Engaging Professional Service Firms Across the Spectrum

In my role, most of my time is spent meeting with business leaders at our firm’s clients.

For context, in the last 12 months I’ve met with executives at 55 companies ranging anywhere from the 100-person high-growth startup on the edge of maturity to the $50B/yr healthcare provider that’s been around for 70 years.

One thing I’ve noticed is that no matter where a company is on the maturity scale or where they are in their growth cycle, they engage with professional service firms in the same two ways:

  1. They either hire a firm of management consultants to deliver a project or an outcome.
  2. Or they engage a firm to recruit contractors to fill roles for defined periods of time.

While this might seem like an obvious realization, what surprises me time and time again is how rare it is that I run across individuals engaging service providers in both capacities at the same time to solve a problem. Most are in one bucket, or the other. Not both.

Pro Staff Spectrum only

Sounds reasonable.

Until you consider the typical trajectory of a project:

Pro Staff Process only

  1. Everything your company does starts with someone having an idea.
  2. Ideas tend to require strategic thought on how to bring them to life.
  3. Strategies lead to projects that need to get done, or outcomes to achieve.
  4. And those projects lead to the need for arms & legs to do the work.

It’s really a simple process that we all go through. Just not something we often think about in real-time.

When you decompose each of those steps, it gets easier to understand the psychology behind why people gravitate toward one end of the service spectrum more than the other. Usually it’s because they’re more heavily invested in one step versus the others, so they naturally hire firms that specifically address that one step without the same level of concern for the others.

What I challenge customers to think about is the value they could capture over the life of their project if every step in that process could be addressed by moving across the service spectrum with a single firm.

For example, blending the project trajectory above with the spectrum of professional services:

Pro staff composite

  1. Engage strategic thinkers at the time that you’re articulating your ideas.
  2. Overlap those strategic thinkers with expert consultants when you’re ready to formalize your ideas into projects.
  3. Supplement the expert consultants driving your projects with contracted talent to fill specific skill needs on the execution team.
  4. Convert some of that contracted talent to full-time employees as the project becomes “business as usual.”

By visualizing bringing your ideas to life this way rather than focusing on executing just one step at a time in a vacuum, you can eliminate your reliance on engaging just one type of professional service at a time as well. It also demonstrates that no matter where you are in the process, each type of service can be applied to fill a strategic void.

For example, staff augmentation won’t solve your Customer Experience challenges by itself. And strategy consulting won’t get you a UX Designer either. But to achieve your end goal, if Customer Experience improvement is your goal, you’re probably going to need both in varying capacities and at different times.

Engaging with a firm that affords you the flexibility to seamlessly move across the service spectrum as needed can drive cost savings and human capital value on the “get work done” side of the equation while helping you drive significant value creation on the “ideation” end of the spectrum.

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