A necessary expense? If used appropriately, consulting firms can add tremendous value to a business.

Author:Franchi, Jim

In a tightening economy, the challenge for employers is handling their workload in the most efficient, yet effective manner. And sometimes this means bringing in experts from outside the company. If appropriate measures are taken when choosing a consulting firm, the benefits can be considerable.

Why hire a consulting firm? That's a question many executives ask. Often, consultants are viewed as an unnecessary expense, but if used appropriately, consulting firms can in fact add tremendous value to a business.

Consultants can provide relief for many of your stressful business situations. Here are some situations where external help may be justified:

Implement new initiatives--Businesses implementing new initiatives may need a subject-matter or project management expert to provide guidance and support during the period of change. Consultants offer focused project management and subject matter expertise, which speeds up the implementation process and the realization of benefits from a business' new initiatives.

Buy a new system--Over time, most companies find themselves evaluating the need for a new system. But first, it is important to define what you want to get out of the new system before you purchase it. The proper consultant can guide a business through this process, often saving the company many times the cost of the consulting engagement through a better selection and implementation process.

Jump-start a project--Occasionally companies target a new project, only to realize they need to begin it sooner than originally anticipated. If the right consulting firm is chosen, it can jump in, get the project started and transition out when the company's team is available to take over.

Extinguish the fire--Consultants are frequently called upon to serve as "fire fighters" who can quickly and efficiently solve a problem by offering an immediate solution for that emergency, have-to-complete-quickly project. The company receives the benefit...

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