Over the last few years, I've noticed a change in the value proposition of consultants. It really hit home in a meeting I was in where an "advisor" for a large company was explaining their product to us and it's adoption rate.
They discussed how they could help us with our next set of opportunities, what was happening with other customers and what best practices are. As they were going through their slides, one of the folks on my team pointed out some flaws to the material. In fact, they even googled it on the spot and sent them details which contradicted what we were be presented.
This was just an example. Over and over again, I encounter similar situations where the "experts" don't seem to provide a tremendous amount of insight. If best practices, case studies, methodologies, are freely available and I have instance access to knowledge what is the value of the consultant? If I can consult with the best minds in the world via blogs, articles, white papers, and often for free, where is the value proposition? Why would I bring them on? In fact, if I insource 'consulting', I get the advantage of deep understanding of the business that a consultant would have to learn as it is not available. Just as Don Tapscott talks about the "prosumer" where individuals are no longer just consumers but producers, companies are also becoming prosumers. Their knowledge sometimes eclipsing that of the vendor or consultant.
Don't get me wrong, some of the smartest people I've met and some close friends are indeed consultants. Experience has got to count for something right? Perhaps. Many times I've personally just "felt something didn't feel right" which I base on experience. Does external experience outweigh internal experience? Do we need to hire a consultant ;)
I suspect, the consultant has to move up the value chain. Has to provide more than "thought leadership" and "best practices". She/He would require critical skills that I do not have or have decided not to invest in. I suppose the other aspect is neutrality. But that would depend on the situation and whether neutrality is even required.
At a minimum, I think it's a wake-up call for companies to focus on their own people. This means more than just saying we believe in our people but giving them an opportunity, the skills to think and contribute to the long-term success of your firm.