Consulting Models and Frameworks: Expert and Process Consulting


Consultancy reveals itself within the name. The role entails yielding provisions without necessarily commanding the execution; the demarcation line that separates management from the consulting firm. A consultant walks in management's shoes, yet maintains strict impartiality as it doesn't disturb the problem-solving process.

When talking about consultancy, 'change' is the operative word. Advisory service providers leave organizations in better shape than before. Just like all roads led to Rome - all roads lead to improved capabilities from the top down even after the consultant departs.  

Performance gaps, process failures, and obsolete systems make for great elimination targets.

Instead of overt authority or obsessive control, the consultant gathers support and garners commitment for change by following a framework meant to persuade people to take action where they can. They employ two distinct frameworks created to solve organizational deficiencies: expert and process consulting. The following discusses what they are, how they differ, and which method is most appropriate for the given situation.

What is Expert Consulting?

Experts have expertise in a specialized field. Organizations can strategize and come up with internal solutions on their own. What happens when those strategies fail to produce effective results, especially where knowledge is lacking? Expert consulting pairs the right problem with matching competence. 

Expert or resource consultants apply technical expertise and often act on behalf of their clients. At the strategic level, expert consulting may involve several activities such as:

  • Give informed opinions on new projects put forth by management
  • Supply data and other relevant information
  • Help design entirely new systems
  • Conduct feasibility studies
  • Update training curriculums
  • Recommend certain organizational changes
Despite the role's accompanying level of access, management can also limit the consultant's exposure to the many elements of the business. Simply asking for further advice regarding tactical implementation is common when it comes to management and resource collaboration. Clients love this type of fast, prescriptive-style consulting.

What's Good About Expert Consulting?

Under the auspices of expert consulting, clients receive fast and focused responses to highly technical challenges. It's important to have an understanding of what the consultant seeks to accomplish, but the brunt of duty lies on the consultant. 

What's Bad About Expert Consulting?

The hands-free approach by clients seems like a dream come true on the surface, but a deeper look reveals several issues:

#1. Knowledge Vacuum

Once the consultant has completed their work, they often end up taking all of the expertise with them. While the current problem has been solved, what about future issues of the same crop? Management may be left holding the bag in this situation.

#2. Short-term Capabilities

Unless the consultant's role changes from resource to process throughout the lifecycle of the project, very little lingering value is leftover. Ultimately, the consultant creates a dependency - a dynamic that spells doom for any collaborative relationship. 

#3. Lack of Clarity

If the client doesn't understand the company culture or the client isn't quite clear about organizational objectives, both parties venture down a directionless path. In this case, the onus of responsibility falls on the client. 

#4. Lower Morale

Relying too much on expert consultancy gives those within the organization deep feelings of inadequacy, especially when the skills and talent available are more than capable of tackling ongoing challenges. 

What is Process Consulting?

More than just the distribution of technical knowledge, the process consulting role demonstrates the power of relationship building in reference to intervention techniques. Through the passing of a holistic methodology for stimulating change, the process consultant offers the organization the opportunity to solve its problems internally. As the old adage goes, the consultant teaches management how to fish instead of fishing for them.

Here's the foundational premise: the organization has what it needs to address an issue. The only thing missing is the refined, custom approach required. Management basically needs the 'how to' and they can take it from there. The model demands client involvement and ownership.

What's Good About Process Consulting?

Under process management, interdependence breeds independence. Time spent forming long-lasting bonds inevitably gives way to more honest, open discussions about what's really happening. That kind of connection is difficult to build when wearing the expert consultant hat. 

Most importantly, the process role identifies and uncovers people problems, or interpersonal dynamics. Joint client-consultant synergies foster enhanced inter-group cohesion through extensive rapport-based activities constructed around business objectives.

What's Bad About Process Consulting?

Time is money; time is of the essence. Time management is a major hurdle under the process consulting framework. It's the most valuable asset because it's non-renewable - forcing organizations to strike a healthy balance between discussion and action. Committed involvement takes place over a considerable timeline and it has to be organic or else no value is created.

Another glaring problem is a misdirected focus. Due to the assumption that management is already aware of the challenges they face, the client and the consultant could spend an inordinate amount of time trying to solve the wrong issue or fail to truly understand the problem landscape. 

Expert Consulting or Process Consulting: Which One is Best?

This is actually a trick question as most consultants will inevitably utilize both frameworks at some point. Clients often seek the quick fix or silver bullet, so they opt for speed and focus: expert consultancy. Most of the time, the beginning stages of the relationship may call for swift technical bouts, but at some point, consultants must stress the vitality and value associated with process management.

Regardless, consultants must act with integrity; they must exercise influence, and they must take up the mantle of responsibility for all resulting outcomes.