Choosing the Right Consulting Partner

Showtime's Original Series the "House of Lies" will be back for a 5th and perhaps final season in a few months. If you haven't watched it yet, and you’re a Citisoft client, I urge you to take a pass. The show is a humorous look inside a management consulting firm and the lengths they'll go to get business. I have to admit, I'm hooked on the show - it bears little resemblance to consulting as I know it, but there are parallels that draw upon a day in a life of a consultant that do hit home. Much of the consulting component of the show is centered on winning new clients and the extremes that Marty Kaan and his "pod" go to land the next big project. Though the show doesn't display the mutual rewarding aspects of the real collaboration between clients and consultants, it does get a lot of the consulting fluff right. The analytical models, the PowerPoint decks, the consulting jargon, the emphasis on billable hours and landing the "after work". Which leads me to the purpose of this blog: 

As a potential client, do you know how to pick the right consulting firm to partner with to ensure the success of your business? 

You're about to undertake an important strategic initiative. It will have a significant impact on your people, processes, and the systems that support your business. You recognize that you have resource constraints and need expertise in an area that is limited within your organization. Simply put, you can't go it alone and need outside capacity to get it done. So you reach out to the consulting community for help.

Do you know how to pick the right partner? What are the criteria you need to consider to ensure you're picking the right consulting partner?  Do you have a clear understanding of the initiatives, organizational needs and objectives, and the rationale for engaging with a consulting firm? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself before you reach out to the consulting world to discuss a prospective project. 

Choosing the right partner to ride shotgun with you can be difficult. You must be clear about what you want and your firm's capability to work with external resources. In choosing the right consulting firm, the following factors should be considered: objectivity, expertise, experience, services, cost, reputation, and references. However, not all factors should be weighted equally - here's what you should focus the majority of your attention on:

  • Relevant and specific subject matter expertise - does the consulting firm possess the specific domain knowledge or are they just generalists in your industry. If they're the latter, take a pass.
  • Proven business methodologies for addressing the services required - does the consulting firm have a "tailored game plan" that takes you from start to finish in an organized manner that makes sense to your organization? If not, take a pass.
  • Successful experience working on similar engagements - does the consulting firm have a track record of delivering similar projects with other firms that you would consider as part of your peer group? If not, take a pass.
  • Capability to work with the organization - does the consulting firm demonstrate an ability to integrate seamlessly with your company, your people and your culture? If not, take a pass.
  • Client focus - does the consulting firm listen to you and question you extensively? Do they understand your specific needs and objectives? If they spend more time touting their own accomplishments than examining your needs, take a pass.
  • People, people, people - does the consulting firm present sample bios of the resources that will work on your engagement? Or do they present the actual team members for you to meet? If you can't meet the project team, take a pass.

One of the keys to selecting the right consulting firm is to pick a company that you feel will always have your interests front and center and will constantly strive to exceed your expectations.


Don't get Marty Kaan'ed into picking "the firm nobody gets fired for hiring".....choose the right firm to get the job done.