Somewhere along the way the word consulting in our field changed. Today consulting is about finding available freelancers on a just in time basis. The “consultant” is nothing more than a recruiter with a billing back office. Some consultants claim they screen the candidates, but there is no way that can be done effectively given the turnaround time to place people.
Furthermore, the consulting firms take very little accountability for the consultants they place. But, how can they when their experience is so varied and there is no standard for good service?
When I hire a consultant, part of what I am looking for is a well defined way of doing various types of work. I want the consulting group reviewing each engagement and revising their approach to work based on the lessons learned from each engagement. If I am going to hire a project manager, I want that person trained in the firm’s project management approach. If I hire someone to assist with a selection, I want that firm to have a clear written means to conduct IT selections. I don’t want someone that might have participated in one of these activities a while back and will try to mimic one the way a child mimics an adult.
Of course that means a large investment in people that develop these methodologies and take the time to train permanent staff. That seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird. Nobody has staff, they have home-based employee people working the phones looking for talent to place.
Update: In re-reading this post I recognize that it is too general. There are a lot of consulting groups that bring intellectual capital to the table. When I am introduced to a new consulting group the first thing I do is categorize them as a traditional firm with an investment in their staff, or a recruiter of free agents with no connection to the people they place.
Update 2: Too frequently someone claiming to represent a consulting firm, is really with a staff augmentation firm. There is a big difference between the two and I wish the staff augmentation firms understood this.