Consultants are experts and strategists, regardless of their specialisation. On the smallest scale, businesses will hire consultants to fix a problem that they have recognized but cannot remedy internally.
Early in the process, the problem is often abstract so the consultant will use his or her expertise to define it. After defining the problem, the consultant, working alongside the business, forms a strategy and then executes it.
In addition to fixing problems, businesses use consultants to attain goals and to prepare for change.
How works a Consultant?
Most consultants and firms work on a per assignment basis. The business and the consulting firm agree on a task or a period of time and work together to meet that goal. Once the firm meets the goal, the contract and the relationship end. Businesses also have longer-term relationships with consultants and firms. Examples of these contracts are the HR and IT departments provided to a business by a consulting form.
On a smaller scale, businesses often hire specialised contractors almost as they would a regular employee to fill a niche role in the company. Prime examples of this are the techs that a client will contract from a technology firm as an on-site consultant. Another prevalent relationship type between business and consultant is fractional consulting. Fractional consulting takes many forms but is generally a long-term relationship and the services provided are often sporadic in nature.
Specific methodologies employed by consultants differ greatly depending on the field in which they are working. In a broader sense, consultants accomplish their tasks in a four-stage process. The first stage involves identifying the problem or goal and conceiving ideas on how to rectify or achieve it. The second stage involves forming strategies and visualizing how the business can implement the new ideas.
The third stage is the action stage. This is where the consultant, generally working closely alongside the business, executes the plan. The consultant will wear many hats during this stage of the process as he or she or the firm works toward the achieving the goal. The final stage is closure, or ensuring that the company is prepared to maintain its newly achieved status.
Even in a given field, the approaches employed by one consulting firm during the process can differ wildly from the approaches employed by another. These preferred methodologies are often what make a consultant or firm a good match for a particular business.