According to recent research data, the UK management consultancy market is currently worth around £7 billion a year and it doesn’t look like that’s about to take a nosedive any time soon. Businesses in the UK are used to buying the specialist services that consultancies provide and it can often be a more cost/time effective way to solve very specific problems.
One area of consultancy that’s on the rise right now and is likely to become one of the dominant sectors in the near future, is data consultancy. Everyone is talking about data and how understanding it can make a measurable difference to the performance of most areas of a business, but because it’s considered to be relatively new, managers and professional buyers can find it hard to make informed decisions about which companies to buy services from.
Buying services is very different from buying products, mostly because outcomes can be unpredictable and if you’re a professional services buyer, or manager who’s responsible for spending your department’s budget wisely, it’s highly likely that your risk radar goes into overdrive when you’re dealing with the unknown.
So, how can you effectively assess the suitability of a data analytics consultancy and reduce the risk of making a bad purchasing decision on behalf of your company? What can you do to evaluate the likelihood of a positive outcome and move towards a position of increased certainty before you commit to hiring a consultancy firm?
The obvious starting point is to look at the work that the consultancy team has undertaken before, as this will give you an idea about their capabilities. When it comes to data related consultancy though, this may not always be possible and here’s why: Consultancies that work with data to solve problems and produce positive outcomes, often work on many different types of projects and may not have direct experience of your particular issue.
That doesn’t mean they can’t produce the right outcome for you, just that because their services are capable of fixing so many problems, you may have to find another way to determine their suitability to successfully manage your particular project. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this…
Sounds obvious, but it’s important to look at the services that data consultancies are offering, so you can decide if they may be a good fit for your project. You may be able to discount companies based on their areas of expertise, or the services they offer. Look at as many consultancy websites as you need, until you narrow it down to 6. Then you can decide on your top 3 and begin to have conversations with those companies first.
It’s not enough to simply invite consultancies to pitch into your problem. You’ll have to be prepared to exchange a lot of information in order to communicate the project scope to any potential suppliers and it’s highly likely that you’ll need to have multiple conversations to figure out whether a consultancy can help you, or not. This also gives you an opportunity to assess how good the supplier is at listening to your requirements, as well as how well they are interpreting your needs.
What else do the consultancies bring to a project that’s above and beyond the brief? You may find this information on their website, but it’s more likely that this will reveal itself during the initial conversations. As a professional buyer, you want to get the most value for money, without compromising the outcome, or quality of work delivered. Deciding upfront what value added markers could be important to your company, will give you a start. If the added value isn’t obvious from the initial conversations, ask the consultancies to provide you with that information.
What I mean by this, is that it’s unlikely that a sales person is going to understand the scope of the project to the degree you’ll need and you definitely won’t want to talk to multiple layers of employees before you get to talk to someone who knows what they’re doing. You’ll need to be dealing with someone who’ll actually be working on your project from day 1, so if that’s not possible, maybe that consultancy isn’t right for you. A top class consultancy will have partners, or professionals who not only delivers the work, but also understand how to guide a potential client through the buying process. Don’t waste time speaking to people who merely book appointments.
In conclusion, in order to successfully purchase the services of a reputable data consultancy, you’ll need to do your usual due diligence exercises, but also be prepared to roll your sleeves up and engage in some meaningful discussions. Giving potential suppliers the best chance of providing you with solutions that work, will depend of the level of detail you can work out between you.
You can use this process to not only add detail your project scope, but also as a means of assessing how the consultancies respond to an evolving situation. There really shouldn’t be an off-the-shelf solution, so beware of those companies that are trying to sell you one without really listening to what it is you need.
On that note, the final word would have to be to choose a consultancy that allows you to buy, rather than insists on selling to you. With some guidance on what’s possible, your company will know what it needs from any professionals it decides to hire in, so only work with those companies that help you make informed decisions.