Consultancy Buyers Forum – bringing procurement and providers together

It’s not too many years ago that few procurement functions or individuals would have seen management consulting as a key spend category, deserving of their attention and priority. But we all know how the growth of that industry has led to the situation where for many organisations, consultancy is a major and critical spend, and procurement very much sees it as an area of focus.

But it is challenging. As Fiona Czerniawska and I said in our book, Buying Professional Services,

It is not easy to buy these services, because of the intangibility and the lack of objective information.  And the seniority and intelligence of the people who will be key stakeholders (suppliers and users) will be a challenge to the purchaser.  All of this suggests that a high level of expertise is needed to buy professional services well and to understand the real ability of the supply side to deliver what is required”.

Some organisations have made a great success of their procurement efforts in this area, but it’s fair to say others have struggled. “It’s not like buying widgets”, as any consultant will tell you, but some buyers treat it as if it is!  So anything that can be done to improve matters, allow expert buyers to share their knowledge, and increase mutual understanding between the buy side and sell side would seem to be worthwhile.

So it’s good to see a new Consultancy Buyers Forum being set up with the Management Consultancies Association taking the lead. They’re working to develop it with Paul Vincent, an experienced procurement guy and ex head of professional services procurement at BT. He’s a strong advocate of procurement and consultants needing to understand each other better, and as he says, the aim of the Forum is to “support the buyers and clients of consulting services, and it will attempt to bring together all those involved in consultancy purchasing decisions for mutual support and knowledge sharing”.   

It is free to join for procurement practitioners, and Vincent has already got around 50 members on the procurement side, including some very “big spenders”, which is an impressive start and demonstrates the appetite for the idea. He’s also putting together a steering group with members from the client, procurement, consulting, media and academic community. The inclusion of “clients” there is interesting, and recognises one of the points Fiona and I made at some length in our book – that procurement can’t keep the internal client out of the picture. This category requires a three-way approach, with procurement, client and supplier all critical to a successful outcome.

Here’s a nice graphic of how the Forum will work.








There’s also an article about the initiative here from Top Consultant, and you can register for the Forum via this link. We wish them luck and success, and we’ll be keeping an eye on their progress with interest.

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