PracticeConsultingConsultancy: For the sake of the taxpayer …

Consultancy: For the sake of the taxpayer ...

The public sector has been 'the place' for consultants to do their most regular and profitable work over the past few years. Whether this has involved strategy work, or IT-based offerings, the government has pretty much single-handedly kept the consulting industry afloat in recent times.

Despite this, an impending sense of doom hovers over high-profile public sector contracts taken on by consultants and IT services providers. And there is good reason for this.

Layers of bureaucracy and lack of project guidance have led many deals, such as the tax credits system debacle, or some of Capita’s public sector contracts, to acrimonious and expensive failure – leaving both the government and service providers red-faced.

The Management Consultancies Association does its best to drive up standards among its members, but naturally looks after the interests of its own. However Lynton Barker, MCA chairman, is very aware of the importance of its members doing more than just a good job. He wants them to meet and then push beyond current best practice.

Barker cites NHS head of IT, Richard Granger, as a model of how the public sector can get the best out of consultants and IT firms. ‘I have seen big firms with a large contract behind them replicating Richard’s work, striving to deliver, drive up standards and improve the way they operate,’ Barker recently told sister publication Management Consultancy.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Cranfield School of Management’s new think-tank – Nexus – can also help to drive change in the way the public and private sectors, and consultants, approach projects. By treating technology as a mere ‘enabling tool’, it rightly focuses on the most important area of any project and its success: the ‘human factor’.

It also boasts an impressive cast for its launch, including the likes of AstraZeneca, BT, Microsoft, as well as the Rural Payments Agency and West Midland Police.

Only time will tell whether this particular project fails or succeeds, but on behalf of all taxpayers, I wish them luck.

  • Kevin Reed edits the consultancy page for Accountancy Age.

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