The UK business consultant industry is vast and far reaching, leading many to rightly question. What is a business consultant? This ultimate guide has a range of key information about the UK Business Consultancy industry.
A business consultant is an external party that offers advice, support and expertise to an individual or business. Generally, a scope of works will detail what is required and the pricing structure of the engagement. A scoping document may also highlight what is outside of this agreement but may be required at a later date. A payment structure will also be included, with common payment structures including an initial payment, milestone payments, or payments based on project delivery.
Business consultants operate in every area of business you can think of. In the UK, there are five major pillars of consultancy that are easy to identify with. So, whilst not every single type of consultant is listed below. The major areas are discussed.
Management and strategy consultants work on large scale projects and process redesign that is aimed at delivering ongoing return on investment. These firms will generally bridge the other four consultancy pillars discussed below. The big four management consultants will have each pillar of consultancy resourced internally.
When most SME’s engage with a management consultant, they will not engage with one of the big four. Smaller practices are more affordable and accessible to this market, as the big four firms are, comparatively, very expensive.
HR consultants are the easiest business conultants to identify with. Many though, don’t realise this is classed as business consultant. If you have ever worked with an external recruiter, you have worked with a business consultant.
In the UK, a HR consultancy company you will undoubtedly have heard of would be Reed. Such companies can help identify, shortlist, primary interview and offer contracts to talent. They will generally have an extensive talent pool to pull from. This can be relationship based, knowing people in certain segments. Or, and more widespread, by creating and curating a database by actively posting jobs.
HR consultants can also support in specific strategic projects. These include employee retention programmes, staff surveys, talent mapping amongst others.
Operation consultants are focused on process redesign and implementation projects. Operation consultation and process redesign generally takes shape over four phases. This starts with scoping a project and setting a team. After the existing process is mapped, opportunities are highlighted to improve the process. A trial process is tested and implemented, before a feedback loop seeks to streamline and bed in the new process effectively. Done correctly, operational consultancy projects can deliver huge benefits to businesses.
IT consultants can range massively in their scope.
Some IT consultants deal with general process improvement projects focused around an IT implementation project. They are adept at delivering large scale system transformations. One example of an IT consultant is Encordia Consulting.
Then there are also ultra-fast growing specialist companies such as Cloud Gateway. These companies offer highly bespoke, cutting edge proprietry technologies, designed to offer major improvement to your IT infastructure.
In between both of these are a myriad of semi-tied software consultants. These consultants will adapt and implement software solutions specific to your business needs.
Marketing consultants can take many guises.
A branding agency can deal with branding, strategy and implementation of your joint ideas. A great example of a quality branding agency is Flocc. These agencies can also support with digital execution of your stratagy, bringing your ideas to the web.
Dedicated SEO agencies, such as Found, focus on working on backlinking strategies, content marketing and on-page optimisation. Supporting your business in appearing on search engines such as Google.
PR agencies such as PR Agency One support in delivering news content, crisis management and relationship management. This will generally have a focus on high readership and brand interaction.
The management consultancy and business consultancy industry in the U.K is completely unregulated. That means that anyone can set up a consultancy firm in any sector mentioned above.
There are formalised and recognised management and business consultancy training courses in the UK. These give you most of the tools required to operate as a consultant. When considering the management consultancy pillar of business consultants there are two main accreditations.
The Level 7 Diploma in Professional Consulting is a joint award from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Institute of Consulting (IoC). Both of these are UK professional institutes and awarding bodies.
The syllabus includes two major consultancy projects that must be completed. It also includes:
The IoC also offers their Certified Management Consultant (CMC) course to all members or fellows. The CMC award involves interviews with assessors to demonstrate the required knowledge and skills to uphold the IoC’s standards.
The consultancy industry in the UK are unregulated. As with any unregulated market, always conduct due diligence before making a hire. Here are some steps to consider following before making decision.
Ensure a detailed and clear scope is in place prior the tender process. Not knowing what you are looking to achieve can lead to scope and cost creep.
When writing a project outline, leave certain elements for the consultant to define their approach. It is their expertise you are hiring, so let it shine through. You are looking for ideas and how they operate in the proposal. Just because you aren’t going to hire all the companies that tender. It doesn’t mean they won’t all have great ideas.
Check the credibility of the consultant you are looking to hire. This can be done through meeting with them, or asking for qualifications and examples of like projects. Take the time to speak their other clients. This is always a good steer on how they work.