Consultancy: Answering the three big questions
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Consultancy: Answering the three big questions

14 May 2020 By James Bridgland - Consulting and Solutions Director at Consultancy+

Answering consultancy big questions

As a country, we are entering a period of uncertainty. The question isn’t whether things will change, it’s how much. And it is fundamental that organisations of all types have the ability to be nimble and agile to adjust to these changes. Commonly this is where specialist support and consultancy can help. But in seeking fast and effective answers, there can be a tendency to get lost and end up with false hope placed in false prophets.

As a trusted partner for over 50 contracting authorities in the public sector, we at Consultancy+ are doing everything we can to support our customers and the wider public sector. As such, we have made some key changes to our standard Managed Solution to allow for it to act as a quick and controlled route for organisations to procure the specialist skills they need to engage in key areas. 

As part of our support during this time, we want to help organisations from all different sectors try to ensure they get the solutions they need during this tumultuous time. So below we are sharing our advice on responses to the three core questions that often trip-up organisations in this area.

What is consultancy?

When supporting organisations in procuring and managing consultancy, one of the first areas to tackle is what is and isn’t consultancy. The usual go-to responses are things like “paid on outcomes” or “under a statement of work”, and whilst both of these are partially right, the challenge is that consultancy means different things to different organisations and as such there are grey areas.

It’s in these grey areas that often unreasonable costs and masked solutions can be found. Therefore, we usually talk to clients about designing their own triage process to understand the type of service they want and in doing so, take account of the following questions:

  1. Is it for a discrete piece of work
  2. Is it for a skill-set that doesn’t exist in the business
  3. Are you looking for advice
  4. Does it fall outside of IR35
  5. Is it for multiple resources as part of a team
  6. Are you looking to pay for the service on outcomes/deliverables

As you can see, some of the go-to responses are considered here, but it is part of a more mixed assessment to try to avoid people working around a fixed definition.

What do you need in order to be able to procure it effectively?

The second area in which we support organisations heavily is around an effective and strategic procurement process. There are many reason why processes in this space are less effective than in order areas:

  • The level of buyer is often more senior and therefore harder to lead from a process point of view
  • ‘Buys’ in this space are usually not repeat or transitional, meaning benchmarking is hard
  • There are often lots of ways to achieve the same outcome, which makes like-for-like comparisons hard
  • Procurement can often be actively ignored as service users are seeking to go around the process

Therefore it is imperative that procurement as a function show value in this process in order to earn a seat at the table as early in the process as possible. We often suggest non-restrictive and known supplier enabled processes to allow procurement to build up relationships and understanding of business areas to help with this. But outside of the core process value, it is fundamental to be very clear on what it is that you are looking to achieve – otherwise costs will be hard to mandate or control.

Therefore, we advise all clients to ensure they have all of the below things in place where they can – and by the way we know it’s not always possible due to things like timescales but sometimes at least knowing what you don’t have puts your in a better position than just not knowing.

  1. Ask the service user for a clear scope of service which will include things such as:
    1. What are you looking to achieve
    2. When
    3. What does good look like
    4. Are there key milestones/deliverables
    5. Who will sign-off and approve work and on what criteria
  2. Undertake an IR35 determination status (even when not engaging a PSC) to see what areas of the service are going to expose you to risk and may be procured at lower cost
  3. Have a clear idea around governance and management of the engagement to ensure scope creep and charges for change management are kept to a minimum
  4. Outline a clear route to market to procure the services

How do you procure it via YPO?

The last question we get asked a lot, believe it or not, is how does your service work. So if you are looking to utilise our service, or the YPO framework to help, see below a simple step-by-step guide as to how to do this.

  1. Agree the YPO framework terms to ensure you have contract uniformity and OJEU compliance
  2. Talk to a member of the Consultancy+ team and share your scope of services
  3. Agree the services required from Consultancy+
    1. Known supplier
    2. Find me a supplier
    3. Deliver me a project
  4. Select the service provider that you want to use from the shortlist provided (or request more)
  5. Approve work as it is completed
  6. Review progress and cost through real-time reporting


Our HR Services team are here to help, guide and support your organisation with any demands and challenges around managing consultancy and professional services. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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