Interim Managers Vs Management Consultants Vs Internal Resources

Written by Lucy Bielby on Mar 28, 2018

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The Pros and Cons -  Interim Managers Vs Management Consultants Vs Internal Resources

As an Interim Management and Executive Search Consultancy, we understand that modern resource management, in the context of projects, is both challenging and a significant opportunity for leadership teams to change the capabilities within the business.

With change now ‘business as usual’, most of our clients are either in growth or change mode and need immediate help with their workforce on major strategic programs.

Changing social demographics, disruptive technologies and globalisation all require fresh leadership and fresh perspectives on a long-term basis. But where should you turn to obtain the input and expertise for vital projects?

I have looked at the three main resourcing options that are available (along with the potential pros and cons) when compiling a project team to drive transformation:

Interim Managers

Interim Management is the ‘temporary’ supply of an individual with management expertise into an organisation. These individuals are referred to as Interim or Transformation Managers and will typically be experienced business leaders who operate through their own individual limited companies.

Interim Managers have consciously made a career choice to operate in this way and are typically experienced Managers/Directors who have spent time sat “in the client’s seat”. Giving them a deep understanding of the requirements and best approaches for the project. Typically, they will have operated in this capacity for several years.

So, what are the benefits of hiring an Interim Manager?

Pros

  • Interim Managers are ‘hands on’ and will not only advise, but also implement and execute.
  • They will have the ability to transfer knowledge into internal teams, ensuring employees are educated and the project is a success.
  • Most Interim Managers (unless on assignment) can be hired within days. They are usually employed on flexible contracts, which offer the ability to quickly scale up and down on projects.
  • As the client, you can choose which individuals you want working on the project. This will often come from a shortlist provided by an Interim Management consultancy. This ensures you have fully experienced teams on the project.
  • Interims are known for having sensitivity to the ethos of organisations but are also experts in avoiding office politics.
  • Interim Managers are impartial. An Interim is hired to do the best for the business with no hidden agenda.
  • Interim Managers bring bespoke models / project management frameworks that are tailored to individual business requirements.
  • Interim Managers offer cost effective solutions and usually at half the day rate of traditional consulting houses.

Cons

  • If you are assembling a team of Interim Managers for a project, you may find yourself managing multiple recruitment processes.
  • You will utilise Interim Managers in a unique way to Management Consultants, and thus cultural fit will be key to success.
  • Interim Managers will need to be ‘managed’ in a unique way to other employees. They operate independently and are ultimately hired through their own limited company.
  • You will need to define a structured brief defining the key deliverables of their assignment. For example, has the Interim Manager been hired to advise and consult? Or is their objective to implement and lead a change and transformation?

Management Consultants

The UK’s management consulting market has grown significantly over the past few years and is now estimated as being worth more than £7 billion. According to research, the consulting sector in the UK  grew much faster than the economy over the past three years. 

Is this surprising? Especially as the majority of FTSE 100 organisations partner with Management Consultants.

Management Consultants primarily focus on improving organisational performance by analysing the existing challenges and developing plans for improvement. There are major players like the global strategy houses, big four professional services organisations, as well as a growing number of boutique organisations in this space, who can provide specialist expertise.

So, what are the benefits of hiring Management Consultants?

  • Management Consultancies have extensive bench-marking data and a view across your industry.
  • They typically hire well educated, hardworking young professionals.
  • They can bring IP, analytical power and case studies to the project table.
  • The end client has access to the wider resources of the consultancy firm.
  • The boutique firms are often run by entrepreneurial and commercially minded leaders.
  • You still have the final decision on implementation and how this is delivered.

Cons

  • Many of the consultants (particularly in the big firms) albeit hardworking and bright, lack external industry experience or understand what it takes to put theory and academia into practice.
  • An increasing consulting market means that talent retention has become a major issue for consultancies.
  • Consultancies are often incentivised to ‘land and expand’, cross selling other revenue streams.
  • As consultants typically act through an advisory or faciliatory capacity, attaching accountability can be difficult.
  • Depending on the brief, you may only be provided advice, and the consultancy may not be involved in the implementation of the proposed solutions.
  • They often have traditional working styles.
  • Internal employees or Interims Managers may be being responsible for delivery – this creates additional costs and gaps to cover within the business.
  • Consultants often lack knowledge of in-house procedures. This can create work conflict, as their mode of operation may affect workflow for your regular employees.
  • Consultants are tied into a dual relationship and work for their employer not the end client. This can sometimes be conflicted in terms of what is right for the end client.

Internal Resources

When starting a new project within the organisation, businesses will often look internally to identify strong performers to run business critical change projects. It is rare that momentous change projects will be fulfilled entirely by an internal team. Nonetheless, it is equally vital that internal team members are involved in these types of initiatives. This will prevent the programme losing momentum after the specialist change experts leave.

At first glance, an internal consultant is just like an external consultant. They are put onto the project to solve organisational challenges and improve the performance of an organisation.

So, what are the benefits of using Internal Resources?

  • Internal consultants understand the organisational culture.
  • Have existing stakeholder relationships and likely credibility within the organisation.
  • Can understand the change project in the context of the wider organisation.
  • Have a vested interest in the project’s success.
  • Cost reduction – employees are already on payroll and an accounted cost.
  • They can continue to play a key role even after the implementation.
  • Providing individuals with new opportunities can support with retention of employees.

Cons

  • These individuals are being moved from roles where they are likely to be doing good/important/successful work. This creates a new a gap within the organisation and another hiring challenge.
  • May not be specialist experts.
  • They are restrained by politics in what they can and can’t do/say. Whereas an interim/consultant will work objectively- ignoring office politics.
  • Being great at their day job does not automatically mean they will achieve strong results in a Change and Transformation project.
  • They may not always have ‘outside’ experience
  • There is a chance that they will not have delivered this piece of work before
  • Many people fulfil a consulting role either full-time or part time. However, an internal consultant is likely to find themselves focusing on additional areas of the business.

So, would you hire an Interim Manager, Management Consultant or Internal Resource for your next Change and Transformation project? 

Each of the three options we have explored have both pros and cons. As a business leader, you will need to think carefully about the type of change project you are embarking on, along with the budget and resources available. You may choose a blend of all three options or have a preference but whatever it is you need to consider this decision carefully.

We would be keen to hear your thoughts on what you look for in a Change and Transformation leader. So, why not leave a comment below?

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