, as an expert who should be consultant on very rare occasion. Don’t go running to consultant upon every minor problem. Just keep them what they are; a consultant. Don’t make them an employee. This is where your full time employees can do best. Consultants are not for every thing. Don’t hire a single consultant for your every hitch. If a consultant can provide advice on databases, as well as on networking, and also on HR, and not to forget technical writing, then he is not a consultant. He might be the brother-in-law of your boss.

Janet Norman-Philips, head of e-government of South Norfolk Council, added: “The right consultant at the right time can save you a fortune and a pile of grief. On the other hand there are times when using a consultant is insane or, even worse, when the consultant you use is insane – then you are really in trouble.”

Yes, one of the top important thing is to know where to look for consultant when you need them. Keep their contacts intact and fresh. David Supple, head of IT and creative services of consultancy firm Ecotec defended his industry. He said: “The key is knowing what to ask for and knowing whether or not the knowledge and guidance you are asking for is good value for money in the first place–the management of consultants is a skill in its own right.”

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