Benefits of Independence

Some companies with major programmes to be carried out may look to contract a management consultancy or their Systems Integrator to manage the work. But there are risks associated with this approach.

The big consultancies have huge overheads, in marketing, brand promotion, corporate communications, staff training, and so on. But they still mainly sell people. Although they work hard to create 'products' to market mixed packages of skills to their clients, the core product is still nevertheless people - the skills and experience of individual consultants.

An independent consultant, or one from a small consultancy, can offer exactly the same skills, but at perhaps half the price. Furthermore, since the Enron affair, the impartiality of a large consultancy has been called into question. These companies inevitably seek to grow their role within a client's organisation, by picking up substantial further contracts on the basis of their advice. This puts pressure on their staff to influence client decisions in favour of the consultancy.

Furthermore, there are also risks in deploying internal staff to such a role. Firstly, this will need to be a senior employee, who in stepping out of an operational role, is in an insecure position once the programme is complete. Secondly, any existing member of the company will have both good and bad relationships with other departments and managers, and will certainly be party to internal politics, which may influence how the role is discharged.

Similarly, for any changes to the approach for Marketing, there will be existing intellectual investment by the current team which will inevitably colour their judgement and make it harder for them to take an objective view. An outside consultant can come in unencumbered by preconceptions and make a more honest assessment of the best way forward, and will often reinvigorate the existing team in the process.

You need someone who can stand outside company politics or supplier pressures, in order to act wholly in the company's best interests, not in their employer's or indeed their own.

An independent consultant can be seen to be impartial, acting in the best interests of their client, not of their employer or of themselves.