Finding Client-Focused Service Providers

Another important element driving the value of external services firms is how they define their own purpose. Many public sector contracting organizations define themselves not by the value they add, but by their ability to simply capture revenue from the federal competitive contracting process. They view the market not as a challenging environment requiring top shelf talent to solve some of the most complex problems in the world, but as an ATM machine requiring no more than the right code to extract money. These organizations exploit the government's natural and inherent acquisition and related weaknesses for their own gain, providing services and personnel which offer little or no value.

One mechanism for identifying whether a vendor is focused on adding value is whether they actually say they can't do something or tell the client about a firm that does something better than their own firm. Organizations and consultants that do this are typically demonstrating a higher level interest in the client's success. Those that consistently say they can and do provide every kind of service the government is seeking are often focused on revenue rather than client value. A client once remarked in a meeting to a small firm, after they declared over the course of the meeting that they could support eight totally different projects, “You have five employees, you guys are really the best firm in all of these areas?”

Recognizing organizations where even meeting with a potential client and understanding their challenges is not in their business model is an important element in predicting what types of support those organizations are truly going to provide. One organization, which was eventually debarred from federal contracting for failure to consistently perform, actually created software designed to process government requests for proposals which spit out a draft canned response by taking all sentences in a statement of work and adding the words ‘we will’ in front of each one. Firms, on the other hand, that demonstrate not just willingness but a desire to understand a client’s organization and mission typically apply the same level of desire and focus when delivering services.

Organizations with a true client value purpose and a desire to add specific values in particular areas, tend to represent significantly better support options. They attract and retain better talent, deliver more specific services more effectively, and perhaps most importantly, acknowledge the limits of their role and look for new challenges rather than ride the consulting value curve beyond its logical conclusion.