The consultant is a valuable tool for any organization if properly utilized. The key to gaining the most benefit to using a consultant starts with the need. The need must be clearly identified as a one time need or ongoing need. The organization must first determine if the appropriate expertise is represented within the organization. If the specific expertise is present in house, then one must ask if outside help can add value to existing group. Often times for specific problems, a consultant may be the right approach.
The advantages of utilizing a consultant are many. Consultants typically possess a specific expertise in an area and draw upon experiences working for several organizations facing the same problem. This history of trial and error can make a major difference when time is critical, alleviating the need to “reinvent the wheel”. Cost must also be weighed. Historically, the consultant approach is short term a investment in knowledge. The cost to create an internal knowledge base if often high, hence, the organization must balance the need for short term knowledge vs. the cost of acquiring it long term.
Once a determination has been made to utilize the services of a consultant, a solid objective must be communicated. Planning and scheduled deliverables is the most efficient means to get the most out of the consulting experience. A designated leader must be proactive and hands on with a consultant to ensure tasks are being completed on time and the goals of the organization are being addressed. Although a consultant may provide valuable insight into a specific problem, the organization is responsible for ensuring the exact problem is being addressed to their satisfaction.
So when does an organization need to bring in a consultant? When a problem or need exists and the appropriate expertise or scope of expertise does not exist within the organization or when the cost of developing an expertise is not an effective use of money or resources. Consultants are a vital aspect to every organization. The need vs. return must be evaluated and strong guidance in communicating that need are important to a successful partnership between a consultant and an organization.