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Consultants' Changing Role.

After nearly four years of assisting organizations in the selection, evaluation, and implementation of risk management information systems, I believe it is time to address the role of the consultant in the changing landscape of systems and solutions. Although this topic may hit close to home, I will attempt to view it from the perspective of both the client and the system vendor--and, of course, from my own experience in a post-Y2K world.

Indeed, the role of the consultant, as with all business processes, is changing in our new "e-world." These changes, as with all changes, are opportunities for consultants and challenges for the rest of us.

Do consultants always have the answer? Maybe not, but what they do have is the advantage of perspective--the ability to look inside and outside your organization. They also have the advantage in many cases of working with like organizations. In fact, in many consulting assignments, that has been a key reason for the selection of a consultant. But the best consulting, in my opinion, occurs when the consultant takes an active role in the process. The consultant must be more than a wedding coordinator.

Another recent trend has been the integration of information technology (IT) consultants and business process consultants. I am encouraged because of the recent searches by technology companies to expand their business knowledge. These partnerships between technology and the business process experts can assist the client in many ways. They also force your consultant to know the IT and business-side--or at least know when and where to get help.

I believe consultants who can easily tap additional resources when needed are better positioned than those who try to be all things to all people. These days, most requests for services linked with claims best practices, integrated disability best practices, medical management best practices, and compliance issues also include technology issues.

The time spent by consultants in learning about the technology vendors and developing relationships is something that cannot be overlooked as an advantage in your own process. Part of each consulting assignment is learning. The ability to apply this knowledge is a key difference in the quality of consultants. The ability to create an atmosphere of sharing and relationship building with all parties remains a key success factor in all projects.

In our new world, the basic requirements for a consultant remain the same. Use and deployment of leading-edge technology will be critical. Web technology, if used properly, will actually open up more time for relationship building. E-business will reduce the time required by a consultant for data collection and facilitate data analysis in many ways. The ability to build a knowledge base for an individual organization and truly share the consultants' knowledge is a wonderful enhancement. Consultants have always professed to share knowledge, and these Web-tools can enable an organization to use that knowledge in an active and progressive way.

In the ever-expanding world of products and services, the role of the consultant is changing. But that's part of the territory. A consultant must not only know today's needs but also the needs of tomorrow. Value to clients in a dynamic world must continue to be a consultant's focus.

David P. Duden is national RMIS practice leader for Deloitte & Touche LLP in Hartford, Conn.
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Publication:Risk & Insurance
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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