If you are about to buy external consultancy, here are twenty questions against which we suggest you assess the quality of your potential suppliers. We have included our own responses to help you compare us with other consultancies you may be considering.

Assess The Delivering Consultants For Their Standards And Abilities

1. How does their approach demonstrate a focus on client needs?

SMP’s initial diagnosis of client needs clarifies context and root issues at three levels: organisation, team and individual. This diagnosis includes onsite client research and comprehensive external marketplace scanning of sector suppliers and trends.

2. How much continuity in their role can they show?

SMP has been operating successfully since 1990 with the same Managing Partner.

3. What certified professional qualifications do they have?

SMP deliverers are all professionally qualified by their respective industry bodies. This includes competency accreditation in Business Consultancy and Human Resource Development.

4. What success in management positions can they show?

SMP has held Board level Directorships and experience in senior management positions improving work processes across front and back office functions.

5. How clearly stated is their process and methodology to transfer skills?

SMP delivery processes and methodology are clearly stated with client case studies published on member websites to demonstrate their application in practice.

6. How do they continuously maintain their own professional development?

Membership of professional Institutes ensures standards are maintained. SMP regularly authors books and expert articles from sources of recognised best practice. Published research by The Economist has been endorsed by the Director General of the Institute of Directors.

7. Do they work for related organisations?

SMP avoids supplying similar services to competing private companies at the same time. SMP links client supply chain projects to promote client networking.

8. What proof & evidence can they show of customer satisfaction?

References and written testimonials are available on request showing proof of success over many years across a diverse range of projects, markets, cultures and locations. SMP’s client feedback is documented and available through independent quality assessment bodies who measure professional competency at work.

9. How do they evaluate their success?

Individual consultants have also been quality checked by independent standards bodies who assess deliverers skills and knowledge. Their qualified Assessors evaluate customer projects, interview clients, and appraise consultants using assessment centre processes. Proof of project results at work is evaluated at three levels: individual, team and organisation development.

10. What benchmarks of excellence do they measure themselves against?

SMP has been trained to advise on the Business Excellence Model, Strategic Balanced Scorecard, Investors in Excellence, Corporate Social Responsibility, Baseline Personnel Security Standard and Business Continuity. SMP has active membership of the professional bodies who set standards in Process Improvement and People Development. These bodies provide access to current best practice across a wide range of sectors for research, design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer service.

Assess The Supporting Organisation

11. What extra professional back-up delivery resources can they offer?

SMP offers a supply chain consortium with experienced specialists professionally qualified to industry standards. Consultants are not an ongoing fixed overhead, which means clients pay only if and when they are contracted for delivery on site.

12. What level of quality does their corporate image show?

SMP supplies professionally published hard copy support materials with e-learning modules. Case studies of client successes are available on request.

13. What links do they have with professional bodies?

SMP has delivered CPD events for the Institutes of Business Consulting, Chartered Management, Personnel & Development, Marketing, International Association of Contract and Commercial Management and the British Computer Society. SMP clients comprise a wide range of private and public sector organisations.

14. How many customers does each consultant look after?

SMP has a ratio of no more than 10 clients per consultant to ensure accessibility and the delivery of a tailored service. Workshops are limited to 12 per facilitator.

15. How are services tailored to meet different client needs?

SMP tailors services with structured interviews, process audits, and validated diagnostics instruments to separate issue causes from symptoms. These follow approved market research standards.

16. How wide a range of services can they offer for future development programmes?

SMP services have evolved in tune with the needs of a broad range of clients and apply Balanced Scorecard techniques. Consulting covers organisation strategy and business planning to operational process improvement and executive coaching. A holistic approach is taken to ensure the impact of change is properly managed across different functions to fully engage with all stakeholders.

17. What is the quality of their learning support materials?

SMP learning materials are supplied in both published and electronic formats. The latter can be posted on intranets for widespread knowledge management. Content is written in simple bullet point style to ensure easy reference on the job.

18. What proven tools and instruments do they use to assess development needs?

SMP assesses client needs by reviewing the quality of client results and activities. These are benchmarked against best practice, gaps are identified and addressed.

19. How do they measure the return on client investment?

Return on investment is measured by comparing results and activities before and after change. This includes measuring specific process and behavioural improvements leading to higher performance.

20. Can they show a documented audit trail for the above?

SMP establishes a clear audit trail of changes by tracking outcomes against initial inputs, objectives, outputs and measures that are agreed in advance. Work is audited to benchmark standards by independent quality assurance bodies that use scorecards to measure performance against client evidence of actual deliverables.