Most organizations either have experience with hiring a consultant or have at least considered it at one time or another. These professionals are often brought in to help shape strategic plans, provide an independent perspective or to support broader transformations. While external advice can come as a crucial aid to leaders, hiring a clinical research consultant may not be the right fit for every organization. It is therefore important to understand the opportunities and obstacles involved with hiring an advisor before beginning the contracting process.
To begin evaluating whether or not consultants are right for your organization, consider these three opportunities a partnership can provide: industry expertise, impartiality and best practices.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of hiring a business consultant is that they bring detailed and in-depth expertise required for their area of focus. As consultants will work with multiple clients in their specialty, they develop a keen awareness of trends and developments in the field; this finger on the pulse can help organizations stay ahead of the curve and maximize the potential of new models and methods. As a result, consultants can not only help their clients with decision making in the short term, but have the potential to build a long-term structure designed to increase productivity and performance. These sorts of results can generate a quantifiable return on investment.
As Consultancy.org, an international network for consulting platforms, explains, “Without being tied to certain ways of doing things, or a company’s historic culture and methods, consultants can also deploy their objectivity toward important creative solutions. Without having to consider whether or not their future work might depend on currying favor with a business’ executives, they are able to deliver breakthrough insights and strategic thinking at odds with what a client might typically have thought of.”
Unlike a permanent employee, who may be subject to the internal politics of an organization, consultants bring an independent perspective to their work. “A good consultant will always be unbiased and objective, as they have no personal connection to the organization. Their ‘out-of-box’ thinking means they can focus only on the goal/plan agreed with their client, without being caught up in internal distractions”.1 While consultants may have their own preferences as to particular solutions to best fit situations, these have been developed over the course of a varied career, rather than steeped in the historical decision making processes of any one organization.
Consultants work with a diversity of clients, and therefore can bring experience from a variety of companies and industries. This diversity in thinking allows them to offer creative solutions, cultivated through insight in best practices. By learning from the best performers in industry, organizations can uncover proven ways of improving their own operations.
There are also challenges to hiring a clinical research consultant. The first, and often most difficult obstacle to overcome, is expense. It’s true that a business consultant is usually more expensive in the present than an employee. However, consider the long-term outlook. An organization only pays for services rendered by a consultant; on the other hand, a traditional employee represents a continuous expense whether or not their skills are in use. If budget is a concern, a project should only hire a consultant if an organization is fairly confident in their ability to improve productivity overtime.
While consultants often present an array of analytics to show that engaging them is a smart step, there is no such thing as a guaranteed investment. There is always a possibility – even if a consultant would argue that it is a slim one – that an organization might not achieve the results it had in mind. Risk of this kind can be minimized by considering the consultant’s past work and conducting thorough reference checks. At the end of the day, as one author puts it, “Consultants can provide their expertise, but it’s best to have all the information needed to make the last call and move forward with a measurable goal for success. Ultimately, the decision is yours.”
Risk averse individuals and organizations will still likely be uncomfortable with the uncertainty surrounding the hire of a consultant. Yet, if an outside perspective and creative solutions are a top priority, it may be a risk worth taking.
Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of SCRS InSite: The Global Journal for Clinical Research Sites.
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