consulting-firms

Top 5 Attributes of Effective Advisory Firms

This is Part I of Lois' Consulting Blog Trio - Read the second and third posts here.

I’ve spoken with many healthcare organizations as of late. As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, many organizations feel the need to look for advisory expertise to help them navigate new issues. Some even express a desire to enlist outside support that can help speed up their own initiatives.

We at KLAS have spoken recently with 230 healthcare executives that have worked with various consulting firms. We’ve done so in order to help answer 3 questions for our healthcare provider friends:

  • What shared attributes lead to successful engagements with consulting firms?
  • What potholes plaguing consulting firms should healthcare organizations keep in mind when looking to hire consultants?
  • What are the emerging needs, and which firms are perceived to be best positioned?

KLAS will be releasing the Healthcare Consulting 2016 report in a month, which helps deliver answers to these questions.

Having worked as a consultant myself, I am passionately engaged in exploring the answers we’ve received from our insightful interviews. Along with the Healthcare Consulting report, I’ll be sharing some of my own personal insights in this 3 part blog series.

 

Here are what I would call the Top 5 Attributes of An Advisory Firm:

1. Proficient: Superior Consultant Knowledge and Experience

Providers I spoke with say they are most successful when firms provide consultants that have strong industry experience as well as a wide, holistic breadth of technical knowledge.

 

2. Collaborative: Effective Partnering

I’ve also found that a partnering attitude that puts the client first positions consulting firms for success. Before an engagement even begins, a consulting firm must listen to the client, understand the client’s business needs and organization culture, and then provide an engagement tailored to achieve the best outcomes for that individual organization.

Several providers expressed their thoughts this way,

Effective Partnering


“I think it is important that a consulting firm listens to what we have to say and knows what our needs are. I don’t want them to have a prescribed set of recommendations that they can customize based on our needs.”

 

“Our experience with a consulting firm shouldn’t feel like the firm is going through their playbook and adapting what is applicable to us. Instead, consulting firms should find out what our issues are and help us fix those issues.”

 

“Consultants need to recognize the culture of the organization they are working with as quickly as possible so that they can realize benefits. They can make a bunch of suggestions, but if they don’t have the right interdisciplinary skills to facilitate those changes for the key stakeholders who remain after they leave, we often don’t get anything out of the service, which we pay a lot of money for.”

 

3. Trustworthy: Keeps Promises, Demonstrates Integrity

Those providers I spoke to want to work with consulting firms they can trust to keep promises and follow through on the achievable outcomes. This can also start before the engagement does, when advisers should set credible expectations. Consulting firms need to demonstrate integrity in following through on those expectations to ensure project success.

Providers I talked with explained it like this,

 

“Good firms deliver as promised. If a firm tells me they will do something, I expect them to do exactly what they say they will do.”

 

“The most critical thing is for firms to have high-quality people who can deliver what the company says they can. So firms shouldn't oversell their resources.”

 

4. Efficient: Has the Right Resources, Right Cost, Right Timeline

Consultants must be not only knowledgeable and experienced but also the right resources for the project at hand. Healthcare providers report that the most successful consulting firms are meticulous and consistent about aligning client needs with consultants’ skill sets. Along the same lines, clients say that firms must be conscientious about sticking to agreed-upon costs and timelines.

To quote a provider ​I spoke with,

 

“Knowledge and expertise in the industry in the area that a firm serves are obviously critical. Everybody always talks about getting the cheapest cost for a consulting company, but people get what they pay for. I look for knowledge, expertise, longevity, the quality of outcomes, and success at other organizations.”

 

 

5. Strategic: Has a Strategic Approach

The final success attribute identified by healthcare organizations is demonstrated by firms that go a step beyond just offering knowledge and expertise. Such firms bring additional value by assuming a position of thought leadership and exercising strategic and collaborative guidance. Firms that take a truly strategic consulting approach will communicate proactively and effectively with clients, convince stakeholders to buy in, and use their knowledge empower continued healthcare success.

One provider explained,

 

“The most critical attribute of a successful consulting firm is really the ability to bring the right knowledge and skills to a project. Also, someone can be the most knowledgeable consultant in the world, but if that person can’t establish a relationship of trust with stakeholders, then that resource isn't going to get anywhere.”

 

This is only the first part of a trilogy I’m writing on this topic. Next week, I want to dive into the struggles (I’ll call them potholes) faced by clients when engaging consulting firms, and how those will affect outcomes for providers. My hope is that this information will help providers to be successful in their partnering with outside firms.