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What is precisely a consultant?

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Team of consultants

Most of companies are contracting consulting services in different areas for specific needs, in IT, tax, finance, marketing..etc. They are using outsourced services for punctual needs, and because they have no in sourced people having the skills for these specific needs. During my career, I had to note that the word “consultant” was used for different type of profiles, and I would say in certain cases because it sounds better.

What’s precisely a consultant ? If I am asking that question, it is after reading a Peter Drucker’s quote saying that “ The true expert is the one who is doing the work. We must accept the fact that the one who is doing the job knows better about it that the one who is supervising, or in any case that he knows a different aspect about it”. It make me remember the first assignment I had as interim manager. We were two selected candidates for a senior accountant ad interim position. Finally, the customer decided to contract my services. The financial director who took the decision explained to me that he was more interested by my profile, because the other candidate was somebody who would explain how to do things, and in my case, I was the person able to do things. I remember a partner from a IT company where I worked some years ago, who used to say that he was not a consultant but a “practitioner”. This view meets Peter Drucker’s quote.

A consultant or an expert is somebody who has several years of experiences and who can give advices or execute missions and projects, based on the knowledges and the practices he acquired. If you ask to a consultant some advices about something he has some theoretical knowledge, you will probably not have an appropriate solution, and you will probably not learn more than if you have read some books about the subject. I remember a customer advised by a consulting company for an accounting software. The advised software did not match with the needs of the company, and the invoice that the consultant sent for the advice was ten times more expensive than the price of the software we had needed. The advice was given by a big consulting company, but I am not sure that the consultant did daily accounting during his career. More generally, there are different ways to obtain a result. But the result is not the only target to be taken into account. The way to reach the target is important. Processes in companies become more complex and need more expertise in order to control them. Some processes, methodologies will be more efficient than others. But only a expert having experiencing these processes will be able to give the appropriate advice. The different processes in a company include sub-processes, and improvements at each level can produce significant results in term of efficiency and profitability.

The most important is not to answer what is precisely a consultant, what are the range of services he is supposed to deliver. A consultant or an expert can only provide services linked to his experience and skills. The experience is another important parameter. In a fast moving environment, people have to adapt their methodology of work and their knowledges. The number of year of experience make that you integrates some processes or knowledge, and you can adapt yourself in a new environment faster than somebody having less experience, you can transpose more easily some methodologies in new environments.

What is precisely a consultant? In any case somebody who will provide the appropriate advices, answers or services to the customer and who will make him satisfied.

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

February 10, 2011 at 23:41

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