MCA Awards highlights key points for buyers of consulting services

The Management Consultancies Awards dinner was held last Thursday at the Westminster Park Plaza hotel. Not a venue I've been to before for a large dinner (around 600 people) but  the room was fine if a little characterless, the food was good and the service remarkably efficient. Overall, I think I prefer it to the Hilton Park Lane for instance.

Anyway, back to the important stuff. The winners of the various categories, covering both individual consultants and projects were well spread across the large firms. Ernst & Young and PWC did  particularly well amongst the large firms, whilst a number of smaller firms such as Boxwood, Elix-IRR and Guland Padfield also succeeded.  Indeed, Boxwood and Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions (BBUS) won the overall Project of the Year Award  and also the Award for Performance Improvement in the Private Sector.

As the co-author of the best-selling book* “Buying Professional Services”, I got to be a judge for several categories including the Technology Consultant of the Year, won by Sha Ali of KPMG, who also went on to win the overall Consultant of the Year.

We interviewed him as part of the judging process, and I hope he won’t mind me saying, he’s not your archetypal smooth consultant by any means. He’s a bit of a techie, we might even use the word geek, but a guy who has done some amazing work for his firm and client, leading his team through some real technology innovation. Indeed, a patent application – only KPMG’s second ever -  has come from his work. I must say, that impressed us. But he's  man of mystery, I can't find a photo of him anywhere!

SarahCollins IBMCongratulations to all the winners, and you can see the whole list here.  Sarah Collins won the Young Consultant of the year award, which got the IBM table very excited! And we did find a picture of her.  (Along with EY they probably won the most enthusiastic attendees of the evening award, although generally people were pretty well behaved).

One point the whole event did emphasise. Consulting isn't just about people. You may be buying process, technology knowledge and so on when you engage your professional services provider. However, in many cases, for many projects, people are key.

So don't assume that any consulting firm has a uniformity of capability. You'll find that even in the big 4, some practices and of course some individuals are simply better than others in terms of experience and talent. Indeed, the strong performance last week of both the big firms and some much smaller firms emphasises this as well. So choosing your provider based on the actual and specific people who will work with you is strongly recommended for the majority of assignments. People still matter.

*artistic licence

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