Clients branded “short-termist”

Businesses may not be making the best use of management consultants, with the majority still employing them strictly for short-term situations rather than strategic work, according to a survey by consultancy Quest Worldwide.

What is Management Consulting?, which questioned 1,500 UK business managers, suggests that the consultancy business is polarising into two sectors: the short-term assignment and the more strategic, long-term project.

All the respondents had used consultants and thought they were valuable on short-term problems, M&As, buyouts and overcoming organisational inertia.

But few saw them as advisors on growth or implementors of business strategy.

And, according to Dr Steve Smith, chief executive of Quest, this is where the greatest value lies for users of consultancy.

The public profile of many consultants, in terms of global capabilities and breadth of industry and functional experience, did not appear to measure up to the requirements of global organisations. “Many big organisations are not finding it easy to locate the type of skills that can help them most,” said Smith.

The survey identified some misunderstanding about which type of consultant to employ for which kind of project but most respondents would use consultants again. However, they thought that the title “management consultant” could be misleading. Said one: “People fly under the same banner from board-level strategic to low-level technical or functional input. It pays to be very selective, but can bring real value.” Respondents put objectivity and best practice top of their list of criteria, followed by integrity and business understanding and challenge.

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