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Choice and competition in consulting

Consultancy services are big business in the UK.

According to research by the City of London, consulting revenues grew 16% to £14.5bn between 2020 and 2021, contributing £26bn to the UK economy.

Large firms dominate revenue despite their relatively small footprint, according to research by Consultancy UK. In the UK, mid-sized and large consultancy firms account for around 7% of the entire market by number for consultancy enterprises. Larger firms, however, account for the lion’s share of consulting revenue. Revenues generated by the world’s top ten management consultancies by size hit $50bn by the start of the 21st Century.

Bringing outside expertise into an organisation is often tied to mission-critical objectives, which makes choosing the right management consultant a vital decision. Get it wrong by hiring consultants lacking expertise and who can’t deliver, and that mission-critical project risks being derailed with fallout impacting other parts of your organisation.

Read our guide to hiring a management consultant.

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Competition – firms vs independents

With consultancy services being such an economic engine for UK plc, you’d think that accessing qualified, experienced management consultants would be simple.

Often, that isn’t the case.

On the surface, at least, organisations seem spoilt for choice – there are over 588,000 management consultants listed on LinkedIn in the UK alone and over 1,000 management and consultancy firms – but the reality is would-be clients often find it difficult to make an informed and genuinely competitive choice.

Part of the challenge is that while there is an army of consulting talent to tap into, large firms continue to dominate. With their high fees, often obscure onboarding processes, a perceived lack of transparency, and uncertainty about how your consultancy team will be selected, larger firms can make clients feel railroaded into service offerings.

Available consultants often limit consulting firms for new projects. With senior consultants assigned to other projects, some clients are left with a ‘who’s available’ menu of junior consultants, with the risk they’re assigned to projects outside their expertise or experience.

It can be difficult to pick your way through the haystack of thousands of independent consultants, too.

While there are thousands of highly skilled, highly qualified and supremely capable independents, it can be almost impossible to check experience and credentials, and recommendations from your existing network for effective independent consultants can quickly be exhausted.

The result? Clients are often left playing a kind of LinkedIn lottery in trying to select a consultant based on an uncheckable profile and a gut feeling – and that could spell disaster for any mission-critical work.

In short, there’s either so much choice when going the independent route that it can be hard to know where to begin or a perceived lack of choice through transparency concerns when working with larger firms that competition seems loaded against the client.

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The client/consultant gap

This lack of choice can result in a major disconnect between what a client needs from consultancy services and what they actually get.

Research by the Oxford Review found that while clients expect sourced expertise to provide solutions carefully tailored to their unique organisational challenges, individual consultants and consultancy firms are often guilty of giving off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter knowledge dressed up as bespoke, cutting edge and innovative insights when it is anything but.

And the challenges don’t stop there.

Larger firms – flush with client fees and a swelling headcount (the world’s largest consultancy firms saw headcount soar from 20,000 in the 1980s to around 430,000 by the turn of the century) – are facing increased client pressure for greater choice, transparency and competition.

Changing client behaviour is seeing a rejection of billable hours, inflexibility and an unwillingness to embrace digital innovation by consulting firms. Instead, clients demand transparency, agile working, better outcomes and faster delivery of solutions.

While many organisations default to mid-sized and large consultancy firms, a wealth of talent, expertise, and know-how can be found outside the usual management consulting suspects. There are advantages to tapping into the broader and more diverse pool of independent management consultants.

The challenge is sifting through the thousands of independent consultants for the right fit – and that’s where Portevo’s consulting marketplace is leading the charge.

Read our guide to consultancy as a service – the flexible consumption model.

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Competition and choice – an agile, client-centric future

A marketplace platform, such as Portevo, cuts through this noise to offer genuine choice and competition that is expansive and tailored to a client brief.

Rather than the slow process of manually sourcing an independent consultant with the relevant skills and expertise, consulting marketplaces enable you to pitch your brief to a broader pool of experienced consultants, as well as promote healthy competition between service providers.

Fundamentally, consulting marketplaces bridge the client/consultant gap and address many of the choice restrictions that have resulted in choosing between large firms or wading through the weeds of independents with unknown credentials.

Read our guide to consulting marketplaces – insurgent thinking vs traditional consulting.

Consulting marketplaces increase choice and foster competition by:

Increasing reach

Client briefs are submitted to a curated and verified pool of expertise. Consultants in the marketplace can assess the brief, matching it to their availability, skillset, experience and sector knowledge. It boosts brief visibility and allows relevant consultants to respond to it and self-select based on their experience and skills, materially increasing the choice of consultants available.

The result is a better match between client brief and consultant, getting any project on the right foot from the off.

Competitive tenders

With a multitude of relevant consultants responding to a brief, the fee structure can be competitively tilted in favour of the client.

Consultants keen to win the work can be more value-driven and budget conscious, supported with flexible, agile working approaches compared to consulting firms.

A multitude of consultants replying to a brief can result in competitive proposals.

Verified expertise

Choice through a marketplace is more qualified.

A single brief to a pool of verified consultants removes the guesswork in choosing a consultant, providing greater and more qualified choice. Feedback from previous projects and a direct engagement between the platform and the consultant results in less chaff, saving the client the challenge of sifting through a pile of unknown consultants.

More value, less cost

Without overheads, independent consultants may offer clients greater value for less cost.

This proves an effective competitive driver for reducing client costs thanks to lower fees, more productivity from the off, and a greater focus on effective outputs.

The result is more bang for the buck, with projects often possible with lower fees and better outcomes than traditional routes.

Your brief, your way

Client projects aren’t shoehorned into existing processes, and instead, briefs are actively assessed by consultants.

Applicants for the project are focused solely on the brief rather than your project being just another on a firm’s conveyor belt.

Relevant results

Results via marketplace-sourced consultants benefit from independent consultant expertise without the project hangover of a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter output.

Results tend to be more relevant, and laser-focused on client needs rather than reaching for an off-the-shelf solution that a larger firm might develop and deploy to all similar clients.

Choosing competition and choice

Portevo’s consultant marketplace is upending how clients source and engage consultants.

It’s based on competition and choice.

Critically, it puts the client in control, widens the lens through which briefs can attract expertise, and addresses the lack of choice and competition that has hamstrung less flexible and more traditional routes to management consulting.

Interested in ensuring you have the greatest choice when finding a management consultant? Contact Portevo to find the right management consultant for your business.