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How smaller, innovative firms can deliver better value than big consulting firms

By Ashton Young
Mon 27 Mar 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The ‘bigger is better’ mentality is an old one that looks to almost have reached its demise.

It’s now more about ‘agility’ and ‘flexibility’, and State of Matter director of advisory & project delivery services, Grant Barker says government agencies and other large organisations should be thinking beyond the traditional space of big consulting firms when considering tender submissions.

“Small firms are more flexible and use innovative ways of dealing with change. They are really focused on people and, because of their size, clients get the best experts on the ground,” Barker says.

“By contrast, large consulting firms with many projects on the go at the same time tend to allocate their best people to their most valued clients, rather than giving everyone the same level of service.”

Barker says with governments under pressure to get up to speed with digital transformation it is more important than ever for them to work with partners that are flexible and agile to allow them to get there faster.

However, big is often still viewed as best, despite the key advantages that smaller businesses can provide like agility and availability of expertise.

“It is often thought that larger organisations will be able to throw more resources to a project but that’s not necessary the case. Quite often, the opposite is true, especially if they are spread thinly with multiple projects,” says Barker.

“Smaller enterprises offer the benefit of lean, tight-knit teams, where everyone knows their role inside out. These teams are used to collaborating with each other, while teams in larger organisations are often thrown together to work on a particular contract having barely been introduced, let alone worked together previously.”

What’s more, Barker asserts that as smaller businesses grow, they’re often more open to innovative thoughts and strategies, which is particularly true with smaller consultancies that actively maintain an “ecosystem” of like-minded, specialised partners that allows best-of-breed capability to come together. 

“As businesses grow and develop, they are usually much more open and willing to apply innovative thinking and techniques to their business operations. Their small size also makes them much more able to change direction quickly, tailoring their approach to the nature of the tender,” Barker says.

“For larger firms, change can be a much slower process involving multiple levels of bureaucracy and approvals. Moreover, larger enterprises have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, which makes them less open to changing the process.”

Despite all these advantages, smaller players are somewhat disadvantaged because they don’t have the ability to absorb the cost of multiple tenders (which can be costly and time-consuming) like larger consulting firms can.

“Government agencies and large private enterprises can benefit by making the tender submission process less onerous and time consuming. This would let smaller, innovative operators compete more effectively and affordably,” Barker says.

“Consequently, government organisations could benefit more readily from the innovative, flexible and cost-effective approach delivered by smaller operators.” 

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