Over the past decade, many organisations have sought the support of an external consulting company or a consultant in developing, implementing and maintaining their management system (Quality, Health & Safety & Environment).
There are many reasons why an organisation engages external consulting firms and consultants. Some of the primary reasons are:
- Organisations have limited financial freedom to employ a fulltime position to develop management system. For a micro or small business, there is less/no need for an in-house management systems position as it does not directly involve in the core business activity of the organisation.
- Lack of expertise, knowledge and understanding of the requirements of ISO management system standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 45001, ISO 14001, etc.
- Some businesses require urgent or immediate supporting in developing the system and helping them in earning certification. This usually occurs in cases where the company is required to have a certified management system for winning or earning eligibility for a potential contract or project.
- Failed attempt to develop and maintain management systems using internal resources.
- Outsourcing the development and maintenance of management system function enables the organisation to focus more on their core revenue-generating activity, production and service provision.
A huge number of organisations have assigned external consultants to establish management system, prepare policies, write procedures, develop documentation (forms, checklist and registers), conduct training and internal audit. An external consultant or consulting firm plays a critical role in the shaping the management system for the business and also directly reflects on the success of the business and its service delivery. The success of the management system has a significant impact on the growth, revenue, sales, customer satisfaction and product conformity of the organisation.
If your business has decided to engage an external consulting firm to support in the development of ISO based management system, then it essential you to understand how to select an external consulting firm and how to evaluate them.
The below two critical factors should be considered while selecting and evaluating an external agency:
- Industry knowledge and experience
- Flexibility & Back-office support
Industry knowledge and experience
The competence of the consultant is a combination of their industry-specific knowledge, education and experience. For example, if you are looking to engage a consultant to develop a quality management system (ISO 9001:2015), the primary skills set you should be looking for is whether the consultant has certified training in ISO 9001:2015 such as Lead Auditor, Lead implementer and internal auditor. Many consultants in the market don’t have training on ISO 9001:2015 but yet provide consulting service based on their experience by working in an ISO system. It is added advantage if your consultant is trained to provide expert advice on ISO systems.
Another significant component is the industry-specific experience. The management system consultant whom you select to help you implement systems should be able to understand the nature of your business, its environment, industry, core business activities and its risks. Having the specific industry knowledge and experience allows the consultant to efficiently align the requirements of the standard according to needs of your organisation.
In the real world, you may not always find consultants having specific industry experience that your business operates but you should be able to select a consultant who has a base qualification and consulting exposure to a similar business environment/industry. For example, if you are engineering company, you would want your consultant to have an engineering background to support your business.
It is recommended to check your consultant’s current & previous projects and client references to gauge their level of industry knowledge.
Point scale to rank your consultant:
|1||No consulting experience & No formal training in management systems|
|2||1 to 2 years consulting experience, no industry specific knowledge or educational background, No formal training in management systems|
|3||3 to 5 years consulting experience, less industry specific knowledge or education background, formal training in management systems|
|4||5 to 7 years consulting experience, excellent industry specific knowledge, formal training in management systems|
|5||8+ years consulting experience, superior industry specific knowledge, formal training in management systems.|
Flexibility & Back-office support
Currently, there are numerous single operator consultants in the market who can offer consulting services in management systems. Some of them are part-time consultants with limited time and resources to provide high-quality services to their clients. When it comes to selecting consultants, you should look into various factors such as flexibility, company size, history of operations, the location of the firm, administration back office support.
For example, if your business has operating offices in Melbourne and Brisbane, it is highly recommended the consulting company has resources or offices in this location to support your management system.
Use the below table to rank your consultant based on flexibility & back-office support:
|1||Single person operator|
|2||Business that located in one location with less than 5 years’ experienceEmploys contracted consultedLess than 3 consultants in the team|
|3||Business with 5 to 7 years consulting experienceLocated in at least two metropolitan locationsBack-office support|
|4||Business with 7 to 9 years consulting experienceLocated in at least two metropolitan locationsBack-office support|
No contracted consultants
|5||Business more than 10 years consulting experienceLocated in at all major metropolitan locations in AustraliaBack-office support|
No contracted consultants