Scope of work

When I first joined consulting, I always wondered if we were being silly by specifying our consulting methodologies in the project proposals. If we could just clearly demarcate what we were going to do, and even the steps we will have to take, then what is stopping the client from doing it by themselves? Ultimately, it is a matter of the motivation behind the client hiring us.

A client might be hiring us to bridge the shortage of manpower; especially qualified manpower for the work that needs to be done. It could be a study or a report, but without the necessary staff with good contextual understanding, it would be difficult for them to find the information, put them together or generate relevant insights from them.

Or the client might be lacking the capability completely; even when they do have idling personnel, the overall company lacks a good understanding of the full subject matter at hand. And bringing in the consulting team helps to provide sufficient contexts for the management to decide subsequently whether to build up the capability internally.

Finally, the client may actually be engaging a consultant in order to get close to competition. This may particularly be the case when consultants are working for different players in the same industry. Of course, they ought to be independent but for certain neutral pieces of information, by hiring the same consultants you often ensure that you are accessing the same information. It’s almost a strategy for loss-prevention.

Ultimately though, you should be hiring consultants because you can’t do the work yourself, and should not imagine that you can. The challenge with the industry is that there are too many people willing to be labeled as consultants but just doing exactly what the client is specifying almost to the step that they hardly add much value. There’s a tension between having to maintain strong relationships with the paymasters while being sufficiently disagreeable in order to make sure the projects serve them rather than simply what they think they want.