Underutilized Advisory Services Contracts: Big Dollar Issue with a “Short Money” Solution

The last time you looked at the utilization report from your advisory services provider(s) you probably found that:

  • Many of the seats you purchased are underutilized.
  • The cost of services continues to outpace the value received.
  • A good portion of services used came at extra cost (beyond base).
  • There are little to no productivity gains or savings in time.

Unfortunately, the business model that traditional advisory services vendors use — a business model more than three decades old — causes this underutilization. Traditional advisory services provide databases of research white papers, which, almost by definition, are dated, and use information available from other sources. White papers are supposed to be unbiased, but since the information gathered comes from sources with unknown agendas at best, and are completely biased at worst, the white paper’s bias is always suspected. White papers are also written for a broad audience, usually from the perspective of a Fortune 1000 company, which means that because of the context, the information may not be useful to you and your organization.

Back in the last century, before the advent of the Internet, information was generated and distributed at a much slower pace, and the encyclopedic research style of advisory services was the best possible solution to the problem of getting relevant information on new technologies and best practices. The “seat license” kept this information proprietary, and only seat-holders have access to the information, stifling collaboration. Access to analysts to ask a specific question always came at additional cost, and if there was no analyst for a particular topic, there was no way to get an answer.

This is no longer the case. With the Internet age has come huge volumes of information at a staggering pace, in many different forms and contexts. This information, made readily available through Internet publication, search, and aggregation sites, makes much of the white paper style of research obsolete. Information is “publicly traded” on the Internet through blogs, social media and other electronic publications. This publicly available content has become the media through which companies advertise and prove their value. Because most people are very familiar with navigating the Internet to obtain information on a daily basis from home, they eschew the paid advisory services for the newer, faster, fresher information, thereby causing the underutilization.

This overload of available information does, however, come at a cost — time. Both Accenture (2007)1 and Atos (2011)2 have studies that show that management wastes 25% of its time searching for information. This wasted time is a direct result of having to search through the Internet and advisory databases for the information they need, and convert it into a useable form.

The trend of high cost advisory service underutilization and time consuming search can be reversed by:

  1. Seeking services that use delivery models that leverage today’s technology and the expertise of front-line experts — Using current technology for requesting and receiving information from practicing professionals gives users the “bleeding edge” information required by today’s IT departments.
  2. Moving to a broader coverage model — Service models that license by the seat restrict the flow of information in an age that requires the free flow of that information. Seek service models that cover the enterprise and foster collaboration with free distribution of information within the enterprise.
  3. Realizing that lower cost does not mean lower quality — With the use of vetted expert networks, high quality subject-matter experts (SMEs) are available “on demand” without the antiquated idea of the user paying for the vendors’ “bench strength.” This significantly lowers cost to the user and therefore immediately increases value.
  4. Finding providers with rapid turnaround times — The longer it takes to get the information from a provider, the more likely the end user will seek information elsewhere.
  5. Getting information “straight from the horse’s mouth” — Use services whose primary deliverables include direct contact (teleconference and web conference) with the subject matter experts, ensuring in-context and actionable information. Speak with an SME instead of reading about what they did.
  6. Seeking out multipurpose vendors (Expertise-as-a-Service® [EaaS™]) – Vendors that can supply additional services (consulting, performance measurement, etc.) using the same request and delivery methods shorten learning curves, reduces proposal submission times, speed up consultant interviewing and on-boarding, and ensure quality and consistency. Leveraging EaaS providers also reduces the costs of these other services, as stated in (3) above.

Underutilization of current advisory services is a symptom of antiquated business and delivery models. Newer, faster, better, and less expensive are the guiding principles of our technological age. By using broader, scalable services, and “Internet fast” order and delivery methodologies and technologies, it is much easier to receive the needed value without overpaying.


1 “Managers Say the Majority of Information Obtained for Their Work Is Useless,” Accenture, January 4, 2007.
“Tech Firm Implements Employee ‘Zero Email’ Policy,” Susanna Kim, ABC News, November 29, 2011