Advice & Service providers tips

Are you getting the most from your external advice and service providers? 8 Critical Tips for Success.

Michael Perkins

To read the article as published on Business Propel clicking here.


The following approach to working with external advisors and providers will help you get the most from the relationship.

1. Identify the current state of your organisation and its needs.

This current state identifies the internal and external systems and resources needed to operate your organisation in its present state.

2. Be prepared to respond to and survive external shocks, trauma and developments which would cause problems for your organisation.

This should be outlined in detail in your risk management plan.
3. Decide on what internal and external resources strike the best balance between current performance and future sustainability of your organisation.

Resources that are necessary to the current and future operations of your organisation should be maintained as internal resources or insourced as needed.

Other functions and resources are best outsourced by the organisation to a provider who can deliver the result required.
4. Prepare appropriately at the start of any external provider relationship

An external advisor will want to want to understand the current reality of your business before engaging with it.

Both the organisation and external provider have a common interest in answering the following questions at the start of any engagement:

  • What is the functional scope, context and environment in which the organisation operates?
  • What is affecting the organisation that gives rise to the need for the advisor?
  • What are the uncertainties or opportunities to which the organisation is responding?
  • What are the most important uncertainties that might affect the organisation?

5. Develop a plan of attack with addressable objectives and the means to achieve them. 

Define clearly what success will look like and who is responsible for any tasks.

6. Implement the process, plan or solution that is intended to produce the desired result.

While seemingly obvious this is the step most often neglected.
7. Assess whether the plan worked.

Evaluate your success by comparing the outcomes to your initial objectives.

8. What changed or needs to continue to change?

Is further review, renewal or course correction needed?

Further key points and critical considerations

  1. You are in charge of the outsourcing engagement, so you’re primarily responsible for the quality of the brief required.  What systems and processes do you have to achieve this to a high standard of quality? For example, do you have high quality data sources about the operation of your organisation?
  2. Remember, something is only simple if one right answer can exist from a given set of facts.
  3. In order to make sense of your current situation, you need to have an accurate understanding of your current environment. Who provides this to you?Ensure you have all the necessary resources to achieve your goal.
  4. Use a sense-making framework to manage the work of understanding what problems need to be solved and how.**The Cynefin theory provides a convenient place to start.Cynefin offers five decision-making contexts or “domains”—simple, complicated, complex, chaotic, and disorder—that enable executives to see things from new viewpoints, assimilate complex concepts, and address real-world problems and opportunities. Using this approach, organisational leaders learn to define the framework with examples from their own organisation’s history and scenarios of its possible future. This enhances communication and helps executives rapidly understand the context in which they are operating.
  5. Do you have someone in your organisation, or an external expert, who is responsible and prepared for responding agilely to external opportunities, shocks and uncertainties?

In conclusion

External resources will be most successful in delivering appropriate support to your organisation when the need to which that external resource is responding has been clearly defined; and the outsourcer has been provided with all the necessary information to support its rapid and cost effective engagement.

Questions to