What Should I Consider When Choosing Between Top Management Consulting Firms?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois
Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Top management consulting firms provide expertise to businesses that are looking to reorganize, redefine their business process, or want to get an unbiased opinion on the areas that need improvement within the firm. The standard process when looking to select a management consulting firm is to issue a request for proposal (RFP). This tendering document provides the specification of what services the business is looking to purchase, the time line, scope, and final product. Depending on the dollar value and the industry, the RFP is issued by invitation only or is open to the public.

As part of the process, the top management consulting firms that are interested in the work are required to submit a response by a specific date. Included in this response are the four categories that should be used to evaluate the firms: ability to meet requirements, price, level of expertise, and staff resources allocated to the project. This matrix is fairly standard, and is usually included in the RFP, so that the firms know how their responses will be evaluated.

The primary goal of any project is to meet the original requirements. The response provided by the top management consulting firms should indicate exactly how they are going to do that, for every item detailed in the requirements document. The more specific these requirements, the higher quality result this will generate. A common trick when comparing is to remove all the adjectives, and focus on the verbs or action statements. It can be revealing.

Comparing pricing may seem simple, but is often complex for consulting contracts. A lower price does not necessarily indicate a better value; just as a higher price does not necessary indicate a better quality output. Make a note of the total price, and then check for incidental fees. Most consulting firms charge for travel, accommodations, meals, and other incidentals every time the consultants are on site. These may be included in the hourly rate or listed as a separate item.

The level of expertise available is very important when choosing between top management consulting firms. Read the details of the response to determine how many hours the project manager is allocated, the number of manager or supervisory hours, and the standard consultant hours. Keep in mind that many firms have job titles designed to blur this distinction. For example, a junior consultant with no experience may be called the "client liaison coordinator" while the consultant with one or two years experience is the "senior consultant."

Ask for and review the resumes of the staff resources allocated to the proposed project. The resumes will give you a better sense of the depth of knowledge and experience that they are providing. For a large contract, the client may request interviews with the proposed staff, and may request a replacement if there is a personality conflict or other issue that was not immediately apparent.

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