Say “No” to Big Consulting

   Dave Edwards

Your business is too important to be crammed into a big-box solution…


Let’s refer to a certain set of consulting firms as Big Consulting. You know who they are. The firms whose names rise above everyone else. Polished websites. Even more polished consultants and sales reps. They exude ego and confidence and will convince you they know your business model and struggles more than anyone else, even you!

Their corporate and experiential presentation is not what it seems in my experience. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

The focuses of Big Consulting:

  • Profit maximization (for them)
  • Condensed project timelines (for you)

What they will give you

Big Consulting has “solutions” that have been implemented at other companies and tweaked through numerous internal design sessions, and when you sign their contract their main goal becomes forcing your business case into a prescribed solution as soon as possible. Then they promise their approach will save you X dollars (and they may even charge you a commission for saving those dollars!), but leave you with no concrete method for tracking those savings in all likelihood.

In two of my more notorious experiences with Big Consulting, our entire finance organization was brought onto an Anaplan zero-based budgeting process over a period of two months. This was an entirely new method of budgeting that, while undeniably valuable when implemented properly, was an immediate departure from our traditional way of forecasting.

Project planning sessions occurred concurrently with model builds (a recipe for disaster if you ask any seasoned project manager). User feedback was not considered until the very end of the project. Internal admins and future model builders were excluded from a majority of the building, and the model hand-off process consisted of transition documents and a few one-hour, fire hose-drinking training sessions. Not exactly a great way to ensure the client is going to be able to support the new models after project sign-off.

The consultants at Big Consulting are also frequently so spread across multiple projects that your project rarely receives the attention it requires (and deserves!). After all, Big Consulting charges a premium rate for their “expertise,” so shouldn’t you receive the individual attention you are paying for?


But what about midsize firms?

I will admit that smaller consulting firms do a much better job at providing custom solutions and individualized attention for their clients, a need that Big Consulting is increasingly becoming incapable of satisfying. They will give your company the attention it needs during a project. There is no question in my mind about that.

But, in my past two roles I have noticed a major support gap outside of projects.

The issue here is that a firm will provide you the assistance you need throughout a project, maybe even throw in a couple months of hypercare after the core build is complete, but when you are out on your own after a project concludes and under the guidance and expertise of only your internal teams, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get the external help you need in a tight situation.

Firms are moving towards a profit-maximizing support model. For example, if you want someone to help with your day-to-day tasks or act as a backup in case of critical model bugs or user requests, this type of coverage is hard to find.

You can easily sign up for a multi-month support plan with 40 coverage hours per week. But what if you only want 10 hours per week? What if you only want support for one or two weeks?

That type of on-demand support is hard to acquire from medium to large firms that are oriented towards booking their consultants’ schedules as efficiently as possible.

Have an idea to contribute?

So what is the right solution?

If you have the opportunity, find someone who will give your business the attention it requires and will reliably provide you with support whenever you need it.

This can take the form of individual consultants or small teams available for contract. Someone with multiple years of experience building Anaplan models for a variety of use cases will have the knowledge necessary for designing solutions that are flexible and sustainable for your business.

There are certain architecture tricks that you only learn from overseeing models for long periods of time (more than a 3-6 month implementation). Unless you have spent time in all stages of the business cycle, you will not be able to design a model that can handle all stages of said cycle.

So look for someone who has spent considerable time on the front lines of a business, enduring periods of project planning, design, and support long after implementation. This type of consultant will serve you infinitely better than a traditional consultant whose only experience is gathered from revolving projects and shorter-term focus.

Take the time to find someone with reliable experience, and you will be rewarded with expertise and undivided commitment to your company’s success.

Thanks for reading!