Buying Consultancy Services

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It is now fairly common for clients to use procurement services to buy consultants, as well as a host of other professional services. Some of the major project management catastophes in recent years have been exacerbated, if not caused, by bad procurement.

This includes both the West Coast Mainline fiasco, where both the problem and solution appeared to break procurement legislation, and the NHS PfIT project, the world’s biggest IT fiasco, where the project manager (Richard Granger) likened his use of consultants to the use of dogs:

“Managing the NHS IT suppliers is like running a team of huskies. When one of the dogs goes lame, it is shot. It is then chopped up and fed to the other dogs. The survivors work harder, not only because they have had a meal, but also because they have seen what will happen should they themselves go lame.”

There is a lot of advice on the procurement of consultants, including guides from the Institute of Consulting, the Management Consultancies Association, and the Office of Government Commerce. I even produced my own checklist. However, there is little research on what ‘good practice’ actually looks like in ‘mature’ procurement departments.

An MBA student that I have been supervising has recently finished a project with the MCA’s Consulting Buyer’s Forum, looking at what some key clients actually do in this area. The summary of the report can be found here and is well worth a read.

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