Are You up for the Challenge? The Value of ‘Challenger’ Consultancies…
by: Alastair Vetch, Head of Government and Public Sector Practice, P2 Consuting www.p2consulting.com
The concept of a ‘challenger’ in the market place is not a new phenomenon, but it does feel that in recent times the challenger has become both more prevalent and more significant.
|Firms such as Vanquis and Metro Bank in the financial services sector, First Utility in the energy market or Asos in retail could probably all lay claim to the ‘challenger’ label. Such firms have clear points of differentiation, whether its new products and services, new business models, refreshed campaigns or serving entirely new customers. Sometimes it’s a case of seizing on all of these to challenge established players on value grounds; Lidl and Aldi will immediately spring to mind, I suspect.
One aspect that appears common amongst challengers is that success of these firms is not only their differentiated approach, but their ability to apply their strategy quicker than the competition. I bet many of my former Army colleagues will recall that military advantage is all about “rapid cycle time on the OODA Loop” - the ability to Observe, Orientate, Decide and Act quicker than the opposition.
The consultancy market is no different and certainly we at P2 believe that challenger firms like ours can offer a distinct and value-based alternative to more traditional and established firms. The proof of our assertion is based on the trust our clients place in us to manage their large and complex change programmes.
So what marks out a successful challenger? Four key attributes spring to mind:
- 1. Focus. challengers source and develop the talent to do a few things really well. We like to think we can do the “basics” of complex programme delivery well and hence can apply ourselves to addressing more sophisticated problems in today’s volatile and complex business environment. We also focus our attention on defining the most appropriate set of services, tools and techniques that will aid our teams and clients to deliver change more effectively and do so with a speed greater than many of our more established competitors.
- 2. Experience: our staff bring a mix of sector and client experiences, importantly these experiences are all closely coupled to our core delivery purpose and focus. In reality this means we bring genuine, practical wisdom of most of the challenges likely to be faced by change leaders and hence our clients take increased comfort and confidence in our advice and support. Crucially this experience is equally true of our support staff who possess an intimate understanding of the resourcing needs for transformation programme.
- 3. Flexibility. We adopt an entirely flexible resource model to best address the needs of our clients. In some cases this will require a single expert (whether a permanent employee or an associate), on other occasions we will provide teams or a managed service. This means that our response to a client can be more precise as we look to deploy the ‘fittest athletes’ for a role not simply those that are available.
- 4. Operational. With a flexible resourcing approach comes an ability to be more flexible on the commercial arrangements that underpin our client relationships. For example, engaging in fixed fee or risk-reward deals as an alternative to T&M contracts where this is of value. The fact that we are highly disciplined in how we manage our own business and can maintain a low cost base means that we are regularly more price competitive compared with larger firms.
When you consider the all-round package offered by “challenger” consultancies, you understand how they can be true partners to organisations seeking to make the most from their change investments. We believe that the consultancy market is becoming more polarised and clients are rightly more demanding of excellence and proof that our experience is genuine. In the current business environment there is little time, money or patience for consulting organisations to learn on the job and bring a leveraged and generalist skill set to bear. Our core proposition is that the right balance of focus, experience and flexibility is what clients now need in order that their major investments will be delivered with confidence.