Adviser vs. Consultant

BookshelfWith surprising frequency there is a lack of understanding of the distinction between advisory and consultancy services.

However, the two roles are notably different, and there needs to be clarity about the type of assistance your organisation requires.

To put in the simplest terms, an advisor identifies issues, while a consultant solves them.

Advisory work

An advisor is usually proactive, takes a broad, long-term strategic view, and identifies issues an organisation needs to address to improve its performance.

An advisor will undertake a detailed review, and develop a deep understanding, of your organisation’s strategic plans, leadership, employees, organisational structure, work policies, procedures, and systems, products and services, customers and clients, and market and competitors, among other things.

The advisor will then call upon her or his multi-disciplinary education, skills, and experience to analyse your existing operations and identify issues.

Consultancy work

Generally, a consultant is retroactive, and has a focused, short to medium-term problem-solving role.

A consultant will focus on addressing a particular issue your organisation identified.

In some cases you will ask the consultant to analyse the issue you (or your adviser) had identified, and present you with a range of appropriate solutions. You can then select your preferred solution working with the consultant collaboratively, or you can ask the consultant to recommend the option the consultant deems to be the best solution in the circumstances.

In other cases you will have already identified a number of possible solutions to the issue you need to resolve. In such cases you will look to the consultant to evaluate those solutions and recommend the option the consultant considers to be most appropriate for your organisation in the circumstances.

Once a preferred solution has been identified, the consultant can remain as part of the team tasked with implementation and take a hands-on role in the project. Alternatively, the consultant can hand over implementation to your preferred team.

In some circumstances various advisory and consultancy functions may be combined to deliver the assistance you need. However, the distinction between the two roles must always be understood and acknowledged, as they each involve functions, and deliver outcomes, which are fundamentally different.