Management Consultancies Association Award Winners – Times Supplement

Last week, the Times published a special supplement relating to the 2017 Management Consultancies Association Awards. The 12 page supplement includes the stories behind all the dozen or so winning projects from both the clients and the firms as well as interviews from the handful of “Consultant of the Year” winners

The case studies featured there show both the range of work that consulting firms of all types and sizes undertake, and also highlight the fact that an industry that gets a fair amount of bad press does some great work that benefits business, government and yes, even humanity more widely. You can download the supplement here if you aren’t a traditionalist like me who gets a hard copy of the Times religiously every day …

The winners encompass the traditional big firms like Deloitte (star performers with four awards), PWC and EY; the more specialist but still major firms such as Capita and Arup, who were the other star performers, also with four wins, including the inaugural Consulting Excellence Award - "in recognition of Arup’s distinct culture and commitment to integrating ethical considerations into all aspects of projects, design and business decisions".

But the smaller or less well known firms also were winners, including Integration Management Consulting, Egremont, Arcadis, Pearson Ham, Curzon & Company and Propaganda.  Our sincere congratulations to all those winning firms and indeed everyone who entered; the standard is genuinely high in most categories. And it is good as a procurement person to see vibrant competition in the market coming from so many smaller, high-performing and innovative firms as well as the giants of the industry.

I’ve been a judge for the awards for four or five years now, based really on my co-authorship (with the wonderful Fiona Czerniawska) of “Buying Procurement Services” – still available here. Judging is quite a lot of work, pretty rigorous and a responsibility that in my experience the judges take very seriously. But we do get a free ticket for the dinner, and more importantly it is a very good opportunity to see what is going on in the consulting world and therefore in business more widely.

You also see the difference between two types of success. We have the spectacular projects – I remember one year a consultant who was probably a genius and had basically invented an entirely new methodology that was being patented. It looked like IP that not only was very valuable to clients but was going to make his firm a fortune. Or there was the winning project that worked out how to detect land mines in Afghanistan and saved dozens (maybe hundreds) of lives.

Then you have the steady, unspectacular but immensely valuable work that incrementally improves client performance. One winner I judged this year fell into this category – a consultant who has worked in a difficult industry, with many pressures, yet clearly knew how to engage with the client, bring real skills to bear on their problems, and simply delivered value time and time again over years of hard work.

The other point that always strikes me comes back to our book and buying consulting services. Frankly, lousy consultants don’t survive long in this competitive world. But there is still a huge difference between the very best, inspiring, game-changing professionals and the simply competent consultants. One of the goals of the buyer in this spend category should therefore be to seek out and engage the best firms AND their best consultants (and every firm has people of very different capabilities and talents). And that also means understanding whether you are looking for knowledge and skills that reside at the firm level – or whether you want individuals with personal attributes for your project.

This year there seem to be fewer projects that are wholly or largely “procurement” in nature than in some previous years, but the Times publication is certainly worth reading if you have any general interest in business good practice. So if you have a spare half hour, do have a glance through the supplement.

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