A new survey into purchasing behaviour of senior managers buying consultancy services within public sector organisations released today offers an insight into the way public sector organisations are approaching the selection of consultancies to help tackle major transformational projects.

The Methods Consulting Report 2007 investigates the way public sector organisations source suppliers for major transformational projects and found that most respondents (95%) have used the single consultancy supplier model for the majority of the projects they have worked on.

However, of those respondents who had used both single supplier and multiple supplier models, 76% prefer working in a mixed collaborative team involving multiple suppliers, as they find this is the best way to get buy in from civil servants.

The research found 97% of respondents cited the reason they prefer the mixed collaborative approach is that it offers a higher level of knowledge and skills transfer, whilst 89% of these respondents feel that the approach also affords a strong specialist skills focus on the project. This high level of skills transfer goes some way to addressing the lack of in-house skills that caused 91% of the public sector bodies to use consultancies in the first place.

The report follows a report published yesterday by the powerful the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts into central government’s use of consultants found it wastes £500 million a year in outsourcing core skills requirements.

Of the 102 respondents interviewed for the Methods Consulting report, 98% believe that having senior consultants doing the work, not juniors, is important to the successful completion of large projects.

Almost two thirds (61%) voiced irritation about the fact that frequently the ‘big hitters’ are only seen at the pitch and do not actually carry out any of the work.

Other factors that proved important in the public sector decision-making process were a well-established brand name (74%); a company offering new ideas and a fresh approach (90%); and an established track record (99%).

Dr Mark Thompson, a director of Methods Consulting said the criteria for hiring consultancies in the public sector is changing. “There is a drive towards depth of experience, track record, collaborative working and flexibility of approach,” he said.

The research, conducted by Coleman Parkes Research, consisted of 10 structured telephone interviews with precisely targeted public authorities and organisations in the UK. Interviews were carried out with senior managers who were significantly involved in the delivery, execution or procurement of large-scale transformational consulting projects from time-to-time.