Over the course of his finance career, Jeff Henderson, CFO of Cardinal Health Inc., has hired consulting firms to offer insight on strategy, outsourcing initiatives, expense-reduction tactics, and large IT projects. While he believes strongly that consultants are an important management resource, he, like many other finance chiefs, is wary of their downsides, from high cost to inferior advice. "I've learned the hard way," he confides. "You can spend too much, not get the service you thought you were getting, and end up with the second-tier team [rather than] the 'stars' you were told you'd get."
Such complaints about consulting engagements are commonplace. As David Bean, vice president of finance at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company, sees it, "There is a tendency among consultants to get hired merely for the purpose of getting more work." In CFO's recent survey of 400 finance executives, the majority - 55 percent - said they were only somewhat confident that their consulting spending was producing an acceptable return on investment, while 16 percent said they were not confident or didn't know: not exactly a stunning endorsement of the consulting universe.
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