But there is increasing pressure on consultants to demonstrate that they give value for money. Each year, the Management Consultancies Association Awards help to quantify just what return on investment organisations of all shapes and sizes have achieved as a result of working with consultants.
The UK is the biggest management consulting market outside the US, and MCA members represent about 70% of the UK consulting sector, employing some 20,000 management consultants working with all kinds of clients, from FTSE-100 giants to government departments.
Now in their 11th year, the MCA Awards have grown enormously since their launch and are celebrated at a dinner for more than 700 in the Hilton on London's Park Lane.
Warwick Business School carried out the shortlisting of case studies and, this year, the average number of entries per category rose from seven to 10. The MCA has reduced the number of categories to 10 and stripped out the public/private sector split.
The Platinum Award remains the top prize, but there are also special prizes for the best project in the public sector and for best project in the private sector, plus an award for the best entry from a small firm (fewer than 50 full-time staff). Each category has a single winner and certificates are awarded, at judges' discretion, to a number of finalists.
'I might be viewed as a professional cynic,' says Alan Gotto, head of consultancy procurement at Deutsche Bank and an MCA Awards judge for the first time, 'but I found the entries were of a very high calibre and some of the projects truly exceeded expectations.' Meanwhile, Professor Leo Murray, former director of Cranfield School of Management and a long-serving MCA Awards judge, says he is encouraged by the quality of pro bono projects submitted this year.
In February, the MCA commissioned an independent survey of about 80 directors and project managers. The findings show that nearly three-quarters of clients were either satisfied or very satisfied with the work of the consultants they engaged.
These are encouraging statistics. And whether it's stories of helping African entrepreneurs create mobile phone businesses or installing computers to protect planes from terrorists, the MCA Awards are where the statistics can come alive.