Insights in your inbox

Don’t Feel the Burn — Why Large Consultancies Will Let You Down

September 15, 2022

When a company decides it’s serious about increasing efficiency, upgrading technology, or anything else that involves changing processes, its first port of call is usually to work with a consultancy. And it might seem like a large consultancy is the obvious choice, especially if it has a recognizable brand name. Surely the size and history of the organization means it knows its stuff and offers the best money can buy. Right?

It might sound counterintuitive, but consultancy clients have found time and time again that large consultancies are failing to deliver. Here’s why this may be happening, and what you should do instead.

Where large consultancies let you down

In our experience, bigger consultancies produce disappointing results for a few key reasons.

Sub-par deliverables

Nothing is more important than deliverables in a consulting project — they’re what you’re paying for, after all. Yet large consultancies often fail to deliver here due to the lack of a solid process to understand an organization and deliver concrete solutions on how to improve it. The firm usually stands on their historical name and reputation rather than mastering deliverables that will move the needle for their clients.

This might sound like a bold claim, but when you think about it, most of the greatest innovations in management haven’t come from big brand names — an Industry Week estimates that 70% of consultant writers (from another publication) came from smaller or boutique consultancies. As a result, the larger firms fail to give truly innovative solutions. Below is one reason why this may be the case.

Work assigned to college grads

Large companies tend to come with large recruitment programs for college graduates. And while it’s valuable to train the next generation of consultants, no business wants to be the “guinea pig” used in this process — it wants to be the client that benefits from the fruits of their training.

Unfortunately, larger consultancies tend to send college graduates on projects — and no matter how intelligent they are or how much potential they might have, they simply lack the experience to execute properly. Considering big consultancies often sell themselves based on the names of their most prominent consultants, who almost never work on the projects at all, it can leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Not to mention the poor quality of work. Remember the managers you are facing off with are not the people doing the work, instead its typically college grads or employees with 5 years or less doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s similar to when a senior manager says “I implemented_____” when in reality they didn’t implement anything, additionally they will not fully understand the functionality of the software like a user will.


It would be (somewhat) understandable to be left with less-than-stellar deliverables and a bunch of young adults managing your projects if you knew that you’d at least got a bargain. Yet often, the opposite is true — larger consultancies are often the most expensive, and frequently carry multi-million-dollar price tags.

Nothing to execute on More often than not, a project with a large consultancy ends with a PowerPoint presentation outlining its findings, along with a strategy. We have found that many of our clients have done very little with those PowerPoint presentations and recommendations because:

  1. They didn’t know where to start

  2. Didn’t have the capacity

  3. Don’t have the internal knowledge to proceed

  4. The plan wasn’t clear and actionable for them to feel they would be successful

While this can be of some use, it’s the execution that many companies struggle with, meaning that it may not be feasible for them to act on the prescriptions they’ve been given — especially if they’re vague or unhelpful.

This may happen because consultants are trying to impress their boss rather than you, making them less invested in the outcome of what they’re doing. Additionally, the skillset to run an RFP, vet appropriate vendors, implement, and reengineer processes requires real life hands on experience.

What to do instead

By this point, we’ve made it clear enough where large consultancies are going wrong. But where are the smaller consultancies going right, so to speak?

For one, because they feature a smaller workforce, everyone tends to be more highly skilled and trained. And as we’ve touched on already, they also tend to be the source of a lot of important ideas in the space.

Because the organization is smaller, there may also be less unnecessary bureaucracy, allowing each person to make a difference.

They also tend to follow an end-to-end implementation — meaning that they won’t just give you the deliverables and disappear, but rather will help you implement them to ensure you get results you’re happy with.

For instance, here at CPC, we use Process Mapping to capture your current state on a map paired with business requirements and findings documents to back up our findings and facts. Standard Operating Procedures to solidify your processes and talk you through them. We’ll also create a continuity plan for you: A document explaining what you should do in crisis situations.

Don’t get burned

Just because a consultancy is small, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s better — but if you want to avoid the problems outlined above, ask a smaller and a larger consultancy what their process to help you is, this should help you make a more informed decision on how to get the problem solved once and for all.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and test things for yourself, contact Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting and book a free consultation.