May 13, 2011

HOW TO CHOOSE A CONSULTANT | Developing and Introducing Reward Management Processes

The golden rule in selecting consultants is to be absolutely clear in advance about what you want them to do. Objectives and terms of reference need to be defined as a basis for briefing any firms pitching for the assignment and, later, for monitoring progress. If there is a need but objectives need clarifying, commission a small 'scoping' project to set the direction more clearly.
To identify possible consultancies, look at professional registers (eg the Management Consultancies Association, CIPD, the Institute of Management Consultants) and talk to recent clients if you can. The comparative advantages of large or small firms needs to be considered. A large firm will have ample resources and back-up facilities. It will be able to tap a reservoir of experience and expertise. A smaller firm may be able to provide exactly the type of advice you need because it specializes in a particular area. It may also provide you with more individual attention.
Unless you are absolutely certain from personal knowledge that one firm is exactly right for you, it is always advisable to approach three or four different consultancies and get them to pitch for the job. Select firms on the basis of recommendations you can trust.
Give the consultants your terms of reference and any further information they need to prepare a proposal. Meet them to discuss the brief - you can get some measure of their ability by the speed and accuracy with which they size up your situation and the quality of the questions they ask. 'Chemistry' is also important; you can begin to assess whether you could work with them at this stage.
Always ask them to submit a written proposal which should set out:
  1. the terms of reference;
  2. their understanding of your situation and requirements;
  3. how they would carry out the assignment;
  4. what they would achieve: the benefits for your organization;
  5. how the assignment would be staffed;
  6. the proposed programme of work and who would do it;
  7. the cost of their fees quoted as daily or hourly rates and as a total based on their estimate of the length of the assignment. Make sure that this specifically includes or excludes fee increases in the pipeline and ask for an estimate of expenses.
In coming to your decision on which firm to select, the following points should be taken into account:
  1. The reputation of the firm - methodologies, ability to innovate.
  2. The initial impression they made, ie quality of consultants and 'chemistry'.
  3. The quality of their proposal with particular reference to:
    • the relevance of their proposed solutions;
    • the practicality of their proposals from the view of implementation;
    • the realism of the programme.
  4. The cost of the proposals in relation to their value.
When you have made your choice, confirm it in writing by reference to the proposal, subject to any modifications that have been agreed. If you want to be certain about the costs of the assignment and if you believe that the length of time estimated for completing it is reasonable, it may be worth agreeing a fixed price.


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