What is the real cost of engaging a consultancy?

Consultancies like to keep their pricing models opaque,  I don’t believe that it engenders trust so here I try to explain how much engaging with J&J Enterprise Consulting would cost and what you  get for your money.


There are many jokes about how consultants and consultancies operate, one is even the title of a book (“How management consultants steal your watch then tell you the time“).  Which is fine, because most of the time big companies even know themselves what has to be done, the challenge is changing the culture to align with a different vision and for this the company has to make it look like it is serious about the change and nothing says serious like spending £2500 a day on a principal consultant to present these changes back to the board.
For small or medium sized businesses consultants seem like an anathema, they are expensive and don’t tell you anything you don’t already know.  So for the services I offer a reasonable question would be, how much will it cost and what will you, the client, get out of it?
Unfortunately ‘it depends’. What is the objective and in what time period and to what level of quality?  To try and give some examples as a guide here are a couple of examples.  Here are a couple of examples as a guide. 

Baseline an existing process

If you wanted to gain control of some key process so that you could deliver a uniform experience / Understand the cost to deliver that process/have confidence to make changes to the process in order to realise efficiency savings.  This might take a couple of workshops depending on the level of complexity and number of teams involved.  There would be some analysis of existing documentation before the workshop as well as calls/emails after to clarify questions and finally a playback session to sign-off a base-lined process.  Bearing in mind availability of supporting documentation and of staff to respond to queries etc. This would take 2 days billing time and between 1 – 2 weeks to fulfil.  

Develop a new process

If you wanted to make changes to the base-lined model, then this would involve putting together a business case to explain the impacts and advantages of the change along with the re-designed process.  The identified changes would have to be communicated / trained out (note: Training is not a service offered) as well as updates to be made to policy documentation. This would take 2 days billing time and between 1 – 2 weeks to fulfil.  

Create a business architecture

If you wanted to create a business architecture of your company so to develop a deeper understanding of your business processes, and their relationship to your resources and IT architecture as a way of moving your business in a step by step manner to a new vision and operating model then this would take about the same amount of time for each process above but there would probably be economies of scale as more processes are measured together.

Automate business processes

If you wanted to automate the new process onto a BPMS (a system that takes a model and creates a workflow across teams).  There are licensed versions of these applications (which require paid licences) as well as open-source version (which are not supported – before worrying about lack of support there are lots of examples of business critical software running on open source software, the biggest is probably linux which is the operating system of most websites – see this article about the differences).  Then it would make sense to bundle a bunch of processes together into an app which runs on top of the BPMS.  The app would manage the front end, the BPMS would control the logic for each process instance. 

I recently developed a specification for a desktop application that would support the SM&CR for a ‘core’ FCA organisation.  The specification contains 7 processes modelled in BPMN 2.0, the models and the data handled by it would sit on a SQL server.  I received quotes to develop this from 3rd party off-shore developers between £10-20k over 12 weeks.  I estimated that my time to develop the spec (2-3 weeks), support development (1 week) and implement into a live environment (2-3 weeks), this would probably be spread out over about 6 months. 

When you look at the advantages of BPMS as a technology choice and the cost to develop a bespoke BPMS application, I don’t think you’ll find a UK based company that will come close to delivering something for the same cost.

Procure an off-the-shelf application

If you decided to buy an off the shelf product to deliver a competence, you would need to understand your own processes that any application would support and then understand what the different vendors are offering to make the best purchase.  The time taken would depend on the amount of functionality that would be covered by the off the shelf product.  Using the metric from the first step 2 days per process and some time to develop a procurement spreadsheet to evaluate vendors responses to the RFI. Again, covering multiple processes would see the analysis time per process come down, by how much would depend still on the amount of touch-points between processes.

I hope this gives a clearer idea of how much I would charge for process improvement work. Please get in contact if you’ve any questions using the link on the top right of the page.

Anthony Horner

Anthony Horner

IT Process Improvement Consultant