In the past three to four decades, management consulting as a profession has gained momentum and some of the primary reasons for the growth has been, access to expert knowledge and flexibility of getting solution to a problem without adding human resource.
Management consulting is a dynamic knowledge driven industry and the outlines of the industry is changing very fast based on development of technological solutions.
Though to an outsider, it may look to be a highly remunerative, only a consultant in the management consulting industry will know the challenges.
The challenges commonly noticed are related to, team coordination /composition, scope creeping, ethics in project, ego in project, change in management etc.
A detailed narration is covered below-
The client’s lack of understanding of the management consulting methods requiring frequent dispute
In my experience I have many times faced situations when the client team does not understand the consultant’s role and as a result much time is wasted in the process. In some complicated cases there may be multiple stakeholders either from within or outside.
2. Sales and delivery or execution team acting independently with their own agenda resulting
A big source of dispute in a management consultancy organisation sometimes becomes the lack of coordination between sales and delivery time. There could be varied reasons and some of the reasons are,
I. Both the teams work independently with different contradicting agendas. While the sales team may be willing to accept an assignment in order to achieve targets and or getting some additional earning by way of incentive, the delivery team most often suffer due to such improper decisions. However, in lot many consulting organisations, the responsibility of getting business and executing them is assigned on the same team.
Ii. The sales team is not suitably experienced to understand the execution criticalities and thus tend to make wrong deal
3. Scope creeping resulting into additional work without pay
Scope creeping is related to deviation from the accepted scope resulting in additional efforts. This is a terrible issue that may happen in any management consulting assignment and becomes the responsibility of the project manager to resolve.
Imagine a case where during negotiation the client agrees on a scope and based in the agreed scope the fee is arrived at. Now the client management negotiates heavily and you accept a hefty discount in anticipation of future business – a question of probability. After all this, the client team increases your scope without accepting fee increase! And what will be the fate of the project? Financial loss, potential change in the team composition and skill set requirement, face off with the client etc.
Such a conflicting situation may drastically increase in cases involving multi party dealings.
Now what is the solution? The simple solutions are,
I. Define the scope and methodology in as clear term as possible and get it accepted by all the parties
Il. Make it sure to the client that the fee is based on the accepted scope and it will change is the scope challenges. In case additional fee is not acceptable to the client/s, the scope will remain unchanged.
Iii. Prepare an exclusion list and get it accepted by the client
4. Venturing into areas where the consultant do not have any experience
Normally an experienced consultancy or consultant is aware of the limitations. However, in certain cases the sales organisation may accept a scope which is not in core domain.
For example, a consultancy without any experience in road sector accepts to undertake a traffic modelling- without a subconsultant. Or a financial consultancy firm accepts undertaking a fixed asset valuation exercise-again without a subconsultant.
If these additional scope acceptances are based on growth strategies, I presume that it will be suitably strategize. Otherwise, it can have harmful effect on the organisation.
5. Looking for unwanted information and of higher depth that is not relevant for the assignment
A peculiar problem many times noted is over starting the need for documents or information. It can sometimes be more harmful than understating the document/ information requirement, because while understating may tend to cause gap in the assessment, due to collection of unwanted documents, certain issues may appear
I. The project team may sit with excess data requiring excess time in data analysis. Any such additional time is directly proportional to cost and timeline
Ii. The client may expect analysis of such data, which the consultant completely overlook.
Iii. Excess data also cause added data security issue.
6. Change in team composition
Typically for a long duration project, change in the team member primarily due to attrition is common. Additionally in the project lifecycle many times it is found that person with a specific skill set may be required in another project- where it is a pressing requirement. I have seen projects underperforming due to such resource issues.
Managing such issues and ensuring continued quality output will surely satisfy a client. A demanding client may sometimes reject changes in a midway. However, if the replacement can be done scientifically with a proper skill set and experience matching, client satisfaction can be ensured.
7. The consultants working for vested interests with unethical behaviour
This is slightly tricky as the definition of ethical behaviour may mean differently to different people – though it is not as difficult to understand. Consider the following cases,
I. A consultant ask his client to make a travel arrangement for his family
Ii. The consultant is given a ceremonious welcome and 5 star + treatment, which the consultant is not normally entitled to.
Iii. The client sends a costly gift to the consultant
Iv. The consultant accepts unhealthy night life from the client.
In all such cases, the professional values are potentially tend to be compromised, either immediately or in due course.
For a project to understand such issues becomes difficult. However, if alert and maintains regular touch with the client, it is not so difficult either.
8. The consultant not up to date in his knowledge
Any knowledge industry is dynamic and consultancy is no exception. A client may accept the consultant’s view if (i) is scientifically driven and (ii) a suitable example can be set.
Hence, a consultant have to be up to date with his knowledge and an effective project manager should encourage such initiatives of his team.
9. Client and consultant on ego clash
Very rare, but it happens. The client may think that they are supreme because they have appointed the consultant, while the consultant may feel that the client’s behaviour is unacceptable.
After all, the projects are driven by human being and emotional issues can happen any time. A project manager should keep his temperament cool and try to look at issues objectively. It is practical to manager ego related issues through discussion. Even sometimes shunting out such employees in other areas may be beneficial for long term relation.
10. Change in Management or change in the priorities of the client
There was one case in the African continent, where after the team of consultants reached the client office, it was found that management control was taken over by the opponents.
The result, the client cancelled the order and even demanded refund.
A good project manager in such case should first look at ‘health, safety and security ‘ of the consultant and decide on an action plan.