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Consultancy practices can be broadly divided into the following types:

Generalist

These are large consulting firms that offer a wide range of services from strategy consulting and human resources to IT and, in some cases, outsourcing on a global basis. Many of these grew out of the audit firms, while others developed within IT service companies.

Strategy consultants

These consultancies are much smaller than the generalist firms and the majority of them are American. As the term suggests, they primarily offer strategic advice to companies on a project-by-project basis. This involves long-range planning, the reorganisation of a company’s structure, rationalisation of services and products and a general business appraisal of the company.

Human resource consultants

These are organisations offering specialist advice ranging from personnel policy, manpower planning, job enrichment, job evaluation and industrial relations.

Information technology consultants

These firms give specialist advice ranging from defining information needs, the provision of software, systems analysis and design, computer feasibility studies, implementing computer applications and making computer hardware evaluations.

Financial consultants

The specialist advice offered by financial consultancies ranges from the installation of budgetary control systems, profit planning or capital and revenue budgeting, office reorganisation and administrative arrangements.

Niche firms

Much of the growth in UK consulting has been as a result of consultants leaving the larger firms and setting up their own consultancy firms in a particular sector or offering a specialist service.

What is the range of a management consultant’s work?

Management consultants by their very nature are specialists because of the wide variety of management activities. The specialisms have been divided by the Institute of Consulting into the following areas of consulting activity:

Business strategy

This involves long-range planning, the reorganisation of a company’s structure, rationalisation of services and products and a general business appraisal of the company.

Manufacturing and business services

Involving a review of the layout of a production department, production control arrangements, productivity and incentive schemes or quality control problems.

Marketing

Market research and business forecasting, sales force training and the organisation of retail and wholesale outlets.

Financial and management controls

The installation of budgetary control systems, profit planning or capital and revenue budgeting, office reorganisation and administrative arrangements.

Human resources

Advising on personnel policy, manpower planning, job enrichment, job evaluation and industrial relations.

Information technology

Defining information needs, the provision of software, systems analysis and design, computer feasibility studies, implementing computer applications and making computer hardware evaluations.

Environmental management

This includes urban and regional development planning, international economic research, cost benefit and social analysis studies and physical, economic, ecological and sociological studies for the encouragement of quality of lifestyle.

Quality management

Setting of policy and strategy, customer satisfaction, performance measurement, people management and processes.

Choosing a firm

Choosing which type of firm to work for is not an easy decision. When considering a prospective employer, pick the consultancy environment that best suits your personality and your aspirations.

Global firms offer a broader range of opportunities in total but a new recruit might be constrained in one opportunity for some time. The support for a consultant in one of the global firms is superb. The methodologies, case studies, training courses and support material are usually extensive, comprehensive and thorough.

Smaller firms (say 30 to 150 consultants) will still have extensive materials, perhaps more localised opportunities, but an individual will normally sample a wider variety of assignments. Those practices that are smaller still might specialise (by sector or physical area) and offer as extensive an experience as the larger firms within the constraints of their chosen business scope.

Talk to the existing staff at the firms you are interested in and talk to consultants in other consulting models. Remember, that having made a choice, the other options could be revisited when you decide to change your horizons to meet your long-term career needs.

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