Chris Billing is Head of Indirect Sales at npower. This week he’s our guest blog author, while Wayne Mitchell is taking some paternity leave following the arrival of his second child.
Are consultants worth the money?
News reports about consultants are often a negative piece about how much money’s been wasted by some public body or other. Last week, for example, the BBC ran a story with the headline ‘The public sector could save £23m on consultants fees’, in relation to the results of an audit on the £133m spent on external consultants in Wales.
Demonstrating value for money seems to be the key criteria, and I imagine that can be hard to quantify in certain consultancy sectors.
However, that’s often not the case in the energy arena. The reason energy consultancy has flourished is because there is an important knowledge gap in many businesses when it comes to changing requirements for energy management and procurement. In a relatively short timeframe, we have gone from businesses signing an annual energy contract – and perhaps encouraging staff to turn off lights and equipment at the end of the day – to a vastly sophisticated market that requires trading skills, detailed monitoring and targeting know-how and an understanding of onsite generation capability – and that’s just for starters! So it’s easy to see why energy experts offering consultancy services have been in demand to fill this gap.
At npower, as well as working direct with customers to find solutions to their changing energy needs in a sector full of complex regulation, market volatility, CSR expectations and so on, we also work alongside many consultants. These third-party intermediaries have become an important part of our business, often bringing expertise and ideas to help us improve our offering. In return, we have developed specific products and services to help consultants hone their service, for example a flexible purchasing package that facilitates the management of multiple smaller businesses collectively.
Another way we support our I&C consultants is through sharing our expertise. Through road shows held at their premises, npower specialists present on topics that the consultants have identified as being most relevant to their requirements such as the latest developments around energy policy and legislation.
We’ve also been working in partnership with others in the industry to raise the profile of consultants and provide some reward for those who often get little credit for their work. The Energy Live Consultancy Awards (TELCAs for short) is the UK’s first-ever celebration of best practice and achievement in the energy consultancy sector, and we are proud to be the headline sponsor.
The inaugural TELCAs will take place at the end of June in London and are open to all energy consultants, irrespective of size, as long as they carry out energy procurement and can demonstrate a transparent fees policy. There are 12 award categories for consultants serving both industrial and commercial and SME customers, including Most Trusted, Most Innovative, Best Advice and Best Customer Service. A stringent two-tier judging process has been carefully structured to ensure a fair and detailed assessment of entries. So we are very excited to see the outcome come 27 June, when the Oscar-style ceremony will take place. (For more info, visit www.telca.co.uk)
So, while the consultancy sector as a whole may continue to get bad press, some more positive headlines seem to be around the corner for those working in the area of energy consultancy – as well as a higher perceived value among businesses and partners. And that can only be a good thing for all of us working the energy industry…