Guest Editorial: The Role of a Consultant - What Is It Really?
- Ivor Ellul (Knowledge Reservoir)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 26 - 28
- 2006. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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The title of the article might cause one to pause momentarily since I am sure that we all know what a consultant is and what his associated role should be. I am equally sure that if one were to ask a group of consultants the same question, the answers would be interestingly varied. As an engineer, consultant, and ultimately, a business owner, I take this opportunity to distill more than 25 years of experience that I have used to build a leading consulting organization, while sharing some of the more controversial issues that arise.
Dictionaries proclaim that a consultant is an expert who gives advice. Additionally, it is believed that the word consultant has been used for some time, since before 1892. So, what is it that has driven the need for this “species” from as far back as the 19th century? The answer is simple and partly has to do with the expertise factor, but, above all, it has to do with the time/money factor. A client employs a consultant to get something done more quickly (and, one hopes, better) than he could have done it himself given his lack of available and qualified resources. As a result, the job should cost less. In addition, the value added must always be significantly greater than the value paid out.
Consultants are prevalent in a number of industries including medical, aerospace, transport, and construction. The energy industry is no different, and one comes across a wide spectrum of, on the one hand, independent consultants and, on the other, larger organizations geared to take on and execute large projects. Wherever you are in the spectrum, there are a number of fundamental prerequisites that define a true consultant. These include the following:
Expertise. This comprises the technical and, possibly, commercial background necessary to address the problems at hand and deliver a successful solution.
Experience. Armed with the technical knowhow, this relates to the fact that the individual or company has successfully executed the type of work currently under consideration.
Deliverability. No matter how smart and how experienced one is, if one cannot deliver on time, on budget, and to the client’s satisfaction, then it is all for naught, and the client’s time and money have been wasted.
Integrity. This is a key element in today’s business environment and hinges on one doing what one says one is going to do while ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest along the way. This is especially important given the fact that a consultant is usually exposed to sensitive client data that must not be seen by any third party. Sanctity of contracts is key, whether constituted on the basis of a handshake or resulting from a 20-page document.
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