European standard for management consultancy

Press release - 24 November 2011

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has launched the first European standard for management consultancy. BS EN 16114 - Management Consultancy Services - provides a best practice framework to help consultants improve the tangible value and transparency of their services.

The standard has been written for management consultants, consultancy businesses and business advisers (both internal and external) to help them demonstrate the value that they bring to their clients. It will also be of interest to procurement and purchasing professionals to help them know what to look for when appointing consultants.

The long-term benefits of management consultancy can be difficult to calculate, and issues such as poor project management, incomplete measurement of performance and ambiguous project specifications can adversely affect the value achieved. These problems are among those reflected in the findings from the National Audit Office’s (NAO) most recent report into Central government's use of consultants and interims, published in 2010, which questioned the value for money received by the government from consultancy services.

BS EN 16114 has been written by the consultancy industry and procurement experts from across Europe including the Institute of Consulting, the Chartered Management Institute, the Management Consultancies Association and the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes.

The standard sets out a clear framework for the effective management of a consultancy project, giving good practice guidance and recommendations on what should be expected of consultants in terms of actions, goals, and outcomes. It covers the whole of the consultancy process from tendering and project specification through to delivery and project closure.

Complying with the standard should help all parties to achieve better results from consultancy by:

  • reducing project risk through increased understanding of the consultancy process
  • improving communication between consultants and clients
  • helping to ensure that value for money is achieved and longer-term benefits (such as knowledge transfer and improved performance/productivity) are retained
  • reducing cross-border barriers to trade, where varying practice and cultural approaches hinder business

“In the last 10 years there has been a considerable increase in use of management consultants across Europe,” said Nick Fleming, Sector Content Manager at BSI. “Leading industry practitioners have collaborated to help increase the transparency of their profession by pulling together best practice in a new European standard.

“The National Audit Office report highlights the need to equip both government and private sector with a structure to help identify appropriate information, skills and strategies to manage consultancy effectively. We believe that the guidelines stipulated in BS EN 16114 will help management consultants enhance their relationships with client and consequently improve the likelihood of project success.”

Jeremy Webster, Chair of the Institute of Consulting’s Professional Standards Committee commented: “This new initiative provides a common language for management consultancy services. The standard will enable managers to get the best from their consultants, and provides a framework for consultants and their clients to work together effectively”.

The launch of BS EN 16114 follows the success of BS 11000, the standard for collaborative business relationships, which has already helped many organisations from both the public and private sectors to improve the value of their relationships and their ability to partner more effectively.