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How to Get Value From Consultants

Research on over 25,000 consultancy projects has shown that about one third deliver what was promised and the other two thirds end in embarrassing and expensive failure. Yet it is not difficult to get truly high value from consultants. But for this to happen, all of the following nine conditions must be met. Too many clients embark on costly consulting and IT systems projects without checking that these commonsense elements are in place.

1. Your people cannot solve the issue
If you are thinking of buying consultancy to redesign your processes, develop a new organisation structure or whatever, you must ensure that nobody in your organisation is capable of doing the job and establish exactly how much consultancy help you need. Would it be enough just to buy one or two experts’ time to help guide your own staff? If so, then you should not let the consultancy sell you an army of “warm bodies”. Firstly, because this will be a huge waste of money. And secondly, because employees are more likely to accept changes to which they themselves have contributed and are more inclined to reject changes forced upon them by young inexperienced consultants who will not be around to bear the consequences of the changes they are proposing.

2. Your management team has correctly identified that issue
The next question to ask is whether you and your management team could in any way be responsible for the situation with which you want your consultants to help you. It is unusual for an organisation to have a problem that is not in some degree related to the way management leads the place. If you are able to make a reasonably honest and objective assessment of your own role in creating a situation where you believe you need consultants’ help, you are much more likely to buy the correct consultancy.

3. Your consultancy is selling a solution and not a product
Before hiring a consultancy, you need to be aware of what they can and cannot offer. In particular you need to assess whether they are genuinely trying to provide a customised solution to your situation or whether they are trying to foist some pre-made service on you. And if your consultants are in any way connected with an IT systems house, all the warning bells should be sounding. It is probable that they will be under great pressure to flog you some IT – make really sure you need it before they convince you to buy it. advice

4. Your consultancy has the right skills
When a consultancy shows interest in working for you, there is nothing wrong with insisting on seeing the CVs of the consultants who will be running riot in your organisation. Many consultancies will resist this request – if they do, they are probably not the kind of consultancy you would want to work with anyway.

5. The consultants with the right skills will work for you
When your consultancy is trying to sell to you, they will probably give you loads of face time with their experts with the skills relevant to your situation. Too often, once you have signed the contract, the experts become scarce and you’re left mostly with inexperienced “billing fodder”. You should demand that the consultancy includes in your contract a firm written commitment as to how many days per week the experts will be on site working on your project. And you should not ever accept bland assurances that their experts will always be available on the phone to help your “billing fodder” out and give them guidance when necessary.

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