When should I hire a consultant?

Hiring a consultant might seem expensive, especially at the beginning of the project – but as countless individuals, businesses, non-profits and governments will testify, it can be an investment in the success of the project. Beyond the immediate savings from clients not having to hire a new permanent employee to obtain relevant skills for a project, when organisations undertake complex activities that require experts insights, hiring a consultant can provide an essential set of fresh eyes for vital problem solving.

Hiring a consultant also makes senses when clients need consultancy support for a business transformation or organisational change. Such projects are typically run alongside the standing organisation to ensure minimal disruption to the business and that experts skills can be focused to the change program.

Here is a list of common scenarios, where engaging a consultant could prove invaluable to clients of all shapes and sizes:

Strategic guidance

In a constantly changing world, staying ahead of the competition with regards to strategic trends can be a crucial ingredient for an organisation’s success. Strategy and management consultants have a deep understanding of specific markets, and will know the best practices and latest trends relating to a client’s relevant industry.

The holistic bigger-picture thinking of strategic consultants can offer help to enlarge an organisation’s market footprint, expand its product offerings, help reorganise for efficiency and cost savings, increase capabilities, prioritise large equipment purchases, or even buyout another company.

Operations transformations

Heightened competition in the private sector and tightened budgets in the public sphere mean organisations of all kinds are increasingly looking to revamp operational and back-office tasks. By doing so, they can enjoy increased efficiency when serving clients at a reduced cost – but it is easier said than done, and without adequate guidance from external experts such a transformation can end up making things worse.

Operations consultants are essential in this regard, helping organisations to map out and analyse existing processes, before advising how to improve quality, reduce steps or mistakes and increase margins and decrease costs. Consultants specialised in operations help their clients with among others performance improvement, optimisation of supply chain and procurement, and with implementing continuous improvements methodologies such as lean, agile and scrum.

Digitalisation and IT change

In light of the technology-led disruption sweeping through industries, the biggest growth area in consulting right now is in digital and information technology (IT). With the rapid pace of technology and tech support needed, most companies are hiring a consultant at some point to support their digital transformation agenda.

IT consultants help clients with among others, digital strategy, designing digital strategies and exploring how IT can enable wider impact within the organisation; system and application development, building systems across disciplines and functions; system implementation, rolling-out systems, applications and apps; IT infrastructure, developing the fundament for IT; security, ensuring cybersecurity and IT-processes are secure.

One of the major drivers of IT consultancy is cloud-based working. As companies and SME businesses migrate to the cloud to tap its benefits, consultants help them with cloud migrations, data management, and embedding cloud-based working within the organisations.

Human resources management

In recent years, major demographic shifts have led to the rapid tightening of competition in the labour market. Many companies have complained of a ‘talent shortage’, thanks to an ageing population, high employment and a spike in start-ups meaning most organisations are competing for the fewest number of equipped workers for decades.

Amid this, gaining external expertise to help retain existing staff and improve the draw of an organisation for future recruitment is utterly crucial. HR consultants are used to work specifically on employee needs – organisations can use them to help source top talent, reduce employee turnover, and determine compensation to align with company goals.

HR consultants also help their clients with positioning the HR function as a business partner, and transformation the function to meet the growing demands of the ‘business’ and employees. Further, HR consultants play a key role on projects, supporting workstreams including change management, communication, leadership alignment and learning & development.

Sales enhancement

If a company is looking to stand out from a crowded field, looking to eat into the market share of long-term incumbents during a boom, or even to get ahead of the curve when it comes to thriving in a post-crash economy, sales consultants can prove essential to their success.

As businesses look to break into new markets, attract customers and ultimately boost revenues, consultants in this area are used to create sales & marketing plans, work on positioning statements, develop a brand, launch advertising campaigns, establish social media strategies, initiate sales process and improvement, or design sales training and coaching.

Hiring a sales consultant is mostly focused on achieving better top-line growth, as compared to operations consultants who typically focus on cost cutting in order to beef up the bottom-line.

Financial planning

Financial matters can be complicated, and handling them alone can be difficult and risky. Financial consultants can holistically examine a client’s financial situation and help them craft a financial plan to ensure they make decisions that are in line with their larger business goals.

Understandably then, financial consultancy work constitutes one of the largest slice of the global consulting market – accounting for roughly a quarter of its revenues. Consultants in this area help with service offerings spanning a wide variety of topics, such as finance optimisation, risk management, treasury, payments, tax advisory and compliance and to name a few – but financial and accounting skills always stand at the heart of the services delivered.

Deals / mergers & acquisitions

When companies want to acquire a business, or divest themselves, they hire consultants to provide independent advice and support. Large deals are commonly supported by three types of consultants: strategic consultants that ensure the deal aligns with the overall strategy, they also build the business case and conduct the commercial due diligence; transaction consultants that support the end-to-end execution of the transaction; and financial consultants that provide corporate finance advisory and deal structuring services.

Beyond the consulting industry, consultants from the law firms, accounting firms and fiscal players are called in to support legal, accountancy and tax aspects of a transaction.