An Evaluation of the Client-Consultant Relationship: A case study in Iceland of the relationship between clients and external consultants in the aftermath of an IT-project

Live Melhuus & Ellen Susanne Stokke

Student thesis: Master thesis


Information systems are becoming an increasingly important component of a company’s overall business strategy, and the demand for external IT-consultants to assist in realizing benefits from these investments is growing. A topic that recently has received attention in the media is how dependent companies become on consultants after they have assisted in projects: To ensure optimal utilization of the information systems, consultants continue to play a central role in a company’s daily operations after a project is completed. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the relationship between client and consultant, by applying academic frameworks to two recently conducted IT-projects. The aim of this investigation is to evaluate aspects of the client-consultant relationship that influence how independent the client becomes from external consultants in the aftermath of an IT-project. The first IT-project that was investigated addresses an implementation of a new project management approach in a bank in Iceland, an implementation that was assisted by a consultancy company that specialize in project management. The second project is a replacement of a complex ERP system in one of Iceland’s leading companies within hardware and home improvements. An international IT-consultancy company assisted this implementation. In our research we have identified aspects that can influence the degree to which clients become dependent on consultants in the aftermath of an implementation. Furthermore, we have discovered that there is a gap in the literature, and we have therefore applied theoretical frameworks from both change management and knowledge management to guide our research. Trust, expectations and respect in the relationship between client and consultants have proven to facilitate better knowledge sharing during the project. We have identified that the success of the internalization of the new implementation into the organization’s routines and culture, is a determinant for the level of independency. This internalization is dependent on several things: The experience and assimilated knowledge of the consultants, and his ability to share knowledge with the client will affect the quality of knowledge sharing. Equally important, is the willingness and ability of the client to absorb the knowledge from the consultant. Furthermore, drawing upon his professional experience, the consultant should assist in facilitating for the client to continue operating the new implementation after the project is ended. The consultant should anticipate new changes within the client organization that could occur in the aftermath of the project, and facilitate for these changes. Moreover, we have identified that independency is likely to be affected by how well the client is able to continue learning after the consultant leaves. The client needs to facilitate for efficient knowledge sharing within the organization. Furthermore, management should encourage and engage employees to contribute to organizational learning. A mutual understanding and agreement about organizational learning and development should be a part of the organizational culture.

EducationsMSc in Finance and Strategic Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages192