Ten Tips for Selecting and Using a Consultant – 1. Understand the reasons for using a consultant

Why do organizations use consultants? An organization may realize it lacks the expertise, time, experience, or objectivity to perform the work without outside assistance.

Expertise: One of the most common reasons for hiring a consultant is when you need expertise that is not available within your own organization. Although your staff may have been trained on ISO 9001:2000 requirements, they may not have the in-depth knowledge needed to establish the quality management system on their own. Many consultants are also certified auditors and able to better interpret the requirements.

Time: Even if your organization has the expertise, it may not be able to make the right people available due to other business demands. These key persons may be too busy to complete the required tasks by the desired dates.

Use of a consultant can help solve this timing problem. In fact, consultants may be able to complete the tasks in less time than your own staff due to their experience with the work. When you rely upon a consultant to supplement your own resources, care must be taken to ensure the knowledge transfer takes place and your organization becomes self-sufficient.

Experience: A consultant that has worked with many organizations can gain a great deal of experience in planning, developing, and implementing systems. If your staff has not been involved in these activities, their inexperience may cause them to make the wrong decisions. Using an experienced consultant increases the likely of a successful project.

Cost: Consultants have a reputation for being expensive. If you compare their hourly rate to that of someone on your staff, it is easy to see how this impression is formed. However, the consultant’s fee includes not only salary, but also benefits and other expenses that are hidden when considering the cost of an in-house person.

Another factor is the higher efficiency of the consultant in their area of expertise. It may very well be less costly in the long run to use a consultant for the specialized work.

Objectivity: An outside consultant can offer a fresh unbiased view of your system. No matter how hard insiders try to objectively view the issues, their own involvement in the system and culture of the organization ends up influencing their response.

A consultant can explore solutions that may have been completely overlooked by your own staff or discounted as unworkable. A consultant may even make the same recommendation as one offered earlier by your staff, but this time it may receive more consideration due to the consultant’s creditability with management as an outside expert.