Buying Professional Services – readers’ comments

We recently  featured a couple of excerpts from the book Fiona Czerniawska and I published two years ago this month – “Buying Professional Services” published by the Economist Books.

There were some good comments from readers – do take a look at them here and here. I particularly liked “TimBya” who provided an excellent case study with some great advice.

“I had to review our organisation’s spend on consultancy a few years back as it seemed to be growing at an alarming rate. It started as a procurement exercise – are we paying them too much - but it soon dawned on me that in this category of spend, whilst price (ie man day rate) is important, it is the quantity used that drives cost and in this we had no involvement in. It is here that Procurement needs to work well with the internal department who holds the budget and commissioned the work, as consultants are notoriously good at finding follow up activities.

We found consultants who have been engaged for embarrassingly long periods of time and had produced numerous reports to prove it. When the commissioning department was challenged to demonstrate what value had been got from the reports (i.e. had anything changed, improvements been made, savings secured) it fell apart and the consultants were soon despatched.

We introduced new controls and best practice guidance – short sharp assignments with clear deliverables, re-approval then needed for any continuation, commercial awareness training for ‘commissioners’ and then procurement working with finance as a safety net to review all spend booked against the appropriate account code.

We also ensured the suppliers understood that this was are of spend that had been locked down. As always we emphasised that our role was not about policing but ensuring they, the budget holders, and the overall organisation, were getting best value for the money”.

I couldn’t have put it better myself! We also had some shameless plugging from Paul Vincent, but I’m happy to repeat it and point out the forthcoming events (you’ve missed the first although I suspect the webinar may be available on the MCA site?) Here’s Paul:

Your point about the need for clients, firms and procurement professionals to work effectively together is as valid now (perhaps even more so) than it was then and of course is precisely why I set up the Consultancy Buyers Forum! … our vision is that over time it will become THE networking group to join for people with any form of involvement in how their organisation spends money on consulting services. To deliver this vision we want to create a ‘one stop shop’ for any/all information and guidance that can help to inform a consultancy buying decision. The Forum is completely FREE to join – you can apply here

We have now set the timetable for the initial tranche of Forum events and we will be focussing on the theme of the ‘value of consulting’.

Webinar 1 – 12th June : 9am to 9.30am
MCA Research Recap – the MCA have undertaken and published various pieces of research on the value theme and they will be presenting a summary of their key findings to date and how they intend to take their research programme forward.

Webinar 2 – 5th July : 9am to 10am
The ‘Components of Value’ – how does this vary across different types of consulting engagement.

Webinar 3 – 30th August : 9am to 10am
‘Delivering Value’ – how can clients/consulting firms ensure that maximum value is delivered from each engagement.

Face to Face Event – 20th September : 3pm to 5pm (plus open networking afterwards)
This will be the first opportunity to get the Forum membership and MCA firms together and we will be reviewing different aspects of the interactions between firms/clients and procurement professionals and considering how this working relationship can operate most effectively. We will have a number of keynote speakers and there will also be facilitated breakout sessions. We will be looking to create some tangible output from the information/views exchanged at the event to then act as ‘good practice’ guidance to all consultancy buyers. The event will be in a Central London location.


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Voices (2)

  1. Paul Vincent:

    Hi RJ. Thanks for your feedback on the site I will definitely take these comments onboard. Regarding future webinars then we will be making registration much easier going forward and regarding how you obtain a replay of the first one then as a member of the Forum you should already have received a direct email from me on 13th June which included the link and the slides. If you didn’t receive this email then please let me know via and I will re-send it to you.

  2. RJ:

    Both good posts and well worth repeating, Peter. Some feedback for Paul, however: I’ve joined the forum and am very keen to be an active participant but the website is rather difficult to navigate and I’ve not been able to find how to register for the webinars listed above or download the one I missed (because I couldn’t work out how to register!).

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