Our place or yours?

Should engineering consultants be located at the customer’s premises, or is it more effective if they have their own offices? All operating models have their pros and cons.

When engineering consultants carry out project assignments for customers, the work can be done in different ways: consultants can either be located at the customers’ premises, or the work can be done as distance work, at the consultant’s own office. In addition, a variety of mixed models are also possible.

Traditionally, Citec has mainly carried out assignments at the home office (Model 5 in the picture). Citec’s organisation is essentially also built up to suit this way of working, especially considering the vast expertise available in India. However, as Citec’s customer base has now expanded, a need for new cooperation models has emerged.

Nichlas Råtts, Director of Engine Power at Citec, has recently spent a lot of time on elaborating new cooperation models. His ideas have sprung from the concrete needs of the customers, as he has a solid experience from working with many different customers.

General operating models for technology consultants.
General operating models for technology consultants.

“Not all customers are willing to work in accordance with our usual concept, which entails that the work is done entirely at our premises. This concept is most suitable when the cooperation has been going on for some time, and the assignment is large in terms of scope and size. When you have clear working routines, the customer doesn’t have to provide detailed work descriptions each time.”

Many factors will affect the choice of best operating model: the nature of the project, the length of time that the companies have worked together, and the line of business in which the customer company operates.

If the customer relationship is new, or the tasks by their nature are many and small, the customer may be reluctant to outsource the assignment to a consultant located at a different office, or even in a different country. In response to this, Citec has recently implemented a brand new cooperation model (Model 4). In this model, a project manager will be based at the customer’s office, but employed by Citec. The project manager receives the assignments, divides the tasks and passes them on to the colleagues at Citec.

“The clear advantage of this system is that it lowers the threshold for the customer to outsource a job to Citec. This, in particular, applies to work that consists of multiple smaller tasks rather than larger whole project entities. It is both timeconsuming and laborious if the customer repeatedly has to explain their requests to us at Citec from the start. Now it is the project manager who informs us about the kind of service that the customer is looking for”, explains Råtts.

In different countries there are different practices as to how engineering consultants work. In Sweden, consultants have traditionally been customer-office based, whereas in Finland, the norm has been the opposite.

“To merely provide manpower, which is often customary in Sweden, has its limitations. It becomes more difficult to quickly increase the resources at peak loads, and it also becomes harder to utilise our cost-effective global resources. Cost-effectiveness is a very important competitive factor for many large corporations in today’s engineering world”, says Råtts.

Cost-effectiveness is a very important competitive factor for many large corporations in today’s engineering world.

However, from the client’s point of view, this can be seen as a safe way to operate, particularly if that is the way you have been used to working for many years.

“Many factors will affect the choice of best operating model: the nature of the project, the length of the customer relationship, and the line of business”, says Nichlas Råtts.
“Many factors will affect the choice of best operating model: the nature of the project, the
length of the customer relationship, and the line
of business”, says Nichlas Råtts.

Nichlas Råtts emphasises that Citec is happy to work according to Model 1, which means providing manpower, since customer drive and need is always essential. This, however, is more seen as an entry point, since Citec wants to have a plan for how to move towards Models 4 or 5.

“Ultimately, the question is about what you wish to gain from a partnership”, says Råtts.

A majority of Citec ’s current business is generated from project work that has been delivered according to Model 5; in other words, work which is done in its entirety at Citec. Nevertheless, Nichlas Råtts thinks that Citec cannot get stuck on this model. He has opened several interesting discussions with current customers, in order to find out whether the model being used is the most suitable one, or if other operating models should be tried out instead.

“It is our job to be business-minded and help our customers be comfortable and succeed. A new model which we have tested is one where the consultants sits with the customer to learn the ropes of the work and then move back to the home office.”

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