Inside or Outside: Internal and External Consultants
by Beverly Scott & Jane Hascall
Contrasting the external and internal consultant is the focus of this article and a chart on
When to Choose Which is included. You can sample some of William Onckens? theory on
Authority also. Oncken?s four components of Authority: competence, position,
personality and character might be strong attributes to use as a part of your next selfevaluation.
EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL consultants share the characteristics of helping their
clients address problems and improve business and organization results; they have a
passion for the wisdom and expertise they bring to the organization, and they have the
ability to galvanize clients into action. Yet those of us who have spent years in both roles
know there are significant differences in perspectives, challenges and requirements.
External consultants are often brought in because they bring wisdom, objectivity and
expertise to the organization. They are seen as gurus or saviors bringing wise counsel.
Internal consultants have expertise, but it is valued differently as an organization insider.
CONTRIBUTION AND VALUE
The external consultant is usually viewed as having higher levels of expertise and
experience and credibility, especially if he or she is published, credentialed, and well
known. This gives the external more influence and buy-in from senior level executives
who may prefer to hear from outsiders. Paying for services also implies the output is
better or more valued. In addition to these perceived advantages, externals are frequently
more up-to-date on the newest business thinking and new ways of working, and they
bring the added value of a broader base of experience. With this broader experience, the
external can provide benchmarking and best practices as well as insights into potential
pitfalls learned from other clients. Externals are valued by clients for their outsider
objectivity and ability to give tough...