ICMCI launches ISO quality standard for management consultancy services

02 July 2018 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI), an international organisation that supports the development of the management consulting profession, has celebrated the one year anniversary of the ISO 20700 launch, a quality standard for management consultancy services.

According to the ICMCI, which has a presence in 48 countries, there is a growing need for international standards in the services sector. This is because on the one hand the industry continues to grow, with demand for external support rising, while on other hand, the quality of work provided is coming under growing pressure due to the rise of new market entrants, including independent consultants.

“A standard helps to answer the question: What does ‘good’ look like? ISO 20700 does this for the delivery of management consulting services,” explained Karl Grün, Director Standards Development at Austrian Standards International, who focused on the strategy of ISO on service standardisation.

The main objective of the International Standard ISO 20700 is to help clarify expectations between management consultants and their prospective clients, providing a platform for transparency and trust. According to the ICMCI, the standard, which has been developed especially for smaller and mid-sized consultancy firms, will enhance the confidence of clients in consulting, boost impact of projects, and contribute to the economic and social progress.

ICMCI launches ISO quality standard for management consultancy services

Said Ulrike Rabmer-Koller, UEAPME (European Crafts and SME Association) President and WKO Vice President, elaborated, “Standardisation is becoming increasingly more important to access new markets and for SMEs need to have the opportunity to spread their wings. With ISO 20700, we intend to strengthen the SME involvement in and awareness on the standardisation process.”

This is interesting because while much attention goes to the big firms, say the top 200 firms in the globe, they can build on their reputation. And clients have more transparency in how they perform through all kinds of rankings, survey and platforms. For the layer below, which is much larger in terms of size, gaining insight in quality is harder. So useful for consultants to prove their credentials, and more importantly, for clients to not squander their money.

Many of the leaders at ICMCI believe the plan will reinforce the confidence of clients in seeking external expertise on key projects. Robert Bodenstein, PC 280 Chair commented that “Management consulting is a young profession, in most countries it is not regulated in any way. IS0 20700 helps to achieve common goals that can be agreed between consultants and clients.”

Boost to creativity

Standardisation is often criticised by opponents as inhibiting the creativity of new market players, however, according Greg Richards, an Academic Fellow of ICMCI and a practicing management consultant, the opposite is often true. He said, “In fact, standards help creativity because they constrain your focus and allow one to be as creative as possible within the bounds of the standard,” adding that it also boosts training the next generation of consultants.

Richards added, “It is important to help them understand the rationale behind and the application of the standards in the field of consultancy. Overall, such an understanding helps them to become better consultants, and in my view better managers if they choose not to enter the field of consulting.”

Clients who work with the ICMCI are also very supportive of the initiative. Adnan Atwa of UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) said of the move, “ISO 20700 lays out the basics of the delivery of management consulting services. From my service, documenting and standardising the basics is very important… I believe that ISO 20700 is an important guiding document that contributes to enhancing good governance and professional practices when providing consulting or technical assistance services.”

In the meantime, implementation has already commenced. Members of the ICMCI have agreed to adopt it across their footprint, with China already taken steps to translate the standard to Chinese and establish a localised website for consultants and clients in the Asian economic mega power. On top of this, in order to provide practical and hands on support for management consultants in demonstrating their work according to the ISO 20700, CMC-Global has developed a self-declaration checklist to the ISO 20700:2017 Guidelines for management consultancy services.

Last year, the MCA announced that consultants in the UK will soon be able to earn chartered status.