It’s time to celebrate consultants' contributions

Alan Leaman
Stoke City v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Let's celebrate consultants like they've just scored the opening goal (Source: Getty)

The public and thousands of organisations benefit hugely each year from the skills and innovation provided by the UK’s world-class consulting firms.

For example, partnerships between management consultancies, the private sector and government are improving the management of long-term health conditions, delivering reductions in crime and greater public safety, introducing new digital services, and helping to make government and private companies more efficient and effective.

So, last month, when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published their report on the government’s use of consultants, this could have been a moment to examine the transformation they have brought to the public sector. But, inevitably perhaps, there was limited analysis of the value of consultants’ contribution. This opportunity was missed.

By contrast, the MCA’s Annual Awards, hosted on the eve of the publication of the PAC report, were a showcase for the best in the UK’s consulting projects. The evening was a national celebration of the private and public organisations that are being helped by the world class consulting firms we have in this country.

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Take LCP Consulting for example, and their work with Argos which was awarded Project of the Year. LCP helped deliver a supply chain transformation which has put Argos, literally and figuratively, streets ahead in UK digital retailing.

Despite a reputation for innovation that originated in its first catalogue store in 1973, by the 2010s, “digital disruptors” such as Amazon were putting the Argos business model under pressure. Against this backdrop, the firm engaged LCP Consulting, working with them at all levels of the organisation to implement one of the largest change programmes their organisation has ever undergone.

This three-year project, which created a customer-driven “hub and spoke” store collection system, wasn’t just noticed by customers. Sainsbury’s interest in Argos demonstrates the value of what the project has achieved.

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Now imagine how this kind of fresh thinking is brought to more organisations in both the public and private sectors. Everyone now needs to deliver more for less. Everyone needs to ensure that they are up-to-date with the latest opportunities and digital changes. Everyone needs to work even harder to get the best from their employees and engage with their customers.

The best companies recognise the central importance of recruiting and retaining a skilled, permanent workforce. But they also know that it's vital to bring innovation, expertise and fresh thinking from external sources to many of their most difficult problems. They use the UK’s consulting firms to do this.

And this is cost-effective, too. It makes little sense to recruit permanent staff if you don’t need to keep that kind of expertise available in-house all-year round. And the research suggests that consulting projects deliver an average of £6 of benefits for every £1 spent in fees.

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The private and public sectors benefit every day from their constructive working relationship with their consulting firms. Where their positive contributions save money or deliver improved services for the public or customers, we should be happy to celebrate them.

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