Do Clients Really Become More ‘Professional’? - Analyzing Clients’ New Ways of Managing Consultants
University of Mannheim - Department of Business Administration and Organizational Behavior
August 1, 2008
Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Anaheim, CA, August 2008
While scholarly interest in consulting as a form of knowledge-intensive work has for a long time mainly focused on consultancies, processes within client companies have received much less attention. However, it seems that the questions we ask when reflecting on future challenges for the consulting industry will increasingly have to include developments on the part of the clients. Clients not only seem to generally cut down on their use of consultants, but are also said to grow more skeptical of consultants and to tighten and 'professionalize' their governance of consulting projects. The paper at hand examines the recently identified trend of clients becoming more sophisticated, professional, and formal in, e.g., selecting, governing, and/or evaluating their consultants. Taking the complexity of interests, functions, and problems underlying the use of consultants into consideration, the paper draws on qualitative empirical research in both client companies and consultancies by reconstructing (IT) consulting projects from the decision on a project to its evaluation. It outlines not only what exactly has changed in clients’ handling of consultants – and what has not – but primarily analyzes the clients’ rationale behind new approaches, how they are dealt with in everyday life, and what they mean for the consulting process. The results provide an indication of whether – or in what respects – we can really speak of a professional and sophisticated client and of how this professionalism might affect the prevailing consultant-client relationships and business logics of the consulting industry.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43
Keywords: consulting, consultants, clients, selection, evaluation, professionalization, relationship, IT consulting
JEL Classification: L84, M1, Mworking papers series
Date posted: July 30, 2009
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