Attracting and retaining the breadth and depth of skills within an internal team is becoming increasingly difficult. This is even the case in the Professional Services firms, who have for a long time operated with a very heavy reliance on internal resource and have huge global scale.
Traditionally, taking on additional resources, in project environments, is typically speculative, binary and a step increment. Building capability is now about blending core in-house capability, with specialist flexible external resources, to provide tailored solutions when and where needed. Organisations are increasingly looking to trusted Associates who can provide flexible, focussed, specialist experience to complement internal teams and can generate value on shorter lead times.
The core Associate value-proposition is premised upon deep and broad industry subject matter experience, a structured approach and consulting skills. However, part of the resistance to using external Associates is a loss of control, culture and ways-of –working fit. Typical maturity of Associates, along with a vested interest by both parties, usually far outweighs any “control” concerns. Whilst, Associates need to form part of a cohesive team, part of the role of the Associate, and of the client, is to allow a different perspective to flourish, that isn’t got available within the in-house team. Ensuring availability of an Associate can often be proposed as a barrier given the imperative for the Associate to keep fee-earning. However, this is no different to internal pressures to minimise “bench-time”.
Perhaps the success of an “Associate” relationship lies within its meaning, whereby an individual is “project –ready” and both parties nurture, and in invest in, a trusted and meaningful relationship, over a period of time, resulting in a seamless but complementary extension of capability.