Why a Specialist is Preferable to a Big Four Consultancy in the Content Management Space

In my role at Doculabs I help current and prospective clients scope out new initiatives. I’m partially a pre-sales resource. But I also work on our delivery team to make sure that the work we deliver matches what I know the client is looking for.

Two options when you need content management help: Specialty consulting or a “Big Four” firm.

In four out of five discussions with new clients I’m asked who the competitors are for specialist consultancies like Doculabs. Normally I answer: “The Big Four.”

I feel like that is misleading though. You can hire a large consulting shop—such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG or PwC—to do the work that a specialist does. They will take the work.

So why should you choose a specialist consultant over one of the Big Four firms? In short, because specialists offer a level of expertise and specificity for enterprise content management projects that's just not available at a Big Four firm.

Specialists can solve targeted problems better than generalists.

None of the Big Four have a specialist group that is focused exclusively on content management strategy problems and solutions. And that’s all a specialty firm, like Doculabs, does. At Doculabs you’re tapping into twenty-plus years of peer data, consulting experience, proven methodology, and industry leading resources.

Yesthere are some projects that are beyond the scope of a specialist consulting firm, either because of the number of resources needed (many specialist firms are a fraction of the size of a PwC) or because the type of resource needed is actually a generalist. However, there are also projects that require very specific expertise that generalists won't have. 

Here’s an analogy: I have a small Dewalt impact driver that I use for almost every home project. Sometimes however, I need a more specific tool. I could probably force the impact driver to work in those situations too. But it just wouldn’t provide the outcome that I’m looking for.

Specialists have deep subject matter expertise and vendor knowledge in the content management space.

My clients have shared experiences where they hired large, generalist consulting firms based on the people they met during the sales or scoping portion of the relationship. But during project delivery they rarely saw those folks.

Instead they would meet a new project team consisting mostly of young consultants with just a couple of years’ experience in consulting. Maybe they had one or two projects under their belt related to the subject matter. But rarely would those team members have actually worked together on previous projects. All too often, the result from a Big Four scenario such as this is on-the-job training, issues related to communication, and more oversight than the client expected to provide.

The unnecessary on-the-job-training in part can come from generalists having only a surface level knowledge of vendors and software in the ECM space. However, because specialists are immersed in ECM projects, they don't have to spend billable time getting up to speed on what the key players in the market are up to and capable of. Case in point, Doculabs hosts weekly vendor briefings during which vendors provide updates on their software platforms.

Choosing one of the Big Four can lead to duplicate expense when they don't deliver the specificity you need.

In some cases, Doculabs has been asked to clean up a project that a large consulting firm had not completed to a client’s satisfaction. What we found is that often we can complete the project more efficiently in terms of time and money than the previous Big Four firm because of the niche experience our team has with projects in the content management space.

To return to the metaphor of the impact drill, you could try to cut a piece of wood with a boring bit. Eventually it might work. But you’ll get a much cleaner cut by using a tool that was intended to make straight cuts instead of holes.

You're a big fish in the specialist's world.

A specialist firm has have a bigger stake in a client’s success than a generalist firm. That’s because specialist firms depend on client references as a main source of new project work. The satisfaction of every client is importantnot just the largest ones.

The world of content management is fairly limited. When you work with a consultant on a new information management or information security project, remember to choose a partner who treats your project as if it were their own, and is capable of applying the deepest level of content management expertise.

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Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.