Choosing a Management Systems Consultant
Choosing a Management Systems Consultant can be tough. You will be taking a gamble and business owners do not like to gamble with their money. The business will be opening its doors and possibly sharing confidential information. How do you feel about putting your trust in a supplier you don’t know from an industry which isn’t regulated? This article identifies the risks and helps you keep those risks under control.
Employees or contractors?
Check whether the company is using employed consultants or just engaging consultants when needed. If they are engaging as needed, ask what their competence requirements for their consultants are and what checks they undertake.
Many consultancies operate through a range of self-employed consultants. If you engage a consultant through one of these ‘agencies’ effectively you are paying the consultant plus the agency. The agency rarely offers any additional security and going direct will save you some money.
If they aren’t using employees they need to have robust systems for managing those they engage and their deliverables, because that’s what you use an agency for, and without them, you may have wildly different levels of service.
If you are not sure what you are getting, check the employees of the organisation you plan to use on LinkedIn. Look at whether the employees are working for multiple companies simultaneously. If so, then you are paying more than you need to. Hire direct instead, but do follow this guidance to ensure you.
Obviously, it’s good that an agency can replace a consultant if you don’t get on or they become unavailable. However, some consultancies (RKBC, for instance) have strong relationships with other great consultants and they support each other when the need arises. Ask the question before engaging a consultant.
Ask to see the consultants’ certificates of currency for relevant insurances
Not all consultants are fully insured, but you would hope that an agency would make sure insurance was in place. Either way, check the following insurances:
- Professional Indemnity for all consultants
- Public Liability for all consultants who come onto your site or your customer’s sites on your behalf
- Workers compensation insurance – this can often be checked through organisations like Employer Lookup | icare (nsw.gov.au)
- Other insurances may apply (e.g. vehicle insurance covering driving on a worksite)
National or Local
Check whether the consultancy is the size it claims to be.
Although there are some consultancies which appear to operate in many major cities, this is often just to increase their digital marketing opportunities. In the worst cases, consultancies use virtual offices to deceive their customers. Search online for virtual offices at that address to find out. If they are virtual offices, it is very likely they have no presence in that city or they send in a hastily engaged consultant if an opportunity arises. If they aren’t honest about their business, can you trust their support?
Ask for an explanation of the certification process.
Good consultants will have a process for helping you obtain certification, and they will be able to clearly communicate it. If they can’t look somewhere else.
Ask how they incorporate your existing processes and address your risks
They should also a have a structured approach to reviewing your processes and risks to determine the scope and scale of the system they are going to develop. If they don’t, the system you receive will expect you to abandon your processes in favour of theirs. The better ‘template systems’ often address risks which don’t apply to your business or address them inadequately. The worst ‘template systems’ may barely touch on your operational risks at all.
A template system is often more complicated than needed (because it’s designed to suit everyone). Often, they are just a collection of rebranded documents. We’ve been asked to improve some template systems and in some cases, it was cheaper to start again than try and fix make what was there.
Ask what the cost of the system is to cover additional or fewer standards, both now and later.
A consultant should offer a multi-discipline management system for only a relatively small additional cost over a single discipline system. If a multi-discipline system is double the price of a single discipline, then be concerned as there is a large amount of overlap between the standards. Similarly, if they say it will be much more expensive to add a standard to the system after its built then alarm bells should ring. Adding it later shouldn’t really make much difference if the design of the system is high quality to begin with.
Ask about the system’s features and functionality. How do you ensure that your system does not fall into disrepair? How can you analyse training, non-conformances, customer complaints, system changes, legal compliance, etcetera?
Many consultants don’t really deal with functionality. They deliver a system of documents and instructions, and the rest is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with such a system and you can certainly obtain certification with a system like this. However, such systems are very difficult to determine whether it is effective or to identify valuable improvements. Analysing data for Management Reviews, Improvement Opportunities, trend analysis or predicting process drift is a requirement and is particularly difficult to assess using standalone documents. It’s much better to capture this data electronically where analysis is easy or can even be automated.
Is the consultant pushing for a sale of their software?
Many consultants promote software. They make money from their engagement as a consultant, but more importantly to them, they make an ongoing income from the software they sell. There is nothing wrong with a consultant offering a recommendation of software, but this should not be the consultant’s primary goal. If it is, you may receive poor service from the consultant, because the software is his focus rather than the system. You may also find your software is more complicated than it needs to be because it is designed to suit all needs and all business sizes.
Is your consultant a full-time management systems specialist?
Some consultants do other things with their working time. We’ve met consultants who were lawyers, accountants, and HR consultants too. There is potentially nothing wrong with this if they are good, but often this is not the case. Often management system consulting is a sideline for them used to fill up gaps in their normal working week. And this means they don’t have the knowledge or experience to do it well. When choosing a Management System consultant check their online profile thoroughly and make sure that management systems consulting is not just a side hustle for them.
Has your consultant only suggested obtaining a quote from one certification company?
To provide the best service for you, your consultant should not limit your options to a single Certification Body. It is against certification rules for a consultant to receive any benefits for feeding work to a certifier. And by doing so it is unlikely you will receive the best price or service. If this occurs, question the consultant’s independence and the certifiers integrity.
Is your consultant giving away other businesses confidential information?
As the customer, you should expect confidentiality from your consultant. When choosing a Management Systems Consultant, we recommend asking them to sign a confidentiality agreement. They should be happy to. However, if during conversations, they let slip other customers confidential information, be very concerned. If they don’t honour the confidentiality of other clients, what makes you think they will respect yours.
Remote or Onsite?
Is your consultant only offering a remote service?
Many businesses have moved to a more online way of working, and although many consultants may offer remote services, this is not an ideal scenario. A good consultant will identify risks and opportunities by observing a workplace. Doing this through an online meeting is difficult (unless your whole business operates only online). A local consultant who can visit your workplace is the ideal option.
Does your consultant provide a contract?
They should. The contract must set out the costs and how it is to be invoiced. It should define what the deliverables are and the approximate timeline, effort, or both. It should also include any terms and conditions associated with the work (and there must be some). If it is all a gentleman’s agreement, then it will be difficult to argue they haven’t met their obligations when you receive their invoice.
Is the consultant unreservedly committing to a fixed timeline?
Any company that says they will have you certified in a specific time is lying. A consultant cannot obtain certification for a customer without their involvement. The customer needs to review and approve content. They must implement the management system (with the support of the consultant). They must be available for audits and management reviews. The timeline is more dependent on the customer than the consultant. As such, we only ever provide an estimated timeline. Do not trust a consultant offering a fixed timeline.
What industries does the consultant serve?
Although it’s not vital to use a consultant who has knowledge of your industry, it does have advantages. Any good consultant can identify risks and opportunities. Consultants with relevant experience may identify more. No one consultant is going to be able to cover all industries with the same level of knowledge so find out about the consultant’s background, skills, and experience. Ask for references. A good consultant should be able to provide them.
RKBC specialises in engineering, construction, manufacturing, infrastructure management, distribution, laboratories and consultancies, but through our connections we can serve almost any industry.
If you think we can help you, book an appointment with us today.