Choosing a Consultant Isn’t That Bad If You Ask the Right Questions


choosing_a_consultant.pngWhen an organization is implementing an IT project, it can be incredibly difficult. You know that the new systems or processes being implemented will benefit the company in the long run, but sometimes the short-term headaches associated with that change can seem overwhelming. This process can seem even harder when the consulting company you hire to guide you through the process falls short of your expectations.

Everyone chooses their consulting partners differently, whether by price, recommendation, or otherwise. But there are some important considerations to take into account besides these factors that can protect your project's success.

First, Consider Track Record 

While it is common practice to look for consultants who have a reputation in the industry and are certified in the work they do, that does not always guarantee a good experience. Times change and sometimes the oldest, most established company may not be the best fit for your particular situation. Ask for client references and success stories from this consultant and, if available, ask for stories that are similar to the issues that your organization is having.

A critical mistake companies make is that they trust the reputation of the company and do not ask follow-up questions about the specific people working on their project. Don’t forget to ask for the resumes of the those specifically working on your project and ask whether they have worked together before. It is also important to note that companies who subcontract out projects do not always have control over the quality of them.  

Another Factor to Consider is Support

Depending on your company’s technical prowess, you may need training to use your new system, as well as support after a project has ended. Ask about the consultants’ support capabilities and any arrangement they may have for assistance after completion.

Unfortunately, a common problem that our clients have encountered is a lack of continuity with the consultants involved in their project. If consultants hop in and out of project, there is no chance to establish a relationship with them. Take this situation, for example:

Client Expectation: Client hires a training consultant to work with the internal staff to review new workflows, processes, etc., to ease anxiety and smooth the transition.

Client Experience: Training Consultant #1 arrives the first day and then exits the project. Training Consultant #2 arrives several days later, stays for two days, and leaves never to return.

Client Result: Increased costs for travel, increased staff anxiety, unnecessary training delays and gaps in training resulting from multiple trainers being involved.

Does this sound familiar? Hopefully you have not experienced this situation, but our team has worked with clients where this type of situation was a roadblock to success that we helped them overcome. The best defense is to ask questions before the project starts.

Find a Consultant Who Works With You, Not Just For You

You don’t need a consultant that will push unnecessary and costly upgrades, but one who shies away from change is similarly dangerous. When interviewing your consultant, ask about their business approach. Do they have an established methodology for how they do things? And does that system include a well-documented plan with communication on every level?

Be Sure Your Consultant Fits into Your Company's Culture

Whether they are there for a quick, month-long project or one that lasts a year, your consultant will be key in a large organizational change and it is important to be compatible with them for fluid communication. Be sure to take into consideration who will be the lead on the project, especially if your project requires you to work with multiple consulting groups.

While cohesion with your company culture may seem like a nice bonus for a consultant, it can have more of an impact on the success of your project then you think. Here is a client example we have run into more than once:

Project Challenge: The use of multiple consulting companies resulted in the lack of cohesiveness between the consulting teams present on the project. The individuals did not communicate nor did they work together to develop the system. The result was conflict and animosity amongst teams.

Potential Solution: Designating an internal project manager as well as a lead consulting group can help keep a project on track as it allows for a more streamlined approach to the project, as well provides a structure that can help with communication between teams.  

Location, Location, Location

Finally, though it may not be a deciding factor, location of the firm should be a consideration. When firms are located in drastically different time zones, communication is often difficult to coordinate and can lead to delays in projects. Be sure that your consulting firm is willing to work with you during a time window that fits your work schedule.

Congratulations! Taking these factors into consideration is the first step to a successful project. Now that you’ve chosen a consultant who meets your needs, you are ready to get started. Here are some things to keep in mind in the early stages of an eCommerce project.

Special thanks to Dave Balser, Briteskies JD Edwards Delivery Director, for sharing some of the common situations faced by clients and how to avoid them.

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