As organizations need additional support for their operations, they frequently turn to management consultants. Consultants can play a variety of roles: subject matter experts, problem solvers, additional capacity, and coaches.
Consultants are engaged because their client needs some kind of external assistance. Frequently, this is because they might not have a specific expertise internally to address a problem they are facing. This has typically been the core reason for using consultants, but it is increasing in importance as more and more companies are re-evaluating what core skills and capabilities they need in house. As companies streamline their organizational structure, they keep their core competencies and outsource what they do not consider to be core. Consultants are engaged for short or long term engagements to bring their expertise to support these projects.
In other cases, the need is more focused on capacity. Examples for this include having internal expertise, but these resources are overloaded and additional resources with those skills are needed. Companies often are growing and want to engage external capacity to support their operations, while they make decisions around growing their own force or while a recruiting process for such resources is ongoing.
Another important reason is a simple desire for an external perspective. This may mean bringing in an expert who is unbiased by internal politics, or someone who brings experience as to how other organizations tackle the problems being evaluated at the time, or politically sensitive positions (such as coaching relationships or sensitive evaluations of workforce and organizational structure).
Depending on what assistance is needed, the client will need to choose whether to enlist a large consulting firm, a specialized consulting group, or expert independent consultants.