Why Use Short Term Consultants

A Commentary by CDD

Why would and organisation ever require special short-term consultants? 

Businesses often have to navigate uncertain waters and are subject to many types of adverse trading conditions. It may be possible to promote internal personnel, but an alternative strategy involves judicious use an external interim consultants.  Such events may include any of the following (even in combination): 

  • Departmental re-organisation
  • Maternity, parental leave, other caring responsibilities or extended staff illness
  • Support during transition of a critical role (CISO/CTO)
  • Programme/project reviews and re-direction
  • Countering serious cyberattack
  • Support in personnel re-distribution or integration
  • Support during programmes of change management
  • Stock market introduction, hostile take-overs or other share impacting events
  • Special independent investigations
  • Manage mergers, acquisitions and/or IT consolidation
  • Contesting compliance audits/fines, alleged criminality etc.
  • Temporary transitional support for a new department or group of recruits

Considerations Around establishment of the assignment

By calling in external expertise, firms avoiding internal problems such as inter-personal relationships or workload issues; external staff bring no baggage or axes to grind. In order to achieve a successful assignment, an external, independent consultant needs the following: 

  • Authority to act with full, immediate responsibility
  • Specific scope of deliverables
  • Measurable performance criteria
  • Specific period of the appointment
  • A specific mandate and reporting line to appropriate personnel or equivalent seniority
  • Budgetary control with appropriate corporate oversight
  • Specific qualification/authority to act
     

Professionally Qualified Consultants 

An interim assignment can last any calendar duration and may require equally indeterminate time commitment over that period. Such consultants will have a proven track record and a breadth of academic and commercial competence possibly beyond that necessary for the role, but that reflects their greater experience and circumspection. They may possess specialist skills that create their unique selling point and may well have cross-sector experience that provides the necessary depth of understanding.  They may be fully accountable for progressing and improving the technical and business situation or transition requested by the firm. The fresh professional perspective that external consultant bring to the problem space can be invaluable; alternative strategies and tactical possibilities are critical to a successful assignment.   

Speed and Agility is often a game-changer 

Assuming there is a clear scope and purpose for the assignment, the external interim consultant can be quickly onboarded and introduced to other stakeholders critical to the overall success of the delivery, especially where time is of the essence and rapid positive impact is important.  External consultants are adept at quickly learning and adapting to the culture and applying the most effective methods of navigation around a client's business, which can rapidly facilitate effective decision making.

Measurable performance criteria 

This ensures there is a focus on clear outcomes as opposed to career promotion or other motives that may be pursued by internal personnel. External consultants will be incentivised to structure their day efficiently especially as they need to be delivering measurable benefit from everything they do. Their specialist knowledge as past experience can immediately be put to good use and such positive impact can be immediately measurable where internal personnel may have failed to understand the pitfalls.  It is also critical that the consultant passes on skills and expertise to the personnel that may eventually be expected to operate alternative processes and systems. The skills transfer is a difficult benefit to quantify, but is a critical part of the overall benefit of using external specialists. 

The Benefits of Appointment Flexibility

Consultants can be expensive, and if you source from the big-four agencies (e.g. PWC, PA etc) the numbers can be huge!   However, good consultants with the right combination of skills need not be costly if exorbitant agency fees are avoided by going direct to them.  These costs have to be compared with the cost of promoting internal personnel, the employers NI, their training, holiday pay, sick pay and other packaged benefits.  Short term consultants are only paid when they work (in CDD's case, this time is broken down to 15minute blocks!) and there are no other addition charges arising beyond that arranged in the prevailing contract. There are no hidden fees and the payroll charges are therefore controlled.

In conclusion, we hope this provides some guidance and gives those with hiring responsibility greater confidence to act. 

 

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