Structuring Consulting Projects


A friend of mine recently took up a HR leadership role in a mid-sized company. Over a cup of coffee, we were discussing how he would lay out a strategic roadmap for the HR function’s effectiveness and how the company would manage talent. Once we had identified the core HR programs that needed to be delivered exceptionally well, the discussion shifted to how will the work get done – what can be delivered by the incumbent HR team, what data is required, what parts need to be done as external consultant-led projects etc.

Structuring consulting projects

I helped by drawing out a quick 2-by-2 matrix (like a good consultant should!). There are two main considerations while making these decisions: availability of in-house manpower and availability of in-house expertise (could be technical expertise, data, stakeholder engagement etc.). So, look at each HR initiative and evaluate them against these two dimensions. And there are four scenarios:

Do it Yourself: If you find yourself in the lucky situation where you have both the quantity and quality of manpower required to deliver an initiative, you simply do it yourself.
Buy Hands: If you have sufficient expertise in-house, but your resources are tied up, you might want to structure a consulting assignment on a leverage model. Your internal resources would drive the project, guide the technical solution design and sell it to the business. You would engage a consultant to do the grunt work – collect data, conduct analyses, write manuals / policies etc. In this leverage model, you would avoid paying high billing rates for senior consultants but instead get competent entry / mid level consultants for getting the job done.
Buy Brains: If you have adequate manpower in-house, but they lack the capability to design and implement an initiative, you would need to structure the consulting assignment differently. Here, you would probably engage a senior, experienced consultant who has expertise and experience. This consultant will guide the solution development and parts of the groundwork will be done by leveraging internal resources, thereby reducing costs and targeting investments in strategic parts of the consulting assignment.
Buy Brains and Hands: Finally, if you are operating in a tough environment where both quantity and quality of internal resources is an issue, you will have to structure full-blown consulting assignments. In this case, your role will be more focused on internal project management and providing inputs / endorsement of work deliverables.
Thinking thoroughly about how to get the work done in the most effective and efficient manner will be a critical skill for leaders in the age of disaggregation of jobs. It will help you in utilizing internal resources optimally, manage costs and enhance ROI of your spend.

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