At HSM we provide consultancy and audit services in relation to topics including intelligence management systems and countering violent. Undoubtedly a consultant can provide invaluable advice saving an agency time and money and preventing serious harm to the agency. A good consultant’s knowledge will have taken years to accumulate. When it comes to specialised policing few agencies have real internal expertise. However, when it comes to hiring a consultant in these highly specialised areas it is often apparent that many managers have very limited knowledge about what they should be looking for. Here we provide ten things that will get you started thinking about what to consider in hiring a consultant..
Select your consultant well. Make sure they have the breadth and depth of experience they are claiming. Look for evidence to back their claims. Many “consultants” have limited experience. Previous rank is rarely am indicator of depth of knowledge. For example: just because someone was “in charge” of undercover police officers does not make them an expert in doing undercover police work.
If you want the consultant to also provide training on the topic of their expertise they should be a trained trainer. Consultants may have knowledge but sharing that knowledge in a classroom requires different skills. If they can’t deliver training that is required remember to factor in any additional cost to pay a trainer.
Make sure you check to see what options are available. Compare and contrast what each consultant is offering. Many large consultancy firms offer clients services, claiming to have expertise. They then sub-contract the work to an independent consultant who really has the expertise. This means that the client often ends up paying many times the cost of employing the expert directly. Why pay an accountancy firm to provide consultancy on confidential informants?
Be clear about the problem you want them to solve. It helps if you have done the research that clearly identifies what is at stake and what you want the consultant to fix.
Be open to the fact that the consultant may find additional problems. Often, people look at an issue in isolation. A good consultant looks at a problem holistically, considering both the specific issue and other interdependent matters. They do this to provide a better solution.
Be aware costs can escalate. A consultant may be asked to solve a specific problem but because of their expertise they unearth more related problems that are part of the solution. These then require more time to explore and fix. While some may perceive it as the consultant chasing money, more often it is just that the client initially had no real idea about the scope and depth of the issue first identified.
If someone in your agency tells you, they have enough knowledge to solve the problem explore the depth of their knowledge. Often, their experience will be limited to that which they have gained only in-house. “Big fish – small pond!” “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king!” Would you not be better with someone with both eyes who has previously swam in a lot of ponds to solve your problem?
Rarely do people know the whole cost per hour of their officers – at best they calculate the cost of a project based on the officer’s hourly pay rate. An officer’s hourly pay is not their actual cost. As a general rule: A junior officer costs about £60 per hour. (Its similar in all western countries - just do the conversion to your currency) Only by looking at the costings in this light can you get an accurate comparison with what the consultant is charging. Do the mathematics.
When it is the agency’s own staff doing the job there is often limited incentive to get the job done quickly. A consultant wants to get in, get it done and get on to the next job. If they are working to a fixed timeline and budget there is a big incentive for them to not to waste your time.
Make sure the consultant is clear about expenses permitted before the work starts. Some consultants (rightly, depending on flight duration) will settle for no less than business class air travel and high-quality hotels, especially if this is what the agency’s senior officers get. Make sure you are clear on the permitted expenses as they can easily overtake the consultant’s quoted fee.
At HSM we provide a wide range of consultancy services including constructing human source (confidential informant) management systems, training needs analysis for counter terrorism, undercover, witness protection and intelligence led policing. If you think you have a problem get in touch we will let you know in what ways we can help. We will ensure any investment you make is value for money and we will probably a whole load of heartache that is just over the horizon.