As the CEO of Caiman Consulting, I hear this question all the time from corporate managers and executives. It’s an extremely important question! We love talking about why we think Caiman is the best consulting firm but we often forget to address an even more fundamental question – what is it that makes consultants valuable in the first place?
When new business challenges or opportunities come up in an organization, managers have essentially three choices – they can hire a new employee to do the work, assign the work to an existing employee, or bring in external help. Companies are often skeptical of that third option, but in our experience great managers know that sometimes consultants can be the most cost effective solution and add significant value above and beyond the talents and resources of the existing employee base. Let’s look at some situations in which consultants can be the right solution.
- The appropriate resources aren’t available internally. Often a new business opportunity will come up that requires skills that the company’s employee base simply doesn’t have and cannot acquire easily. It may take months to hire a new employee with a specific skillset, and by that time the opportunity may have passed. In our business we see a lot of need for expert project managers that also have expertise in a specific technology or industry. This can be a difficult combination to find internally, and by hiring us, a company can address all kinds of needs that can’t be easily met by the HR department.
- The work has a finite start and end date. Often companies need extra resources on a particular initiative but don’t want to hire someone as the initiative will come to an end and then the company is in the position of having an extra resource that may not have a place in the company’s regular operations. This is very common in IT – for example, an organization might have periodic need of a web designer but not enough web design work to justify adding a designer to their permanent staff. Consultants provide expert work “on-demand” and allow the company to keep their regular employees focused on long-term work.
- A project requires someone to immediately add value. New employees can take weeks to learn the organization and begin adding value to their new workstreams. Often businesses will be faced with situations where there is little time for a new person to learn the ropes. Consultants have the training and experience to come in and immediately make a positive impact. We are faster at picking up on critical organizational information and we focus on adding value even as we are ramping up.
- Human resource costs make hiring consultants more cost effective. There are many costs involved in developing and maintaining a skilled workforce: payroll, benefits, taxes, recruiting, training, morale building, and more. Consultants allow companies to get work done without increasing their long-term HR baseline. Our simple fee structures and straightforward proposals allows our clients to see exactly what accomplishing a deliverable will cost them without worrying about all the extra costs associated with hiring more employees. These clients are often finding that hiring us saves them considerable amounts of money on both short-term and long-term projects. We also look for ways to leverage our client’s resources and their IP to manage cost where possible.
- A critical decision requires an objective, expert point of view. Consultants can often provide an objective voice in challenging situations, provide unbiased feedback, and facilitate from a position of neutrality. Consultants also bring broader industry knowledge and best practices to the table. We were recently brought in by a client to help them decide if they wanted to keep going with their aging Content Management System (CMS) or upgrade to newer software. Most of the employees felt heavily invested in their current solution and were worried about having to learn a new system and the inherent pain caused by change. We were able to show them that the costs of upgrading were outweighed by the benefits and that retraining on a new system would not be as difficult as they thought. Ultimately the skeptics were won over and embraced the new system, and they acknowledged that it would have been impossible to reach the correct decision without some outside help.
Of course, regular employees are the right solution for much of the work done within a company. Having a talented employee base is an immensely valuable asset. However there are many situations where the right answer is to go outside the company to get expertise or help on critical initiatives. Firms like Caiman Consulting can help an organization deploy the right resources with the right skills in the right place at the right time.