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15/06/2016 Back

Value of Consultants in Times of Consulting 4.0: It's not the what, but the how

It's widely known that determining the value of consultants is a difficult task. A survey of clients conducted by Source Global Research reveals clients' views about value to be far more complex than you might imagine.

Value vs. quality

To determine the value of a consulting engagement one usually draws on two dimensions: The first question revolves around whether clients believe that they get more than the pay in fees. The second question is how clients see the quality of work delivered by the consultants. It seems reasonable to assume that quality and value of a consultant's work are closely related: If quality is seen to be high, also the value is perceived to be high. According to the study by Source Global Research, however, clients who are unimpressed with quality and impressed with value crop up time and again. So maybe one has to look for additional answers about what drives positive perceptions of value in the eyes of clients.

Differentiation in terms of the "how"

We have already written about that consulting services are not only differentiated in the eyes of clients through the "what" (i.e. the skills and expertise) but increasingly through the soft factors relating to the interaction or collaboration between the client and a consultant (http://www.consultingsearcher.com/eng/Cardea-competence-centre/Marketing-for-consultants/Tool-Box-Service-Differentiation-Positioning). This is now also confirmed by the above mentioned survey. Clients are most likely to be more positive about the consultants' responsiveness and flexibility, the speed at which they deliver and overall corporate culture. That tells little about how good the work done by these firms is, but a lot about what it’s like to work with them, about roles, delivery models and consulting approaches. That these factors gain importance over the "hard" (expertise-based) Facts is also because these days in times of Consulting 4.0, the consulting landscape is far more porous, with firms’ expertise blurring across consulting lines. Part of this is about the impact of digital and the growing pervasiveness of technology across all business issues. It’s forcing CIOs and IT directors to the forefront of strategic decisions—and questions of technology onto clients more used to thinking about pure strategy.

Measuring the value of a consultant

If one has to measure the value of a consultant it's necessary to take a broader view on a varied set of factors which have an impact on the consultants' performance: From "project performance" which measures goal achievement and value to cost ratio, to "consulting performance" which measures skills and expertise of the consultants as well as the soft factors of what it’s like to work with them and to client satisfaction and recommendation rate. (http://www.consultingsearcher.com/eng/Cardea-competence-centre/Management-of-consultants/Measuring-the-Value-of-Consultants). It’s looking increasingly like that clients get that sense from what it’s like to work with the consultants, rather than simply the quality of their work. And as Edward Haigh is putting it: "...the answer to what drives perceptions of value was known as long ago as 1982, and by Bananarama of all people: It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it. And that’s what gets results. (http://www.consultant-news.com/article_display.aspx?ID=16681).