On-Demand vs. Big Consulting Part 3: Alternative Methods for Finding Specialized Skills

Chuck Leddy

In Part 1 of our on-demand-vs-big-consulting series, we described the structural inefficiencies of big consulting firms and how they negatively impact potential clients like you. In Part 2 we explored the factors that lead clients to continually select big consulting firms to tackle their business challenges. Here, in Part 3, we’ll offer you a framework for adopting alternative methods to talent acquisition, with insights from the recent Ardent Partners State of the Contingent Workforce report.

Aligning On-Demand Talent With Your Talent Needs

In our high-tech world, we often buy expensive, complex systems, whether it’s a computer with 100 functions — only eight of which we plan to use — or a smartphone preloaded with 20 apps — 15 of which we’ve never even opened. The truth is that sometimes these devices overcomplicate tasks, especially when all you need is just a few specific functions.

The same can be said for finding expertise for your business needs. When all you want is a project to streamline a specific business process (say, paying vendors), going big with a brand-name consulting firm is not necessarily the ideal option. Consider the following framework for finding and deploying on-demand talent.

1. Analyze Your Needs

The first step to finding an alternative solution to solving your business challenge is to carefully analyze your needs. You can do this by identifying:

  • Specific goals and expectations.
  • Existing in-house resources.
  • Needed skills you don’t possess in-house.
  • Potential costs and expenses.

You may find that your organization’s challenge can be met with a single experienced expert with specialized skills in your industry or a hyper-focused boutique firm. Consider your needs first rather than simply defaulting to a big brand-name firm.

2. Develop Engagement Strategies

For the average enterprise, talent is the prime competitive differentiator. Talent engagement is massively important for the development of any modern organization, because more engagement leads to better business outcomes (more innovation, better customer experiences, more profits, and more). According to the recently published “State of The Contingent Workforce Management” report by Ardent Partners, “Talent engagement strategies must account for developments in online staffing (e.g., online talent platforms), changes in generational workforce culture (millennials, Gen Z), and the general desire to become a more agile enterprise.”

As talent engagement expert and bestselling author (“Employee Engagement 2.0”) Kevin Kruse explains: “The contingent workforce has a high degree of choice in who they work for, so engagement matters a lot to them.” And the way to drive on-demand talent engagement is in providing work that’s helping on-demand talent to grow, learn/develop skills, and be challenged. Organizations leveraging on-demand talent should also focus on offering recognition and appreciation for good work done. In that way, on demand talent will feel engaged in working for that organization, and will want to keep contributing more value in the future.

No matter what talent you use, whether it’s better leveraging your internal employees, alumni network or accessing a boutique firm or on-demand knowledge worker, be prepared with engagement strategies to get the most out of the relationship.

3. Find a Customizable Solution

An important criticism of Big Consulting is their use of methodologies, approaches and best practices developed for other clients that may not match your organization’s unique needs and culture. Boutique firms and on-demand talent, on the other hand, do not approach problems in a cookie-cutter way. Instead, they customize deliverables and solutions to their client’s particular needs.

4. Leverage a Tech-Based Platform

While it may be easier to find the contact information for one of the Big Four than it is for a small, lesser-known firm, that doesn’t mean Big Consulting is the best fit for your needs. Companies can look to technology-based platforms to seamlessly find specialized expertise. Whether you’re looking for market research, competitive analysis, customer insights, data science, go-to-market strategy, change management, organizational development, or supply chain management within your marketing, sales, operations, HR or finance departments, tech-based human capital solutions can help. Online talent marketplaces not only boast thousands of vetted experts with specialized skills in multiple industries, but they also help onboard and manage them as well.

As the Ardent report cited above explains, “The very concept of ‘total workforce management’ hinges on the ability to gain total talent visibility. By harnessing data from various systems, including VMS, RPO, eProcurement and HRIS, and/or enhancing or augmenting it with machine learning, today’s enterprises will be well-positioned to thrive in the new world of work by tapping into on-demand talent that fits the exact requirements of business projects and initiatives.”

As more and more companies go through digital transformation, the ability to leverage external expertise to resolve business challenges as they arise is becoming a competitive advantage. However, defaulting to the Big Four to meet this need can be a costly mistake. Taking these steps to find an alternative solution will result in a better decision. A small, specialized team from a boutique company may not only be a lower-cost option, but may also result in a more personalized experience and a better, higher-quality deliverable.

For more information, read the entire Ardent Partners State of the Contingent Workforce report.