When to use a Consultant Specialist

October 4, 2019

When a project need arises, should you address it with staff or with consultant specialists?

Often, organizations will use their staff if they have the capacity and the expertise. If they are short on either, they will consider outside help. That makes sense.

But getting specialist assistance shouldn't just be a last resort. Here's three reasons to make regular use of consultants, even if you're not having a capacity shortage. Reason #3 may surprise you.

Reason #1: Focus on your core competencies

The core competency for a pizza parlour is making pizza. If the restaurant needs a new roof, the owner won't have his chefs doing the shingle work - even if some of them know how. The parlour runs best by having its chefs focused on what they do best.

Similarly, your staff know your business processes and its turnkey projects better than anyone. For one-off initiatives, or projects of unusual complexity, should they be redirected from these core competencies, or would help from a consultant allow them to keep their focus on what they do best?

Reason #2: Add knowledge into your talent pool

Usually, a successful consultant has been focusing on a specialty area, such as project management or business systems analysis, for more years, in more places, and in broader circumstances than your staff have. This is someone who has opted out of corporate advancement, instead honing their expertise in their field.

This makes consultants ideal for building your team's knowledge. For example, a project management consultant should be used to mentor staff PMs and bring his or her wealth of experience, ideas and best practices into your project management office; to build collateral, processes and guidelines. Consultants can use their outside perspective to help the team move in a new direction. This use of consultants will benefit the organization for years to come.

Reason #3: Save money

What's that? Don't consultants cost more than staff? Quality consultants are not cheap labour. But it's worth noting that neither are your staff. In fact, staffing an initiative is in some cases more costly than using consultants.

When thinking employee hourly rates, some managers take a mental shortcut, dividing annual salary by 2,000. She makes $80,000 per year... so $40 an hour? But consider the fully loaded costs.

Add her annual bonus, benefits, tuition reimbursement, your contributions to her RRSP, EI and CPP, your payroll tax, and other overhead. Then calculate her working days. Take out the paid holidays, vacation days, sick days, volunteer days and training days. Now you can see how much it costs to have her in the office for a day.

Next, consider productivity. Employees have greater social responsibility to their workmates and organizations and higher expectations regarding workload balancing. In some organizations, staff productivity may be less than three hours per day.

Finally, consider how effective the employees will be in an unfamiliar initiative compared to an experienced consultant. 80%? 50%? That could represent hours wasted and added costs.

When you've completed these calculations, you'll see how significant the staff costs are.

Employees are definitely your greatest asset. But this doesn't mean they are more cost effective in every scenario. Find the initiatives where a skilled consultant can help, and this will save you a good deal of cost.


If your organization is short on capacity or expertise, bring in a consultant to help. But even if this is not the case, consider using consultant specialists to keep your focus, add to your IP, and reduce costs.

Would you like to know more about how InScope consultants can help your business? Do you have a project or initiative and could use a helping hand? Contact InScope today.


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