How can smaller consultants deliver better value than bigger players?

By Harry Allan

Government agencies and other large organisations should think beyond the traditional space of big consulting firms when considering tender submissions, according to business performance specialists State of Matter.

Grant Barker, Director Advisory & Project Delivery Services, State of Matter, said, “Small firms are more flexible and use innovative ways of dealing with change. They are really focused on people and, because of their size, clients get the best experts on the ground. By contrast, large consulting firms with many projects on the go at the same time tend to allocate their best people to their most valued clients, rather than giving everyone the same level of service.

“With the government under scrutiny to get up to speed with digital transformation it is important for them to work with partners that are agile and flexible, so that they can get there faster.”

The agility and availability of expertise that smaller businesses can provide should be considered as key advantages over their larger counterparts but, all too often, big is viewed as best.

Barker said, “It is often thought that larger organisations will be able to throw more resources to a project but that’s not necessary the case. Quite often, the opposite is true, especially if they are spread thinly with multiple projects. Smaller enterprises offer the benefit of lean, tight-knit teams, where everyone knows their role inside out. These teams are used to collaborating with each other, while teams in larger organisations are often thrown together to work on a particular contract having barely been introduced, let alone worked together previously.”

Furthermore, as smaller consultancies grow, they are often more open to innovative thoughts and strategies than their larger, more established counterparts. This is particularly true with smaller consultancies that actively maintain an “ecosystem” of like-minded, specialised partners that allows best-of-breed capability to come together.

Barker said, “As businesses grow and develop, they are usually much more open and willing to apply innovative thinking and techniques to their business operations. Their small size also makes them much more able to change direction quickly, tailoring their approach to the nature of the tender. For larger firms, change can be a much slower process involving multiple levels of bureaucracy and approvals. Moreover, larger enterprises have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, which makes them less open to changing the process.”

One area where smaller players are somewhat disadvantaged is that tenders can often be highly-complex, requiring a significant amount of resources to complete a submission.

Barker said, “Larger consulting firms can more easily absorb the cost of multiple unsuccessful tenders but smaller firms do not have that luxury, so they need to have a decent strike rate to make the tender process viable. Government agencies and large private enterprises can benefit by making the tender submission process less onerous and time consuming. This would let smaller, innovative operators compete more effectively and affordably. Consequently, government organisations could benefit more readily from the innovative, flexible and cost-effective approach delivered by smaller operators.”

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