Survey Reveals Executives Seeking Results-Oriented Consultants

In a first annual survey "Management Consulting in the USA 2003" eight of ten U.S. senior executives say they're looking for consultants to become more results-oriented and to deliver more quantifiable outcomes.

66% say they're pressing consultants to complete projects in shorter timeframes. 68% suggest that management consultants should be held legally responsible for their advice and actions.

All surveyed companies operate within the energy, manufacturing, financial services, processes, infrastructure and fast moving consumer goods industries and have annual revenues in excess of $500 million and 500+ employees.

Respondents were senior managers responsible for hiring external management consultants. Interviewees included CEOs - 28% of base, CFOs - 48% of base, COOs, divisional managers, managing directors, heads of purchasing, and board members.

This shift in the consulting market place has been felt across the industry with an average decline of 6 - 8% in annual revenues for firms as a whole for year 2002. Much of this can be attributed to the changing demands and needs from clients that purchase consulting services in their expectations of project delivery and outcomes with regards to successfully implementing the project with long-term objectives actualized.

Other notable findings from the study:

  • Only 40% of the executives surveyed rate the consulting projects they engaged in the past two yeas as being "very" or "extremely" successful in their roll out

  • Just 15% currently build success-based remuneration into their contracts with consultants; 85% remunerate consultants only via traditional fixed-fee arrangements

  • 40% forecast a shift in demand from strategy consulting to implementation consulting...that is, from consulting that helps determine what the company should do towards consulting that does what it determined it should do "I expect a consulting engagement to deliver payback within two quarters," said one executive, voicing a get-tough attitude typical among respondents to our 2003 executive opinion survey.

"I think the time has come for tough measures of consultants' value," said Dwight Gertz, President of Celerant Consulting Americas. "Every consulting assignment should be held to a few simple tests; most important of all, what line item in the client's P&L will improve because of the consultant's work and by how much?"

Despite a seemingly flawed system for consultants to produce on project delivery, the most difficult part of this process cited to overcome was Phase 4, the implementation phase, with just under half (48%) of respondents indicating this to be the case

(Phase 1 - Validation, Phase 2 - Gap analysis, Phase 3 - Planning, Phase 4 - Implementation). This was examined further to determine what contributing factors were associated with this finding.

Of the issues that were cited as being a hurdle to the implementation phase of a consulting project, the primary reasons included; lack of support from staff (51%), problems with engagement of the project by management (50%), and a discrepancy between theory and putting recommendations into practice (45%).

The ultimate finding from the survey was not entirely surprising as the basics are quite often overlooked: People are the main difference to the success of a consulting project. It is the ability to combine the critical implementation phase with the capabilities of people to drive real organizational growth and measurable performance.

For more information, visit Celerant Consulting at: http://www.celerantconsulting.com

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