Why use outsiders to make changes? - FT.com

February 9, 2012 11:01 am

Why use outsiders to make changes?

Nish Kotak is managing director of Execellence, a provider of business change services

Why hire an interim consultant or project/change manager?

Organisations often lack people with the specific skills they get from interims. Or they have the right skills internally but prefer to appoint outsiders, to get an expert who can work independently and has no allegiances to any internal division. Or the organisation has the talent but simply cannot free them up.

What are they expected to achieve?

They must deliver the change programme they are brought in to deliver, measured through both quantitative objectives such as cost savings, and qualitative measures ranging from internal acceptance to employee and customer satisfaction levels. However, the measures can change because of the uncertain nature of the change itself and sometimes due to extended timescales. In this ever-changing situation, it is the interim’s responsibility to keep track of the risks and benefits at all times and make sure any changes to expected outcomes are accepted by the organisation.

What are the benefits to the hiring organisation?

It gains from the interim’s experience and knowledge, which can help avoid pitfalls and reduce risks. Interims can also hit the ground running and, as outsiders, they have an independence of thinking when making tough choices. Interims can also pass on their knowledge to internal teams for use in future programmes.

How does this compare with hiring a consulting organisation?

A consulting firm might take full responsibility for delivering a solution, using its own methods and its own team. It will work closely with client teams, but will want to run things its own way. An interim consultant becomes part of the organisation’s own team and will take responsibility for delivering the change programme using a large proportion of the client’s own internal resources.

Is this similar to outsourcing your “management of change”?

Using an interim consultant is the opposite to the outsourcing model, which means an organisation is looking for the outsourcer to “take away” the change function and manage it for them. The interim consultant route is more akin to “in-sourcing” the skills and experience. It can be dangerous to outsource the change function because all change is intrinsically linked to the “business as usual” functions.

Is the use of such interims becoming the norm?

Yes. The number of interim consultants has been growing every year since around 2002 and they provide a real alternative for organisations to manage change internally. This is a new trend. In the past, most contract project managers worked on IT projects. Today, many experienced consultants have been leaving their firms in order to manage an independent career and to deliver much broader client-side change programmes.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012.