by Peter Parkes

Finding a consultant

Having effectively decided to engage a consultant – or at least being prepared to explore the option of using one – how do you go about it, avoiding some of the major pitfalls?

What is the nature of the assignment? Is it large and complex, or relatively small and with impact only within your own domain of control?

Engaging consultants for small projects

For relatively small projects, consultants can usually be bought from within approved operational budgets. You should check with your purchasing department to ensure that you stay within any existing guidelines. Often, companies either have ‘call off’ arrangements with providers of professional services or at least ‘framework’ agreements, which agree terms and rates. Of course, the most trusted source is from people you and your colleagues have worked with before.

Procurement for large and complex projects

Ask advice only of your equals.

Danish proverb

For large and complex projects, your purchasing department is likely to prescribe formal procurement arrangements. For the public sector, there are harmonised processes across Europe that require major purchases to be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Community (, to allow open and fair competition across member states.

There are also likely to be formal mechanisms in place for governing and managing these projects (see the topic on Project Management).