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The business model of management consultancies has long been based on sending intelligent "outsiders" into clients' organizations, for a limited time and with a mandate to successfully solve the most pressing problems of client companies. Like many other professional services, which mainly draw on people’s knowledge, the consulting industry is rather opaque.

The difficulty of assessing a consultant’s quality

It is incredibly difficult for client companies which are seeking external advice to assess the performance and quality of different consulting firms in advance. Among other reasons, this is because external consultants are often sought to solve problems that are not yet well defined by the client companies and external consultants are hired to overcome the lack of internal knowledge. Sometimes even the proof of quality after execution of projects causes difficulties, because the performance of an assigned consultant depends on various criteria and also on external factors which can influence the results of consulting projects. There is sometimes almost no other option as to rely on the brand, reputation or other factors such as "sales skills" or persuasive performance of a consulting firm as a substitute for measurable quality.

The desire for differentiation

However, there are also visible signs that the consulting market - on both the client and provider side - is undergoing significant change. This is due to a variety of factors that have led to that client companies pay more attention to consulting spend in general, have become more professional in purchasing consulting services, and increasingly demand more and more flexible consulting services at competitive prices. In order for consulting companies to be able to cope with these new customer realities, they have to adapt their offerings accordingly. We are talking about innovative business models of the large consulting firms which are now acting as "one-stop shops", the emergence of alternative consulting providers - "spurred" also by new technologies - as well as the broadening of the range of services offered by numerous specialized boutique consultants. Competition among consulting providers is increasing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between the services offered by the various consulting firms and "types of consulting" in the eyes of customers.

When everyone is doing the same....

When the brand reputation of a consulting firm is no longer sufficient as a proxy for quality and the portfolio of professional services offered is no longer differentiating, consulting firms must increasingly rely on other instruments that allow them to stand out from the competition. The emergence of various consulting rankings, awards, certifications and "recommendation portals" is an outflow of this need for more transparency, differentiation and quality indicators on the consulting market. Notably, this need arises both from clients and consultants. Although all instruments pursue the same goal of increasing transparency, differentiation and decision security for customers, the current rankings and awards for consulting companies have the disadvantage that all of them provide certain quality statements, but their underlying methods, survey samples and contents are very different. That’s why it’s possible that the same consulting company might achieve different rankings dependent on different quality measurement methodologies and thus the comparability of different rankings is made more difficult.

Reliable quality measurements

In order to close the existing information gaps of client companies about the quality of services offered on the consulting market and to provide consulting companies with an effective differentiation tool, a quality measurement instrument is needed that takes into account the most important performance characteristics for the quality of consulting services. The 'cap - cardea audited performance' quality hallmark addresses these points. Crucial for being awarded with the quality hallmark cap - cardea audited performance are proven achievements in specific fields of competence which are assessed by clients along the most relevant quality features. On the one hand, these quality features refer to project success factors, and on the other hand, to the performance of the respective experts and consultants who were involved in these projects.

Quality proof as a marketing instrument

Thus, suitable and credible proof of quality can also be used to market consulting services. "Award ceremonies" which are designed to come across well in the media and consulting companies which "collect" and “decorate themselves” with numerous awards are visible evidence of this. Reliable certificates have an additional quality in this context: they offer a holistic view, measure the right things and provide not only selective but comprehensive quality assurance with regard to the end customers.

Cardea AG

Author Since:  December 4, 2020

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