Your organisation needs some work done. Soon. You know you don’t have the skills, knowledge and / or capacity in house. You think consultancy is the answer, but it’s a big financial commitment that you don’t want to get wrong. So how best can you work with potential suppliers in order to procure the right consultancy services for your organisation and most importantly to ensure you achieve the outcomes you need?
In our experience, preparation is key to success. Consultants need certain information from you to be able to reply to your enquiry and give you the information you want to select a supplier. The best way to make sure your organisation commits to the right services with the supplier who can offer you the best fit is to write a clear procurement specification. One to two sides of A4 is usually sufficient and should include:
- What you want the outcomes to be. What are the deliverables at the business level and why are these important to your organisation? What is the strategic context for this?
- The work you want the consultants to do and the work that will be done in-house. Do you want the consultants to actually undertake the work for your organisation? Or to advise and support you and your management team to do it? To what extent are the skills, competences and capacity you might need in-house?
- Anything critical to the approach for the work that you want the consultants to use or adopt. For example, do you want them to work with your retained legal advisors? Is there an existing policy framework? Or will they have free rein to use the approach they judge best?
- The desired timeline. Are there any deadlines and if so, why? What are the key milestones?
- Your expectation of costs and expenses (especially if you have a tight budget).
- The named person the consultants will report to in your organisation (the “internal sponsor”) for the work. This person should be at the right level to authorise internal resources, involving other stakeholders as necessary, to approve the work the consultants do and to authorise their invoices.
Once this information is clear, you need to consider the individuals or companies to whom you will send your specification. Do they need to have experience of this type of work, or of your sector and organisation type? Would you engage a self employed individual, or do you prefer a business with more than one consultant? Are you expecting to work with qualified people, or is this less of a consideration? Having a sound understanding of the importance of criteria such as these can increase the likelihood of the consultant’s work being well aligned with the culture and values of your organisation and ultimately the expectations of all the stakeholders involved.
Separately you will want to think about your overall procurement process. If your organisation has a Procurement Policy, you will need to follow this and may need to obtain 3 or more quotes before deciding upon your supplier. That may mean inviting 5 or more suppliers to respond.
Finally, give consideration to your selection methods: What criteria will you use? How will you score or assess the responses you receive? Is the piece of work large enough to merit asking shortlisted consultants to come to your premises for interview? How will you determine their suitability for your work? What evidence will you ask for? Will you want to speak to referees? How will you validate their qualifications? Will you check their insurance meets your needs? Will you need to see their accounts? Include this information in your tender as consultants will decide whether to invest time in responding based on the amount of time involved in the procurement process and the extent to which they think they are likely to be successful. The time you require them to invest will need to be proportionate to the value of the opportunity.
We, like most consultants, are always happy to talk to prospective clients about the ways in which they might approach particular outcomes they seek to achieve for their organisation, on a no-obligation basis. We are highly experienced in delivering the sorts of HR and H&S work you’ll be looking for on an outsourced basis so please do ring us on 01562 840060 or click here to book a call with one of our consultants.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear your experiences of procuring consultancy, so please share your feedback in the comments section below.